Walking with Mary to the Cross Series-9

9 – Mary is given to John as his mother by Jesus Mary, my mother

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

What a profound moment in both Mary and John’s life to hear their dying son and savior utter these last words. He could see them both standing there – witnessing to the world that this was of major importance. He knew his mother’s heart was united to his…. yet the distance was felt – he being totally unable to do anything for himself and she unable to comfort him much like when she held him as a newborn baby. Now she wanted to hold him again; but she could not. Mary had to wait until life left him and only then could she mourn and hold the worn, lifeless body. John drew close at the last supper, leaning into his beloved Jesus; seeking for that greater knowledge of what he was saying and would happen next. He had his own mother still alive – so what Jesus was stating would be written for all… it could be no other way.

My own mother was given to live a time of suffering and sacrifice. At 80 years old, she began the long walk of 14 years battling Alzheimers. I know so many grown children are having to deal with their parents and this disease, yet it is where great grace and gift are found. It wasn’t an accident Jesus gave Mary to John. She was now a widow. She would need help – but then again – so would all who believed Christ was the messiah yet now was gone from their eyes. When my dad couldn’t take care of my mom by himself, they both moved in with us. She was active but very confused and made our household a difficult place. Dad would get upset with her frequent questions over and over again. My husband, diagnosed with another form of Dementia at the same time – was jealous of my time with her and impatient with her antics of walking off the property or doing things that she shouldn’t. I had to watch her all the time. Dad fell ill with cancer and died within eight months of moving in. What would I now do – with two of them – how would I pick who to minister more towards or create a space of safety where they both felt loved and served?

I ponder as to if Jesus, in giving John to Mary, gives Mary to us – to all his disciples – as well. How often do we call upon our holy Mother in the Hail Mary prayer? So many times in their illnesses I would say Mary, help me, Mary, call on your son for me, I can’t do this. She would know from John – who being the only disciple to be at the cross – how hard it would be for all his followers. She needed to receive John, and all mankind, in her new role of Mother – our spiritual Mother, as we unite ourselves to our heavenly Father in the resurrection of Jesus. It is a profound thought that this “new Eve” – the one who would set the Fiat right in her self sacrifice, maturity, faith and great suffering would be our spiritual mother. There was no glory at the cross, nothing to shout Amen about – it was sorrowful and sad to see her son in this condition – yet she knew he was the God-man and she his mother, both with roles set out by the Father to redeem the world. Her role would now intensify for the whole world – for all time – and her fiat would not change – even as a widow and the mother of a God-man son who died; now she is called to be something even more …. participating in the great victory he won … and she knew this as she recalls her words to Elizabeth found in Luke 1:49:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

All of her Magnificat would be to help us in our journeys to heaven … to understand the messages Jesus gave – the healings administered – the justice and mercy due. My mom grew harder to keep track of along with my husband so I had to bring her to a local nursing home to live. She hated it at first and I did my best to be there as often as I could. We would take drives and go for walks and she would tell me stories of long ago. After several years she would grow more silent, sleep more and yet she always looked for my coming to visit. She would beg me not to leave. We changed roles as daughter and mother and it was a time of great tenderness to see her faith not leave her but suffering be accepted. On her last days she was afraid but we held hands and just looked at each other. At the end she was quiet; gone into conversation with Jesus and Mary I think- yet I held her and repeated it was going to be alright, over and over, trying tried to console myself as much as her. With her eyes closed, I would pray the rosary. A few times they would open and she would blink at me. I know Mary was there, to take her to heaven, to Jesus and my dad. I have great peace in knowing I did what I could for her and Mary was the mentor of my calmness through it all.

Mary most sorrowful, most tender,

mother of meekness,
docility and obedience;

Mary most holy, defend us,

protect us, pray for us.

Esther Marie Moloney.

May 26, 1924 – March 27, 2017

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Walking with Mary to the Cross Series-8

8 – Mary walking with Jesus to Calvary Mary, model of strength

The Stations of the Cross are the most often thought of the “walk with Mary” to the Cross. Every Lent we gather together in the church to remember the passion and crucifixion of our Lord – and that Mary is present with her son. Much has been said about Mary’s walk – the sorrow in watching Jesus fall three times – the women he encounters – the help he gets. In this post I want to speak with you about Mary’s motherhood – the intense pain she must have felt being the mother of the one who is to be crucified – innocent and humiliated – surrendering to the will of the Father to be killed on a cross for our sakes and, of my own pain in motherhood.

You’ve had a miscarriage” they told me at the hospital. How could that be, I wondered. I didn’t know I was pregnant – I was just late in my cycle, I thought. But here I was, a married woman of three months, and it could be. “We’ll have to take you into surgery to be sure that all the parts are removed.” Parts? What kind of parts could he be talking about? Everyone knew that it was only cells and tissues – I couldn’t have been more than 6 weeks along. Dread came over me as they wheeled me down the hall to my room and then helped me into the bed. My bleeding had subsided somewhat but I was still so uncomfortable and afraid. I was pregnant? I lost this child? Where are you God, I asked. Where are you? Have you abandoned me again?

