Our prayer each day should be, “Let the joy of the Lord be my strength.” Cheerfulness and joy were Our Lady’s strength. This made her a willing handmaid of God. Only joy could have given her the strength to go in haste over the hills of Judea to her cousin Elizabeth, there to do the work of a handmaid. If we are to be true handmaids of the Lord, then we, too, each day, must go cheerfully in haste over the hills of difficulties.
— Mother Teresa
Certainly, Advent is a holy season of great joy. What better time to meditate on the Blessed Mother’s virtues! Mother Teresa often referred to the Blessed Virgin Mary when speaking about the Faith and encouraged everyone to strive to emulate her virtues. For instance, Mother Teresa pointed out, “Cheerfulness and joy were Our Lady’s strength.” She encouraged us to imitate Mary in being a “willing handmaid” and cheerfully to set out to help those in need. As we know, this is what the young Mary did after giving her fiat to the Lord, declaring herself His handmaid, after the angel Gabriel had greeted her with the amazing message that she would become the Mother of God.
Even though she was
entirely filled with the Holy Spirit, pregnant now with Jesus, and profoundly
grateful to God, Mary didn’t focus on her own situation or try to understand it
fully, or even worry about what St. Joseph might think. Instead, she went “in
haste” to help someone in need. That someone was the mother of St. John the
Baptist, who was growing in Elizabeth’s womb. Mary learned from the angel
Gabriel that her cousin Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy in her
old age and needed help. Mary was not afraid or hesitant to be a handmaid. She
demonstrated a sacrificial love by putting aside her own pregnancy needs and
heading out on an arduous trip to care for Elizabeth.
With Jesus growing in her immaculate womb, Mary hurried to Judea and entered the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah. St. John the Baptist leapt in Elizabeth’s womb and the aging woman excitedly greeted her younger cousin. Mary then uttered her Magnificat song of praise:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm,
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their
he has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel,(Luke 1:46–55)
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.
One time, Mother Teresa explained how Mother Mary thanked God in her Magnificat and how she can help us:
The Magnificat is Our Lady’s prayer of thanks. She can help us to love Jesus best; she is the one who can show us the shortest way to Jesus. Mary was the one whose intercession led Jesus to work the first miracle. “They have no wine,” she said to Jesus. “Do whatever he tells you,” she said to the servants. We take the part of the servants. Let us go to her with great love and trust.Mother Teresa and Angelo Devananda Scolozzi, Total Surrender, rev. ed. (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 1985), 102.
Mother Teresa pushes us forth to go with Mary — to go with great love and trust. In overseeing her congregation and in serving the poorest of the poor, Mother Teresa relied upon the Blessed Mother each day. She prayed heartily to Mary to help transform her heart and soul. We can pray Mother Teresa’s prayer, too:
Mary, I depend on you totally as a child on its mother, that in return you may possess me, protect me, and transform me into Jesus. May the light of your faith dispel the darkness of my mind; may your profound humility take the place of my pride; may your contemplation replace the distractions of my wandering imagination; and may your virtues take the place of my sins. Lead me deeper into the mystery of the cross that you may share your experience of Jesus’s thirst with me.Mother Teresa, Thirsting for God, 17–18.
Do you have the heart of Mother Mary? How about the heart of Mother Teresa? Can your heart be joyful and more closely resemble theirs? Yes, it certainly can — with prayer! Are you willing to be a handmaid for the Lord — even you men? Mother Teresa reminds us, “If we are to be true handmaids of the Lord, then we too, each day, must go cheerfully in haste over the hills of difficulties.” Can we do that? As well, according to Mother Teresa, we take the part of the servants and should do whatever he tells us.
Take time to ponder how Mother Mary fits into your life. Ask her to help you to be more generous and loving. For “extra credit,” read Mary’s Magnificat prayer above slowly and ponder the words, imagining her expressing it.
Our Lady of Fatima, with Christmas fast approaching, please lead me closer to your Son Jesus this holy season. Jesus, help me to be a joyful reflection of your Mother. Our Lady of Fatima and St. Teresa of Calcutta, please pray for me.
Pray the Rosary today in honor of Our Lady of Fatima and for peace in the world.
Offer a sacrifice in reparation for sinners, as Our Lady of Fatima has asked. Who, especially, could use some love and cheer at this time of year? Reach out in love. Strive to convert your heart today with God’s grace and Mother Mary’s help, remembering that conversion of heart should be a daily occurrence.