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It’s May, the month we celebrate Mary. We began by crowning her on May 1st and tomorrow we celebrate her first apparition at Fatima…a private revelation that holds more and more importance during this current worldwide trial in which we find ourselves.

I think there are two things worth focusing on. First, we honor Mary as our Spiritual mother, as she is, and the model disciple—that to which we should all aspire.

But I’d also suggest that we can look to Mary as the perfect model of mental health as well. Preserved from original sin, Mary was unencumbered by the weakness that plagues us. But, like Adam and Eve who were also conceived without original sin, she always remained free to choose the good or not. Of course, she always chose the good and remained sinless.

So, what enabled Mary to remain sinless and to be the perfect model of mental and emotional health? First is obviously her free will…but equally important were her virtues. And therein lies the lesson for us—the secret sauce if you will. In order for us, wounded by original and actual sin—both our own and those committed against us—to be healthy emotionally and mentally we need to work on developing virtues.

But what are virtues? Virtues are habitual dispositions toward the good. So, think about that…they are habits of choosing good, habits that become so ingrained they become part of our character.

So how do we acquire virtues? First, we need to ask for them in prayer. You can be sure that is a prayer God will answer. Many virtues, like the virtue of hope, can be infused by the Holy Spirit, hence prayer is so important, especially when feeling despair.

But some virtues require work on our part. Patience is a good example. I often refer to patience as the trick virtue. If you pray for patience, you’ll find yourself waiting for everything…and dealing with frictions and frustrations. It may seem like you’re failing, but the reality is if you’re sincere in wanting this virtue, God will oblige by giving you opportunities to build your patience muscle, if you will. Once attained, patience enables you to endure many things with equanimity and calm in order to persevere in situations that those without this virtue may give up on easily. Too often we give up on things out of impatience when we are so close to attaining them.

One of the biggest heartaches I hear about is from parents who are worried about their children who have left the faith and are living in ways that jeopardize their salvation. The virtue of patience, as well as perseverance, is so critical in these circumstances. Pray for that grace. The one who perseveres in patience will experience many answered prayers and peace. As St. Teresa of Avila said, patience obtains all things.

Of course, Mary’s ultimate virtue is humility. Many saints and doctors of the Church see this as the foundational virtue upon which all the others rest. And of course, this is true. So, praying daily for the virtue of humility is so important. Ask Mary to help you, especially during this month of May dedicated to her honor. But by way of full disclosure I will warn you, just like with patience, praying for humility may involve some humiliations. Be ready. But when dedicating yourself to prayer and asking daily for this gift, ask for the grace to see God’s hand in these humiliations and He will use them for your good and to help you grow in that, and all of the virtues.

Remember, Mary suffered greatly. She understands your pains. She can relate to your trials. Her virtues enabled her to persevere and triumph.

It takes time…so patience my friends…little-by-little you will get there and experience not only spiritual benefits, but emotional ones as well. Remember to ask Mary for help…she never disappoints.

Allison Ricciardi, LMHC
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