After the flogging they gave Jesus the coat of purple and the crowning of thorns. They put a reed in his hands and called him the King of the Jews. They pulled him out into the crowd and forced the heavy beams of a cross upon his back. His back – torn into a thousand pieces from the flogging would rip open and bleed more. What agonizing pain he must have felt. Close by Mary would have stood watching her son being terrorized. She could not run over and push them off of him – although I am sure she wanted to and perhaps John had to hold her back. Seeing him in this state she would hardly be able to breath.

I think of so many mothers I know who lost their children – in pregnancy – at birth – in their young childhood years and even as adults. How could God have allowed this tragedy? A child? They are innocent! They didn’t do anything wrong and were just starting out in life. How do we bear the pain? We would rather give our life for theirs. But God allows it. Love knows no limits and neither does suffering. We are given only the choice to say not my will, but yours be done. Mary again – Mary our model of strength points us to the will of the Father – the will her son took up when he said Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?

Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into His glory? Luke writes this for us – that we too must suffer with our own crosses. He remembered when Jesus said “Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” It was clear he meant for us to know that crosses will come into our life – in the midst of happiness or in daily trials. How we react to them will either glorify the Father or leave us with hardened hearts. Mary went out into the street to comfort Jesus in his walk and their eyes met. That deep look into each other’s souls was united in love only because they both knew God had a greater plan and it would carry them past this moment in time. Still, Mary would have wanted it to stop. Greater pain yet had to come before he could be released from this world – from his humanity and enter fully into divinity once again. He would look at his mother and his eyes would say “I am not abandoning you…. I will be with you always.” How could she believe this? She only had to look at what she had already been told. God never left her. He provided. She didn’t always understand, but she knew how to surrender to his will.

Have you abandoned me again? I asked. Yes, I did feel God abandoned me a second time. You see, the first time I was pregnant, I knew it. I was way late in my cycle. I went to a clinic and they confirmed it. I was 17, in high school and not married, and the father did not want anything to do with me. It is only cells and tissues they told me. Just a blob right now, so get it done and get on with your life. No one will need to know. But God knew. Mary and all the saints in heaven would know. I would know. But if what she said was true – then there was no harm, right? That was the evil one whispering loud in my ears. I could only hear him. I turned away from the God who was supposed to save me. I walked away from him. I had an abortion and until that next pregnancy, pushed it far back into my mind and chose to forget it. Then came that day in the hospital, and the Doctor tells me there are parts. No longer do I believe about the cells and tissue, but realize a real live child was within my womb and I allowed her death. O Jesus. O Mary. Punish me forever and a day for I cannot stand what I have done to you, to her, to all of us. But I cannot take back time. I cannot undo what was done.

At the wedding in Cana, did Mary wish she did not ask for the first miracle? Did she wish she could take back her request to Jesus to begin his ministry? Yet something would have come if not this to start her son’s walk towards the passion. It was just a matter of time – she would know that it could start anywhere and would get worse – she would come to suffer more and want it to end. But her obedience to the Father to love this son, to unite herself to every thing he felt – knowing deep within her the extreme suffering – had to happen. How many things do we wish we could take back – a word, action or thought, before that person we loved passed away? How do we live with never being able to take back or state what we were too afraid to say or do at that last moment?

Perhaps God allows this suffering – like that of my innocent child – for our salvation. So sad to say this but her life given for mine? Could I have come back to him with such a strength of love that I have without the allowance of what occurred? Why? Why such a tragedy? If I had only known, I would have chose differently. But in truth, I feel more strongly that if I had trusted – chosen God to figure this out instead of relying on myself – if I had shared with my parents or siblings or friends – it could have been different. God allowed me this cross – a cross for life – and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my child – my children – Mary Elizabeth and Stephen – who are my advocates in heaven. Thy will be done Lord. Mary’s heart would break for me on the day of their deaths. But she would hold them – as she does with all our children who leave earth before their parents. She would bring them into her mantle and tell them all the good about us. Mary would cry with us both for the loss and grief we would feel. She would then take up the cross of righteousness to show the children her son’s mercy to forgive and pray for us. And prayer is what finally reunited us through a Rachel’s vineyard retreat where I found the healing power of Jesus’ mercy and love. Even for a wretched sinner like me. Because no sin is greater than his mercy.

That’s the walk of the way of the cross – life’s battles in which some we win by the power of God and some we lose to the great influencer. But we know in the long run that victory has been won. Good Friday does come before Easter Sunday – and it has to be in that order. His plan will always be greater than ours – if we surrender to his will. Just look to Mary who is our model of strength, sorrow and see her cross. She’ll help you carry yours too.

