"Madonna and Child" (detail) by Sassoferrato

“Madonna and Child” (detail) by Sassoferrato

My understanding and devotion to Mary really ripened when I had my first daughter.  I remember lying there in the hospital, the newborn sleeping in her little contraption, and taking up my rosary.  The mysteries that day were the Joyful Mysteries, and as I prayed them, using a little meditation book, I started crying.

I had never thought before about what it meant that Mary gave birth in a stable.  I had never actually pictured what that would have meant.  I’m sure birthing in general was a much different thing 2000 years ago, but even so, giving birth in a stable, with animals looking on and straw under your feet…well, that was a far cry from what I had experienced in the birthing center of my local hospital.

My baby, born on a high Marian feast, was nestled in a temperature controlled room.  She had three different nurses to take care of her and I had my own set of nurses.  We were spending our first few days together being pampered compared to what Mary faced in Bethlehem.

As my baby-turned-toddler found her feet and started walking, a different set of revelations occurred.  Jesus had to learn to walk too!  He must have fallen as much as he succeeded, stubbing his foot, banging his head.  He must have sat there, on the floor, crying and holding his arms out to her.  He must have gotten into ancient equivalent of the cupboard under the sink and left her worried and sweating at the sight of strange powder on his mouth.

What was it like when Jesus learned to talk?  Do you ever wonder if he talked back, questioned a little sassily, challenged his parents’ authority?  Did he ever ask for their version of peanut butter and jelly instead of whatever she had prepared for dinner?

How do you think Mary handled tantrums?  Did Jesus ever need a spanking?  Was Mary ever unsure about her parenting decisions?

Mary really has been here, in the nitty-gritty of motherhood, but she was here without the comforts of electricity and a mother-in-law to come and save the day.  How Mary must gaze at me from that pedestal I’ve put her on, longing to come down and help me…with the dishes, with the toddler, with the details of dinner.  But how can she help me?  I can’t even see her!

I find myself calling out to her throughout my day.  “HAIL Mary,” I’ll begin in a whisper, anger giving way to desperation, “FULL of grace, the LORD is with thee.”  Somewhere around “Blessed art thou among women,” I start to picture a group of women who help me all the time, Mary at the center giving directions.  In the next few lines, my negative vibe gives way to the grace that’s been there, all along, fostered within my vocation as a mother.

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