Like most “good” Catholics I know, I love Mary (as in, the Blessed Virgin, or whatever title you refer to her as). I say good Catholics in quotes because it is almost a Catholic thing to love Mary, even if you don’t know her very well. But really, who among us knows her well? Not me, actually.
It wasn’t until a recent retreat that I realized I love the idea of her without actually loving her. She’s the mother of Jesus, the sinless, perfect woman, what’s not to love? So I professed my love for her, prayed my rosary, and hung my favorite images of her around our home (and believe you me, I get pretty picky about my Marian images). Without really knowing why, I’ve found myself drawn to her, even if just to a hollow idea of her. There she was, in the corner of my heart, peering in, just watching, but always on the fringe.
On said retreat the priest invited me to really let Mary in, invite her to different scenes in my life and my imagination. The first time I did this with him I confessed that she was pretty hollow, she just sat there. Sure, she could be present, but she was just…there. A whisper, almost a shadow of a person. Even as I grew in my prayer over the course of the retreat, she didn’t say much, but I still found myself drawn her, drawn to inviting her into various memories and aspects of my life and prayer. She still doesn’t say much, at least not in words, but as I’ve begun to draw closer to her, she speaks to me in other ways.
Her arm around my shoulder.
Playing gleefully with my children.
Tossing our youngest daughter up into the air as she (my baby) giggles.
Smiling and nodding.
Even without words she’s giving me a tangible example of the kind of mother I want to be. I’ve seen whispers of her in other mothers, but in her is the fullness of motherhood I’ve been desiring. She wraps her arm around me and we look at my children together. Even in this simple imagination, there is peace. Rather than being alone in motherhood, she’s there, guiding me, showing me. I can tell her that I’m not the perfect mother and she doesn’t judge me. There’s no sadness or disappointment in her at all. She simply accepts me as I am and we move forward from there. She is teaching me how to mother, but what is more is that she is teaching me how to be a woman.
Who says I can’t curl up in her arms just because I am mother to my own children? Can she not also be my mother, my Mama? Can she not be with me in there here and now, loving me like a little child, even if my years are beyond that of a little child? I still see my oldest child as a baby and she’s only two and a half. Does Mary not love me and see me as a baby even though I’ve grown? Of course she can. So curl up in her lap, in her arms, in her heart I shall.
Suddenly all of these images around my house make sense. I’ve been longing to be wrapped up her warm embrace for longer than I know but she’s seemed too distant, too perfect for me to just hang out with. Just as Jesus gave His mother to John at the foot of the cross, so too He gives her to us. Can we, like John, take her into our home (John 19:27), rest in her presence, and learn from her sanctity?