If you know someone hurting from a past abortion, help them find healing through a Rachel’s vineyard retreat. They are located across the country and the world and can be found here: www.rachelsvineyard.org

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Walking with Mary to the Cross Series-7

7 – Mary at Scourging of her SonMother of holiness and sorrow

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him.  Matthew 27:22-26

Today’s post marks the beginning of our Lord’s walk to the cross. Unfamiliar territory for both Mary and Jesus, they will come upon great sorrow for what is unleashed from the minds of men who do not know their creator. No longer do they remember his ride into Jerusalem on a donkey… the loud cheers and waving palm branches had been changed to insults, spit and unnecessary blows.

I never meant for my weaknesses and sinfulness to effect anyone. Truly, I was surprised when my “new venture” in network marketing failed so miserably. I started blogging in 2013 because I was into healthy eating and exercise. I wanted others to enjoy the fruits of what I found through good eating and an exercise plan. But then came the snag by this marketing guru… and they had a better plan. Thinking they knew more than I did; that aligning myself with them would set me up with wealth, health and a great following – which is what I wanted so that I could fix everyone in my family who had money issues, I was swept up into it. Napoleon Hill here I came. (N.H. is the author of “Think and grow rich.”)

What could our holy mother have felt seeing such force and brutality projected upon her son? How could people change so quickly from love to hate? For me the answer is the great influencer; satan himself, making the suggestions to turn inward and accuse those who question our every step, thought or action. Our concupiscence and weakness follows and sin becomes front and center. We cast the first stone, throw the dagger, pierce the heart of Christ. And Mary looks on, knowing her son is innocent but given this sentence by the Father to bear all these wounds.

Unfamiliar territory myself, I was led into a tangled web of confusion and lies plus some truth. I understood I needed to be trained and that cost money. Instead of making money now from ads on my blogs, I was paying the firm to post, to attend endless webinars, classes and trainings where they would go on and on about how they did it. I just needed one more session, tool, or person to follow me. Thousands of dollars into it, hours and hours of time in front of the computer and notebooks full of information, I was no longer free to post about health and exercise. Now I needed someone to do what I had done so that I could recoup what I lost. Positive thinking was the guru’s answer. Always stay positive, upbeat and show them how in it all you are a happy, healthy person. There could be no cross.

I can’t imagine every sin in the world, much less their effect. The flogging would come after such extreme humility to not speak out to Pilate and tell him the truth about the Pharisees; about the great setup that occurred during the night. Mary was not in the garden with Jesus as our sins came upon him and he sweat blood. Yet the closeness of their walk to the cross would give her the inclination – a deep sense of grief – that something was occurring to cause her son such great sorrow that her own heart was splitting. These were the people she had rejoiced with in healings, the breaking of bread and in learning of the Father’s great mercy and desire to draw his chosen people to himself. How could they change so much? The greed in their hearts to make themselves a god; to reign over another and to yield their power took over their softened hearts. The influencer only had to show them how this man made them feel uncomfortable; made them think they would have to change and in doing so it could be painful. And he would say into your ear, you don’t want pain, but gain. You don’t want a cross.

I had not made a dime yet – the money I hoped to make to pay off my brothers debt was not materializing and now I was in debt too. The greed in my own heart with thoughts of how I was going to be the savior for others was losing way to hopelessness. Over the course of many months I became friends with several people and had side conversations with them as to how they were doing and what their expectations were with the firm. I found Christians who believed that God had set them there to be able to fund their missions and had great faith. Others believed it was the universe we needed to reach out to and then all would be well. It was only when I presented a plan to give my testimony through several blog posts and tried it out on a friend that it all came crashing down. She told me how the higher power had to be the universe and if we would all just think hard and focus on the same thing it would come true. My beliefs in Christ and his healing power were nonsense to her and I was throwing away everything unless I gave it up and came to know the real truth.

Mary might have been close to the Praetorium when the scourging occurred. She might have heard the blows on Jesus’ back. She might have cleaned up the blood once he was taken away. Regardless as to what she experienced, she knew he was bearing the weight of something very heavy and yet could not be taken away. Once more, Simeon’s prophesy came to life – a sword will pierce your heart – he will be the rise and fall of many. The camps were split – those who turned on him and those who cried all night long. She could not turn back time, undo what was set in motion at the wedding at Cana. She had to walk with him in this great trial – surrendering once more to the pain and anguish of knowing what her son would bear for mankind. No one, especially a mother like our Blessed Mother, born without sin but great in compassion and meekness; simple and kind; mild and most often without the comfort of understanding, yet accepting. She knew the truth – this was the Son of God and if this was asked of him he had to walk to the cross. She also knew he would not be alone – that she would walk with him.

It was a shock to me that my friend had this belief. I then realized how far off course I had gotten. This work with the firm became my own god – a desire to put my so called abilities and reliance on self in front of my faith in Christ. I, I, I was what I heard in my ears. Yet Christ died for me – he silently gave his life for me to be offered to his Father. When I looked back over that past year of marketing in this way I saw how much time I took from family; money I spent we didn’t have and loss of of time with Christ. I often tried to package it in a holy way but it was pretty clearly not holy, but greedy and self serving. It was a great lesson in humility and a loss too – had I spent the money helping my brother instead of trusting in a stranger to help me make thousands, God would have been there in a better way.

