Our Lady of the Southern Cross

Our Lady of the Southern Cross

“Look, Mommy!  Look Daddy!  Don’t they look like sparkly connect-the-dots?”  We were late getting home and I was in a hurry to get in the house and get the kids to bed, but my four-year-old’s voice stopped me with its enthusiasm.

Only my four-year-old could make me look to the night sky without the shadow of cynicism or adult perspective.  When I looked up, I had to agree with her.  The stars did look like sparkly connect-the-dots.

I haven’t been able to go outside since without a reminder of the wonder of the stars.  As the days get shorter during the autumn, and I have more opportunities to see stars, I think of the many things in my life that seem disconnected.  I look back over the years and see how things have, over time, been linked and connected, as though there were someone connecting the dots.

I look skyward and think of how Heaven’s supposed to be “up there” somewhere.  I see the stars and am reminded of how far away they are, which leads me to reflecting on how far I am from Heaven.

In Mary, though, I have a link to Heaven. I can see her there, in the sky of my life, connecting the dots, when I can conquer my initial distrust of others, and overcome the distraction of how holy she is and how I’m not.

She’s been there so often for me.  From my earliest inquiries into the Catholic faith to yesterday, her gentle touch is all around me, leading me back to her Son.

Just the other day, I felt that touch.  I had been at Adoration earlier in the morning (perhaps it’s more accurate to call it the middle of the night) and had been praying for guidance.  I found it, to some extent, in the Psalms I read while I sat there in the silence. I also felt it in the stillness and the Presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament. 

Driving home, I decided to stay awake and work.  I knew it was going to be tough, but somehow, I did it and was incredibly productive.

My mother-in-law, showing up for an early morning cleaning session at my house, commented, “I don’t know why, but I’ve been praying for you since four o’clock this morning.”

In that statement, I felt Mary’s touch and the wonder of the stars.  Who else but my heavenly mother would have thought to have my mother-in-law deliver such a beautiful message to me?  There’s wonder at knowing how much God must love me to give me the gift of Mary in my life. 

When I first saw the image of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, commissioned for World Youth Day in 2008 in Sydney, Australia, I couldn’t help but notice the bright stars over her shoulder.  They are a constellation known as the Southern Cross, seen only in the southern hemisphere.  In the background is the dry desert land of Australia.

Though the stars were unfamiliar to me, Mary’s gaze and her way of holding her infant was not.  Jesus is cuddled into her arms, looking straight into my eyes.  Mary’s looking down—could she be inhaling that sweet baby smell?  Did Jesus just come out of the bath?  Is it a warm night, right before bedtime?

The Southern Cross, over her shoulder, reminds me that this baby and mother have a hard road ahead of them, but it also reminds me that God was with them every step of the way.  God did not demand this of them; He asked.

God didn’t tell Mary that she would be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah; he sent Gabriel and asked if she would be willing to accept.  He didn’t demand that Jesus give His life on the Cross, He asked and was rewarded as Jesus withstood temptations in the desert and went to Calvary.  From the Cross came the opportunity for the empty tomb.

When I see the Southern Cross and the Australian desert in the background of this image of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, I see my own cross and my own desert of temptation.  Though they seem large and impossible, I can’t deny that infant’s direct gaze and His mother’s snuggle.

Mary offers the same to me: the tender cradle of her arms, the company during my trials, the reminder that God is with me every step of the way.  She stands with her Son, in the desert of Australia or the chaos of my living room, as Our Lady of the Southern Cross.

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