“It was a few months after the birth of Matthew that I kept thinking of a well-known quotation from Elizabeth Stone, one I’d heard years before becoming a mom: ‘Making the decision to have a child — it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.’ Bingo, I thought as I toted Matthew around in his infant seat. That’s exactly how it feels. Matthew is outside of me now, in that big scary world, and that is a very vulnerable place for a heart to be.
One day I thought back to those pictures of Mary’s immaculate heart. For the first time ever, that image made perfect sense to me. Like me, Mary was a mom. Like me, she had a beloved child who was out there in the world, where any number of things could assail him. Like me, she must have felt as though the dearest, most vital part of her — her very heart — was exposed and vulnerable.
Once I made that connection, I could no longer dismiss those images as creepy or perplexing. I realized they were, in fact, a perfect way of showing how visceral this maternal-love thing really is. It’s not just something you feel in your head or in your soul. It’s in your very organs, in every cell of your body, in the mechanisms that make you tick. Like any other mom, Mary felt that love, in all its exhilarating and terrifying depth.”
— from Random MOMents of Grace: Experiencing God in the Adventures of Motherhood (Loyola Press, 2013)
Somehow or other, the month of May almost passed without me writing a single post about Mary. The spirit was willing, but the flesh — exhausted by end-of-the-semester grading — was weak.
But here in the eleventh hour, I’m finally putting together a little celebration of one of my favorite moms. So here are some of my favorite Mary-themed photos, all taken by me at various times over the years.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Healdsburg, CA
Mary under a mantle of snow, Oneonta, NY
Our Lady of Lourdes shrine, Half Moon Bay, CA
Mary statue, my backyard
Homemade Nativity set figures, my mom’s house
Pencil holder, my desk
Carmel Mission, Carmel, CA
Detail from Song of the Angels by William Adolphe Bouguereau
“I don’t know why God chose to enter the world as an infant; there are many possible reasons, I’m sure. But I like to think that maybe it’s because God, too, wanted to feel the warmth of a mother’s touch.”
— from Taste and See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses
A blessed Mother’s Day to all.
Our Lady of Guadalupe shine in Healdsburg, California
I think many of us are feeling vulnerable these days. Tragic world events shake us; political fighting unsettles us; wild winter weather keeps us on edge. On a personal note, recent changes in my own workplace have left me and many of my colleagues feeling disempowered. Being vulnerable takes a lot out of you.
But tomorrow is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and that makes me happy. Just like her son, she’s a champion of the vulnerable. She singled out the little guy, Juan Diego, and encouraged him. She appeared not to the wealthy and powerful but to a representative of the disenfranchised and vulnerable, reminding him of his own innate dignity.
I love that about her.
Here in California, you see many images of Our Lady of Guadalupe: on truck decals, T-shirts, sides of buildings. The fact that she is so ubiquitous just underscores her availability. You don’t need a ticket or a background check or a sponsor to approach her. She’s always there and ready to listen, any time life is roughing you up a bit and you need a little comfort.
Years ago, walking with my husband after dinner at a restaurant in a nearby city, I remember passing a Catholic church. There was a shrine to Our Lady of G. in the parking lot, and in the dusk a young man was standing there. He was alone, and silent, just pausing in front of her shrine. It was clear that he was praying. I was touched by it, this moment where vulnerable human need sought strong maternal love. If my own experiences are anything to go by, I suspect he left that shrine feeling heard.
I think this is why Our Lady of Guadalupe is so special. I think it’s why her image is fixed in our memories, just as surely it is on Juan Diego’s tilma. She keeps on bringing us roses in winter, affirmation in the bleakest times. And that’s worth celebrating, tomorrow and always.
The statue of Madonna and child on my mantel has some company these days. (They’re the cake toppers from the boys’ birthday party, and they even light up!).
Somehow, this is the perfect snapshot of my life as a mom: the spiritual and the Star Wars, side by side.