"The Holy Family (detail)" by Murillo

“The Holy Family (detail)” by Murillo

Once, I asked our priest how Catholics can get good marital advice from celibate men.  Father’s response was that you don’t have to have an exact experience to help others with it.  Sometimes the best advice comes from someone outside a situation.  He reminded me that most priests are trained in counseling and that not all marriage counselors are married.  And besides, all people, married or single, have experiences with relationships.

That reasoning explains how Mary can be our model in an area where she seems unlikely to have any knowledge: sexuality.

My first exposure to the depth of the Church’s teaching on sexuality was through the work of Christopher West, which inspired me to read Theology of the Body.  Muddling through the beauty and the grandeur of the ideal, I had to admit how very far away I was from it.

Thanks to the graces of confession and the Eucharist, I found relief.  But I struggled.  A lot.

So I started praying a Hail Mary when I felt the struggles coming.  Sometimes I’d have to pray more than one.

During these battles, I started to ask Mary to pray for me at other points in my day.  I began to understand how the Virgin Mother could be a model and a source of encouragement, even in this area.

How hard must it have been to remain a virgin?  Her culture wasn’t any more accepting of virginity than ours is.

What must she have faced, pregnant and unmarried and still a virgin?  Raised eyebrows, certainly, but probably something a little more painful too.  There must have been whispers and scornful looks.

We venerate Mary now, giving her accolades and proclaiming her the Ever Virgin Mother of God.  While she was raising Jesus, though, she was in the trenches just as each of us are, surrounded by the dirt and grime of everyday life.

In modeling chastity for us, Mary isn’t telling us to be prudes.  She’s not saying we can never have any fun.  She’s not even setting an early curfew.

She’s pointing us back to what was intended in the beginning.  She’s freeing us, through her Son, from the restrictions we seem to desire, the limitations we seem to take for granted, the burdens we don’t have to carry.

Mary leads us down the path of God’s will, and though that path involves a cross, it also involves a resurrection.  Mary said “yes” over and over, and she’s the perfect person to teach us how to say “yes” over and over, to God’s will in our lives.

How can we turn to Mary and follow her example today?  Will we brave the jeers from the people passing the foot of the cross, in order to follow her to her Son?

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