Luke Learns from Mary

James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). Saint Luke (Saint Luc), 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 5 7/16 x 3 15/16 in. (13.8 x 10 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.207 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.207_PS2.jpg)

In honor of the October 18 feast of St. Luke, let’s listen in to an imagined story by the evangelist.

It started with Mary. I first met her during a trip with Paul, who I first joined in Troas; we went throughout Macedonia, so a stop in Ephesus was easy to manage. Mary was mending as she sat in a simple room where sun poured in from a high window. Her sunny disposition mirrored the light.

While I never met Jesus in person, I loved sitting with his elderly mother. She had a musical laugh, and she knew stories of her son that I’d never heard before, including the parable about a prodigal son. Listening to Mary’s retelling felt like a first-person encounter with the Risen One.

Mary taught me a lot about how to slow down and choose words carefully. I could tell that the way she pondered was not simply due to her advanced years. Her gentle femininity set me at ease, and I began to share with her what I’d written during my adventures with Paul. He and I were always on the move. I enjoyed reading my travel log to her.

“You have a gift, Luke,” Mary said. Her attentive listening helped me revisit experiences in ways that enriched my understanding. She suggested we pray to her son and ask him to examine what I’d written. We looked back over my days, watching for footprints of the Holy Spirit.

A thought began to form in my head.

“Tell me about being the mother of the Messiah,” I queried. I visited her more than once. Something was growing inside me; God was hinting at me to write a Gospel. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. And who was I that God was calling me to write about my Lord and his mother?

In my first account I began writing about her son’s parable of the good Samaritan. It spoke to what Jesus was all about: loving so generously that even enemies were easy to serve. And I wrote about Mary’s experiences as a mother traveling while pregnant. I can only imagine how grueling that was.

When Mary said, “I have another story to tell you,” I leaned in as she told me about Cleopas for the first time. Hearing about the disciples on fire after meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus confirmed that I needed to keep writing. This story needed to be told.

What lessons did I learn along the way, traveling with the charismatic Paul and interviewing the Mother of God?

  • Go to the source. Go to Jesus in prayer.
  • Let actions result from prayer.
  • Spend time with holy people, and don’t be afraid to visit them.
  • Recognize that Jesus is Love. Let love motivate everything. Live love deeply, daily.
  • Be willing to make sacrifices in order to serve and proclaim that Jesus is Lord.

The last time I saw Mary she invited me to break off a sprig of rosemary from a plant outside her door. “Its scent will help you remember,” she said.

I wish I had time to write another account, because the Gospel isn’t finished. It’s alive, just as Jesus is. The faith community will have much more to say.

Image: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). Saint Luke (Saint Luc), 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 5 7/16 x 3 15/16 in. (13.8 x 10 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.207 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.207_PS2.jpg)

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Loretta Pehanich is a Catholic freelance writer and the author of 2022: A Book of Grace-Filled Days, Women in Conversation: Stand Up!, and Fleeting Moments: Praying When You Are Too Busy. A spiritual director since 2012, Loretta is trained in giving the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Her involvement in ministry and parish life includes 20 years in small faith-sharing groups and Christian Life Community. Loretta gives retreats and presentations on prayer and women’s spirituality and is commissioned as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. She and her husband Steve have four children and 10 grandchildren.


  1. Thank you Loretta. That was beautiful. I have a big problem with imaginative prayer. I find it very difficult to keep at it. This appeared so simple. I shall give it a few more attempts.

    • I’m delighted to hear that. God can communicate with us in any way, when we are open to receive. I’ll say a prayer for you as you try again.

  2. Thank you , that was delightful! Maybe it was true. ??.
    The translation of Luke’s and I think Mark’s “The Our Father” , would be much more real than the one everyone says.: which was written 400 years ago by :WHO??? Luke’s was translated from Aramaic which was what Jesus spoke. As Jesus said, don’t ramble on like the Pagans (or words to that effect). Sorry , this is from my following the Jesuits !!! A.M.D.G.

    • Yes, Doug! Because we are all writing a Gospel with our lives right now! The message of Jesus needs to be read in our lives today because the world needs more hope and stronger faith.


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