For a number of years, I had the grace of praying with an intensely faith-filled woman for whom English was not a first language, a perceived challenge on her part that God used, when I first met her, to open my eyes to another way of looking at Our Lady. That other way remarkably led, in turn, down to this day, to a better understanding our individual and collective call to bless and to be blessed.
And so it was that the first time I heard my friend refer to the Blessed Mother as the “Blessing Mother,” my initial reaction was a linguistically compassionate, as well as a linguistically haughty, one. “Poor woman,” I thought. “She doesn’t know the difference between “blessed” and “blessing.” Whoever heard of calling Mary the “Blessing Mother”?
Hours later, when I put aside my English grammar expertise, and thought, without linguistic bias, about what she had said, I was amazed at the spiritual truth the Lord had conveyed through His daughter’s linguistic challenge. How fitting! “…God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise,” (1 Corinthians 1:27) …I might know English; she knew Our Lady!
“The Blessing Mother.” The form might be an English linguistic mistake, but it is not a spiritual Scriptural mistake. The more I thought about it, the more grateful I became for learning that new title. Calling Our Lady “The Blessing Mother,” it seemed to me, was not a contradiction to calling her “The Blessed Mother.” It was not an either/or construct. Stop calling her “The Blessed Mother” and start calling her “The Blessing Mother.” No. Both were interrelated, and both had a complementary place in our personal and collective salvation history.
Mary is the Blessed Mother because God graced her with the privilege of being Mother of God, Mother of the Savior, and Mother of Mercy…” In her humility, giving all glory to God, Mary proclaimed in her “Magnificat” that “all generations” would call her “blessed” because God had done “great things” for her. (Luke 1:48-49)
But to stop there; to stop at thinking of Mary as only “Blessed” neglects, I think, the other half of the story. From what I have read in the lives of the Saints, as in the life of St. Faustina, for example, God lavishes gifts on certain individuals for the good of the whole community—not just for the individuals themselves. That is why God would command St. Faustina to record in her Diary His Graces to her, so that others would be beneficiaries, too, of His Goodness. That is why, too, I think, that God says, “Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet's reward…” (Matthew 10:41)
When we are connected through and in Jesus, praying for and encouraging each other, He multiplies blessings so that we all share in the blessings that God showers upon each and all of us. Isn’t that what our Carmelite and other religious brothers and sisters are doing? Living hidden away, praying day and night--aren’t they obtaining graces for us—not just for themselves?
Jesus talked about that prayer-chain-reaction, too, when He told St. Peter, before the betrayal, “Simon, Simon, behold, satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32) Jesus blesses Peter; after the Resurrection, after his repentance, Peter promised to feed Jesus’ lambs and tend His sheep. (John 21:15-17) Blessedness becomes blessing.
Surely, Mary’s blessedness is meant to be shared, too! How spiritually correct and wise!, then, was the challenged-English speaker when she called Mary the “Blessing Mother.” Mary does not hoard her privileges, her graces for herself. No; Mary shares; she dispenses those graces to her children. And since God is Infinite, He never runs out of His Grace; He always has more blessings for His Mother to share. And share—and dispense--she does!
Think of all the graces obtained through her intercession under various titles. Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Knock, and Our Lady Aparecida, just to name a few. Her blessedness, through her blessing, becomes our blessedness. Not her blessing as if she were a god. No. Her blessedness comes from God, and through His Will, she shares that blessedness with us, her children. As the Litany of Loreto says, because she is the Blessed and Blessing Mother, she is the “Cause of our joy.”
This idea is corroborated, I think, when in hearing numerous homilies about the Beatitudes, I have learned that when Jesus said, “blessed” about a variety of virtuous-acting humans, to be blessed is to be “happy,” not only because we are full of grace, full of God’s life given to us, but because we act on those virtues for the benefit of others.... “Blessed are the merciful…” implying that there is a happiness for those who demonstrate mercy, who act on the mercy with which they are full.
How do we get full of mercy? As a gift, as a blessedness, from God, Who first forgives us so that unlike the wicked servant, (Matthew 18: 23-35) once we are forgiven, we will forgive others--not just seven times, as St. Peter speculated (Matthew 18:21), but seventy time seven times, as Jesus instructed. (Matthew 18: 22) Blessedness (being forgiven) turns into blessing (forgiving others).
And then, the reciprocity, the interplay between blessing and being blessed continues, when Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) Get mercy from God, share mercy with others, get more mercy from God…. “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” (John 1:16)
And in the same vein, in addition to mercy, more generally, the measure with which we measure (e.g. the extent to which we share our blessedness—the extent to which we use our gifts, talents, and treasures etc. as a blessing for others—that is the extent to which we, in turn, will be blessed. (Luke 6:38)
Blessing upon blessing. Grace upon grace. Pressed down, overflowing…. Blessed to be a blessing…
Mary is the Blessed Mother because of the Graces God gives her as Mother of God; Mary is the Blessing Mother because of the Graces she shares. … She is the Blessing Mother, too, because she refers all honor and praise to God. She blesses God, too. “My soul proclaims the Goodness of the Lord...” (Luke 1:46)
Blessed Mother and Blessing Mother...As Mother and model, as her Son’s most faithful disciple and the sinless Mother of the Church, those two titles of Mary’s apply, in a different way, to us, also. Jesus said, “Whoever does God’s Will is My…mother.” (Mark 3:35)
Like Mary, we are called to know that we are blessed, and to be grateful for God’s gifts of Grace to us, starting with our Baptism. Like Mary, once we know that we are blessed, we need to share those blessings. “Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all that you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8) And…“You are being enriched in every way for all generosity, which through us produces thanksgiving to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:12)
God is abundantly generous…the more blessings we share, the more we will receive. “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke 6:38) … We love because He first loved us. We forgive because He has shown us forgiveness. We bless others because He blesses us.
Blessed and Blessing. In a televised reflection many years ago, the late Fr. Harold Cohen, S.J., summarized the Good News in two words, two movements. Jesus invites us to “Come.” And He instructs us to “Go.” For me, in light of this contemplation of Our Lady’s two titles, the “Coming” is akin to being blessed. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “ (Matthew 11:28) And the “Going” is akin to sharing the blessings. “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15) And the interrelatedness: "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Matthew 19:21)
As I share these reflections about Our Blessed/Blessing Mother, I continue being grateful for my friend’s challenges with the English language ... In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, I pray that this meditation on Scriptural truth will be a great grace for all of us to be inspired to be more like Our Blessed/Blessing Mother--Our Mother of Mercy.
Let us know and be grateful that we have been blessed by God. Let us glorify God by acknowledging and sharing those blessings, generously shared in His Holy Name, with everyone we meet.
Blessed/Blessing Mother, please pray for us to be more like you. Thank you. We thank God for the gift of you.