“When I find myself in times of trouble Mother Mary comes to me speaking words of wisdom…and in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me.” Paul McCartney’s lyrics from his 1970 hit, Let It Be, continue with a nod to the brokenhearted people who seek divine assurance that our world, and their existence in it, has meaning and purpose: “…and though they may have parted there is still a chance that they will see, there will be an answer, let it be.”
I am one of those brokenhearted people. We each are. At the birth of her son, Mother Mary was told by God’s prophet that a sword of sorrow would pierce her heart. As we move from the new life of springtime to the month of May, the Catholic Church moves us from the scene of Christ’s death on Calvary, so powerfully depicted by Michelangelo’s Pieta, to the month that honors our Blessed Lady. In America, May also calls attention to our own mothers. Every mother can relate to the sword of sorrow and to the broken hearts that children carry. Turning to Mother Mary is an important part of my daily spiritual encounter. Perhaps because of my own mother, I came to know the tenderness and acceptance of Jesus’ mother, too. She was the role model, heavenly mentor, and maternal patroness for my mom and I realized that the Blessed Mother was presented to me by her to complete what she, as a mother, was unable to be. My mom had ten other kids to deal with, followed by scores of grandchildren and, later, the wave of greats. We all wanted a place on her lap. We all needed to be held, rocked or cradled; we each yearned for her attention, her wisdom, her solace. I had my time. She knew that she couldn’t be all things to all of us forever and she knew that Mary would be her help and a guide for me. I turn to her often, especially in times of trouble, in hours of darkness.
History and Sacred Scripture tell us very little about Mary of Nazareth, mother of Christ. Luke’s Gospel account, considered the most merciful and tender of the four, mentions her more than others. The Catholic traditions add a whole lot more; artists through the centuries give us even more; many pious disciples of Mary pile on more still—but some of their stuff gets pretty weird. Fanatics promoting various Marian apparitions spread messages in her name that seem to me a bit far-fetched. Luke presents her as a strong but humble person, one who is concerned for the lowly and marginalized, one who seeks social, economic, and political justice in her society, one who points away from herself toward her son and who trusts in God above all else. Through her intercession, I pray that I, too, can better understand my earthly vocation and surrender to the good Lord. Through the rosary beads, I attempt to share in the gamut of joyful and sorrowful emotions of daily encounters, while hoping for the glory beyond these shores. And when Saint John Paul added the luminous mysteries, I added my desire to be illuminated by her insight for internalizing Jesus’ teachings.
This May marks an important centennial in the revelation of Mary. Near Fatima, Portugal, three shepherd children received a vision of Holy Mary, who shared with them her plea for humanity to turn back to God. For Catholics, it was, and remains, a wake-up call for us as individuals, families, communities, institutions, even nations, to stop turning away from what is good and holy, what brings light and life, so that we can help others, especially those that find themselves in times of trouble, to turn to God, the light of His Son, and the grace of our Blessed Lady.
When I visited my eighty-six year old mother on Easter Sunday at her home, she was surrounded by children, grandchildren and greats. Sensing my tired state from long and laborious Holy Week and Triduum services, and bearing the sad news of deaths in families I know, including the devastation of suicide, she said to me: “I’ve still got room for you on my lap—come and sit for a while.” Similarly, Holy Mary also has room for us, even in our hours of darkness. Our blessed mother reminds us that, though the answers seem far away, she will turn us toward them and help bring light to the darkness.