I couldn’t have flogged myself more when I realized how much I hurt those around me – and God – with this diversion from my original goal. But that is the work of the influencer. He took something small – and good – and twisted it in my thinking. The firm was morally incorrect yet had the appearance of goodness to be found. The Lord allowed me to pick up this cross of humility and surrender to my self reliance – to turn to a greater trusting in him. I immediately broke all ties and opted out of everything. I spent the next year working for a real firm using the skills but none of the self-promoting, get another in the game so we can take from him situation. Christ allowed Pilate to have him flogged and led to the cross for our sake. He showed us the way – that it isn’t the easy way – the positive thinking way – but often the very hard way of self surrender and trust that God’s way – planned out before we were born – is the only way. Mary knew this when she gave her fiat. May we all find our fiat daily and offer it for all mankind to wake up – to think and grow in the grace of God for who we are and what we can do for him with the aid of his holy and blessed Mother – who will never abandon us but help us to unite our crosses to her son’s cross.

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Walking with Mary to the Cross Series-6

6 – Mary at the Wedding in Cana – Mother of those in need

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On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:1-5).

On a 104 degree day in the summer of 2007 in our parish church, I never expected a reunion like what occurred. To “do whatever he tells you” took on a far greater meaning for my husband and I that day. After finding our way back to reconciliation by the mercy of God, and in our desire to come back into full communion with the church, my husband and I both had to get annulments. His was easy, he had only been married by a justice of the peace. Mine was a full Catholic church wedding. I had to go through the long annulment process – taking almost eighteen months to complete and be approved. It was a very hard process to seek out witnesses and remember things that were better left forgotten. But the church in her wisdom had to flush out what seemed like an earlier covenant to be sure. We abstained from receiving the Eucharist while in the waiting period and often wondered how God kept us together for the eighteen years together without him in our marriage.

Mary, in her infinite docility and gentleness, could not have been offended when Jesus called her “woman.” Most of us would have thought he would have said “mother” in light of her most important role as the chosen one to carry the son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit. She would know from Simeon’s prophesy that Jesus had a unique mission set before him from God and that even in her quietness she would have a place in it. When Jesus says “yet,” I stop and ponder. He would have said that knowing she would connect the dots – and trust in his timing – to either begin or not. Mary’s walk with him even in this joyous occasion contained the moment of understanding that even at a friend’s wedding where an impossibility occurred, this too was part of living out the plan of redemption for the chosen people. She simply had to once again, surrender, wait and watch without understanding.

Six days earlier I spent my birthday like none before or since. After thirty-five years of being away from the church, I heard “welcome back” after making a full confession. Expelling the sins from my mouth felt like I was coming up through drudges of mud… so hard and yet so freeing each time a layer was spewed out. My pastor laid his hands on my head and said the words of absolution and I felt like crystal clear water was flowing down over me from on high, washing away every bit of debris. My body was filled with new life and it felt like I was floating off the ground. It was the same for my husband. He was so afraid to go but we found a very trusted priest he was comfortable with but didn’t know well. He was a gem for him; he came out of the confessional crying. “I didn’t know it would be that easy, he said, Look at me – I’m white! God forgave me!” I cried with him and we both prayed in thanksgiving. Why did we stay away? Why did we think our sins were unforgivable? Just as at the wedding in Cana, it seemed impossible. But first came the healing, then forgiveness. On my husband’s grave are the words “love is the flower, mercy is the fruit.” We knew that from coming back to the church, God had a very special plan for our marriage. It began with the desire to have our marriage blessed by the church – to do the annulments – the hard work of understanding covenant – and that in that love for obedience, fruit would come.

We had seventy-five friends and family gather with us in the church that day to celebrate Christ in our marriage. Walking down the aisle hand in hand and kneeling at the altar we raised our eyes to the crucifix and wondered where God would lead us. The reunion of receiving Christ in the Eucharist into our bodies was like heaven on earth, and the world seemed to stop for a moment. His power and magnificence flooded in and gave us new life. I can look back now and see how much God knew what we needed – much like the wine at Cana. God’s timing may seemed to be lacking for so many years but it was us who held out, not him. We weren’t ready for change; to submit or admit our sinfulness. He knew and waited. His timing. That word “yet” really comes into play when you think about it. Only one year later my husband would receive his diagnosis of Lewy body dementia. God would give us nine years to work out our shortcomings and come closer. Showering us in grace through sacrifice, pain and sorrow brought us to receive his cross as our own. Mary was with us through it all, showing us the way to “do whatever he tells you.”

Mary is known as the new Eve and Jesus as the new Adam. When Jesus gave the beloved disciple John to his mother from the cross, he gave her to all of us. Jesus knew at the wedding that when he said “what have you to do with me” that they both would enter into the sacrifice of the cross. I think it began with Mary’s intercession – action – and true faith even in the face of what looked like impossible. Jesus gives the gift of wine to the wedding feast, the gift of himself on the cross. Mary is there in both places next to her son, acknowledging his gift. She gives him back to the Father at the cross and receives his gift of us through John. She is showered in grace and becomes the mother of mankind. She shows us the way to unite ourselves to her son, through her great love. We are now the adopted sons and daughters of the most high God because of their great fiats.

