The Messiness of Mary’s Motherhood

As I contemplate “Motherhood” for this month’s theme on Everyday Ediths, Mary is an obvious source of inspiration.  May is the month of Mary, after all.

But this isn’t *that* post.  (You know, the one where I convince you that Catholics don’t worship Mary.  There’s been about a million books and articles about that subject.  For the record, we don’t, but that’s not what this is about.)

This is about Mary and my own mothering journey.Messiness

Through the years I’ve seen a multitude of images of Mary.  We have several in our home.  Largely these statues and pictures convey the faith, hope, and love of our Blessed Mother.  Gentle smiles and rosy cheeks offer an example of who we should be as mothers– whether that’s spiritual or physical– offering our fiat to whatever we are called.

But this whitewashed, glowing image of Mary isn’t the whole picture.

I’m in the business of growing little people.  (That makes me picture a lawn gnome farm…)  But I’m not talking about ceramic people, I’m talking about human people. Motherhood is literally my life’s work.  There are moments I’m like the images of Mary, when the kids do something unexpectedly kind, and I smile gently, finding satisfaction in how good and holy and lovely life is.  Then someone throws a shoe at someone else, and the moment is broken.

Most the time I do not have a gentle smile and peaceful heart.  I’m trying.  But if I’m being honest, when confronted with tantrums and drawn-on furniture, I often miss the mark.

The images in my home of Mary offer me something to shoot for.  A goal.  A model.  Mary is my model.  My momdel. (Get it?!?!  Mom-del?)


I look at this image on display in my living room and remember to breathe.  To pause and enjoy this present moment in my life.  Most the time, I appreciate the reminder to embrace a calmness in my mothering.  However, these images are not an invitation to gloss over the messiness of Mary’s own life.

She was found to be pregnant before she was married.  (In a time where stoning was a thing, this is not an unimportant detail.)
Consider also the traditional “Seven Sorrows of Mary.”

  • The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:34-35)
  • The flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-14)
  • The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple (Luke 2: 43-45)
  • The meeting of Jesus on the way of the Cross
  • The Crucifixion
  • The taking down of the body of Jesus from the cross
  • The burial of Jesus

Mary might be the perfect image of motherhood, but that’s not because she faced no challenges.  She is the perfect image of motherhood because she faced complete tragedy with faith.

When confronted with suffering in my own life, I find comfort in images of Mary’s sorrow.

Although the music in the video is secular (and isn’t perfect in its theology), it does offer insight into Mary’s motherhood.

The way she looks heartbroken.  Her Jesus.  Her Jesus is hanging on a cross.  The little boy she watched grow into a man.  As she cradles His body in her lap, it is apparent that her heart has been pierced, just as Simeon prophesied.

If the perky images of Mary encourage us to be virtuous, the sorrowful images of Mary remind us that we aren’t alone in our suffering.

Motherhood is something beautiful.  Special.  Sacred.  As someone who has experienced the tragedy of losing a child during pregnancy, I have a keen awareness of how delicate the gift of motherhood is.  Mary knows, too.  She gets it.  With her quiet acceptance, she has faced the worst.  And still she chooses trust.

He gives her to us from the cross.  Jesus offers Mary to us, not only as a model and intercessor, but as someone who will hold our face in her hands and wipe our tears when life doesn’t make sense.  When we can’t grasp how things can possibly get better.  When we can’t imagine how we’ll get through the next day, the next minute, the next second because it hurts so much.

She knows.  She’s been there.  With a future full of question marks.  With a hole in her heart that can’t be fixed with chocolate and a good nap.

The next time I see a stained glass window or gorgeous oil painting depicting Mary, I’m going to see past her perfectly coiffed mantle and downcast, humble eyes.  I’m going to see her sufferings and mine intertwined in mess of tears, sweat, and blood.  And I’ll have confidence that someday my messy motherhood, my fiat, will bear fruit as well.

We Catholics don’t worship Mary.  But we do hold her hand as she leads us to Jesus in her example of faith, hope, and love.

For more on suffering and faith:
She Will Not Get Better
The Lenten Luck of a Serious Diagnosis
Hope for Crushed Cans
Accepting the Ugliness of Suffering
Anxiety and Faith

 

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