Susan Handle Terbay, a fellow Catholic Mom columnist, graciously gave me the permission to reprint her article here. Visit Susan's website at www.susanhandle.com.
by Susan Handle Terbay
The greatest gift parents can give their children is their love for each other. Through that love they create an anxiety-free place for their children to grow, encouraging them to develop confidence in themselves and find the freedom to choose their own ways in life. Henri Nouwen
The holy season of Lent is upon us. As an older mother I find that I now have more time to meditate and be able to put aside some time for solitude and reflection during the Lenten Season. As a young mother finding such times was a challenge and often I failed to succeed. A quick ‘Hi God, how am I doing?’ was about all I could pray during the day and ‘Thank You God’ before I went to sleep. Mass on Sunday was the only time I had for any serious time with God and even at that there were moments of distraction.
This morning as I thought about the next 40 days of my own personal journey of Lent, I thought of Mary and what her journey must have been like. As a young woman, I figured Mary might have had it pretty easy. After all, she had a husband who adored her, who made a decent living as a carpenter and had the ‘perfect’ Son. What problems could she possibly have to face? How could I as a woman and a mother even begin to relate to such a woman, wife, or mother?
First of all as a woman, Mary faced a lot of challenges in a culture in which she was subject to male dominance. Hmmm – let’s see, how many women around our world can relate to that? I don’t know for sure how much Joseph made as a carpenter. Financially things had to be challenging simply because they were Jews living under the rule of Romans. I’m sure any money made was subject to heavy taxes so a savings account was probably not feasible. Then there is the ‘perfect’ Son. I seriously doubt that Mary was ever called to school to sit and discuss Jesus’ unacceptable behavior, or having to reprimand Him for hitting a baseball into a neighbor’s window or taking the car away because of irresponsible choices.
Now as an older woman and mother, I look at Mary and I see a woman who faced the challenges of womanhood. She took it upon herself to visit her cousin Elizabeth, alone and pregnant. To me this speaks of a woman very secure in herself and her belief of her position in this life. She took on that journey with determination and made it. At the Wedding Feast of Cana, she is the one who spoke up about the wine, and by so doing, she is the one who launched her Son into public life with a simple statement: “Do whatever He tells you.”
If Mary was willing to say ‘yes’ to God about being the Mother of God’s Son, then I think she certainly managed the household very well on whatever Joseph made through his carpentry.
While Jesus may have been the Son of God, His life wasn’t troubled free. He certainly faced challenges in this life because of His actions.
I can only speculate what family life must have been like for Mary, Joseph and Jesus. My gut tells me there was lots of love between them, expressed in various ways and a sense of respect and acceptance of each other; a great foundation for a young boy to grow to manhood. We don’t read much in the Bible about Joseph or Mary. We read snippets of Mary and what we read about her are powerful moments. But for me it is what we don’t read about her that speaks more of how powerful a woman she truly is and how we can look to her as women and mothers in our own journeys. Through her own life choices, her love of Joseph, her love of family and friends and certainly her love of her child, Jesus, she laid the groundwork, the foundation of who Jesus became. She was the human force behind Jesus. In a quiet unassuming way, she gave us a map for our own journeys.
Mary felt the same pain as all mothers feel when their child gets hurt, or knows the worry of when a child leaves to go to an event and she knows of the laughter and giggles at the jokes and silliness of a child’s antics. Mary knows because Mary was a mother. Mary knew, as we as mother’s know, that the child given to us is not ‘our’ child to keep but to have only briefly to love, nourish and encourage and then to let go to live their own lives. Mary knows the feeling of watching a grown child leave the home, knowing that the world outside her arms is not as accepting and loving. Mary knows the horror of watching a child die a horrific death and not being able to stop it but only to watch in agony. Mary knows the aloneness of having those she loved all her life gone from her life. Mary knows what it is like to be a woman and to be a mother because she loved, and said yes and took the chance to walk such a journey.
Motherhood is its own journey and even if we think no one understands, Mary does. May we look to her for guidance and for strength this holy Lenten Season and understand her pain on Good Friday and her joy on Easter Sunday because we are mothers and we do understand.