Persons, places and things: What would Mary do?

Barb Arland-Fye

A folder titled “Mary, Mother of God” — filled with news clippings and magazine articles — has come out of my file cabinet for examination in the midst of a month dedicated to Mary.  Some of the articles date back to the dawn of the new millennium, but still provide sustenance for my lifelong contemplation of our Blessed Mother.
Religion writer Kenneth Woodward, writing in the Aug. 25, 1997, issue of Newsweek observed: “The secret of Mary’s mysterious power may be just this: having no history of her own, she entices every new generation to draw her portrait.”
Yes, Scripture contains glimpses of Mary. Woodward points to the four Gospel writers’ different portrayals of Mary. Mark “suggests that Mary did not understand or approve of what her son was up to. Matthew is more benign, mentioning the virgin birth. Luke pays her the most attention, portraying Mary as the obedient handmaiden of the Lord and spokeswoman for the outcast.”  In John’s Gospel, Mary’s request of Jesus at the wedding feast at Cana results in the first miracle of his public ministry.  John also “places Mary at Jesus’ crucifixion, thus signaling that she was, after all, a disciple of her son,” Woodward surmises.
Another story I saved, “Thoroughly Modern Mary” (, Sept. 4, 2002), explored Mary’s identity in an article about the statue of the Virgin Mary atop the doors of the then-new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles.
Staff writer Reed Johnson listed some of the names and titles bestowed on Mary through the ages: The Virgin of Montserrat, The Divine Shepherdess, the sorrowful Mater Dolorosa, Our Lady of the Americas, Madonna of the Apocalypse.
In the cathedral’s 8-foot-tall statue of Mary, “she seems to be all of these women and many more besides,” Reed says. “A woman for the ages, favored by God above all others, but also a woman specifically of 21st century Los Angeles. A homegirl. One of us.”
“One of the reasons Catholics are so devoted to Mary is that they can relate to her. They see in her what they see in their own mothers,” observed Father James Presta in a Catholic New World interview, which appeared in the May 27-June 9, 2007, edition of the Chicago Archdiocese’s newspaper.
I’ve often wondered if that’s why Blessed John Paul II had such a devotion to Mary. The future pope’s mother, Emilia, died a month before he made his first Communion. A photo taken for that special occasion shows a solemn little boy whose eyes hint of sadness. Did his love for Mary assuage his grief?
During a bicycle ride this past Mother’s Day my thoughts turned to Mary and what her journey through motherhood had been like. Was it anything like mine? Did she ever fret that Jesus wasn’t getting enough sleep, or that he wasn’t eating right? Did she worry about him being ostracized or about his network of friends? Did she think he spent too much time away from home? Did she want to protect him from heart ache? Was it hard to let go? Did she ever complain to God: “This is not fair?”
Mothers of my generation have been compared to helicopters – tending to hover over our children, even when they’re young adults, to ensure appropriate decision making and avoidance of failure. Maybe we ought to ask ourselves what Mary would do.
In his column “Before the Cross,” published in the Dec. 16, 2011, issue of the St. Louis Review, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Archbishop Robert Carlson observes that “Mary inspires us to grow in our knowledge of her Son. She encourages us to look beyond ourselves to the needs of others.
“Like any good mother, Mary makes us feel welcome and at home, but she also challenges us to move beyond the familiar (our comfort zones) and to accept God’s call to serve Him even when we don’t understand why or how.”
That’s good advice to ponder during this month in which we honor Mary.
Barb Arland-Fye

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