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Walking with Mary to the Cross Series-5

5 – Mary and the loss of Jesus at the Temple – Mary protector of the lost

“Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it …

What? They did not know where he was? Probably most of us can relate to the fear of losing the location of a child for even a few brief moments. Not a good feeling and yet total relief when they are found. You don’t know whether to hug them or be mad at them. We can be this way with ourselves too. Lost in thought, in our selfishness, agenda, ambitions – blinded to what is going on around us that needs our attention. Mary and Joseph both believed he was with the other and so were going along happily with their friends, without worry. But eventually they stopped and realized it wasn’t true, and he was missing. Fear, anxiety and worry set in.

I was lost for a long time from my faith. I believed in God, Jesus and the all the Saints. I knew Mary as the Mother of God. But I didn’t practice my faith. At a time in my life that I faced a crisis in a failing marriage, no one directed me towards the church. My ignorance actually pushed me away with a grave misunderstanding and so I left. Lost hope. Turned away from God. Yet I still prayed – God help me. I l looked to replace him in other churches, work, people. But he wasn’t there, yet he was. I know the Father walked with me but for so long I didn’t know how to come to know it. I was poorly catechized and turned to the world for all my answers.

Jesus sought out the teachers – he sat with them and listened, he likely asked questions and gave answers. He was there for three days – and Mary searched for three days. His passion was also three days. I ponder on the similarities of Jesus speaking in the Temple to the teachers, to Mary and Joseph double backing to Jerusalem and searching. Then Mary said to him, “your father and I have been searching for you” and he replied, “didn’t you know I was to be in my father’s house.” It seems Jesus was making a real clarification about his unique calling as the Son of God. Did his mission supersede family ties?

When I found my faith and Jesus cleaned up my soul, I had a hard time explaining it to family members. They didn’t want it like I did. Many were/are happy with their lives and don’t really want change. Living a life dedicated to Jesus, openly loving God, Mary and all the saints becomes a calling that cannot be denied. You have to live it fully, openly and with intentionality. You don’t want to do anything less! So I had to change some relationships and up my prayers for these family members. I had to learn to not dummy down my faith for them but speak honestly and truthfully when asked; and not put it in their faces. I could lay seeds, but God needed to provide the sun and rain.

Mary might have had more insight than Joseph recalling the message of Simeon in the temple when he said to her “A sword of sorrow will pierce your heart, your son is set for the rise and fall of many.” Was this the sorrow – losing Jesus for three days? Searching for her twelve year old son had to be sorrowful after three days and then seeing him amongst the temple scholars confusing. What did they want from her son at this time … and would they be involved with him again years later? Mary’s heart would know to trust, surrender and not seek understanding. She knew God would provide and trusted her fiat would carry her even here.

God provided great sun and rain for the seeds of my faith too, both for me and many of my family. I know it is part of the salvation of my husband. Coming back to the church enabled him in time to come back as well, to repent and be received to full communion with the church and God before his death. We both were “found” in the merciful love of Christ who said to St. Faustina, “no sin is greater than my mercy.” I pray to remember each day my own unique calling as a beloved daughter of God who desires to be in union with the Father. May we all be like Mary and not question, but trust, surrender and give to the Lord what we do not understand. He sees the bigger picture. He will provide.

Photo credit: Public Domain, Created: 1854/1855
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Walking with Mary to the Cross Series-4

4 – Mary and the Flight to Egypt – Mary most obedient

Have you ever had something happen to you that set your adrenaline soaring? Years ago a friend and I decided to go camping with a pop-up trailer. We borrowed it from a friend who didn’t use it much and he helped us to hitch it up. We felt very safe in our venture. Traveling along with our young sons in the back seat we felt the world was our oyster! Storms came one afternoon as we were searching for the campground and skies were dark. We finally found it as darkness came upon us and the rain was very close. We pulled into what we thought was a spot and just left the camper hitched up – much like we did the previous nights. We barely got set up before the rain and wind unleashed and howled through the night. We felt like we might have become airborne if not for the car connected to it. In the morning, however, we saw an entirely different picture.

Joseph must have had his adrenaline soaring as well after the dream to leave Bethlehem. He would have to wake Mary who was still tired from giving birth and the long journey from Nazareth. I imagine she just wanted to find a clean place to rest awhile. The Magi had visited and so they stayed right in the cave. Now the dream told him to leave under the cover of darkness. What would Mary say? She had to be aware that Joseph had a dream before that was from God and this would not be something other than from God. She also had to understand he didn’t want any hardship for her and Jesus, so she was most obedient. She would have gathered their few things and made haste. How would she see it in the morning?

