I love the expression “pondering in our hearts” because it so aptly captures my own journey with Mary. In all my years walking a spiritual path, I’ve striven to bring the best of who I am to each of my roles as a woman. Mary, too, was a daughter, wife, sister, friend, and mother. While all these relationships have dignity, it is true for me and for Mary that the role of mother is the one in which we have been required to stretch our spiritual selves most profoundly. While we know bits and pieces of how she imbued her grace within each of these roles, it’s when I begin to ponder who she was during the crucifixion that I find I have needed her most.
Of course, I am continuously drawn to images of her gentleness. In particular, I am amazed at how artists throughout the centuries have depicted the quietness of her hands crossed over her heart upon hearing Gabriel’s announcement. But Mary has infinite range. Her strength, awakened by the sorrow in what she had to witness, is what has carried me through my darker times as a mother.
Parenthood can be an immensely lonely experience, even when you have support. Every parent, to varying degrees, will have to watch their child suffer. The heartrending fact is that even with the unending well of love flowing inside you, sometimes you cannot alter your child’s human path. You will be fully present to their aching—and your own aching—as you have to witness them hurt by others, bullied, uncertain, lost, vulnerable, scared, and alone.
The powerlessness Mary had to endure in Christ’s crucifixion is beyond words. Her astonishing fierceness often gets overlooked. When I have pondered the Stations of the Cross, I see that though she couldn’t prevent him from staggering and falling that first time, she was there right after he did. She shows us that parenthood—in fact, all deep relationships—brings unpredictable and harrowing passages; while our love cannot alleviate suffering, our love can encircle people amidst the suffering.
Like Mary, I’ve known the bliss of holding my warm, dreaming infant. And like Mary I’ve watched my children grow up beyond the protection of my arms, striding into the chaos and calamity of the world. I don’t mean to suggest, in any way, that being a mother is only being on guard for my children, that I live this role harried and fraught. Not at all. But I am expressing that in all my life, I’ve been most challenged in my faith while watching the pain of my children.
Mary has shown me how to withstand the steps along the tumultuous path. As mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, friends, we can turn to her and trust her to understand any crushing situation we face.
Mary, you listened for God’s message through the angel Gabriel and did not hesitate with your “Yes” in obedience to his will. Teach me to listen for God’s voice.