Today is the day we celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary! The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated on December 8th and, then, nine months later, we have the Nativity of Mother of God. So... Happy Birthday, Blessed Mother. :)
I've always felt close to the Virgin Mary. Growing up non-Catholic, it was one of the things that really drew me to the Catholic Church... When I took some time off in my early marriage, it was the Blessed Mother that pulled me back. And, especially after Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander died, it was Mary that held my hand while I tried to understand. Now, she is the one that pats my back after an especially trying day, when I feel like a MACK truck ran over me, and the kids are still full of energy. I often find myself uttering the words "Blessed Mother, mother ME now!" or "Give me strength!". I often let myself remember of the story of the Finding of Jesus in the Temple, and how harried she must have been after three days of searching and wondering where He'd gone, only to find him perfectly safe and educating the educators... Was she pissed? Was she just so relieved that her anger flew out the window (if it was there at all)? Was she just happy he was okay (and happy)?
When I ask Peter "When was I the most patient and relaxed?", his answer is always the same. When I commuted to work on the train, I prayed the Rosary every day. It was my private "me" time and, truly, my life was a more peaceful one. There are a few events that happened over those two years and, looking back, if I hadn't been at that place in my life, I can only imagine how different some things could have turned out. Even now, on the days I pray the Rosary (which I aspire to every day), I find that I have more patience for all life throws at me. And, I feel more at "peace". Which isn't something easy to come by!
When asked (or criticized) about Marian devotion, it is hard to explain the differences between devotion and worship, or why a love of Mary is critical (to Catholics) to a love of Christ. I heard one clergyman explain that just as we have pictures of our own parents and friends, it wouldnt make sense to not have pictures of Jesus's parents and friends, but it goes beyond that. It is about having a spiritual Mother... I love Peter; I love my children; but the love I have for my mom is different. It's always been different from the love I have for my dad or anyone else. She's mom. She's who I want to go to when I'm sad or dont feel good. Even as an adult, when I'm sick, I often say to Peter "I wish my mom were here." Not because he isn't capable, but because no one can play substitution for mom. In faith, Mother brings us closer to the Great Divine. Not as a substitute for it, but as a path towards it. As a fountain of understanding, and as a source of hope that we are all worthy of it.
Mary reminds me that life doesnt have to be as I planned it for it to be the way it was meant to be. That even miracles come with the promise of rocky roads ahead. That great happiness can only be achieved when we open ourselves to the ultimate sorrow.
That an orphaned mother can survive. That her heart will go on beating and her lungs will go on breathing, even when her child's no longer does. Even when she is crushed beyond compare.
As our priest said today, all birthday's should be celebrated, young and old. All should be remembered, because they remind us of the day that an innocent life with the capacity to change the world was born.
And such it is.