Mary at the foot of our cross

I have a dear friend who is a marvelous cantor, and who has a lovely wardrobe as well. Each week, she can be counted on to wear an outfit that subtly melds with the Liturgical season, so that she doesn’t compete on the visible horizon. Last week, as lector, though, I knew that I would clash with the predominant red splashed across the church — from the vestments to the altar cloths, from the bountiful flowers to the mournful shrouds over the statues. And yet I remained committed that morning — to blue. 

I promise it wasn’t about me, but about Our Lady, because throughout each segment of the Liturgical year, I want to think with the mind of Mary, love with the heart of Mary, and pray with the soul of Mary. As the woman of the promise, she is my template for feminine action — which can be active or meditative, generous or restrained, visible or invisible. Mary was the perfect disciple, the faithful handmaiden, and the model for the maternal Church — in which all women find an archetype for their lives.

It wasn’t always thus. In fact as a convert, I found it difficult to grasp what Mary was doing — because she was so hidden, so quiet. She spoke rarely, and never pontificated. Technically, I knew that she was essential to the mission of the Redeemer, but to modern sensibilities, there wasn’t much to latch onto. That’s why we need to let go of those modern sensibilities and think with the refined mind of the ancient Church. After decades of prayer, I finally grasped that hers was not a vocation of doing, but of being: being empty in order to be filled with God. 

Now that the Lenten fast has given way to the banquet of Easter, we might ask what Mary is thinking about the children entrusted to her from that all-powerful cross. I can’t imagine revelry quite yet. As wonderful as Easter is — it’s everything to a believer! — Lent continues for much of the world.

Lent continues for millions of Christians persecuted around the world, and who are paying an enormous price for fidelity. Lent continues for those in poverty and distress, especially those who depend wholly on the generosity of others for their daily bread. Lent continues for those facing debilitating illness or injuries, as well as for their families who care for them each day. Lent continues for those who suffer from addictions, and struggle to find the strength to heal and regain healthy lifestyles. Lent continues for the millions still laboring in slavery — whether in sweatshops or brothels around the world. And Lent continues for children scarred by family dysfunction and the lack of healthy examples on which to model their lives.

Each person in these circumstances has been hoisted on his own cross, and how comforting it would be to know the streams of grace that can flow from the wounds that are joined to Christ’s. Our Lord didn’t come to banish suffering but to transform it, and the same woman who stood beneath His cross stands by ours as well. Although her heart is pierced by our pain, her maternal care doesn’t flinch. Quiet, unassuming and humble she may be, but that doesn’t mean she’s not patient, courageous, and strong. Those attributes don’t require words, but faith.

May her example transform your Lent — however long it may last — and may we console others by our compassion and support. Just as Mary stands by us, we must stand by others at the darkest times, so that the truth of Easter be manifest to all.

Anchor columnist Mrs. Kineke is the author of “The Authentic Catholic Woman.” She blogs at feminine-genius.typepad.com.

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