What happens when we let Mary work

This month, I committed to a Marian Consecration that culminated in the feast day of the Visitation. Through this retreat, I spent time each day with Mary in thought and prayer. I learned of others who have relied on her intercession. I came to understand how Mary works, how badly she wants to bring us to her Son.

Towards the end of the retreat, I was getting lazy. I had to combine 2-3 days worth of readings at a time due to my state of “busi-ness.” How little is asked of us, and how weak we can be sometimes … despite this apparent laziness, Mary was graciously working. During the month of May, some incredible and tough things happened and I see her guidance in all of it. She’s truly made the crosses lighter and the road sweeter.

The absence of my own mother for the past 7 years is the backdrop, the gaping hole, that motivates so much of my need for Mary. It is no coincidence to me that at the onset of my consecration road, my mother entered rehab for the first time — her first steps towards shedding her self-destructive skin and taking on a new life. Previously, no interest was there in letting go of her harmful behaviors. Mary, my spiritual mother, went to work on my earth mom.

While my mom was away in rehab, I learned to forgive her. I learned how to not need her apology. My family (sister and dad) took the first steps towards healing — the first in 7 years — by attending counseling with me. The evening culminated in a 3-hour dinner together, sharing on a level that we hadn’t before. Mary at work, making our burdens sweeter.

On May 27th, my mom came home and, for the first time in almost a decade, there was life behind her eyes again.

Perhaps most impactful for me, my mom attended Mass with me — her first time in a number of years. At one point during Mass, she pointed out that her hands were shaking because she was so full of guilt and shame. From somewhere within me, I said words I’ve never expressed to anyone out loud – words I recently read and that seemed fitting for the moment: “It’s okay. If you fear the Father, go to the Son.” If pointed at a statue of Christ on the left side of the Church. “And if you fear the Son, go to the Mother.” I pointed to a statue of Mary on the right side of the Church. Her eyes filled with tears and I knew that, on some level, she felt Mary’s embrace just like I have. Mary working away.

This month, I’ve felt the love of other mothers. Mothers of friends and friends who are mothers. I was able to be alone, understand how to forgive others, and come back to the table stronger. Over the course of May, I subconsciously came to refer to the Blessed Virgin as Mamma Mary, a term that is filled more appropriately with all the warmth and honey that she’s given me. I look back on this month and wonder at her work. Who better to trust in our desire to be close to Christ than the one who knows Him best, the one who knows His thirst for us like no other, who wants nothing more than to help us meet her son?

 

 

 

 

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Losing It All to Win

This past week, I attended a monthly evening class for a Jesuit leadership program that I’m a part of this year. Our cohort gathered to hear from a panel of three community leaders: one a self-employed consultant for non-profit organizations, one a medical professional in Catholic healthcare, and the third the former principal at Seattle Prep and current teacher there.

At one point, the leader from Seattle Prep shared a story where he was gathered with a number of angry parents from the school community. He recalled, in a state of regret: “There was a turning point in the evening where I realized that I started caring about winning more than anything else.” He looked back on this moment as a failure, explaining that it had prevented him from understanding and improving the situation and from serving his community. He also drove home feeling rotten.

Following the panel, our cohort broke into pairs to discuss highlights. My partner and I spent our allotted time talking about the concept of winning and how it seems to be at the core of so many issues, whether professional or personal. Looking back, in those moments where we prioritized winning in a discussion or argument above seeing the other side, everyone lost. I’ve seen this play out countless times, whether I’m guilty of the habit or I’m on the receiving end. “Eyes on the prize” is a no-win situation, particularly in personal relationships.

A common Jesuit decision-making process involves picturing your funeral and imagining the words that might be used to describe your time on earth. When I apply the exercise to this theme, I’m reminded just how futile the winning mentality is and how little it really gets us. On our death bed, won’t we regret those times that winning pushed away our loved ones? Those times when our scope became myopic at best and we were forced to retreat back to our caves alone; another so-called win on the board and no one to share it with?

While discussing this idea of losing disguised as winning, my partner and I ended up on the subject of Christ’s Crucifixion. Has there ever been a more extreme example of someone who set aside any notion of “winning”? Beyond that, He was indeed the Son of God. Has there ever been a more extreme example of someone being “right”? And despite his right-ness (more than any of us can say in the face of an argument), he still chose to humble himself. There would be no earthly win necessary to secure everlasting life.

This is the way; the earnest walk towards closeness with one another and with God. Yet, we resist and resist every day — we cannot let go of our deep need to win — and we continue to wonder why we find ourselves on the losing end: further from each other, further from God. 

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