The long silent Holy Saturday…. Mary’s heart broke anew as she retraced in her memory every pain-filled step of her Son to Calvary, heard once more every gasp for breath, every word of his resounding in her soul… Mary was mother and mourned the limp body of her Son laid in her arms and then buried in the earth. Cast into the fire she waited, knelt before the Father, wept to wash away the pain.
On Holy Saturday I imagine Mary as the mother who in her humanness shared the misery of so many sorrowing mothers who worry for their children, who have life wrenched from their hands. Parents who see their children absorbed in evil or lost to the evil of another or swept away in accidents beyond their control.
We all can draw next to Mary when the night falls on our joy.
We can be sure she understands when our hearts break, when the desert sands swirl around us making us lose our way. When we fear for a loved one, and when we face our powerlessness to keep evil from affecting another, our powerlessness in the face of death.
With what tenderness must Jesus have approached his mother the morning of the resurrection. With a joy that for all its glory could never erase the wounds of the past two days. Both mother and Son forever would bear the agony of human hearts broken open on the edge of pain…the same that we all bear in some way in life. Mother. We call her mother. She is the one who knows. Who stands by us when we walk amid the flames.
40 days of quiet joy, almost learning to breathe again, to trust again, to invite the sun’s splashing splendor to surround the disciples nearest to Jesus and his mother. Mother and more, the Risen Master pulled Mary into the center of the tiny community he would leave behind as he returned to the Father, a community of “sons” assigned to her from the altar of the cross. She was not only his mother but theirs. And in the nine days which they spent locked in retreat in the Cenacle, she quietly took on a mother’s role of teacher and guide, listener, getting to know each of the apostles with their specific gifts and challenges, knowing them as fully and wisely as she knew her Son. Their souls an open book to her tender searching eyes, as she helped each become more a bearer of Jesus. She knew just the right word for each, teaching them to pray, to trust in the Spirit’s advent promised by Jesus. In those nine days they gathered around their Mother and Teacher.
When the Spirit fell upon the apostles and those in the Cenacle, she encouraged them to go forth bearing the message of her Son to the world. As a mother she remained in the background, praying for her “children,” encouraging, supporting, loving. She walks through history bringing us Jesus, the mission she received at the Annunciation and which she carried out through her life. She brought Jesus to Elizabeth, and John the Baptist leapt in her womb for joy. She presented Jesus to the shepherds and the magi, and they left filled rejoicing. She has appeared throughout the centuries around the globe, continuing to call us to live the Gospel and love her Son. And she speaks to us in the quiet of prayer, knowing our souls intimately…our every need, desire, struggle, pain.
On the Saturday before Pentecost, the Pauline Family celebrates the Feast of Mary who is the Mother, Teacher, and Queen of the Apostles. Blessed James Alberione, our Founder, wanted to go back to the very source of Marian devotion in the Church, and at the source of find Mary as Queen of Apostles.
Mary is an apostle because she gave Jesus to the world. As his mother and ours, she has a unique vocation and gave Jesus to us in a way that no one else ever could. As Alberione put it: “By nature Mary is essentially an apostle. She came to give Jesus, to bring life to souls, to be mediatrix and distributrix of grace. Mary came to bring us the Life—Christ. She is an apostle in the prophecies of the Old Testament, in life and in heaven.”
On the spiritual level, every baptized Christian is also called to bring Jesus to the world today. So Mary is our model for evangelization. She can help us become bearers of Jesus, teaching us to “put on” Christ in our mind, will, and heart so as to live and serve as true disciples. She loves, guides, and supports us just as she did with the first disciples and apostles of Jesus.
As Mary walked the road to Calvary and now the roads of the world, she has only one desire: that we know and love her Son, that we find grace and glory through obedience to him.
Today my heart ached to be able to hold a friend who was scared about the health of her parents, a friend several states away. I had to step back and remind myself that Mary understands this not-being-able-to-take-away-the-pain-of-another. I can stand in the fire with her at my side. There is a comfort to that. But my devotion to Mary as the Queen of Apostles means she helps me take one step further: she helps me find Jesus in this experience; to put on Jesus’ thoughts, words, behavior; to want what Jesus wants in this situation, and then to give Jesus to my friend through prayer, words, and love.
This Saturday, let us take again this magnificent prayer to Mary given us by John Paul II, drawing close to her in our every need, allowing her to be our mother, teacher and queen.
Hail Mary, poor and humble Woman,
Blessed by the Most High!
Virgin of hope, dawn of a new era,
We join in your song of praise,
to celebrate the Lord’s mercy,
to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom
and the full liberation of humanity.
Hail Mary, lowly handmaid of the Lord,
Glorious Mother of Christ!
Faithful Virgin, holy dwelling-place of the Word,
Teach us to persevere in listening to the Word,
and to be docile to the voice of the Spirit,
attentive to his promptings in the depths of our conscience
and to his manifestations in the events of history.
Hail Mary, Woman of sorrows,
Mother of the living!
Virgin spouse beneath the Cross, the new Eve,
Be our guide along the paths of the world.
Teach us to experience and to spread the love of Christ,
to stand with you before the innumerable crosses
on which your Son is still crucified.
Hail Mary, woman of faith,
First of the disciples!
Virgin Mother of the Church, help us always
to account for the hope that is in us,
with trust in human goodness and the Father’s love.
Teach us to build up the world beginning from within:
in the depths of silence and prayer,
in the joy of fraternal love,
in the unique fruitfulness of the Cross.
Holy Mary, Mother of believers,
[Mary, Mother, Teacher, and Queen of Apostles]
pray for us.
August 15, 2004