This post is based on Week Four of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.
I prayed most of the Spiritual Exercises with a baby in my arms. I began making them when our daughter, Abby, was one month old. When I began the Second Week of the Exercises, she was almost six months old and just starting to sit up. Most of my days at that time were spent sitting on the floor playing with her and keeping up with our two-year-old son, who happened to be in the early months of potty training.
I didn’t expect to fall in love with Mary like I did during the Second Week, nor did I expect that our shared experiences of motherhood would help me get to know Jesus in a whole new way. But that’s exactly what happened.
Pieces of Mary’s life seemed to mirror my own. She left her home to birth a baby, and I birthed Abby in a city 600 miles away from our hometown, having relocated 11 months prior to her birth. As I rocked my daughter, I often ached with homesickness for my family and my community, wondering if Mary longed for her community in Nazareth the way I did for mine. The daily Scriptures of Jesus’ childhood seemed to come alive in my day. As I wiped spit-up off my shoulder, I pondered if Mary did the same thing. As my son learned to go to the big-boy potty, it hit me that Mary probably taught Jesus the most basic tasks that were consuming most of my days.
As I marveled at the wonder of my children’s development, I understood what it meant for Mary to ponder things in her heart. When I watched my children fall and scrape a knee, my heart hurt as they cried out in pain. What must it have been like for Mary to watch Jesus suffer?
I never expected to get to know Jesus through Mary, but I did. Mary showed me Jesus’ humanity. She showed me, through the gestures of motherhood, Jesus’ shared experiences with us. She helped me see that when we say the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, that it is within dwellings we understand and live our shared human experience, no matter our culture, our religion, or our country. She revealed Jesus to me through my daily life experiences as a mother of an infant and a toddler.
Now, we’ve moved back to our hometown to raise our now ten- and almost eight-year-olds. There is the beautiful addition of another daughter, who is toddling around at a similar age as my son was when I made the Exercises. Mary, too, was able to return to her hometown to raise her son. Life has changed, but my affection for Mary remains, and her ability to reveal her son to me in the reality of my life only strengthens.