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.
Image: “Madonna and Child” by Titian via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0.
I am sure Mary was with me all thectime I was raising my children. When my first experience with Jesus. I just wasn’t aware. I Love Jesus and Mary. Blessings.
Really a wonderful sharing… Something a mother can only experience and to a lesser extend a father too….
Someone once said, “Every time you say “Mary,”
Mary says “Jesus” for you.
–a beautiful way to pray to Jesus through Mary.
Julie, God leads us in the way we are to go at exactly the right time. Mary WAS beside you during your children’s young lives, loving them with you, inspiring you. That’s what mothers do (I’m sure you did it so many times)–guide their children in ways they never realize. As Mary’s own child, She guided you. No time lost there. You are just aware of Her now in new ways.
And thank you, Becky, for your beautiful reflection.
Dear Becky –
How graced to see Our Lady blessed you with empathy -one mom to another – and you have blessed us with
a new awareness of the actions of God in our ordinary lives. Thank you………..Lyn F.
I so wish I had had a deeper relationship with Mary and Jesus while I was raising my young family. I always felt that I was self-sufficient and didn’t need support. Now I realize how much better our family life could have been if I had leaned on the Blessed Mother and her Son for their strength and love. As a grandmother, I am now trying to express that to my grown children as they raise their own families.
Becky, the Spiritual Exercises also gave me a deeper understanding and relationship with Mary. Mary always leads us to her Son. Thank you for sharing so poignantly – I learn so much from your reflections. Blessings.