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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Motherhood of Mary


I grew up in a very chaotic home; my parents were divorced when I was eight and a short time later, Mom was diagnosed as a "Manic-Depressive" (Currently known as "Bipolar Disorder"). I will not go into detail as to what my brother and I suffered during those years forward...suffice to say that I still have a difficult relationship with my mother and I still find it hard to trust in her or anyone else.

I want you to understand, however, that my mother is a Saint. Even through her disease, while she fought the extremes to which she was taken, she never let go of Our Lady's hand. It drove me crazy; I saw her as a fanatic especially when she constantly thrust reading material with regard to the Blessed Mother under my nose and demanded that I read it RIGHT NOW! I rarely read any of it, and in fact, I pulled away from any devotion to the Mother of God just because it was "Mom's thing", and as we all knew, Mom was nuts.

Yeah, Mom was mentally ill...but she could see clearly enough to know who would see us all through. It wasn't Mom so much as Our Lady that kept my brother and I from going off the deep end ourselves, although we had plenty of opportunities. I am certain, in looking back, that Mom asked the Blessed Mother to take over, to watch over us because she could not, and to somehow provide the protection we so desperately needed in a world that would never have our best interests at heart.

Yes, I fell away from the Church, I got into all sorts of things I should not have gotten into, and when I finally came home, I know it was because of the prayers of my Mother. While I am most certainly an emotional person, my conversion was intellectual as I sought to have my questions answered, and as, in the background, Mom prayed even though she knew nothing of my life. Even as she underwent her myriad of trials, she prayed for us, and her prayers did not go unanswered.

As I came Home to the faith, I did not have a relationship with Our Lady. I always remembered the devotion from my youth, however. Mom had taught us to pray the rosary, and we hated it, but it was part of our life, especially when storms hit. I learned from Mom to flee to Our Lady when there was trouble, and to ask for her assistance and her sheltering arms. In particular, I remember one storm durng which I sat on the step as Mom rushed around closing the windows and herding us into the closet in the face of the tornado warnings and raging winds and lightning. I had taken out a rosary and even though my brother laughed at me, I prayed Hail Marys with all my heart and soul, and I am convinced to this very day that all of Heaven responded to protect us during that storm.

Yet when I came back to the Church, I did not know Mary, and I did not understand all the devotions to her, although I accepted them because they have always been a part of my life and the life of my Mother.

Slowly, this has been changing, little by little. I knew I needed her presence in my home, so when my last Grandmother died, I took the small portion of the estate I was given and I bought a statue of Our Lady, a Renaissance Madonna with the most tender of expressions, pulling her veil around the infant Jesus resting in the crook of her left arm. Ever since this statue entered my home, my devotion to her has grown, and I have begun saying the rosary nearly every day.

Slowly, I have been approaching her for intercession, begging for her assistance, and coming to a theological understanding as to who she is, amazement at her creation, and wonder at her maternity of us all.

Of late, I have fallen in love with her icon, the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I don't know what it is about this particular image, but she draws me in so intimately; and through this, there has been an even deeper union with Jesus, especially as the child in her arms.

Ever since I bought my house a few years ago, I have been seeking an image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to match the Sacred Heart of Jesus hanging near the crucifix in my livingroom, but I've had no luck. The image I grew up with is nowhere to be found. To date, I still have a bare spot on the wall dedicated to a picture I don't have.

I have also begun seeking an icon for my wall, more recently, of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I found a votive dedicated to her and it has been constantly lit when I am home. I don't know why, but this is the image that most appeals to me at this time in my life, and she has drawn me deeper into the mystery of the redemption, as well as the mystery of her maternal love for all of us.

Today, Mother's Day, I went into my parish's gift shop before Mass to purchase some votive inserts, and something told me to "look around." I resisted; for fear I would buy something I don't need right now and can't afford. So I remained focused, even as that little feeling told me to "glance around the store."

Just as my candles were rung up, I happened to lift my eyes to the back wall...to see an image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the ONLY one I've been able to find since I first fell in love with the icon from an online image.

I asked about the cost...not nearly as dear as a more authentic copy of the icon, which I'd never be able to afford. I wasn't in love with the gold frame, but it was passable. I started to walk away, but couldn't. Her eyes would not let me go, and I realized this particular image was in place for me.

I bought the picture, and happened to run into a priest just as I left the store and headed to Mass. I didn't even have to seek him out to bless the icon.

Now the oddest thing is happening...I experimented with a couple places, but in my home, this picture has only ONE place, and it is as though this section of wall was MADE for her icon. And I can't expalin it, but ever since I hung it there, my home has taken on a sense of her maternal presence and protection that I did not discern prior to this, in spite of other images and statues placed in various rooms.

