I’ve been a Catholic my whole life. One thing which is rather unique to my faith is the importance of the Virgin Mary. Sometimes overlooked in other denominations, Mary was hand-picked to be the Mother of God, and spared from original sin. I always felt close to her when I was growing up; she was so young, and so unaware of everything which would befall her. And yet, her faith persevered.
As a mother, my love and admiration for Mary has only continued to grow.
I remember a mass around Christmas 2012, when I was pregnant with my first child. I had prayed for the souls of my children since I was a girl, and through some fertility issues there was a period in which I thought my husband and I would never have a child. I had a special glow that holiday season. I was just so happy to have a baby – a son, my firstborn! – happily growing inside me.
I did the Sign of the Cross over myself, and then over my belly, each time the Mass called for it. And I know I had a stupid grin on my face the whole time. Everything seemed so perfect in my life.
But as time went on, I found my mind wandering. And I really started to contemplate Mary: not as the figurehead we see at face value, but as a young woman and young mother. The girl who said “yes” even though she had no way of knowing all which would befall her.
And even now, the more I think about her, the more I am in awe and appreciation.
My mind fills with questions as I think about everything Mary experienced and had to bear. Some of the questions are straightforward, like did she have morning sickness when pregnant? How was her labor? Was Jesus easy to breastfeed? Did she and Joseph feel as overwhelmed and clueless as my husband and I?
Other thoughts are not so easily explained. How she kept her faith and love of God as she held her dying Son in her arms; how she must have been so scared when she thought that she’d lost Him, only to find Him in the temple; how, after finding Him in the temple, He spoke words which she couldn’t fully understand; how she pondered so many motherly things within the walls of her heart, bearing the burden alone.
There is absolutely no way that Mary could have anticipated everything which was going to happen to her, and to her Son. Even though he was God, she loved him as any mother loves her first and only child. And so Mary has the unique experience of loving Christ as none of us can. He was her Lord, but He was also her baby boy.
There is also no way that Mary was chosen by chance; nothing God does is by coincidence, or random, or without purpose. Mary was chosen from before she was even conceived to be the one who would be Christ’s mother. And that is something I won’t forget. God the Father intentionally, purposefully chose Mary from all women in history to be the one who would birth and raise His Only Son.
What I love most about Mary is that she is a mere mortal like you or I, but she is also the perfect example of grace and faithfulness. That you don’t have to see, to believe. Mary said “yes” even though she didn’t know the details. She had no idea that her Son would be brutally tortured and hanged on a cross like a common criminal; she didn’t know that people would be trying to kill her baby boy as soon as he was born. She fled the country, was misunderstood, and did her best.
Now I see Mary as a fellow mother, not just as a mom. She’s like me, but I aspire to be more like her. I think of her when I hold my feverish child in the middle of the night; I ask her to be with me when I have to make tough decisions for my children; I prayed to her through agonizing breastfeeding sessions with my newborn. She’s more real to me than ever. I know she’s been where I am, and she’s borne so much. Yet her faith was never shaken.
Everything Mary did, was for love of her child and love of her Lord.
I aspire to be more like that.
Mary’s job as a mother was second to nothing in her life. Upon first talking with the Angel Gabriel (as an unwed teenager), Mary doesn’t hesitate to say “yes” to God. She doesn’t ask for terms or conditions, or if she can back out later. And once she makes that commitment, she doesn’t worry about what will happen to her engagement to Joseph. She’s in.
I know that she must have faced some ridicule for being “with child” before she was married; in fact, Joseph was prepared to break off the engagement for fear that she’d been unfaithful. It’s assumed that Mary probably never really fit in with the local moms group, as her child was doing public lectures and performing miracles. But all she wanted was to protect him, to love him and care for him. I wish we knew more about Christ’s childhood. Can you imagine her excitement at His first steps? The first smile on that Holy face? The first time that Jesus said “Mama”?
I asked my mom (my other Mama role model!), who is very devout Catholic, to give me some thoughts on having Mary as our role model as mothers: “Mary to me is the perfect Mother – – I look to her for strength when I have none, because she watched while her beloved Son was scourged and crucified. I know she went through much worse than I could imagine.
I look to her in times of anxiety and fear because Mary never feared; she knew what was coming but did not shrink from it. She knew her heart would be pierced but did not ask God to spare her from the pain of her Son’s death. She did not run away from the Angel Gabriel (!) when he asked her to basically give up her life and become God’s Mom. I know she is courageous and strong, and she accompanies me on a lot of scary health appointments, scary encounters with people and in scary situations. She takes my hand and isn’t only my peaceful, watchful, omnipresent Companion but she is my strength too. She’s been through it. She can relate. She knows what it’s like to be in impossible situations. But Mary always trusted in God and in His will and great Plan for her; even before she was chosen to be Jesus’ Mom she had great Faith and great Strength. I try to trust in the same Master Plan as Mary did but it’s hard for me. It’s hard to blunder over things but still trust that there is a Plan – – but I have no doubt that there is, I just need to have Faith.
I pray the Rosary every day now. I used not to pray it at all but after my Mom died I started praying to Mary and I continue because I feel her closer to me at that time. It gives me peace and starts the day off in the right way. I also feel, as John Edward says, that the spirits of our loved ones draw closer and are attracted by the cadence of the Holy Rosary. So I pray. And I ask Mary to accompany me on that day’s journey. And she does. I call upon her when I need her nurturing, her strength, her great Faith. And she’s always there, just as I call upon her Son. Sometimes she leads me. Sometimes she just stands beside me.
I’m closer to Mary now since I lost my own Mom. I feel like an orphan within my own world because no one will ever love you as a parent does – and now I’m all alone without my mom and dad. Mary understands. She was lost without her husband, her parents and her Son. She gets it. She is my strength.”
Whether or not you’re Catholic (or even a Christian), I hope you can see why Mary is so important to me. She’s a human example of the ideal mother, and we can all look to her example! Let me know who your “Mama role model” is in the comments!
Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and Blessed is the Fruit of thy womb.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of our death.