The other day I was listening to a local radio station playing an “oldies song,” suggesting it was one of the biggest hits for the Beatles. “Let It Be” was released in March of 1970 as a single, and (in an alternate mix) as the title track of their album Let It Be. At the time, it had the highest debut on the Billboard Hot 100. It was written and sung by Paul McCartney. For the Beatles, it would be their final single before McCartney announced his departure from the band.
To this day the song still resonates. One reason could be that many feel the “Mother Mary” McCartney refers to is Mary, the mother of Jesus, “speaking words of wisdom, ‘let it be.’”
I, too, am one who thinks McCartney, whether intentional or not, was writing about Jesus’ mother Mary when he wrote this iconic song. Hearing the song 50 years later didn’t change my thinking. McCartney has said the song was written after a dream he had about his own mother, whose name was Mary. She came to him, assuring him during a difficult time that all would be OK.
When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, “let it be!”
I have written often how my own mother was comforted by her daily Rosary. My mother, Dorothy felt that Mary, Jesus’ mother, was a mother like herself whom she could reach out to in prayer during some of her most challenging times. She believed in her whole heart that Mary would go to her Son, Jesus, and speak to Him for her.
It seems to me that even though McCartney didn’t intentionally write this song with a religious meaning by his own account, I still believe he was inadvertently writing about Jesus’ Mother. Why?
The way I interpret it is simple. Mary is our perfect intercessor who will go to her Son, Jesus on our behalf; especially when times are difficult, telling us essentially to “let it be.” As for what the words “let it be” means; simply stated, I think it means this: All we experience, difficulties and blessings alike, everything will go to the heart of Jesus. We need to believe in Him and have faith, and the answers will come.
And when the broken-hearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer, let it be.
Where does this idea that Mary is the intercessor for us to her son, Jesus. The answer to that question began with John’s Gospel when he records words spoken by Jesus at the hour of his death.
Jesus said to his mother: “Woman, this is your son.” Then he said to the disciple: “This is your mother.” (John 19: 26-27)
Mary received from Jesus, as he was dying, the charge to be mother to the beloved disciple. As Catholics we understand this as meaning that through His disciple, Christ is giving the care of Mary to all Christians. This same sentiment was expressed by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Redemptoris mater:
At the centre of this mystery, in the midst of this wonderment of faith, stands Mary. As the loving Mother of the Redeemer, she was the first to experience it: “To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator!”
And in my hours of darkness, she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, “let it be.”
As I said earlier, Paul McCartney has said the idea for the words to the song “Let it be” came to him in a dream. He was feeling disheartened and depressed. During the final days of the Beatles, their business was in chaos due to a bitter management dispute, and all four Beatles, who had been such close friends, were now coming apart. When McCartney did fall asleep he saw his mother (whose name was Mary) in a dream assuring him all will be OK. “Just let it be!” He says he doesn’t mind that people see more into these words as a religious reference to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, even though this wasn’t his intention when he wrote it. Speaking to television critics in 2011, he made it clear that, “while the song sounds religious – and he’s OK if you take it that way – it has an entirely different meaning to him.”
McC artney’s mother was Catholic and his father was agnostic. He didn’t grow up in a “religious” home, according to reports of his childhood. His mother died when he was 14, an event that impacted his life to this day. He insists that he walked away from his Catholic upbringing early on. Yet the loss of his mother never left his heart. I would suggest that the Catholic influence from his mother, whether he recognized it as that or not, continued to stay with him.
I remember having a discussion with my own mother once, telling her about a good friend who left the Church and was no longer a believer. Her reaction was thoughtful. She went on to say, “Hopefully she will come back to God someday. You can’t lose what you’ve been taught to be true!”
Paul McCartney has said that many of the songs he wrote are meant to be positive because he feels music speaks to all of us through emotions, life experiences, and our inner beliefs. He believes this positivity he writes hopefully will continue to resonate for people. Whether it was his mother who came to him in a dream, or other people take it to mean that Mary, Jesus’ mother is the amazing comforter in times of trouble, this song will likely hold a positive message for at least 50 more years.
Copyright 2019 Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh