Up Front and Personal

Striving to Model Mary’s Exemplary Qualities

By Veronica Szczygiel

During this past school year, I shared with my students a reflection on some of the Blessed Mother’s characteristics and why she’s a role model for me. Here are some of the thoughts I shared.

An important characteristic that Mary espouses is total commitment to faith. As a practicing Jew, she grew up believing that the Messiah would one day come to liberate the Jewish people. So when the angel Gabriel told Mary that her son would be the Messiah, she must have felt overwhelmed. She probably asked herself: Out of all the women God could have chosen, why me?

But Mary trusted in God; she had faith in His will for her. She said “yes” to God’s calling every day, even when she watched her only son die painfully on the cross. Even in this grief, her faith in God’s will didn’t waver. She showed us that when you have faith, you must stay committed to your beliefs even in times of sorrow. God has a plan for you and for me; trust it.

Mary’s second trait is strength of character. Mary stayed true to herself even when people judged her. She was pregnant with God’s child before being technically married to Joseph. Let’s face it: we all know how people are. We know how we ourselves can get: gossip is juicy. Rumors are tempting. But both are hurtful.

Mary’s early pregnancy was the talk of the town because women were expected to marry before having children. However, Mary didn’t let this faze her; she knew that she must stay strong amidst judgment. She knew that only God can judge her. Remember that when people judge you; their opinions mean nothing. Remember that when you judge other people; you are not God, and you have no right to do so.

A third important characteristic is Mary’s ability to foster others’ talents. She and Jesus attended a wedding feast in Cana before He officially began His public ministry. They were all having a wonderful time, when suddenly the guests heard news that the kitchen ran out of wine. How embarrassing for the bride and groom!

Mary knew Jesus’ talents, and she knew He could help. She urged Him to make a miracle. However, He hesitated; He didn’t feel ready at this moment. Strong woman that she was, Mary didn’t listen. She turned to the servers and said, “Do whatever he tells you,” which basically means, “Jesus will do it.” She was a straightforward, no-nonsense woman!

Here, Mary turned Jesus’ hesitation into a character-building moment. She knew His true talent and encouraged Him to share it with everyone. So don’t compare yourselves to others; everyone is special in his or her own way. God has gifted us all with unique talents. Let’s make them shine in each other, like Mary did for Jesus.

I love Mary for her faith, her strength in spite of being judged, and her ability to cultivate the goodness in others. She is a role model for me, and I hope she can be one for you, too.

Szczygiel teaches English at the Marymount School of New York.

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