Three Marian virtues can serve the Catholic teacher in ways you might not expect as we strive to imitate Mary in our vocation.
By Rachel Gleeson
Mary is the supreme model of Christian living. She followed her Son with devotion and perfection as we see in her virtues. Many of these characteristics are important for teachers in particular as we follow Christ by living our vocation as educators.
In True Devotion to Mary, St. Louis de Montfort lists ten principal virtues of Our Blessed Mother. He explains that those who are devoted to Mary will imitate her in these qualities:
“her profound humility, her lively faith, her blind obedience, her continual prayer, her universal mortification, her divine purity, her ardent charity, her heroic patience, her angelic sweetness and her divine wisdom” (Chap. 3 art. 2 para. 3)
While they are meant as a general list for Christian living, some of these virtues are indispensable in a special way for teachers. Mary is an excellent model for teachers because her virtues are virtues teachers need. Some of these are obvious: charity, patience, wisdom. A few others of these virtues can serve the Catholic teacher in ways you might not expect as we strive to imitate Mary in our vocation.
Mary is renowned for her humility. She remains largely in the shadows in the Gospels despite the fact that the Incarnation would not have occurred without her. Mary is humble not because she was demure and subservient, but because she understood her role in God’s plan and agreed to it.
Humility is not about being passive and letting students walk all over you. It is about recognizing yourself as you truly are: your gifts and your flaws, your successes and your mistakes. It means knowing you have dignity but that you’re not the center of the universe.
So next time that one student spills juice across the classroom floor or there’s a special schedule for the third time this week or students point out that typo on your worksheet … be humble.
Throughout her life, from the Annunciation to the Cross, Mary accepts what God sends her, the joyful and the sorrowful. She completely surrenders to his will because she believes his promises. She trusts that He is truly good and will work all things for good.
As teachers, we know well the ups and downs of life. Some days are amazing: A lesson runs perfectly or a student tells you how much they appreciate you. Other days, you are out of pencils, tissues, and bandages all at the same time. In both of these moments we need to remember, as Mary did, that all we have is given to us by God and is according to his plan.
Faith is about choosing God’s plan and trusting it. Even if we don’t understand that plan we know it is best and far better than our own. As teachers, we’re not used to surrendering control, but assenting to what we cannot see is exactly what faith is about.
The fact that your lesson was derailed or you didn’t get to that awesome activity doesn’t matter that much in the bigger plan — or God would have made sure it happened. Trust that he has your good and the good of your students in mind always.
At multiple points in his Gospel, Luke comments that Mary “pondered things in her heart.” Mary was a person of prayer and reflection. She considered what God was doing in her life and thought before she acted.
As teachers, reflection should be a part of our practice. What went well today? What needs improvement? How can I reach out to the new student who hasn’t made friends? How will I help the student who is struggling? What is the best way to respond to this student’s behavior?
These questions and situations require consideration. Like Mary, we must ponder. And we must pray. Our reflection should be informed by our relationship with God that we sustain through constant dialogue with Christ and a regular schedule of prayer.
St. Louis deMontfort’s list of virtues is certainly daunting but these virtues that Mary models for us are not out of reach. Attaining these virtues requires perseverance and effort. However, they are essential to living out our vocation as Catholic educators. Mary stands as our model as well as our aid. If we ask her, she will help us to be faithful, humble, and prayerful so that we can give our best to our students and all those we encounter.
Rachel Gleeson is a middle-school and high-school theology teacher and liturgy coordinator at a PreK-12 Catholic school in Wisconsin.