Aiming for Mary

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Celebrating Mary’s motherhood has become a celebration of my motherhood. The obligation of Mass has turned into a thanksgiving for a blessing I didn’t think I wanted. Through our shared feast day, I have come to know the Blessed Mother with a whole new appreciation.

I was never going to get married or have children. There were two main and many other underlying reasons I would have cited, had you asked me all those years ago. All of those “reasons,” though, led back to one thing: my lack of hope.

Reason #1: Why get married when marriage was obviously such an outdated proposition – and one that only left pain when it didn’t work out? My own family was evidence of this, and all around me in the wider world, it seemed that the only marriages that lasted were of my grandparent’s generation, and that was only because they didn’t know any better.

Reason #2: Why bring a child into a world such as ours? I didn’t need to look far to find support for this argument. There was heartache everywhere: rise in crime, increasing abortion rates (people not wanting their children), split homes. The world, as I saw it, was a hostile place. I often thought it was too bad that I was in it.

My reasons were shattered slowly, and my hard heart was softened by the touch of three mothers: my sister-in-law, my mother-in-law, and the Blessed Mother herself.

First, I watched a couple bury another son with grace and dignity. I watched a woman arrange the funeral for her daughter’s son, her grandson. I watched the funeral director with tears streaming down his face. I sat beside the man I would someday marry after he carried himself there, and I watch him still struggle with what was the third small white casket for his family.

Surely, in this grief, there was despair. And yet, what I took away, what I still learn from that experience, was hope. Everyone cried, yes. And then…they comforted each other. They held on to hope. They continue to hope.

Then there was a Mother’s Day Mass the year before I became Catholic. My relationship with my own mother was very fractured at that point, and I was in the midst of a five-year period in which I did not talk to her or communicate with her at all. It was at Mass, as Father was talking about the love Mary has for each of us, how she holds us and comforts us, that I found myself sobbing, shaking and hiccuping and crying in great gulps. I had to go to the back of the church and I was unable to come back in. Afterwards, I was unable to tell anyone what came over me. I didn’t know myself. Looking back, I think Mary must have touched my soul, and my hard heart must have softened enough to let the light of God’s love shine just a bit onto it.

Motherhood is a gift to me now. I am so blessed to be on both ends, receiving and giving. My relationship with my mother has been mended for some years now, and I’m surrounded by other mother-figures in an almost endless community of saints-to-be. Our Blessed Mother walks with me and comforts me so very often.

In this month of May, with two daughters who were born on Marian feasts, I find myself viewing my struggles with a more humorous eye, rolling my eyes at my dramatic moments, and finding inspiration in a humble approach to the hardest job I’ll ever hold. When I see those daughters of mine, I remember that I’m aiming for Mary in my vocation: to be a little more like the Mother of God each day, drawing closer to Jesus and better cooperating with the grace of God.

Copyright 2009 Sarah Reinhard

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3 Comments

  1. Mark Szewczak on

    Sarah, Well written, thought provoking piece. I too had very difficult relations with my mother and we have more of a truce rather than a mending. I have struggled to see the connection between the Blessed Mother and mine and when some well-meaning priest would suggest this proposition I would and inwardly still do, cringe. Not his fault, or mine or even my mother’s. I felt so bad about the lack of feeling I had for the Virgin that I took it to a wise priest and spilled my guts. His solution was to see here as sister and a good woman friend who has a feminine perspective on what I might be struggling with. So I offer that here too. Perhaps there are others like me who see in Mary the common womanhood perfected, someone who “gets it” from a mother’s and a woman’s point of view, who is there as a good woman is, doing what needs to be done, having patience and wisdom and holding back the exasperation when someone she cares about blunders. That’s my kind of model. Blessings! Mark

  2. Thanks, Paula and Mark.

    Mark, I really like your advice on that different way of seeing Mary. You’re right. In a world where our relationships with our mothers might not be the model we’re after, she stands as a correction, as a different way of looking at it, as a help to heal us and lead us to the peace that can be found in her Son.

    One thing I took from what you said is that, at the heart of it, Mary is the kind of mother we need. For me, she’s probably a different sort of mother/model/woman than she is for you. But she loves us both, more than we can imagine, and she’s always pointing the way back to Jesus.

    Incidentally, I have also struggled with the Father figure idea of God. But I think getting closer to Mary and understanding that “mother” is not an all-encompassing concept but rather a very personal experience, helped me to see God as my Daddy, as Abba, as someone who was at the back end of the bike as I struggle to learn to ride without training wheels.

    Thanks again for your thought-provoking comment! God bless you!

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