I’ve heard this phrase, or any variation of it, a lot within the last year. It’s interesting hearing people’s responses to what they think this phrase might mean. For most, the hymn “Hail Mary, Gentle Woman” seems to come to mind and the images of Mary that it imbues on people. These are the lyrics:
Gentle woman, quiet light,
morning star, so strong and bright,
gentle Mother, peaceful dove,
teach us wisdom; teach us love.
You were chosen by the Father;
you were chosen for the Son.
You were chosen from all women
and for woman, shining one.
Blessed are you among women,
blest in turn all women, too.
Blessed they with peaceful spirits.
Blessed they with gentle hearts.
Maybe I’m opening a can of worms among some Catholics, but I hate this song (except for the beginning portion [that I omitted above], which is the hail Mary, sung). I hate it because it embodies only one side of characteristics of an exemplary woman. Characteristics that typically have defined and confined women.
There is so much more to Mary than gentle, peaceful, quiet. I mean, really. At 14 (or so), she braved the potential persecution for being an unwed mother, she gave birth in the humblest of settings away from any support system (this image has helped get me through two of my labours), she heard from an elder in the Temple at Jesus’ circumcision that a sword would pierce her soul (Lk 2:34), she threw him into active ministry confidently (Jn 2), she watched him raise a ruckus with his words and deeds during his public ministry, knowing what his actions may bring upon him from the authorities at any moment. Mary’s life seems all but quiet. All but gentle. All but peaceful. While I believe these are qualities she has, they are definitely not the qualities that are defined in our Scriptures. And she is more than a shining one for women. She is THE shining disciple for all. She has demonstrated qualities of a lioness with the dignity of an eagle. She is and always will be the one who defines what a disciple should look like.
To be more like Mary is to be brave, confident in God’s abilities, bold, and tough. To be over-abundantly ready to pursue God’s will in any situation. To truly and actively live out God’s work in our world. And trusting that our trust in God will truly show God’s nature: faithful to the end.
THAT is Mary. THAT is being more like Mary. And that, my friends, is truly what we should be striving towards as Jesus’ disciples. Mary is our model in our response to God’s love. This is the Mary I want to be more like.