As I write this, we are in the early days of May, one of my favourite times of the year, late spring with beautiful bursts of colour bursting forth in our gardens and hedgerows and the feeling that we are saying our last goodbyes to winter for another year. It is also a wonderful time of the year in our religious life with our special devotion to Mary encapsulated in that wonderful hymn “Bring flowers of the rarest, bring blossoms the fairest …”
Our devotion to Mary this year, however, seems just a little bit strange with Easter having been so late. This month we celebrate her beauty and wonder yet just over three weeks ago, we were looking at her standing at the foot of the cross gazing at her beloved son tortured, humiliated and undergoing a truly dreadful public execution as a common criminal.
I find great inspiration in this juxtaposition of Mary’s unique role and honour as the Mother of God and yet undergoing so many trials and tribulations as a human being and mother. I think about the young girl who had to explain to her dear betrothed, with whom she had never been intimate, that she was pregnant but had not been unfaithful to him. Luckily she had an angel to intervene on her behalf! We all know the dreadful way our own people treated unmarried mothers in times gone by yet bad as that was, it was even worse in Mary’s time. If Joseph had not stood by her, she might not just have been ostracised by her community, she would have run the very real risk of being stoned to death.
I think about Mary in the final stages of her pregnancy travelling by donkey to a strange town and going through the ordeal of childbirth in the most primitive of conditions. I think of Mary taking her infant to present him in the temple, an occasion that like our ritual of baptism, should be one of great happiness and thanksgiving. What was it like to have the joy of that special occasion shattered with Simeon’s prophecy that a sword would pierce her soul? Finally, we have the rejection of her son by his own people and the agony of the crucifixion.
I believe that the things Mary went through herself give her a very real understanding of the difficulties and problems that we go through in our daily lives and that when we pray to her, she can respond to us as someone who knows first-hand the things we are undergoing and how we can sometimes wonder why God does these things to us. We can also take inspiration from Mary’s ultimate reward for accepting those difficulties – her very special place as Queen of Heaven. If we too can accept the negative things that life throws in our way and remain loyal to God and continue to trust Him, we too will surely achieve that ultimate reward of our own special place in heaven.