The Catechetical Review - Communicating Christ for a New Evangelization

Blessed Is She Who Believed: Mary’s Pastoral Significance for University Students

Authored by Allison Fitzgerald in Issue #10.2 of Catechetical Review

In many depictions of the annunciation, Mary is pictured as having been interrupted by the angel Gabriel in the midst of study. Whether she has a book open in her lap or tossed aside, a scroll in her hand or on a nearby stand, it is clear that, before this event, she was reading. Art historians have proposed interesting cultural interpretations of this motif, and these interpretations have their place. However, it seems that this motif, and the idea of Mary as an intellectual in general, has the potential to serve a pastoral purpose when investigated scripturally and spiritually. When viewed in light of the Gospel scenes that follow the annunciation, it becomes clear that Mary’s fiat could only have come from a woman who was steeped in the Scriptures and the religious tradition in which she found herself. The knowledge she displays of her place in the cosmic plan of salvation and her identity as a handmaiden of the Creator of the universe had to have been the fruit of deep study and contemplation.

Beautifully, the opportunity for deep study and contemplation is exactly what is on offer to university students. When considering the formation of these students and the call of Ex Corde Ecclesiae for Catholic universities to serve students “in their pilgrimage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life,” pastoral strategies that assist students in integrating their intellectual lives with their spiritual lives are essential.[1] Thus, Mary, when viewed as an intellectual, can be a tangible image, mentor, and friend to students who are fighting to integrate their relationship with God with their call to study. Here I will flesh out the pastoral potency of this view of Mary by first exploring an instance of scriptural evidence of Mary’s intellectual life. Then I will reflect on A. G. Sertillanges’ writings on the spirit of prayer in the intellectual life. Finally, I will examine Caryll Houselander’s view of the relationship between Mary’s vocation and our own, concluding that Mary can not only be an example of the call to the intellectual life but can lead students to Christ through their study in meaningful ways.

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This article is from The Catechetical Review (Online Edition ISSN 2379-6324) and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of The Catechetical Review by contacting [email protected]

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