By Barb Arland-Fye
My favorite image of Mary is depicted on an ivory-white statue I received as a gift from my mother 22 years ago. Mary appears contemplative while holding her son, the baby Jesus, in her arms. Jesus rests one hand on his mother’s hand and presses his other hand close to his heart. The image is all the more endearing because it arrived around the time of my son Patrick’s birth.
This statue is part of a small planter that sits on my bedroom dresser and catches my eye daily. Mary is also present in my daily prayers and thoughts. The Canticle of Mary, set within the infancy narrative of Luke’s Gospel (1:46-55), is among my favorite prayers. My husband Steve and I pray this canticle every night during Liturgy of the Hours, Evening Prayer.
I’ve been reflecting on my relationship with Mary as we begin the month of May, which Catholics through the ages have dedicated to Our Lord’s mother. On a wind-chilled walk along the Mississippi River last Sunday afternoon, I got lost in thought about Mary’s motherhood. How did she and Jesus relate to one another during those “hidden” years between his adolescence and late 20s? Did she experience any of the trials and tribulations of a typical mom, like me? How much did Jesus confide in his mother about his thoughts and feelings and his mission on earth? “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you….” How did she maintain that grace as Jesus’ ministry unfolded?
I can’t imagine Mary’s life as a poor Jewish mother enduring oppression under the reign of merciless Roman occupiers, but I can relate intimately to the deep, abiding, sometimes aching love that comes with motherhood. A widely viewed YouTube video depicts mothers in private moments of despair over the grave illnesses of their children. But the short clip also shows these women wiping their tears and being brave for their children. For me, the video brings to life the Pieta sculpture of Mary cradling her dead son Jesus in her lap.
One of my favorite Scriptures in the New Testament is the Wedding Feast at Cana because of Mary’s role in Jesus’ first public miracle. Jesus protests when Mary mentions that the wine has run out at the couple’s wedding feast. Even though he dismisses her implied request, Mary instructs the waiters to do as Jesus says. Why does she know what Jesus will do? Theologians say that Jesus changed the water into wine at the wedding feast because it was God’s will, foreshadowing the Paschal mystery. Nonetheless, as a mom, I can’t help but smile at Mary giving advice to her son and him acting upon it. Hopefully, my sons Colin and Patrick are so inspired to take my advice!
“The moment of Mary’s acceptance of her role as mother of the Son of God was a pivotal point in the turning of the universe,” writes Mary Catherine Nolan, O.P., in the book “Mary’s Song.” “Her clear direction was to cooperate with God’s plan of salvation, whatever that would mean for her. She had to face the future in faith and trust.”
Facing the future in faith and trust gives me something to reflect on this month of May, as I seek to draw closer to Christ through the inspiration of his mother.
(Barb Arland-Fye, editor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)