Sometimes the best gifts we receive are the ones we didn’t know we wanted.
It’s kind of marvelous when this happens. With such gifts, we enjoy more than the present itself (though that’s quite nice in its own right). We also gain a gift of self-knowledge, together with some insight about our relationship with that gift-giver.
For starters, we come to realize that someone can know us better than we know ourselves. Normally we tend to operate as if we’ve marked off the full circumference of our needs and wants. Who else could know me as well as I do, right? To the contrary, the gift-giver sees something out there in the world beyond our limited reach. The giver trusts in the knowledge he or she has about us—of who we are, our likes, tastes, and affinities—and acts from that knowledge and trust, out of love. On the receiving end, we are filled with delight. Had we not received it as a gift, we may never have discovered this good thing for ourselves. (Before entering religious life, I cooked for years before someone gave me an apron as an unexpected gift. I can’t tell you why, but I had never thought to wear one. Such a simple thing, yet it came to mean a great deal to me.) Without the giver, our life would have remained impoverished in some small way, even if we had remained oblivious to this fact. This realization draws us closer to the giver.
All of this applies to our relationship with the Blessed Mother. Marian devotion, in all its forms, provides many unexpected gifts. One gift in particular is a deeper devotion to the Holy Spirit.
Put another way, devotion to Mary will inevitably bring with it devotion to the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit in turn wants to give us the spiritual equivalent of an entire Amazon warehouseful of gifts. Not just one gift we didn’t know we wanted—and by which we are so delighted, and through which we are more deeply connected to the giver—but many. Many.
Now, isn’t Marian devotion supposed to bring us “to Jesus through Mary,” as St. Louis de Montfort and other saints have illustrated? Yes, absolutely. But the divine logic works like this: Marian devotion leads us to Jesus along the very same path by which Mary received Him at the Annunciation, that is, through the Holy Spirit. There’s good reason why one preparing to make a total consecration to Mary is instructed to pray the Veni, Creator Spiritus each and every day during that period.
The efforts of saints like Louis de Montfort, Maximilian Kolbe, John Paul II, and others have helped devotion to Mary achieve fuller stature. She is recognized as the universal Mediatrix of all graces, and one could argue that the Church enjoys a more robust appreciation of the Blessed Mother now than in any previous age. For precisely this reason, it follows that we should also turn more devotedly to the Holy Spirit.
Among the Persons of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit seems to receive the least attention and devotion. One would be hard pressed to find a parish where the faithful cry out on Sundays, “Father, stop preaching about the Holy Spirit so much!” There is a tendency to relegate Him to the realm of stock images, whether it be a mild-looking dove or a rather puny tongue of fire, which fail to adequately communicate His true power and importance. Insofar as there are corollaries in the natural world to the relationship between the Divine Father and Son, we can understand something of that Filial relationship based on our natural one. In contrast, the Holy Spirit can seem absolutely mysterious and remote. In reality, however, He can be very much present and active within us (Rom 8:11, Jn 14:16-17). These points are emphasized by Archbishop Luis M. Martinez in the opening pages of his spiritual masterpiece, The Sanctifier. An effective way to remedy this devotional deficiency, to gain in deeper knowledge, understanding, and love for the Spirit (aside from praying to Him daily), is to begin reading Martinez’s very accessible and rewarding work.
A really good gift-giver sees and knows us in a way we are not able to see or know ourselves. The Spirit outdoes all such givers. He knows the depths of God (1 Cor 2:10), and He is uniquely capable of knowing the hidden place in the soul that no one else can access. And so one of the best gifts we can offer to Mary this May is openness to the gifts of the Spirit.
Image: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., Aidan’s Gift (used with permission)