Mary, help me to be more like you
Updated: Apr 28
This piece was originally written for JOY IN TRUTH, and can be read here.
The Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci
“Mary, help me to be more like you.” The words stumbled out of my mouth as I knelt in the confessional of Heiligenkreuz Abbey one bitter February evening. I hadn’t been a regular at church in around two years, having allowed a severe eating disorder to take over God’s place in my life. Yet, there was still a deep longing within me, as well as the knowledge that I was quietly being pursued by a loving God. Despite my unbelief, I was the lost sheep that He was seeking to bring back to the fold.
It was this and the hunger for silence that brought me to Heiligenkreuz on a retreat (though admittedly, it was mostly my morbid fascination with the life and death of Baroness Mary Vetsera who is buried in the graveyard there). Throughout this retreat, I felt nothing apart from the biting cold. The sound of the bells calling the monks to prayer, the Vienna Woods and the 16th century fountain which seemed to spring from a fairy tale book were all certainly beautiful, but I didn’t feel the rush of fervour in belief that I had been hoping for. Honestly, I couldn’t wait to get back home to Vienna.
The night before I left, everyone staying in the retreat house was raving about a priest who would be hearing confessions that night. Mostly out of curiosity, I decided to go, and joined the queue that lasted for at least half an hour. Once in the confessional, all I could say was that I didn’t really know why I was there, and that I struggled to believe. Patiently, the priest told me that I must ask Mary for help. “Mary, help me to be more like you” he told me to pray.
How could I possibly be like Mary? Not only had I always struggled to have a relationship with Our Lady, I saw myself as too headstrong, stubborn, judgemental and impatient. In what way could I conceivably match up to the woman with titles such as ‘Queen of Heaven’? What I didn’t realise at that time is that she also holds the titles Refuge of Sinners, Undoer of Knots, and Our Lady of Compassion. In the words of St Thérèse, Mary is more mother than queen, and longs to wrap us all in her motherly mantle.
The abbey at Heiligenkreuz
It took many months for me to be drawn back to God, for me to realise how to become like Mary. All it would take would be to, like her, answer ‘yes’ to God. The simplicity astounded me, and only hit me when a penance I was given in confession was to pray the Magnificat.
“Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
By taking these words into our hearts and beginning each day with this simple offering, we can allow God to transform our entire lives. We hear the same concept again and again when we pray the Our Father, but how often do we really pay attention to what we are saying and truly mean it? Pope Francis said “throughout her life her whole being is a ‘yes’ to that love, it is the ‘yes’ to God”. It wasn’t that Mary said ‘yes’ once, but unequivocally continued to do so throughout her life.
We should not fear saying yes to God. Certainly, Mary was troubled, yet had a whole hearted trust in the will of the Lord. As the Divine Mercy chaplet beautifully illustrates, His will is love and mercy itself. His mercy is endless, the treasury of compassion inexhaustible. Read that again. Inexhaustible is such a compelling adjective to use here. It’s something that we cannot possibly comprehend, and may only fully grasp when we come face to face with Him. No matter how many times we fall away, refuse His will and say no to Him, God is waiting for us with open arms. The care that He feels for us simply cannot be expire, and tirelessly, He waits for us to say yes to Him.
When we say yes to God, we can change the world. This might not be in an earth-shaking event, but may instead be like throwing a stone into a river, making ripples that reach further than we think. Allowing Him to work within us, we bring Christ to the world in the areas where He is most needed.
Mary, help us to be more like you.
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