by Krysti Patient, Full Member and 2017-2018 Missionary to Youth
Today the Church celebrates Pentecost after fifty days of glorious Easter, and welcomes once more with great and grateful need, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the people of God. While reflecting on this time in preparation for this blog, I happened to also be preparing a talk on the very same season to our Girls’ CLC (Catholic Life Community, discipleship group) at All Saints Catholic Church, where I’ve been assigned for the past two years for ministry both as a volunteer and a Missionary to Youth through Women Youth Apostles. Providence aligned a few subjects or themes that provided a lens through which I wanted to look at this beautiful event- the birthday of the Church. I was inspired to dig up an old talk I gave to my own community and several other guests at our Annual Retreat two years ago on Mary, Queen of Apostles, for this, one of the oldest titles given to Our Lady comes from this blessed event in the Upper Room, where she was present with the disciples. Furthermore, it seemed appropriate to involve the Blessed Mother in my reflection given the month, for May is the month of Our Lady, and this coming soon after Mother’s Day. Finally, Women Youth Apostles just this past Wednesday welcomed guest speaker China Briceno to speak to us for our Formation meeting about “The Fight for Femininity”. China took us through John Paul II’s document, Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women). This document highlights attributes of the ‘feminine genius’ that I would like to use to provide some thoughts on Pentecost, the Blessed Mother, and my experience as a Missionary to Youth these past 9 months.
The receptivity of Mary is genius. This quality is what made her the ‘handmaid of the Lord’ and inspired her Fiat. This very attribute of Our Lady is what welcomed the Holy Spirit to overshadow her and bring into flesh the presence of Christ, the Word and Son of God. This openness to life, the life of the Christ child, and this trusting openness to whatever God has planned for me, is something I have asked for in prayer throughout these months as a missionary and in diving into youth ministry. In the Spiritual Life, I have made efforts in prayer to ‘do’ less and ‘be’ more, to allow the Lord to overshadow me and provide me with an understanding of His will. As a youth minister, and a sister in my community, I have recognized how key this receptivity is to become a vessel and then instrument of the Holy Spirit, to be used to bring that Christ-life to my sisters and the young people I serve. Our community spirituality places great importance in the Fiat of Mary, her radical ‘Yes’, and in fact the first line in our own community prayer is “Gracious Lord, we are your handmaidens”. This receptivity has been the first priority of my mission and impressing the importance of this quality on the young women in my ministries is the utmost goal, the first step to a life with Christ. For this was Mary’s first step. This Pentecost, receptivity is what is needed when we pray, “Come, Holy Spirit”.
This attribute is so closely linked with receptivity. The very receptivity of Mary that welcomed the Holy Spirit and gave way to God’s will in her life was radically generous of her. It is typical for us to think of generosity in terms of giving, but this is not contrary to receptivity because we are first called to be generous with our very selves to our Lord and His plan. I often think of the story of Mary and Martha here as well- both of these women showed Jesus generosity, but it was the generosity of Mary’s prayerful presence to Christ that was most pleasing, not the material service of Martha. Another line of the Women Youth Apostle prayer that comes to mind here is, “Place within us a burning desire to do the work of your Kingdom here on earth.” This burning desire is the same as that ‘fire of [His] love’ when we invoke the Holy Spirit- “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love.” We ask the Lord to be generous to us, with a generous outpouring of His Holy Spirit that will fill our hearts to the brim. This generosity of God’s is an active initiative that burns within His faithful. The Blessed Mother was generous with the whole of her life, submitting herself entirely to the Spirit, allowing the Lord to initiate a very good- the best- work within her, filling her to the brim and kindling a mothering heart for all that was generous with all. I have found myself in this year of mission asking for Our Lady’s intercession to show this generosity in my giving of self to the Lord, to my sisters, and to the Lord’s young people.
I mentioned Mary’s mothering heart, which leads to this third quality, maternity. Our Lady’s unique identity as both virgin and mother is so beautiful because through Mary we are to understand woman’s universal call to motherhood, no matter her state in life. From the cross Christ gave the world through John His own mother, and all of us the Church, to Our Lady as her new adopted children. From that moment on, the Blessed Mother looked upon each human face and saw the face of her son. The care she must have shown- a mothering care- for the souls of each of these children taken as her own, is a quality needed in our world, and especially by the young people. Mary was present there in the Upper Room with the disciples as they awaited the Holy Spirit, this woman who had received the Spirit herself at an important beginning years ago. I imagine her leadership, her maternity in that room for these men and some women gathered in anticipation and probable uncertainty. I think of her words in the Magnificat, “The Almighty has done great things for me” as she anticipated the great gift the Lord wished to give her spiritual children.
Two ministry experiences come to mind as I reflect on Our Lady’s maternity at Pentecost. The first began earlier in the schoolyear, around the end of the Fall Semester in December, as we celebrated the close of the semester with our high school teens at All Saints with a family potluck and talent show. I watched many teens share their gifts with their peers and families, gifts I wasn’t even totally aware of, and a true celebration of this being a beautifully diverse Body of Christ. Later in the evening, one of the young women in the youth ministry, and a member of the Girls’ CLC, approached me to ask me to be her sponsor for her confirmation. Being able to pray for her in this special and intentional way in the months since has been a true gift of spiritual maternity (she receives confirmation tomorrow evening!). The second experience was on the two girls’ 8th grade confirmation retreats this past April. A simple reflection to be sure, but it was another gift to be able to watch several of our high school girls join us as assistant leaders and to witness their own qualities of receptivity, generosity and maternity in their care for their younger 8th grade sisters in the Church. I watch some lend musical gifts, others give talks, and all of them help lead and teach and offer personal experience to share with the 8th graders the truth of their experience of a relationship with Christ. Certainly watching CLC girls make commitments before an altar in honor of this very relationship and in the liturgy always catches me by the heart, because there’s a combination of joys between knowing what the Lord has done for each one of them while also assured of how much more He plans to do.
It’s amusing to realize that I’ve been in my missionary year now for 9 months, as I reflect on carrying the life of Christ and spiritual maternity. As I reflect on Our Lady’s presence at Pentecost, I recognize I have been blessed to have this sense of carrying, of holding something special and important, a not-so-secret secret that is the truth of God’s love and to have been able to share this truth with others and especially the young people I’ve been privileged to serve. I praise God for, and I have been blessed to witness the ways the Lord has done great things in the lives of the youth in my ministries, and am confident in the many ways He will undoubtedly do even greater things in their lives in the days to come. I also await with great expectation and assurance in my own inner Upper Room for the Spirit to come to me in new ways and to lead me along new journeys of trust, of receptivity, generosity and maternity as his handmaiden in Women Youth Apostles.
(photos above are of 1. Me giving a testimony to high school teens at our Sunday Lifenight program, 2. Our Girls’ CLC president giving a talk at the 8th grade confirmation retreat, and 3. A CLC girl making her final Full Member commitment before the altar at a commitment mass)