Last weekend I was very excited and blessed to attend a retreat hosted by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, also known as the "Ann Arbor Dominicans" or the "Sisters who were on Oprah." As someone who attended a university with Dominican friars at our Newman Center and completed a year of full-time volunteer service with the Dominicans this past July, I was eagerly awaiting my chance to meet these lovely Sisters. Not only that, but I would be surrounded by other Catholic women (potential new friends?!) which is something that has probably been missing in my life since I moved here after the wedding (a couple of months ago now - how time flies!).
I was also very excited for this retreat because it was my first ever blatantly labeled "non-discernment" retreat. The weekend was geared toward post-college age women who were not discerning/had already found their vocation in life. The fact that I now fit into this category still makes me smile. With that said, though, there were a lot of moms...and I mean a lot. So many that this retreat has been nicknamed the "Moms' Retreat" and many of the sessions were facilitated from the perspective of our feminine role(s) as wives and mothers...but mainly just as mothers. Because of this I couldn't necessarily relate to all of the sessions on the retreat, but there was one thing that struck me in a very profound way.
Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist Chapel
The first hour we were there everyone drew a slip of paper out of an envelope. The pieces of paper contained the Litany of Mary and as Sister Joseph Andrew pointed out so well, whichever one we drew was in fact the one we were meant to draw. She instructed us to reflect on why we got that piece of paper later on in Adoration and told us that we would get the chance to share our understandings/explanations the following day.
As I pulled the thin slip of paper out of the big manila envelope I wondered which "Mary" I would receive. I unfolded it and read the words,
"Mary, at whose Fiat the Son of God came to earth, pray for us."
Wow. How beautiful! Not to mention perfect for the start of the Advent season.
As I continued to reflect on these words it became very clear to me why I received that slip of paper. I could go on and on about the connections I was able to draw from it, but I'll simply leave it at this: when Mary demonstrated this fiat, this complete surrender and "yes" to God's plan for her life she discovered her vocation (this was something I could relate to!). Not only this, but it brought the Son of God to the earth and forever into our lives. Now, I wouldn't dare compare myself or my vocation to Our Lady or our Lord Jesus Christ...but I think Mary's "yes" is very relate-able and a good example for all of our lives.
It was only when I began to surrender more wholly and began to sacrifice whatever personal desires or goals I may have had for myself that I turned to Mary and more fully saw where God was leading me. As I discerned marriage to my (now) husband I turned my eyes to Mary and, for the first time in my life, finally understood what it was to have a real Marian devotion. She is the ultimate wife and mother and I began praying to her every day. I prayed that if I were supposed to be a wife and mother that she would help me know this in my heart so that when the time came I could give a resounding and wholehearted "yes" - without hesitation - just as she had. It also floored me when I reflected on the fact that my husband and I met for the very first time on the Feast of the Annunciation (when the angel Gabriel appeared to announce God's plan for Mary - and she said "yes") in 2011...so of course you can start to see why this little slip of paper nearly overwhelmed me as I spoke about it with Jesus that night.
As I grew in relationship with Mary I grew in relationship with my husband...and it was after praying the rosary at an adoration chapel named Marytown that he proposed and I said "yes." In fact, you can read my account of the proposal story at my old blog here.
Clearly it would be insanely blasphemous to even suggest that my "yes" to God's will for my life somehow brought the Son of God to the earth...but I think at the end of the day this is how we come to know Christ more intimately in our daily lives. By striving to live by Mary's example of such self-sacrifice and obedience to God we come to follow and know Him in a deeper way. If we can have faith and model this fiat we shall always be exactly where God wants us, doing whatever He wills for us. After all, isn't doing what He wills for us far more satisfying than whatever other things we may believe to be right for ourselves?
We can learn many lessons from our Blessed Mother, but I find her fiat to be one of the most profound, humbling lessons she ever gave us...and although I hadn't quite realized it until this retreat, her fiat was the very thing that drew me to her and nurtured my devotion to her when I was seeking God's path for me. I certainly believe she was onto something beautiful and True when she surrendered herself to God in this way. May we all learn to follow her example and let us ask Mary, at whose Fiat the Son of God came to earth, to pray for us.
The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.