Risk and RewardRead Now
Once, I was a college “mentor-in-faith” for the Notre Dame Vision program, leading small groups for a series of weeklong vocational conferences for high school students. During these conferences, I presented a risky talk. It was risky because I knew there was a possibility of stigma and verbal abuse associated with owning some of my actions. In fact, there was a near certainty of it. However, there was also a real possibility that one or more high school students who had been struggling with sin or guilt could find some real relief, insight, or conversion. When the idea to write this talk first came to me, I found myself unable to brush it aside. Yet I struggled. I went back and forth. Eventually, however, it became apparent to me that there was nothing else to do but to offer this story. So I wrote...
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness.
I closed my talk with these first lines of the Magnificat, as I could understand a little of what Mary was expressing. I was amazed that my soul could proclaim any of the greatness of the Lord to others. My soul? Even in my smallness and brokenness? Yes. Even that brokenness had been turned around to glorify the Lord.
Now, compare that simple story to our Mother’s. While Mary had no brokenness, she too had a smallness; an anonymity; even, arguably, a degree of worthlessness to her society.
By deciding upon the motherhood of Christ, she accepted the near certainty of stigma, ostracism, even death. Yet through that decision, anonymous young Mary was able to glorify the Lord in an unprecedented way - she is the model of everything the Church can be. She is the model of conforming to God’s will. She is the model of trust in the Lord. She is the model of allowing the Lord to proclaim His greatness through her. In the Magnificat, Mary’s amazement that this could be the outcome is evident (even before she knew it would be). The greatest result was, of course, the Incarnation, and thereby human salvation. I am grateful that she thought the work of God worth the personal risk, both at her first fiat to Gabriel, and at every subsequent time her heart stood in danger of being pierced.
I presented a risky talk... once. However, Mary shows us that we are called to take risks for the sake of the Gospel witness more than once in our lives, and without my deliberation born of hesitation. I ask your prayers that both you and I may be given the strength and the spirit to follow Mary’s model, to keep taking the actions that carry with them both personal risk and the corporate reward of building God’s Kingdom.
Laura Berlage serves as an Echo Faith Formation Apprentice in the Diocese of Camden, NJ
 Note: I don’t share that talk’s content here because it involves more than my own story, and the other persons involved have not authorized me to make their story the kind of public that lives online indefinitely.