I love getting feedback from my readers, and this morning I received a wonderful email from one of them that I’d like to share with you. She wrote to tell me how much she’s enjoyed my book, Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena and that she’s prayed the Novena twice and is awaiting the blessings that will come her way.
She also had a question – a good one that I think is worthy of attention here on my blog. She referred to page 123 of the book, in which I relate the story of Father Jakob Rem, a Jesuit priest who lived in the 17th century and was known for his holiness, wisdom, and exceptional intelligence.. Fr. Rem is responsible for the formulation of devotion to our Blessed Mother as Our Lady Undoer of Knots. He also was instrumental in the custom of the Apostolic Schoenstatt Movement to enthrone Mary under the title, “Mother Thrice Admirable.”
The story goes like this. As an instructor and spiritual director at the University of Ingolstadt, Fr. Rem worked with a Marian Sodality, the mission of which was to generate a great Catholic renewal. One day, as the sodalists were singing the “Litany of Loretto,” Fr. Rem had an inspiration to ask Mary which of the litany titles was her favorite. She answered his question in the form of an illumination through which he understood that her favorite title was “Mother Most Admirable.” The illumination was followed by a vision that prompted the priest to instruct the choir to repeat that invocation three times. This story touched the hearts of another group of Marian Sodalists three hundred years later – the founding generation of the Schoenstatt Movement – who adapted the title and crowned Mary “Mother Thrice Admirable.”
My reader’s question about Fr. Rem’s story is such: If Mary was indeed humble, how could she have requested that she be called Mother Most Admirable? Wouldn’t that make her proud and vain?
Here’s a simple answer to that not-so-simple question.
To understand Mary’s request, we must first understand the nature of genuine humility. Humility isn’t the refusal to acknowledge anything good about ourselves or the playing down of our gifts and qualities. That, in fact, is a form of pride. Why? Because we’re taking the liberty of making a judgment that only God can make. He gave us those gifts and qualities and to say that they’re worthless presupposes that we’re better able to judge than God is. When we do that, we put ourselves above him and his divine wisdom.
Genuine humility then, is acknowledging that what makes us unique and gifted comes from God. What is it that St. Paul wrote to the Philippians? “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). Furthermore, Christ dwells in our souls, and so we love ourselves because of his presence there. He made us, he dwells in us, and therefore we except and acknowledge the good that he’s done and continues to do in us.
Mary’s humility has an added dimension. She was created for one purpose alone: to be the pure, holy, and spotless Mother of God. She was sinless, beautiful inside and out, had the perfect use of reason, and was and still is the model of Christianity. Everything she has ever said or done has been for her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ and she points to him in all things . By accepting the titles and honor that we give her, Mary isn’t acknowledging her own greatness, but rather she acknowledges the greatness of the God who created and works through her. Desiring to be called “Mother Most Admirable” honors, not herself, but the Son she bore for the salvation of mankind. She is “Mother Most Admirable” because the Word Incarnate was brought forth through her womb.
There’s nothing more admirable than that!