Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.—Jn 19:27
Even though Sacred Tradition outside Scripture proposes some accounts of Apostles having wavering courage after Pentecost (for example, the famous story of St. Peter fleeing Rome under persecution as Christ appears to him to say Quo Vadis? at which point Peter returns to Rome to be crucified) we know that for the most part, the pre-Pentecost Apostles have numerous failures in courage whereas the post-Pentecost Apostles have nearly unchecked success in their cooperation with the Holy Spirit’s gift of fortitude as 11 of the 12 of them approach bloody martyrdoms. (And St. John was put in boiling oil which would have been his martyrdom except for a miracle that left him uninjured.)
But hard cases make bad law, so it’s not a bad thing to ask the question: Why did the pre-Pentecost Apostles have so many failures in courage whereas the post-Pentecost Apostles had so many successes in courage? We clearly point to Pentecost. Of course, the typical Catholic answer is that the Apostles needed the Holy Spirit to accomplish miracles for Christ and the spreading of the Gospel across the globe. This is an excellent answer. Even grade-school Catholic children know the Apostles were transformed at Pentecost. And they’re not wrong in saying this.
But you still have to wonder why the Apostles spending three years with Jesus did not transform them as much as nine days with Mary (cf. Acts 1:14 and Acts 2:1.) The answer is clearly not that Mary is better than Jesus! Of course that would be blasphemy. Mary is the highest creature in the universe whereas Jesus is the Creator of the Universe. Even the great Marian saint St. Louis De Montfort describes this difference as a grain of sand next to a mountain. Keep that in mind in the following paragraphs.
All these were persevering with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren.—Acts 1:14
In consideration of the Apostles preparing for the highest outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we must come to the conclusion that it wasn’t so much that nine days with Mary in the Upper Room was “better” than 3 years of walking with Jesus but rather that the nine days with Mary in Acts 1-2 was the completion of the preparation of the Apostles for Pentecost that began by walking three years with Jesus through Galilee.
This may show us the entire key to the spiritual life. Of course, we know that it is not Mary but Jesus who is the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.—Heb 12:2. Of course, we know that Mary is a creature and Jesus is the Incarnate Word. Of course we know that whereas Mary is Co-Redemptrix by her sufferings, it is Christ Himself that St. Peter says bore our sins in His body on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.—1 Peter 2:24. So also, we are called to adore only Jesus (not Mary, of course.)
Nevertheless, it was nine days with Mary that seems to have unlocked all the graces planted in their hearts and minds by Christ for three years with the Apostles, especially via the merits of His Passion and Resurrection. It is not a coincidence that the only Apostle not to flee the crucifixion was the one closest to Mary.
If Mary was the missing key to courage for the crucifixion-fleeing Apostles in their approach to Pentecost and if Mary was the necessary portal (aka Mediatrix of all graces) from the Holy Spirit to the Holy Spirit (even after the Apostles had spent three years with Jesus) and if Mary was the final key during that first novena of nine days of prayer and fasting in Acts 1-2 unlocking the entire spiritual life and miracles of the Apostles who went to conquer the nations for Christ after receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost… then surely she is for us this completing key and necessary portal to obtaining God the Holy Spirit in our feeble attempts to adore the Trinity, also.
Mary’s motherhood, friendship and intercession is the key to courage for us modern Christians who follow Jesus from a distance, but who wish to accelerate so much more rapidly.
Above: Our Lady of Grace by Rebecca Gorzynska at DelphinaRoseArt.