My mother has a figurine of Mary joyfully holding the baby Jesus. She raises him up playfully, and we see their eye contact and the happiness of a young mother spending time with her child. Mary’s flowing hair and dress convey a sense of motion. It’s an image that appeals to me. This is not the dressed all in blue, beautiful yet motionless Mary conveyed in some Marian imagery. This is the human Mary, the young woman enjoying her son.
It only recently occurred to me that St. Ignatius might have liked this small statue. Ignatius had a strong devotion to Mary. He had a consoling vision while convalescing of Mary with the child Jesus. He held vigil before Our Lady of Montserrat, laying down his sword to begin his new life. Mary also played a role in several other incidents during his lifetime.
The Spiritual Exercises invite the retreatant to imagine Mary’s experience at the Annunciation, imagine being at the Nativity, and imagine standing near Mary at the Crucifixion and rejoicing three days later with her at the Resurrection. These are all moments calling forth deep human emotions. Despite everything she would suffer for her child, Mary the mother first experienced joy in knowing her child as a newborn. Mary is our mother, too. Do we picture her as a far-off queen of heaven, too holy to approach? Or do we picture her as a joyful, approachable mother? Ignatius would have us approach Mary, praying with him to “place me with your Son.”