The picture of the Blessed Virgin presented in a certain type of devotional literature cannot easily be reconciled with today's life-style, especially the way women live today. In the home, woman's equality and corresponsibility with man in the running of the family are being justly recognized by laws and the evolution of customs. In the sphere of politics women have in many countries gained a position in public life equal to that of men. In the social field women are at work in a whole range of different employments, getting further away every day from the restricted surroundings of the home. In the cultural field new possibilities are opening up for women in scientific research and intellectual activities.
In consequence of these phenomena some people are becoming disenchanted with devotion to the Blessed Virgin and finding it difficult to take as an example Mary of Nazareth because the horizons of her life, so they say, seem rather restricted in comparison with the vast spheres of activity open to mankind today. In this regard we exhort theologians, those responsible for the local Christian communities and the faithful themselves to examine these difficulties with due care. At the same time we wish to take the opportunity of offering our own contribution to their solution by making a few observations.
This is something I've struggled with reconciling and explaining to others. How, exactly, do I relate to a young girl, probably only a teenager when she was first pregnant, who, though sharing the vocation of motherhood, differs from me in background, experience, and all sorts of other ways? Just what do we have in common? How can she teach me things that are specifically useful to my modern way of living?
I found wonderful inspiration in what Paul VI had to say about this (emphasis and breaks in text are mine):
[O]ur own time, no less than former times, is called upon to verify its knowledge of reality with the word of God, and, keeping to the matter at present under consideration, to compare its anthropological ideas and the problems springing therefrom with the figure of the Virgin Mary as presented by the Gospel. The reading of the divine Scriptures, carried out under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and with the discoveries of the human sciences and the different situations in the world today being taken into account, will help us to see how Mary can be considered a mirror of the expectations of the men and women of our time.
Thus, the modern woman, anxious to participate with decision-making power in the affairs of the community, will contemplate with intimate joy Mary who, taken into dialogue with God, gives her active and responsible consent,(102) not to the solution of a contingent problem, but to that "event of world importance," as the Incarnation of the Word has been rightly called.(103)
The modern woman will appreciate that Mary's choice of the state of virginity, which in God's plan prepared her for the mystery of the Incarnation, was not a rejection of any of the values of the married state but a courageous choice which she made in order to consecrate herself totally to the love of God.
The modern woman will note with pleasant surprise that Mary of Nazareth, while completely devoted to the will of God, was far from being a timidly submissive woman or one whose piety was repellent to others; on the contrary, she was a woman who did not hesitate to proclaim that God vindicates the humble and the oppressed, and removes the powerful people of this world from their privileged positions (cf Lk. 1:51-53).
The modern woman will recognize in Mary, who "stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord,"(104) a woman of strength, who experienced poverty and suffering, flight and exile (cf. Mt. 2:13-23).
Why do I always think I have to come up with the answers on my own? Here it was, all along, and quite purely by "accident" (in quotes because I think it was a little divinely inspired, me finding this online yesterday) I found it.
How else do you find, as a modern woman, that you are inspired by Mary? Comments welcome.