Mary and Discipleship

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s Gospel passage from Luke 9, ends with these words from Jesus:

…He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

My favorite definition of “disciple” is “learner”, although I think most people think in terms of a “follower”. When Jesus said to all: “If anyone wishes to come after me…” He tells us what we must do, but we may ask how? How do I deny myself? How do I take up my cross daily and follow? We need to become not only those who follow in thought or word but we must do the truth we hear lovingly. How? Jesus has told us in Matthew 11: “Learn of Me for I am meek and humble of heart”.

Mary is given to us as Mother and Model. She was given the capacilty to learn from the first instant of her existence for she was filled with grace. So too we were given by the grace of our Baptism the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity that we may learn to know, to love and to serve God in this world and to be happy with Him forever in the next. Most of us did not keep our Baptismal innocence but fell into sin and needed to be washed in the sanctifying waters of grace in the sacrament of Confession that we might begin again to repent and believe in the good news: Jesus!

Our Life is in Christ, and He comes to us this morning in Eucharist, even as He was given to Mary physically so now in He comes to us in His Resurrected Body in Holy Communion. The manner is different but it is the same Jesus substantially present in Eucharist who asked His first disciples, and now asks us, “Do you wish to come after Me?” If we desire to be true disciples, if we we deisre to save our lives by losing them, we need to look to Mary. She who said: “Behold the Handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word” learned moment by moment, as we do, grace by grace. She is all we are called to be. In her we see His perfect disciple, the learner who followed Him – totally denying herself, constantly giving herself to the Father’s Will with Jesus.

O Jesus, living in Mary, come and live in Your servants…

I was intrigued by this title, ‘His perfect disciple’, for Mary. Also by the definition of ‘disciple’ as a verb not just a noun. To be a learner one must be taught, to be a follower one must teach.

I came across this article, not really wanting to promote its content, but the author’s explanation of ‘disciple’ as a verb. I thought her warning against being a disciple (noun) without the action of discipling was spot on. Mary has shown me that she is both a disciple, having learned and followed, and that she disciples, teaches us.

And yet, in James 3:1 it tells us that not all of us should teach. To teach, one has to be very sure they have full understanding, otherwise they can be teaching error and leading others astray. I believe that being a disciple is to continually grow to become like Jesus in love. To place God above all other things in life, and to love others as ourselves. To stay true to Jesus’ teachings, to continually grow in your faith and love, to become more obedient and humble etc. Teaching is important but it’s not the only way to be a disciple of Our Lord, and it’s not for everyone.

Mary’s apostolic commands prime people to take risk in their lives.

Dear kdbueno,

St. Louis de Montfort calls Mary “the echo of God”. Mary kept all that she learned from Him in her heart, pondered, and lived the truth she heard. When we look at Mary we see the Life of Christ alive in her. She was filled with grace from the beginning of her existence and yet she continued to grow in holiness because she continued to learn from Him.

At Cana we see Mary at the Wedding, and when she notices the wine has run short, she goes immediately to Jesus and tells Him “They have no wine.” We do not know how Mary may have understood Jesus’ answer to her, but she then tells the servants: “Do whatever He tells you”. Mary learned that Jesus is the Son of God and “Nothing is impossible with God”.

Mary is both our Mother and our Model for she guides us always to listen to God and to do what Jesus says.

Dear sudy,

Thanks for your reply, and your reference to the Scripture. In the letter of James, 3:1, we hear:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly, for we all fall short in many respects. If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also.

Actually, we all teach by the example we give. We do not always need words to teach. St. James is warning those who are desiring to “speak” as teachers to be very careful. Unless they can be persons who know how to bridle their tongues, they ought not to teach because both their words and their example will “fall short” of being a true disciple.

In the same letter and chapter of James 3: 13, we hear:

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show his works by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom.

Mary as our Mother and Model shows us how to follow Christ and how to lead others to Him.

I agree with you that all are not called to “teach” in the same way. Certainly we all need to seek wisdom from God, by listening to His Word as Mary did, prayerfully dependent upon the Holy Spirit to bring us into all Truth. Yes, people can teach error if they are not faithful to all that God reveals in Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church. So we need to be careful in all that we say and do.

Parents are responsible for “teaching their children” the Faith in age appropriate ways. Catholic schools were always intended to supplement and help parents but they were never intended to substitute for parents. Parents are the primary teachers of their children by word and example. It is a serious responsibility. As one who has taught in both Catholic and public schools, I know how often parents can neglect their duties and how beautiful it is to see those who have humbly embraced their duty to make disciples of their children.

When we think of the word “disciple” as a verb, it really means to make other followers, other learners of Jesus, and I think you can see how important good example is. We so need good example in the work of sharing God’s Truth, the “Good News of Jesus” is in our present culture. We need to live our Faith in a very humble yet courageous way, in our increasingly secular environment. Words are not always necessary, and certainly a classroom is not always possible or or even the best place for “teaching”. The home is where it begins. The Holy Spirit guides us in carrying Jesus everywhere He desires.

Some are called in a special way to teach – Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Lay theologians and Catechists, but I believe all of us can hear the word “disciple” as both noun and verb.
Hope that clarifies, in some way, my use of the word in regard to Mary. She is the Mother and Model for all of us. She is al we are called to be - each as a unique disciple of Jesus.

Hi Maria, believe it or not, we do agree, and my comment was certainly not against Our Lady, and it was not against Casilda. It was intended as a clarification. :slight_smile:

Dear Casilda,

Thanks for your reply and for the article. I read it and agree with you – it was interesting, but also I would not want to be promoting the content either. She accurately realized the danger of over emphasis on “self” as “disciple” (noun) without the action (verb) of making disciples – that was a good warning! I was also glad she went back to the Greek word and verified that it is the Greek noun that is used in the New Testament, and so we have the translation of Jesus’ words in Mt. 28 rendered : “Go… make disciples… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…”.

How potent the Word of God is! How we need to be as Mary was in this world – humbly receiving His Word and pondering it, keeping it within our hearts and prayerfully asking the Holy Spirit to make us fruitful as she was on this earth! The beauty of Mary’s discipleship is that she makes disciples of Jesus! St. Louis De Montfort so wisely wrote: " We say ‘Mary’ and she says ‘God’…" Mary always faithfully points us to Jesus and tells us as she told the servants at Cana: “Do whatever He tells you”.

Dear sudy,

Yes, I understood, you were not “against” Our Lady or Casilda. I simply wanted to further clarify that it is not an either/or in regard to noun or verb. We are called to be disciples and to make disciples – although each of us in unique ways.

That is why Mary is the Perfect Disciple – so humble, and so wise. Her words and actions are recorded only sparingly, in the New Testament, yet she is is so united to God that St. De Montfort rightly calls her the "echo of God. I cannot remember the author who also said there was probably a physical resemblance between Jesus and Mary so that when Jesus ascended into heaven He left Mary as a physical reminder of Him for awhile, as a comfort to His disciples – that seemed very reasonable to me, and consistent with the Tenderness of God.

One of my favorite prayers is this one by Fr. Olier:

O Jesus, living in Mary, come and live in your servants, in the spirit of holiness, in the fullness of your power, in the perfection of your ways, in the truth of your virtues, in the communion of your mysteries. Rule over every adverse power, in your Spirit, for the glory of the Father. Amen. – Jean Jacques Olier, S.S. (1608-1657)

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit