“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)
This coming Saturday is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. As Mary feast days go, this one has a special place in my heart.
For one thing, I’ve a bit of an affinity for France. And, unlike most Marian apparition sites, I’ve actually visited Lourdes. In a very indirect and surprising way, that visit changed my life. It was in Lourdes that the first little inkling of a “new Mary” entered my mind. Thanks to Lourdes, I could start to see her as more than just the glacially perfect woman in the statues. I started to see her as a woman who actually lived.
The Lourdes story is about Mary putting herself in the middle of the rock and grit, and finding what’s beautiful there. I love how Mary appeared to the little shepherdess, a person no one ever thought was holy or special enough to have such a visitor. Mary’s coming revealed that there was more to Bernadette than anyone suspected, including Bernadette herself. Mary’s coming also tapped into the latent faith of the people of Lourdes, just as Bernadette tapped into the healing waters of the spring. In a way, one could say that the Lourdes story is really about venturing below the surface, finding the beautiful depths that exist there, and harnessing them for good.
And that’s a lesson that never grows old.
This is a rerun of a post from 2010. (I guess I’ve been blogging for a long time, haven’t I?)
Are you a Massive Mary Fan, the kind who brakes for pictures of the Madonna and Child and who can sing all verses of “Hail, Holy Queen” by heart?
Are you someone who thinks, “I know everyone always talks about how great Mary is, but I’ve never really had much of a connection with her”?
Wherever you are in your relationship (or lack thereof) with Mary, I’ve got an invitation for you. I’ll be giving an online workshop this Friday, January 27th at 9 pm Eastern Time. The topic is Mary and Modern Women, and I’ll be looking at Mary from five angles that speak to women today. It’s put on by Blessed is She, a great website to check out every day of the year.
If you are a member of Blessed is She, it’s totally free. If you aren’t, it’s $15. Check out the details on the website.
Hope you can make it! (and if you can’t join in live, check the site — you can watch them after the fact, too).
Along with Santas, elves, and reindeer, angels make a big appearance this time of year. And yet unlike many of the other characters associated with the holidays, angels aren’t Christmas-specific. In fact, as a new book points out, they are fascinating beings whose presence in the Bible can point us toward a fuller understanding of God’s work.
All God’s Angels: Loving and Learning from Angelic Messengers (Paraclete Press) is one of the loveliest books to cross my path this year. Each short chapter focuses on an angel story from the Bible, everything from Genesis to Revelation. In pithy, wise reflections, author Martin Shannon meditates on each story and what it reveals about angels, about God, and — ultimately — about our human selves. I love the approach; I’ve never before read these Bible stories and thought about the angels as anything other than peripheral figures, so I found the new perspective fascinating.
Each chapter is illustrated by a colorful reproduction of a work of art, everything from a Byzantine mosaic of the angel guarding Eden to Eugene Delacroix’s famous picture of Jacob wrestling the angel.
Delacroix’s classic image
These pictures are powerful complements to the chapters, particularly because Shannon also comments on the artwork, pointing out little details that help emphasize the mood and meaning of the story.
Between the words and the art, this book is a glorious celebration of these mysterious beings who end up on our Christmas trees and coffee mugs but whose history and involvement in salvation is so much more rich than it seems. It’s a lovely, inspiring little book and would be a great Christmas gift for anyone looking for a dose of inspiration.
And if you want to fully immerse yourself in all things angelic, read the book to the strains of this lovely song. It’s one of my favorite carols of all time, courtesy of John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers.