The Word Among Us

Prayer Resources

Mary, Our Mother

A Meditation on Mary with Ignatius of Loyola

From his early years, Ignatius had a sense of the presence of Mary. His writings present Mary as the one who conducts him into the presence of the Trinity.

Opening prayer: "God, you gave the Virgin Mary a share in the passion of your Son and in the glory of his resurrection. Turn our eyes to look on [Christ] so that we may seek [the reign of God] on earth and enter into everlasting life, to be one with Mary, our Mother. We ask this through Christ."

("Prayer over the Gifts,"in Supplement to the Missal and Lectionary for the Society of Jesus, p. 15)

About Ignatius

As a young man, Ignatius dreamed of a woman for whom he would do anything. He wrote in his autobiography,

Of the many vain things that presented themselves to him, one took such a hold on his heart that he was absorbed in thinking about it for two or three or four hours without realizing it: he imagined what he would do in the service of a certain lady, the means he would take so he could go to the country where she lived, the verses, the words he would say to her, the deeds of arms he would do in her service. He became so conceited with this that he did not consider how impossible it would be because the lady was not of the lower nobility nor a countess nor a duchess, but her station was higher than any of these.

Nevertheless, Our Lord assisted him, causing other thoughts that arose from the things he read to follow these. . .

And so he began to forget the thoughts of the past with these holy desires he had, and they were confirmed by a vision in this manner. One night while he was awake, he saw clearly an image of Our Lady with the holy child Jesus. (Olin and O’Callaghan, Autobiography, pp. 23–24)

In light of his vision of Mary, Ignatius made pilgrimages to the shrines of Mary. He dedicated himself to praying the Office of Our Lady. At Montserrat, on the feast of the Annunciation, he surrendered his sword and dagger at Mary’s feet.

Ignatius, who had dreamed of a lady for whom he would do anything, found in Mary the lady who would be for him the doorway of the graces he would receive throughout his life. He asked Mary to grant his greatest desire, "to deign to place him with her Son" (Olin and O’Callaghan, Autobiography, p. 89).

Pause: Consider the picture or image of Mary that you most enjoy.

Ignatius’s Words

In his spiritual journal, Ignatius made frequent references to Mary, giving expression to a strong and tender relationship with her and to the great gift of her presence in his life. He made this entry on February 15, 1544:

Later, on going out to say Mass, when beginning the prayer, I saw a likeness of our Lady, and realized how serious had been my fault of the other day, not without some interior movement and tears, thinking that the Blessed Virgin felt ashamed at asking for me so often after my many failings, so much so, that our Lady hid herself from me, and I found no devotion either in her or from on high. After this, as I did not find our Lady, I sought comfort on high, and there came upon me a great movement of tears and sobbing with a certain assurance that the Heavenly Father was showing Himself favorable and kindly, so much so, that He gave me a sign that it would be pleasing to Him to be asked through our Lady, whom I could not see.

While preparing the altar, and after vesting, and during the Mass, very intense interior movements, and many and intense tears and sobbing, with frequent loss of speech, and also after the end of Mass, and for long periods during the Mass, preparing and afterwards, the clear view of our Lady, very propitious before the Father, to such an extent, that in the prayers to the Father, to the Son, and at the consecration, I could not help feeling and seeing her, as though she were a part, or the doorway, of all the grace I felt in my soul. At the consecration she showed that her flesh was in that of her Son, with such great light that I cannot write about it. (Young, Spiritual Journal, p. 7)


Throughout history, devotion to Mary has served as a remedy for the harsh, rigid, or decadent times in the church. In 1950, the psychologist Carl Jung hailed the proclamation of the dogma of the assumption of Mary. On several occasions, Jung publicly declared that the world needed the sign of the woman who was assumed into heaven, body as well as soul, as an antidote for the materialism of our time (Carl G. Jung, Four Archetypes: Mother, Rebirth, Spirit, Trickster, pp. 41–43).

An authentic devotion to Mary has always effected a powerful transformation in the life of Christians. On the spiritual journey, Mary models full humanity: she was strong and tender, challenging and nurturing, active and contemplative. She courageously welcomed her motherhood. She stood at the crucifixion, while the apostles denied Jesus.

God calls Christians to be holy and wholly human, and so they are invited to put aside stereotypes of masculinity and femininity and to put on their full humanity, as did Mary and Jesus. Ignatian spirituality challenges us to offer our total humanity to the service of God’s reign, just as Mary did, and to depend on her loving intercession.

~At the annunciation, Mary displayed complete trust in God and surrendered to God’s will. God showers us with grace so that we too can trust God’s goodness; act courageously for love, peace, and justice; and surrender to God’s will.

• In what areas of your life do you need to trust more completely in God’s goodness?

• In dealing with what situations do you need more courage to love, make peace, and act justly?

• What aspects of your life do you need to surrender to God’s will, to let go of and let God take care of?

• In your journal or on other paper, converse with Mary about each of these questions. Proceed with this conversation, first one speaking, then the other—for example:

You: Blessed Mother, I just cannot trust that . . .

Mary: her response to you]

~ In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius describes three methods of prayer. The third method is this:

With each breath or respiration, one should pray mentally while saying a single word of the Lord’s Prayer, or of another prayer, in such a way that from one breath to another, only one word is said. During this period of time, the attention should be directed primarily to the meaning of the word, to the Person who is addressed. In this way, observing the same measure of time, one should go through the remaining words of the prayer. (Tetlow, Spiritual Exercises, p. 84)

Using this Ignatian method of prayer, pray the Hail Mary:

Hail Mary, full of grace,

the Lord is with you.

Blessed are you among women,

and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, mother of God,

Pray for us sinners,

now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

~ Picture yourself as John, standing at the foot of the cross.Look up and see Jesus dying. He looks at Mary and you and says, "Woman, this is your son. [Son], this is your mother" (John 19:26–27). Standing there, you reflect on his words, pondering these questions:

• How will you take Mary into your home?

• How will you welcome her into your heart?

After meditating on these questions, tell Mary what is in your heart.

~ Relishing each word, phrase, and image, read aloud this poem to Mary, written by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and titled "The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe":

Wild air, world-mothering air,

Nestling me everywhere,

That each eyelash or hair

Girdles; goes home betwixt

The fleeciest, frailest-flixed

Snowflake; that’s fairly mixed

With, riddles, and is rife

In every least thing’s life;

This needful, never spent,

And nursing element;

My more than meat and drink,

My meal at every wink;

This air, which, by life’s law,

My lung must draw and draw

Now but to breathe its praise,

Minds me in many ways

Of her who not only

Gave God’s infinity

Dwindled to infancy

Welcome in womb and breast,

Birth, milk, and all the rest

But mothers each new grace

That does now reach our race—

Mary Immaculate,

Merely a woman, yet

Whose presence, power is

Great as no goddess’s

Was deemèd, dreamèd; who

This one work has to do—

Let all God’s glory through,

God’s glory which would go

Through her and from her flow

Off, and no way but so.

(In Poems and Prose, pp. 54–55)

~ Sing your favorite hymn to Mary.

From God’s Word

Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could into the hill country to a town in Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now it happened that as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, "Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? Look, the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled." (Luke 1:39-45, NJB)

Closing prayer: Mary, Mother of Jesus, place me with your Son.

An excerpt from Praying with Ignatius of Loyola by Jacqueline Syrup Bergan and Marie Schwan. Click here to purchase "Praying with Ignatius of Loyola."