I first learned about the Blessed Virgin Mary from my mother. Some of my earliest memories are of my mom sitting at the kitchen table, early in the morning, with her rosary in hand. One particular memory taught me about the importance of having a devotion to the Mother of God.
One day, when I was about 11 years old, I found myself awake for school earlier than usual. As I walked toward the kitchen of my family’s home, I heard my mother talking. When I quietly entered the kitchen, I found my mother alone, talking to herself. Somewhat concerned about my dear mother’s mental stability, I looked closer and saw my mother’s rosary beads in her hand and realized that she was praying. I did not say anything and went back to my room. Many, many years later, I asked my Mom about what I saw that day. She told me that a mother’s heart is always filled with profound love and concern for her children that she always thinks of them, is concerned about them and prays for them always. She told me that as she made Dad’s lunch and the lunches of my siblings and me each day, she prayed her rosary, asking the Lord to bless our day and us. In her devotion to the rosary and the Blessed Mother, mom found a mentor and friend who knew what it was like to be a mother. In Our Lady’s joys, sorrows, and faith, my mom’s faith was strong for all of us. What I learned from my mom was that devotion to Our Lady was a way of finding faith throughout life’s experiences, just as Mary did. My devotion to Mary, learned from my mom, was what led me to join the Friar Servants of Mary.
For this Servite, and for all Servites, our devotion to Mary, the Mother of God is personal. She is our Mother who watched over us on the way of life. She is our intercessor as she lays our prayers and needs before the throne of grace. She is our teacher inspiring us to become more perfect disciples of the Lord Jesus as she was. The classroom for these lessons is our life and ministry in which we strive to bring Christ to others as she so faithfully did. As the Church teaches that Mary is our sister in faith, sitting in the midst of the Church, so we Servites see Mary as our sister in faith, sitting in the middle of the choir, praying with us that all may know Christ and Him crucified. She sits in the middle of the chapter reminding us of our vowed commitment to serve God in others, urgently calling all to salvation in Jesus. She sits in the middle of our community room reminding us to see in the faith of fellow friars the presence of Jesus whose strength and love is found in the brothers of our community. In the middle of our chapel Our Lady prays for and with us that in our faith we will find the hope to love God deeper.
As each day unfolds, we Servites offer a number of prayerful reverences to Our Lady. In every encounter we have with Mary each friar is reminded that the focus over our lives and work is give glory to God and help others find hope in the Lord as well. In Our Lady’s joys, sorrows, and faith, our faith grows stronger. Our Lady’s life experience challenges us to find God in all moments that we may have hope to minister well. We friars witness the movement of God and our devotion to Mary helps us in this. In Mary’s life and faith we Servites have the mentor and friend who inspires us to participate in God’s work with hope, steadfastness and joyful purpose.
After 33 years of being a part of the Servite Community my devotion to Mary has changed a bit, but what has remained constant is the fact that in Mary I have found a queen, a mother, a mentor, a sister and a friend whose yes to God’s will continues to strengthen me in my task of being a better disciple of Jesus. In Mary’s yes, I find the challenge as a friar to say yes to God and “do whatever He tells” me. Devotion to Mary doesn’t get any more personal than this.
Fr. Donald Siple, O.S.M.