On my back patio is a white statue of Mary. She stands with her arms outstretched, her face calm and gentle. I love this statue, and the peace that I feel when I look at it.
But these serene images of Mary can lead us to make some pretty big assumptions. It’s tempting to look at her calm demeanor and think, This is someone for whom everything was easy. We wonder how Mary can relate to our raw struggles, to all the disorienting uncertainties of life. Does she have any idea how it feels to lose a job, have a depleted bank account or get a terrifying medical diagnosis?
Several years ago, I was reflecting on Mary, and it hit me that her own life was anything but smooth sailing. Over and over, she had to navigate challenging situations when a positive outcome must have seemed elusive at best.
Take the birth of Jesus: Just when she probably wanted to hunker down at home and wait for her baby to arrive, she had to get on a donkey and travel far from the comfort of the familiar.
No bed of roses
Ask any pregnant woman what she hopes for her delivery, and odds are good it involves a comfortable bed and a supportive, nurturing environment. Mary had to accept a pile of straw, and the company of animals.
Even after the birth, Mary could hardly relax and nest back at home. The Gospel of Matthew tells how she had to flee to Egypt because someone was trying to kill her baby — an experience that, for a mom, is about as terrifying as they come.
Aside from the danger and fear, she and her little family also had to adjust to the disorienting experience of being refugees in a foreign country.
And it can’t have been easy for Mary when Jesus was out preaching. He was doing and saying things that were stirring the pot, things that were putting him on the radar of powerful and merciless people. As a mom, I suspect that a little part of Mary wished that he could stay quietly at home and be a carpenter. She had to accept a new normal — her son’s public profile, and its attendant danger — and I have a hunch it wasn’t easy.
This is why I look at Mary, I see more than just a serene smile. Anytime we struggle with an uncertain future, anytime we feel that normal life has been kicked out from underneath us, we can ask for Mary’s prayers in the full knowledge that she gets it. She’s been there herself.
A faith worth celebrating
But as we pray, we can also ask for a bit of her faith, the faith she articulated so beautifully in the Magnificat.
“He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty” (Luke 1:52-53).
Mary must have felt uncertain and confused by many events in her life, but the counterweight to those feelings was her faith that somehow, in the end, all would be well. Because of God’s love, the hungry would be well-fed, the lowly would be raised up, and the stressed-out would be filled with peace.
Mary understands our struggles, for sure. But she also understands that there is something that lies beyond them.
And that makes her a woman worth celebrating, every month of the year.
Ginny Kubitz Moyer is the author of “Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God.” She blogs at http://www.randomactsofmomness.com.