Standing Next to Mary

Mary and Jesus - by Zvonimir Atletic/

I find myself wondering often about the ordinary moments in the Holy Family’s life, particularly the day-to-day moments of Mary’s life with Jesus. Perhaps this is because I am a mother myself, and as an ordinary mother, I desire to feel a kinship with the Blessed Mother, who is so integral to my faith. Too often, however, I have put Mary on a pedestal. She deserves so much honor, but when I place her up there and then stand beneath her, I fall into the trap of believing that there is only so close I can come to being like her in this life.

When Mary is up on that pedestal, she is like the perfect image of a mother I tend to see on Instagram. She is always quiet and kind. She is either the patient, homeschooling mom with perfect daily lessons or the working mom who never fails to have time to help Jesus with his homework. This Mary has a house that is always clean. She places a home-cooked, nutrient-dense meal on the table every night at the perfect time. The conversations at this Mary’s dinner table are always rich and productive, and she never fails to be the perfect listener, keeping all she hears safe in her heart—and in the perfectly organized memory box.

I wonder sometimes if placing Mary on this pedestal and painting this perfect image of her life does a disservice to her. After all, God chose an ordinary human being to hold and birth God’s Son. He sent an angel to a poor, illiterate young girl in a small town and invited her to be Jesus’ mom. In my heart, I just don’t think God intended for her to be perfect at it.

In fact, I think God intended for her to be human.

Lately, I have been overcome by the desire for a more human, more ordinary Mary. More and more, I’ve sought to contemplate those hidden moments between Jesus’ birth and his death. In this contemplation, I imagine such moments as Mary encountering Jesus coming home sad because he was struggling to relate to other children his age. After all, he was a deep thinker. What if he were always years beyond the other children? What if they just didn’t “get” him? I also imagine the possibility that Jesus had delayed milestones. Maybe he didn’t walk at one and talk by the time he was two. Some brilliant thinkers of our time had delayed milestones. In this imagining, I can almost feel Mary’s anxiety as she encourages Jesus just to try to say something. I can feel the ache in her heart that says, “Maybe I did something wrong.” I can feel it, because I’ve experienced it too.

These moments of contemplation about the ordinary days of Mary and Jesus give me great peace. They help me feel a closer kinship to the Mother of God. They help me take her down from the pedestal for a while and stand next to her. They help me feel like maybe I have more in common with her than I thought.

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Gretchen Crowder
Gretchen Crowder has served as a campus minister and Ignatian educator for the Jesuit Dallas community for the last 15 years. She is also a freelance writer and speaker and is the host of Loved As You Are: An Ignatian Podcast. She has a B.S. in mathematics and a M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame as well as an M.T.S. from the University of Dallas. She resides in Dallas, TX, with her husband, three boys, and an ever-growing number of pets.


  1. Dear Gretchen that was such a lovely reflection. I too had put Mary on a pedestal for all these years. I am going to try and get her down and next to me. I am going to see her in a new light and try to be like her. My children have flown the nest, but I can be a mother to many others. Thank you Gretchen.

  2. Mary IS one of a kind, in many obvious ways.

    But she was human. And she was a mother. Her concerns were our own. Indications are that she was financially poor, if not finding a room at the inn is any indication. And yes, she did live a plain, daily life with her carpenter husband and growing child. I don’t find all this “trivializing”. Quite the contrary. I think there is deep meaning in it. Jesus always turned to the poor and outcasts and sinners to do his work. Everyday folk. This has the effect of emphasizing the dignity of each one of us. He entered Jerusalem mounted on a mule, celebrated with nothing more than palm fronds.

    “he has cast down the mighty from their thrones
    and lifted up the lowly;
    He has filled the hungry and sent away the rich empty handed…”

  3. Anything you do that brings you closer to God must be a good thing.
    I am starting to learn (and trying hard to see daily) that everything comes from God. Fio example instead of thinking that i thought of something or did something, i try and thank God for bringing me that thought/knowledge or for making me do something.
    God Bless you and your beautiful journey.

  4. Mary was not illiterate, we were told she was reading her prayers when Gabriel came. All the stories of her attending the Temple etc and being the Mother to many, i have never read anything about her being extremely poor or illiterate. So I would love to know where you got that information.A.M.D.G.

  5. The Blessed Mother Mary ought to be left as is. She was not poor. She was ‘Chosen’ by Divine Intervention hence the Spiritual essence of her Being. Yes, she is indeed human and a mother. But we ought to be cautious not to bring her so much down to our own individual levels that the whole idea of a Virgin Mother becomes trivialised. I prefer her to remain a role model for women.

  6. Mary is on a pedestal.

    The church tells us she was born without original sin and her virginal conception was immaculate.

    Do not know any other human like this.


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