The sun was out when we woke after the stormy night. As I stepped out of the trailer it looked like we were on an island. There was water everywhere but our little spot. As I walked around to the car, I took in a sharp breath. We had pulled right next to a ravine that went down very steeply! It was a miracle we did not go down it when we were parking in the night. Very thankful, we had breakfast and closed up camp to hit the road again. At our next location we decided to unhitch the car so we could park and then go out again without disrupting camp.

Life would have been another cross in Egypt. Mary and Joseph would have faced not knowing the language, the landscape, little money nor a job. Joseph’s lead, Jesus’ obedience and Mary’s docility brought them through a difficult time. It began with Joseph’s trusting in the Father’s direction to stay in Egypt until it was safe. He didn’t know if it would be months or years. He knew though that God would lead them when it was time to go again. That kind of trust is not the easiest to keep in place when trials and sufferings come along. To know God is walking with you – as Mary did – takes true surrender.

We came upon our last day of the camping trip and packed up. Securing the camper to the car was a little nerve wracking, as several days had gone by and I didn’t quite remember how it was to be hitched up. My friend and I did what we thought was correct and it looked right, so off we went. However, it wasn’t long when I realized it just didn’t feel the same in pulling it. There was a lag or something that felt like it was there, but not really. The moment we knew it was wrong came without a doubt. We had pulled into a park and there were speed bumps along the driveway. The first bump we went over, the camper went up and off the hitch and down to the ground. Scraping and a big bam as it hit the ground was heard. Had that happened in traffic, or on a hill, it could have been a huge accident that would have affected others and not just us. Dumbfounded – adrenaline spiking, we jumped out of the car to see the damage. The hitch just laid on the ground, chains still connected to the car. But how would we now get it back on the car? This was a heavy trailer! After sitting for awhile pondering how to get the trailer picked up and back on the car, a pickup truck with two men came down the lane. They stopped, looked, smiled and offered us help. Quickly they picked up the trailer hitch like it was a feather and connected it properly. We thanked them profusely and both of us were on our way. Phew. We were glad to be heading home after that adventure.

My friend likes to remind me from time to time of this incident and what she remembered – that when it occurred I bolted out of the car and said “I got this, don’t worry, I got this.” But I didn’t. There was no way I was going to be able to fix it. I had to surrender my inability to change the situation – to accept help from another – and be grateful. Mary did too. Walking to Egypt had to remind her of walking to see Elizabeth, then Bethlehem and now to Egypt. Each time she received more from God about her son and each time she had to trust, surrender and be obedient. My camping adventure isn’t quite the same – but I think you get the picture. The next time your adrenaline soars with a change or situation, pause. God will be there to help you or he will send someone. Be open, docile and obedient and walk in humility if need be. Crosses come and go but we will never be without one if we are to truly follow Mary and her son.

Photo credits: Public domain and owned

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Walking with Mary to the Cross Series-3

3 – Mary and the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple – Mary Most Pure

We all know the story of the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple – it was Jewish Law given by Moses that after the birth of a child the mother was to wait forty days before coming near to anything that was holy. This is a great link to the scripture and a detailed explanation https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/seasons-and-feast-days/presentation-of-the-lord-20666

But how does this mystery fit in with Mary walking to the Cross? I wondered myself for quite awhile as to why I chose this to be part of the Lenten series. It was a key moment for Mary and so I think I found with research and writing why it should be here.

Three points brought me to consider how Mary chose to experience the Presentation of our Lord – her son – at the Temple. First, we know that Mary expressed great humility and resignation. She was the temple – she carried the true Lamb of God in her womb! But Mary did not seek to set herself apart. She went to fulfill the law. It makes a woman stop and think about how much humility and resignation we might give to something that we shouldn’t have had to do but did it anyway for the sake of others, to be hidden and interior instead of loud and out front. Mary could have made a big deal but tried instead to blend in and do exactly what was expected. It would almost seem like that she would be acting as a door mat – lowering herself beyond what was necessary almost being foolish. But I stop to consider Mary’s intentions – and that couldn’t be the answer. Mary most pure, gentle and meek. Mary immaculate, sorrowful, faithful, prudent and devout. All the words to describe our heavenly Mother do not point anyway near defiance. Was it hard for her? I doubt it. It was her nature. She was conceived without sin – I believe that had to make the real difference between her and all of us. So she became the model for us – yes – the model of humility and resignation we strive for in ourselves to seek the road that she took, dying to self in a very natural way, doing sometimes what we did not want or need to do but because it was expected. And to do it without the fanfare or others knowing we did it. That is walking to the cross because our very big prideful hearts must die to themselves, and her son showed us the way.

