There’s Something About Mary

“The longer I live, the more deeply I learn that love — whether we call it friendship or family or romance — is the work of mirroring and magnifying each other’s light. Gentle work. Steadfast work. Life-saving work in those moments when life and shame and sorrow occlude our own light from our view, but there is still a clear-eyed loving person to beam it back. In our best moments, we are that person for another.”

—James Baldwin



As a mother of six, I have always been drawn to Mary, the heroic matriarch, exemplar of courage and giver of sacrificial love. I have made pilgrimages to sites where it is said she made appearances, even performed miracles as proclaimed in Lourdes, France. I have collected books, art and statues of Mary. A small alabaster figurine from Notre Dame Cathedral fits perfectly in the palm of my hand. She lives on my desk beside my computer, a wreath of twelve stars on her head, the baby Jesus tucked in her right arm, with a knowing smile on her face. Another special “Mary” is a hand-painted sculpture by an artist in Birmingham. She wears a blue gown trimmed in gold and holds her own at the center of my family room. The artist gave this Mary a very solemn face of devotion.


But my favorite “Mary” is painted with her heart exposed outside of her chest. (A poignant symbol of motherhood for me). It is called the Immaculate Heart of Mary. A sword pierces through her heart representing her sorrows, and her head is crowned with a halo of roses, symbolizing her supreme joy and exalted role on earth and in heaven. Mary’s living, earthly heart was a true miracle. One that could hold at once so much love and joy, but also endure terrible fear and unimaginable suffering. Mary gave her whole heart to Jesus from birth to painful death so he could give his to all of us.


The Catholic Church holds Mary in the highest esteem, giving her many titles, Mother of God, Mother of the Church, and Queen of Heaven. But I especially love the one from Revelation 12:1, “Woman clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet.” As the mother of Jesus, she felt an especially close proximity to God here on earth. She knew Jesus the longest and loved him with a mother’s love. Pope John Paul II wrote, “At the center of this mystery, in the midst of the wonderment of faith, stands Mary. As the loving mother of the redeemer, she was the first to experience it.”


What a daring, glorious, faithful, but heart-breaking life Mary, mother of Jesus, lived. It all began with a visit from God’s trusted winged messenger, the Angel Gabriel. He told Mary she had been chosen by God. A woman beautiful inside and out. God promised to be with her always. Did she know in that moment the amazing role she would play in God’s plan to save the world? Probably not but her willingness was paramount.


At the first cry in a sterile hospital or in the hay of a stable, a mother’s life becomes devoted wholly (in mind, body, and spirit) to her child. That pure and unselfish love from a caring mother is one of the great miracles on earth.


I like to think it was Mary who introduced Jesus to the sheer beauty and joys of being human on this planet. Her melodic voice would have been his first experience of music. She must have shown him the wonders of nature; pointing up to the stars, picking a perfect fig for him to eat, showing him his first rainbow after a storm. I can envision Jesus crawling under the family table laden with food and friends seated all around. Their chatter and laughter, the joy of community imprinted his heart. Did those happy family meals inspire Jesus to host that miraculous final meal?


To be this special mother of God on earth was a herculean feat. What lengths she would go, such sacrifices she would make, all the prayers she would pray for him. Her secret power? Love and trust. She would love from the very best of herself, even beyond herself, whatever the cost. And then she would trust God with the rest. What a beautiful model for how to live and love on this life journey.


It takes incredible courage to be a mother. Your life is no longer your own. Your heart expands in ways you could never have imagined. It is also tested beyond measure. When Mary delivered her Magnificat, that most beautiful declaration of her own faith, she had no idea what was ahead. The sleepless nights, desperate prayers, and what if fears. How her heart (every mother’s heart) would be tested, filled, broken, and ultimately redeemed. But as Mary discovered, life finds its ultimate meaning when love is given wholly and sacrificially. Nothing else truly matters. By divine design, creation flourishes in the presence of love. And a mother’s love whether she is a humpback whale, bald eagle, sequoia tree, or mama of six like me is undeniable proof that God planned our planet to be a very tender, love-driven place.


The hardest part of being a mother is to see your beloved child suffer. Mary stood beneath the cross and watched her son take his last breath. I cannot imagine the pain. I think about the year sitting at the bedside of my own son Charlie receiving chemo for a life-threatening cancer. A church member who turned over every stone to see her son make it through the darkness of depression, determined that he would find his way back into the light. My friend Elisabeth has dedicated her life to making sure foster children experience the miracle of a mother’s love. In the middle of civil unrest in Haiti, my friend Karris has made it her life mission to mother hundreds of displaced and orphaned children.


Tender is how my own mom has carried my faith more times than I can count, fanned the flicker of hope within me when life circumstances did their best to snuff it out, and loved me through the dark until the joy returned. I am a person of hope in the world because of her love.


Love, pure and with no conditions, allows us to be more than we thought we could be, to be brave in this break-your-heart world, to get up when we get knocked down, and to hold on to hope in the worst circumstances. More importantly, it inspires us to be our own powerful force of love in the world. Mary did this for her special son. If I can do this, even imperfectly, for my own six children, my life will have mattered. A mother’s redemptive love mimics the way God embraces creation. Where there is that love, there is always hope.


In the end, it is the stamina of love, especially a mother’s, that is a true miracle. Hope came in the scene in Acts where all the disciples are gathered again in the Upper Room after Jesus’ death and resurrection to make big plans for the future. They would carry on what Jesus started. And there again was beloved Mary with them, clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet. Ready to love some more. She would carry on for him. A mother’s love never ceases.


Love and trust, Mary’s way, the only way.


Happy Mother’s Day!

***I love this photo of my mom. Everything is always better when she’s around!!•••

  • Diane Tucker

    May 6, 2024 at 11:16 am

    Beautifully written about Mary! Great pic of you and your mom! Happy Mother’s Day! Hugs!

  • Faye Snodgrass Tevebaugh

    May 6, 2024 at 8:17 pm

    So beautiful, Farrell.