One of the practices that I like to do when I pray is to repeat the words slowly so I can contemplate each one. As I pray for my children to have a gentle mother, I have been drawn to the phrase “full of grace” in the Hail Mary.
To be full of grace means there is no room for anything else. There is no room for self-pity, self-will, or impatience. Mary, being full of grace, is not consumed by troubles from the past or anxieties about the future.
Mary is full of grace because she has removed herself from any self-seeking wants. Her display of trust and obedience during her “fiat” is what allows God to work through her in remarkable ways. Mary tells the angel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). This humble surrender is what we are called to do in Step 3: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”
As a mother and member of recovery, it is easy to slip into comparisons between myself and others. But I have to remind myself that there is no grace in comparisons. It feels rigid and hurtful to us and dehumanizes those with whom we are comparing ourselves. Social media can be a great accelerator of this self-defeating habit, unfortunately. We all have our own personal covenant with God, and what He is placing on our hearts to do with our lives is going to look different from what He is asking our neighbor to do. This is why we have so much to learn from our mother Mary. In her humility, she didn’t worry about the callings of others, only what God wanted of her.
Being in recovery, we most likely have experienced times where we were rough and disrespectful toward ourselves as well. Remembering to have grace and gentleness with ourselves may go against what has been ingrained in us through our addictive behaviors and/or unhealthy attachments. As we relearn how to parent that inner child within us, we realize that every interaction matters. If we are participating in any self-harm, including negative self-talk, then those around us will bear the brunt of it as well since no act goes without consequences.
Therefore, it is crucial to interrupt any thought that is not conducive to love, recalling how Mary would respond in such a situation. Oftentimes, I will recite a Hail Mary when I find myself moving toward a snare. Knowing that our spiritual mother sees us in our struggles and is ready to wrap us in her blue mantle whenever we call upon her can relieve us of that bondage to self.
Recently in the confessional, I acknowledged that I felt like the most blessed person in the world and yet I still felt the pangs of unworthiness due to my sins and alcoholic past. The priest replied that since I was blessed by God that I couldn’t be unworthy in His eyes. This really struck me, as it helped me realize that our worth comes from God and isn’t something we can diminish no matter what we do or how we feel. As a child of God, it is our duty to fully embrace God’s mercy and allow our lives to become a living Gospel. This is exactly what Mary did throughout all of her life.
Being a wife, mother, and woman in recovery can be a humbling experience. Thank God we have Scripture to remind us to be “sober and vigilant” (1 Peter 5:8). And that the “God of all grace who called [us] to his eternal glory through Christ [Jesus] will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish [us] after [we] have suffered a little” (1 Peter 5:10). May we all do our best to follow Mary’s lead—in striving to be “full of grace”—and remember that our spiritual journey is about God and not us. Finally, may we faithfully embrace the purifications of heart we encounter in our daily lives to draw nearer to her Immaculate Heart as well as to the Sacred Heart of her merciful son, Jesus.
Allison is sober and a self-proclaimed “cradle convert” who has received a great deal of grace after coming back to her Catholic faith. She is so grateful to have the opportunity to be a sober Catholic wife and mother and loves nothing more than being with her family. She loves daily Mass and connecting with God outside through nature.