My second point is how Mary actually shows up at the Temple. She stayed away for forty days, she brought the two turtle doves, gives them over and pays the sin offering. She was obedient to the law to the fullest. She offered everything that was required at the right time, place and method. She did all this with intentionality. Again, she didn’t have to. But she prepared, followed through and fulfilled the law. Mary brings her son to be offered and I think about what I offer to the Father. When I came back into the Catholic faith after being gone for years I was a mess. I was so hungry for my newfound faith – it was like I was in a pin ball machine ricocheting everywhere. But my desire was in offering my whole self to the Father, to Christ and just knew I couldn’t give less. I had to show up in Mass, adoration, confession; I had to attend the talks, special services and missions. God had my attention much like Mary’s at the Annunciation. There would be no turning back. The Holy Spirit led me to a deeper encounter with each passing year and in time I knew more of why it couldn’t be anything less. The walk to the cross was the saying goodbye to a life I used to know – to friends and family who would not agree with my new life – and being able to say yes, Lord, I want you. Your grace is sufficient for me. Your giving me a cross to carry is what I want.

My third point then is what happened with Simeon and Anna, the widow. Just being in the vicinity of the holy family made Simeon pause to realize something was different. Pope St. John Paul II stated

“Simeon’s words seem like a second Annunciation to Mary, for they tell her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely, in misunderstanding and sorrow. While this announcement on the one hand confirms her faith in the accomplishment of the divine promises of salvation, on the other hand it also reveals to her that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering, at the side of the suffering Savior, and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful.”

There is no doubt of Mary’s importance to women – her life is the ultimate model in how to reflect Christ to the world. Charity, humility, continued purification and even mortification is necessary by women in order to show our Lord’s face in every day life. Yet it is in satiating our thirst for him, desiring our hearts and minds to be in union with our emotions and thoughts – which always want to do good – is the cross we will carry. I say this because far too often mingled in with our desires to be pleasing is the judgements and critical thinking, vanity, pride, lust, sloth, gluttony, greed, envy; all these are our downfall. We fall in our humanness! Daily life, driving, dealing with work, school, community and our families all give us that time of putting ourselves right and another wrong. But now in this time of purification – as we too offer ourselves back to God, we must put our eyes on Christ who forgives our every weakness. How do we do this in the world that requires so much from us? Once again, it is often to seek humility, charity, meekness and the docility Mary exhibited. Placing myself last. Closing my mouth sooner. Choosing the smaller, less significant. Not seeking to be understood but accepting something lesser. Praying for those that inconvenience me. Intentional acts of quiet, unobserved piety that only our heavenly Father can see. Like Anna, sharing the word of God in all areas whenever possible.

Today in the collect of the Mass, we hear “look kindly, Lord, we pray, on the devotion of your people, that those who by self-denial are restrained in body, may by the fruit of good works be renewed in mind.” Let’s help each other to remember we aren’t perfect, but every act of dying to self helps us to carry our cross with Mary.

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Walking with Mary to the Cross Series-2

2 – Mary at Bethlehem – Mary Mother of the newborn King

Today’s blog post brings us to the Nativity, where Mary relies upon the grace of God and shares her Son with the world. She cannot control the outcome of love and hate that will come upon him as she extends him into the creche, but trusts that God’s will be done. As we ponder and walk with Mary, we can see how those first moments of Jesus life were the very first steps to the cross she had to take. I share with you a story of my own life and the releasing of control for God’s will to be done.

The birth of my son had a very dramatic entrance into life.  He was three weeks past my due date and doctors were worried.  So was I.  It was Memorial Day when I finally went into labor and at 19 years old, I had no idea what to expect.  When we went to the hospital, I was told I was already at four centimeters – whatever that meant – so they registered me and off we went to labor and delivery.  It was about nine o’clock in the morning.  Little did I know that in just a few short hours, the happy excitement would turn to one of confusion, sadness and fear.  For those early hours, everything moved forward as planning to be a normal delivery.  Nurses would come and go checking on me throughout the morning.  About one o’clock things started to change.  My baby’s heart rate was elevated, and I was not progressing in dilation.  A special belt was placed around my abdomen to monitor things.  No one spoke much to me except to say keep calm and breath deep.  Everything was going to be fine.

Could we say that Jesus, too, had a very dramatic entrance into life?  Mary rode sideways on a donkey for miles and miles, in the dusk and chill of the night.  She must have been hungry, had a hurting back, legs and just wanted to lay down.  But Joseph could find no rooms.  Poor Joseph!  What was he thinking to take Mary across the country while she was pregnant and so close to delivery?  Already the world was turning their back on Jesus, rejecting him through Joseph before he was even born.  Joseph could not find one open and friendly door to allow Mary to rest.  What confusing thoughts must have gone through Mary’s head about how he discerned this was a good idea – census or not.  Her heart though must have hung as heavy as his.  Mary in her goodness would wait; silently pondering in her obedience towards her husband who she knew would provide through the grace of God.  Her trust and faith in the Holy Spirit would keep her calm, ready and waiting for the moment in which the miracle would happen.  I can imagine this holy Mother of God thinking everything will be fine because God had a plan and she knew she just had to trust.

