I have been struggling to put all my various thoughts into words for the past few months. As I have gotten one part of my life in order (cue the comments about “nesting” and preparing the home for Baby2, then having Baby2 and adjusting to being a family of 4), I have lost all ability to write about my thoughts – too many thoughts have run through my brain as I go about the menial tasks in life.
Thankfully, Soldier Boy was able to help me get this house under control since his return from deployment, and I now find myself trying to maintain some modicum of cleanliness/less-clutteriness on a daily basis. Now that I feel like that has caught up, I have decided to again sit down at my computer and try (again) to put my thoughts onto the screen.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe is credited with saying, “Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”
And, many Catholics do love Mary, and honor her as the Mother of God. In fact, we have several days throughout our liturgical calendar dedicated to honoring her role, but most specifically, my favorite Feast Day for Mary is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. That specific feast day is celebrated on 1 January every year – and, for Catholics, it means it is a “Holy Day of Obligation,” requiring Mass attendance.
A common misconception is that Catholics “worship,” Mary. We don’t worship her at all – in fact, just do a dictionary search between the two terms of “honor” versus “worship,” if you need clarification.
We recognize Mary for the important role she plays in salvation’s history. She accepted God’s mission, as it were, to not only allow Jesus to be carried within her, be born of her, and raise Him, but also follow Him, support Him, and ultimately was one of the last to be with Him as he hung on the cross dying for our sins. She was also there when the Church was founded – in the room with the disciples as the Holy Spirit descended upon them, after Jesus ascended into Heaven. Without her “yes,” God would have had a difficult time entering the world as He did – fully human, while fully divine.
All these thoughts led me to the following quandary I faced during this past Advent and Christmas seasons. I spent the better part of this past Advent season and Christmas season pondering, “did Mary’s parents know just how special she was”? Did they realize just how crucial a role she would play in our salvation, by her fiat to God’s call to bear the Christ-child in her womb and raise Him?
It’s not like God could just choose anyone – the Catholic belief, and in my opinion, the common sense thought is, God had to choose a “perfect vessel” to carry his fully human, fully divine form (God the Son, aka Jesus) into this world. So, we believe that Mary, while conceived the natural way (meaning, the way you and I were conceived), was conceived without the stain of Original Sin (which was incurred by Adam and Eve’s fall from Grace). However, as a chaplain priest put it during a recent homily – although she was conceived without Original Sin, she still chose to remain sinless, and chose to avoid temptation as she grew into adulthood.
To answer the question of “did Mary’s parents know” the role their daughter played, I was encouraged to pick up the Protoevangelium of James (the Gospel of James). This isn’t found in the Bible at all, but it is an interesting read, and brought more questions than answers for me. I highly encourage you to check it out – you can find it, in its entirety, online.
Suffice it to say, I still haven’t fully answered my own question of “did Mary’s parents know.” But, as a friend framed it – perhaps the better question is… why does this bug me so much? Why do I care if Sts. Anne and Joachim knew who she was? What is calling me to ask these questions?
Perhaps it is because I look at my child, and think about Baby2, and wonder – would I know if they are destined for doing something great? Or, is that just the “mother in me” that hopes and prays my children will do something good for humanity?
I like to think the way one chaplain put it in my quest for answers – perhaps the answer to the question about Mary’s parents, and even answers to my questions about my own children, will become clear as the relationship evolves and grows. The chaplain pointed out that, just like in marriage, we don’t always know everything about our partner – our eyes are opened as the relationship grows and matures. Perhaps this is the lesson to take away from Advent and Christmas this past year…
To keep my eyes and heart open, as my relationship grows and matures with my children, holding them tight in my prayers, as they grow into the person God means for them to be – guiding them, shielding them, praying for them, and ultimately championing them along their individual paths.