Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

A reflection on the word “GRACE”

By Kate Wicker

I once was talking to my 90-year-old nana about my special devotion to Our Blessed Mother. Nana, the faith superstar and uber Catholic matriarch of our family, surprised me by saying it took her a long time to develop a relationship with Mary. “When I was having a hard day [raising nine kids], I’d sometimes find myself thinking, ‘Mary didn’t have it so bad. She had one perfect child.’”

I get what my nana was saying. Not only did Mary give birth to God Himself, but she was full of grace. As in perfect herself. Sometimes it’s hard to feel like I’ll ever measure up to Mary’s beauty, piety, and sheer awesomeness when I can’t even keep up with laundry and have been known to lock myself in the bathroom to escape the madness rather than calmly diffuse the rioting natives.

Yet, what I also find in Mary – aside from her being a Mirror of Perfection – is a willingness to embrace all her imperfect, little children (including me) and to hold them close even when they’re anything but full of grace.

Mary also helps to reveal what a beautiful thing God’s grace is and that it’s there for our taking.

I had a friend recently compare parenthood to that of running a marathon or an ultra race. Her husband has competed in both, and my friend admitted that she couldn’t even begin to think about physically challenging herself to that degree. But her husband reminded her that he gets the same kind of response – “I could never do what you do and have so many children!” – from others who discover he has eight children.

She wrote, “People are capable of doing difficult, unfathomable things.” Mary is proof of this.

From the moment of the Annunciation, she said yes to God over and over. She even said yes to watching her only child suffer and die. She achieved and endured unfathomable things.

How did she do this? With God’s grace.

I know I’m far from being full of grace. Mary was the first to receive this gift, but rather than someone I need to compete with or avoid because I’ll always find myself coming up short, the Mother of God is a beautiful reminder of what God has in mind for us all.

God called me to be wife and mom. Every day He asks me to relinquish control, to bend to His will, to trust as Mary did even when I don’t understand what’s going on – like why does my 2-year-old keep saying there’s a button in her nose? Did she really shove a button up her nostril, or is she just trying to make me crazy?

Will I answer His call? Will I accept that He wants nothing more than to bless me, to lavish me with grace, and to lead me in living a life of trust and surrender to Him?

Or will I instead just give up, believe that grace is not for a sinner such as I am, and hide behind a litany of “cant’s”?

We don’t need to be immaculately conceived and rid ourselves of every sin and annoying quirk to experience a fulfilling, happy relationship with Christ. All we have to do is take His grace where we can get it by staying close to Him, by welcoming Him into our hearts and our homes at the dawn of each new day, and by begging our Mama – His Mama – to show us what it means to be led by grace.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 1:9)

Indeed His grace is all we need, and the smallest drops of it can fill us up. But the first step to having grace means being open to receiving it. That grace may come in the form of a generous offer of a friend to take our kids for an hour so we can rest or go to Adoration, or we may find the strength to make it through the witching hour after we receive spontaneous hug from a child.

Wherever we find the grace – in our home, in our husband, in our Bible, or in our hearts – let’s be grateful for it and allow it to serve as a reminder that like Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, we’re at our best not when we’re questioning ourselves and what we have to offer but when we focus on what God can do through us.

Kate Wicker is a wife, mom of littles, journalist, and expert in hazardous waste removal. She blogs at KateWicker.com and is the author of the amazing book Weightless: Making Peace with Your Body.

image credit: my Our Lady of Grace statue (her left hand has been missing since forever)