I needed to trust.  But things got worse.  About three o’clock, my child’s heart rate apparently met an all-time high and all sorts of alarming codes sounded in my room.  A new Doctor came in and examined me.  He told me my birth canal was too small and tilted and the baby would not make it down alive.  I was told I would now have a caesarean section.  I was in shock.  How was it they did not know this before?  Would he make it?  What was going on inside me?  It took several more hours of painful contractions and watching a frantic staff arrange and prep me in an operating room for this new delivery. My husband could not be there.  I was alone.  I cried out to God for help, to save my child.  I was given drugs.  Things got very dark.  More people and noisy machines came into the room.  I could no longer feel anything except the growing stress of everyone present.

How was Mary was not frantic when they could not find a decent place to bring their child into the world?  The smelly, cool, dark cave Joseph was directed to must have been something very hard to accept as the birthplace for Jesus.  Lowly, damp, dirty for sure.  Mary had no time left – she was in labor and this was going to be the place.  Yet God did provide.  A stable – no one would disturb them; it was out of the wind and away from people.  A manger – a feeding trough to lay the new baby in.  This baby to be laid in a feeding trough that would one day become food for us – yet Mary cannot even think beyond this present moment of caring for a baby who relied totally on her.  Jesus had no control over anything and relied on her for everything.  Yet he was the Son of the most-high God!  You would think he could but as he took on our humanity, he gave up his control.  The time had come to bring him out from the safety of Mary’s body where she alone adored and comforted him – controlling his world – into a world where she could no longer protect him as she had been. 

This was Mary’s first step to the cross – with him – encountering a world where there was no room for such a King.  No room would have been good enough, so the lowest place was chosen.  He would only go up from here. They were alone with Jesus only for a short time before the Shepherds came. Mary must have hesitated to move him to that manger – she had held him for nine months and they were one with each other.  To lay him in that manger meant separation – and she knew that one day that separation would be even stronger than sharing him as she now was about to.  Did it stress our heavenly mother?  As she lay looking at him, she would remember her scriptures and what the angel told her… Do not be afraid Mary, you have found favor with God…. You will name him Jesus … He will be great …. And his kingdom will reign forever.  (Paraphrased).  Looking at him her heart must have been so filled with love – of fullness and of anticipation.  Could there have been any desire to hold him back? I don’t think so.  Mary wanted to fully participate in God’s plan for her son; His son; and died to her own deep feelings as mother.

My son was born but I did not get to hold him.  He was given over to the nurses and doctors as he could not breath.  His earlier distress was because he began to take breaths while still within me and his lungs were filled with fluids.  It was six-thirty at night, and they informed me he would be flown to another hospital – a high risk neo-natal hospital far across the city.  I was left alone in the maternity wing to recover and would see him when I was discharged two days later. My heart was broken – I was alone and had no idea who would care for my newborn child.  Where was God?  Why did this happen?  Instead of trusting in God, I grew angry.  Another way to punish me I thought for my sinful ways.  But I still prayed to be healed, to recover so I could go and help my son.  My faith was very shallow but there was still a spark – my guess it held by the prayers of others.  It was so hard to not have control of what I was responsible for.  I had to let go of what I could not change.  It was not my first cross to pick up, but it was truly one of the hardest. 

As Mary began to share Jesus first with the Shepherds and then with the three Kings, she had to each time let go of her own control.  Naturally she would be leery of anyone – especially strangers – to come too close to her newborn son.  But this wasn’t just her son.  She knew he was bound for greatness – and that anyone – and yes everyone who encounters him – would be affected by this newborn King.  And we are.  I have learned over my many years that control is just another form of pride.  That what I want to happen does not always need or get to happen because I think it should.  That God really is in control – and he alone.  He has all the days planned out; our purpose defined – to know, love and serve him and others.  He knows what crosses we will need to pick up and carry.  He knows our attitudes, joys and sorrows.  He knows it all because he dwells within us just as he did in Mary.  We are his tabernacles at every communion.  He knows our souls.  He loves and desires us to be in union with him.  But oh how we fight to keep our independence. 

I eventually reunited with my son at his hospital and after two weeks and we both came home.  His lungs were clear, and he sings very well today, using them to the best of his abilities.  I forgave God enough to have him baptized Catholic, yet I carry another cross that he does not know God as  I do.  I pray in his lifetime Jesus will capture his heart and we will beat as one again in the great love of the newborn King. 

In this present moment, we can ask Mary to help us remember God’s plan and ways are better than our own even when it incurs a cross to pick up. That’s not always the way we think it should be but by releasing our control and pride and accepting His grace and deep desire for us to draw near, we can rejoice in the struggle, hard as that seems.  I think that’s what God’s plan is about – giving us the grace to endure the normal trials of ups and downs in life, nor to be satisfied with joys, but to rejoice greatly in the ones that call us aside and challenge us to draw closer to God – to really let go of our control – as Mary did in the first laying down of her son in the manger.  Dying to self puts control to shame; it raises our hearts to Mary’s in an act of great humility and meekness, docility and obedience to God’s will.  I can’t think of anyone who won’t or hasn’t carried this cross.  But we are never alone to carry it.  Isiah 41:10 clearly states “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” 

Photo credits: Giorgione – National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C., online collection

Personal photo

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