Mary is the Mother of God, and today we celebrate her under this title. She is also our Mother. The Carmelite Doctors of the Church: St. Teresa of Jesus, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. John of the Cross, each had a unique devotion to the Mother of God.
St. Teresa of Jesus.
“I remember that when my mother died I was twelve years old or a little less. When I began to understand what I had lost, I went, afflicted, before an image of our Lady and besought her with many tears to be my mother. It seems to me that although I did this in simplicity it helped me. For I have found favor with this sovereign Virgin in everything I have asked of her, and in the end she has drawn me to herself.” (Book of Her Life, chapter 1)
St. Teresa was very pleased to be a member of the Order of Carmel that claims to be Mary’s Order. Members of the Carmelite Order consecrate themselves to Mary and see her as a model of prayer and contemplation. “All of us who wear this holy habit of Carmel are called to prayer and contemplation.” (Interior Castle, V:1, 2) They also strive to imitate her virtues, “Let us imitate the Virgin’s great humility.” (Way of Perfection, 13: 3)
St. Teresa, in a mystical experience, noted that in response to her service to the Mother of God, Christ thanked her for “what she had done for his Mother,” and she saw Mary “in great glory, wearing a white mantel with which she seemed to enfold us all.” (Book of Her Life, 36: 24)
Read more here about St. Teresa of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
St. Therese of Lisieux.
St. Therese also had a strong devotion to the Mother of God and was heard to exclaim, “How I love the Blessed Virgin! If I had been a priest, how I should have spoken of her. She is sometimes described as unapproachable, whereas she should be represented as easy of imitation. She is more Mother than Queen. I have heard it said that her splendor eclipses that of all the saints as the rising sun makes all the stars disappear. It sounds so strange. That a Mother should take away the glory of her children! I think quite the reverse. I believe that she will greatly increase the splendor of the elect….Our Mother Mary….How simple her life must have been.” (Story of a Soul)
St. Therese wanted to follow Mary’s example and not to only live and work under the Blessed Mother’s watchful eyes. She wanted to follow in the footsteps of her Mother and to learn from her “how to remain little”. The one virtue above all others that the Blessed Mother possessed that impressed St. Therese the most was her simplicity. Mary taught her in simplicity the practice that characterized this saint as her “little way”. The Mother of God also taught her that suffering out of love – is joy.
When St. Therese made her First Communion at Lisieux following a three day retreat, she expressed her reception as “fusion” with Jesus. It was her Heavenly Mother, in the absence of her real earthly mother, who accompanied her to the altar to receive the Lord in the Eucharist for the first time. St. Therese states, “it was she herself who on that morning of the 8th of May placed her Jesus into my soul.” (Story of a Soul)
The great love St. Therese had for Mary is beautifully illustrated in a poem she wrote shortly before she died:
Why I Love Thee, Mary
Oh ! I would like to sing, Mary, why I love you,
Why your sweet name thrills my heart,
And why the thought of your supreme greatness
Could not bring fear to my soul.
If I gazed on you in your sublime glory,
Surpassing the splendor of all the blessed,
I could not believe that I am your child.
O Mary, before you I would lower my eyes !… (read the rest of the poem here)
St. John of the Cross.
St. John of the Cross also was devoted to the Mother of God. He did not write much about the Mother of God, but she was significant in his life. From St. John we learn about her role for Carmelites in the passive receptivity that Mary teaches us. Read more about Our Lady and St. John of Cross here.
St. John of the Cross does mentions the Blessed Mother in one of his Sayings of Light and Love. This saying expresses that all things are the soul’s when it seeks and finds God. The Mother of God, then, is our mother, too:
“Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me.” (Sayings of Light and Love, 27)