My friends as you read this it is almost the great Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven. It is a beautiful feast day when we remember with thanks the pivotal role Mary played in our salvation story. This feast is about giving her the honour and dignity that she deserves as the Mother of the Church, and a reminder that she is, in a real way, our Mother too. It was this aspect that has been on my mind in these days. I find myself, especially with so much going on in the Irish Church, and particularly with questions raised around seminary formation, beginning to reflect on Mary. All too often she is relegated to the level of an optional extra, when in fact she is pivotal to our salvation story. Mary as Mother of the Church is at the heart of our journey to God. It is a real shame when we treat her as an add on when in fact she has been given to us as the one who will protect us. She has been given to us as our guide, our inspiration and our protector. However above all she has been given to as our Mother. The concept is as simple as it is profound. It is time again, as we approach yet another beautiful Marian feast, to reflect on the mystery of Mary. Like any mystery at the end of the reflection it will still be a mystery but we might well be
changed by our wrestling with it.
It occurs to me that there is a richness in the term Mary as Mother of the Church and in a very real way in Mary as our Mother. This initially may seem little more than a heady exercise, but I am convinced if we understood it better it could have real significance for how we operate both as individual pilgrims and indeed as faith communities. Once again when we are dealing with the sacred, there will be limited
progress in understanding it if we rely totally on the intellect. Of course this is a very important aspect of our engagement but it needs to be accompanied by personal prayer and a movement of the heart. What might it mean if we embraced Mary as Mother on our pilgrim way? Essentially what we are asking is, what is at the heart of being a mother. Very quickly we see the mother protects, nourishes and guides,
and it is not difficult to see how having Mary in this role is something special for our inner world. However it is important to see how adaptable the mother is to see the changing needs of her children. Does a mother present ideals and show the importance of establishing clear boundaries? Why of course she does, but a good mother knows how to adapt, to let go, to enable, to facilitate. A mother knows that the
child needs to often hear the response ‘ no, you are not going out tonight again’ but also to know the importance of ‘now go out and enjoy your evening!’ People will make the observation, your Mother is always your mother, or your Father, your father. This is true but is it not also the case that both roles change maybe several times over a life time. Does the parent evolve into a friend later? Many of the tensions I hear about between parents and their adult children worsen because the parent cannot accept
that they have completed the task of child-rearing. Sometimes you see people in their twilight years ‘nagging’ their adult children about how they in turn are rearing their children. It is even worse when the issue is a religious one, say for example attending Mass. So then religion, or more specifically the Eucharist becomes the battlefield. Sadly a consequence of this can be people avoid calling, in an effort to avoid the scuffle. It would seem that the sensible approach here is to acknowledge that this aspect of our parenting is over and that we did our best. At this point we acknowledge that my son is now forty not fourteen and having taught him as best we could we now respect him as an adult, pray for him every day and lead by example. As a general rule adult children do not respond well to nagging or hectoring. It is a great pity when the reason for the breakdown, silence or absence is religion, or more especially worship.
If we examine Mary we see the nourisher, protector give way to a mutuality between herself and Jesus. There is a definite journey of Mary growing as a Mother. From nativity to Jesus in the Temple as a boy, then from Cana to the Cross. Eventually she is there in solidarity as a sacred witness. How would our lives be changed, particularly in our relationships, were we to integrate her more fully into how we
relate? Surely her prayerful presence for us would help shape how we grow and develop. It is not an accident that one of her titles is Wisdom. We probably are reasonably familiar with her as protector or intercessor but do we avail of her wisdom and are we conscious that she is eternally there as the prayerful witness to our journey. What would it be like for us as a Church if we made her more fully our
model? We would hector less. We would not nag. We would guide and encourage, sometimes challenge but always be there for each other in prayerful solidarity. It seems that we have still much to learn from Mary, individually and communally and most especially as a Church.