Monday, October 09, 2006

Mary... my Mum

I am a 'cradle Catholic'. When I was growing up I had a real 'thing' about Mary. I certainly didn't worship her, but I had a very starry-eyed image of her. I never bothered praying to any of the saints because I wondered why people go to intermediaries instead of to the Boss. Sure, there were saints I've always liked, in particular, the English martyrs, but even they received a pretty good dose of lip service. So, over the years, Mary and the saints were fairly low down on my list of priorities.

In 1998, when I was in Zambia, I found myself with a radio station to set up....with absolutely no previous experience or training. Completely unasked by me, I discovered that, time and again, the solutions to really big difficulties had some link to Sts. Peter and Paul. It was fascinating and more than a bit scary. In the end I found myself going to them for help, not because I was looking for miracles, but because I felt that I was trying to continue their job of evangelisation, but in my own century and so could do with a few ideas and a bit of extra support. It certainly wasn't because they were anywhere near God on the scale of importance, but they seemed to have been taking an interest in what I was doing.

I've had a similar sort of experience with Mary. She's nowhere near as important as her Son, but there are times when I appreciate having her around just as another woman. When my mother was critically ill last year and now, when my young nephew has been accused of a crime he didn't commit, I've found that I need her as my Mom. Because she's a woman and a mother, I feel that she knows how to give my family a big hug in the way that, however wonderful a father might be, only a Mom knows how to give.

On the question of saints, it seems to me that my experience would be the norm: the saints are friends and Mary is my Mom. God is far, far beyond them and is all-important in my life, but just parents teach their children to love God, that's all that Mary and the saints are doing. Yes, we have only one Mediator, and that is Jesus, but they exist only to bring us closer to Jesus. Again, if I can use an example.

I trained as a midwife. Time and again I saw that a mother would almost sink into the background when people came to visit her after the birth of her baby. She wasn't invisible, but she would be so happy to let the new baby take centre stage. She knew that she had a lifetime of experience and 9 months of pregnancy to offer, and that she was very deserving of praise and congratulations, but she was happy to allow everyone to look at the baby and make lots of comments about how big/small/beautiful/sleepy/wide-awake/ like her/like its father the baby was. The mother's responsibility was to bring that new life into the world and to allow it to be seen in all its beauty.

Mary brought Jesus into the world and made it possible for him to grow to adulthood and follow the path towards Calvary and the Resurrection. I don't know how best to explain what is in my heart because I'm running short of words, but Jesus is all-important. Nobody and nothing can compare with him. He is the Son. He is God. Mary's role is simply to make our understanding of him clearer and more real so that we can approach him ever more honestly and realistically. When we pray to Mary, it's really only asking her to help us to know, understand and love him more.

Again, if I can use an example. I have, in my room, two statues of Mary holding the Baby Jesus. One of those statues I bought only because I saw it being sold on the roadside in a most inappropriate situation. The other I bought because I thought there was such tenderness in the statue that I fell in love with it at first sight. I'll attach them to this e-mail (I hope) for you to see. The one statue holds out a smiling Infant and I see, not so much the mother, but the mother who made Jesus smile. In the other, I see the mother who was a real mother. In both cases, she is the Mom, not the Baby, the Life-bearer, not the Life itself.

God bless,
Sr. Janet