Do not ever fear to go to Our Lady for her intercession....at the foot of the Cross, Jesus instituted her maternity over us all. She is truly our mother. She truly answers our prayers and in doing so, she leads us ever closer to Jesus, always pointing to him through every action.

I still have a long ways to go in my relationship with my earthly mother, but it seems Our Lady is reaching out to me and today, gave me a gift I did not expect. I am not a mother, only a daughter, but it seems our heavenly mother is not adverse to reminding her children that she is present and ready to assist us with our earthly needs.

Maybe someone reading this has the same difficulty as I in understanding motherhood; go to the Blessed Mother. Let yourself be absorbed into this icon, each and every line, each and every color, and ask her for help. She will never disappoint you.

7 comments:

Fr. V said...

Interesting you should talk about being drawn in by her eyes in the icon. It is not just art as in the western use of portrates and statues. To Eastern Catholics it means much more. By contemplating the icon we are to look into heaven through their eyes to be able to contemplate God. Apparently it works for you!

Don't know if you know a lot about this icon. Notice Jesus leans in toward His Mother as if for protection. He looks up and sees a vision of angels who show Him some of the instruments of His death that he will have to face later in life. He is so struck that his sandle litterally flies off!

But Mother remains calm and sure and comforting and looks at us as if to say, "I was here for Him. See? And I am here for you too!"

Adoro te Devote said...

fr. v. ~ I actually hadn't heard that about the sandal. I have a book that discusses this icon, but if I remember correctly, it was citing him fleeing so quickly to his mother upon seeing the instruments of his torture that his sandal loosened/ came off.

I have been thinking of posting the info on the icon from my book, but I want to do a little more research before I do.

I have been AMAZED at how much she draws me in....and the eyes are incredible.

uncle jim said...

AND, if oyu ever get to Northwest Ohio, in the little town of Carey, there is a great Basillica and shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Help ... and they have summer pilgimages and special outdoor Masses [to accommodate the throngs of hurting who are there seeking her intercession]. Many miracles are attributed to her intercession at this wonderful place. Maybe you could get Fr V to come, too ... he's probably about 1-1/2 to 2 hours away

Terry Nelson said...

Another lovely post. I didn't read it right away because I don't like Mother's Day. My mom was probably bi-polar as well, though undiagnosed...she medicated with alcohol and sex.

Concerning Our Mother of perpetual Help:

I was commissioned to paint a large icon of her for a Church near St. Cloud, the Churcch of St. Anthony. I sensibly felt her presence as I worked upon the image. As I finished it, I "heard" an interior voice saying,
"Though I am arrayed as a Queen and have great glory in heaven, while upon earth I was an ordinary woman, doing ordinary things...I cooked, I cleaned...I took care of my family." It seemed to me Our Lady told me this and that she wanted everyone to know that she indeed was a lowly handmaid of the Lord while on earth...that we can attain holiness in and through the ordinariness of our daily duties.

Adoro te Devote said...

uncle jim ~ I'd LOVE to go there! And sure, I'll swing by and pick up Fr. V. on the way. Maybe we'll bring a contingent. (How many Catholics will fit in a Saturn?)

:-)

Terry ~ That is SO COOL! I'm finding that I want to get my pencils out and draw this icon myself. This is so amazing...each line is just enrapturing.

One of the things that I understand mroe and more is not only her status as the Mother of God, but her own humble beginnings, and the reality and hardship of her life on earth. She seems more "motherly" to me now. Hard to explain.

knit_tgz said...

I am sorry to say I cannot relate emotionally to Mary. I understand her importance, and have no trouble with the marian dogmas. I simply cannot understand why would I need a relationship with her. I mean, I understand she points us to Christ, and she is the most glorious of all creatures God made (Christ is not creature, hence...) but as long as I love God, isn't this enough?

I truly struggle with this, and I suppose I'm missing something, but I don't know what.

Adoro te Devote said...

knit_tgz ~ I understand what you mean, and I am still cultivating my devotion to her...this particular icon has done much to do that. The reality is that you already HAVE a relationship with her as she was given to us all by Jesus, at the foot of the altar. if you look at the Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual help, you see the child Jesus has run to her when shown the symbols of his death. He has his palms pressed downward into her upraised hands, which is a symbol of his giving graces to her for all of us. Look further at the icon; she is not looking at Jesus or the angels, but at US, inviting us into this mystery.

You already have a relationship with her, just for now, it is unacknowledged...by YOU. Don't worry...just start introducing yourself to her in prayer. Say a Hail Mary per day, considering what it is; the first part the very words of the Angel Gabriel, and the second, a simple request for her prayer for you.

But remember that it is not Mary that saves us; you can be redeemed without devotion to her. Many Catholics don't have a devotion to Mary.

Hope that helps! :-)