This article was originally posted on The Young Catholic Woman, a site which provides resources to guide the young Catholic woman on her spiritual journey.
He sat up for a second to shift positions, and once again my sweet little bundle of warmth found his resting place back on my chest. His bright red cheeks were swollen and sweaty. His little face looked sad and helpless, big round eyes looking up to me for comfort, and we just rested there for as long as he needed.
My usually happy, rambunctious toddler is teething. A standard occurrence in the life of a child. But it made me think – this ordinary moment of motherhood is something Mary and the child Jesus may have gone through together.
The Covid-19 lockdown has been tough – there were times where it’s been all too much. We were cut off from my mum who is my usual support as I juggle the kids, work, and chronic back pain.
One night a few weeks ago I just broke down. I felt I was failing and had nothing left to give. All I could do in that moment was mumble a quick plea to my spiritual mother, Mary, for help.
I’d often heard people say to ask her for help on this journey of motherhood, but I had no idea what that meant. In that shared moment of intimacy with my son, I felt like I was finally getting somewhere.
Mary ‘Mother of God’
‘Theotokos’ in Greek means ‘God-bearer’ and translates into English as ‘the Mother of God’. It’s the most important title the Church gives to Mary.
The intimacy I have with my sons comes from having them grow inside me, birthing and nursing them, teaching them about life, and attending to their needs – journeying with them in the closest way possible. Mary did all this with Jesus from the beginning, through His public ministry, and to the end at the foot of the cross. There’s no arguing, she had the most intimate relationship with God.
While Jesus is fully divine, He is also fully human. Scripture teaches He was like us in all things, except sin, so He still had to learn as a child from His mother.
From talking, walking, feeding and dressing, to school work, chores and cultural customs – many of the things I will go through with my children, Mary has been there too. Including the juggling of the housework, devotion to prayer, and nurturing relationships with her family and wider community.
As mother to two young boys, I often contemplate the early life of the Holy family. I can only imagine having God literally residing under your roof would come with a completely unique set of blessings and challenges. Something that strikes me though, is that every task Mary did as a mother was a prayer.
Praying like Mary
When I became a mother, things came naturally for me and I quickly hit my stride (at least prior to my injury). I get a lot of satisfaction from organization, efficiency and achieving tasks, so admittedly I felt fulfilled in my new role.
It was easy to overlook, and I’m sure it happens with many of us, but amongst all the busyness of being a new mum I had let my prayer life slide – big time.
It was the injury which jolted me back on the right path, but that’s a story for another day. I had a reinvigorated passion for Christ and I had the drive to spend more time in prayer, but figuring out how to have a prayer life as a mum was a whole new challenge.
Ordinary tasks with extraordinary love
I remember lamenting to our parish priest about this challenge and he said something which really struck me. He told me prayer looks different in every phase of life.
For a young mum perhaps it starts with a nappy change, a feed during the night, cooking dinner for the family.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, … I was naked and you clothed me … ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:35-36, 40)
As mothers we are gifted with the ability to love God in a tangible way, just as Mary did for Jesus. She was able to sit in His presence and adore Him. Every task she did was in service to Jesus.
When we care for the little ones God has entrusted to us we are loving Him, especially when we choose to do these ordinary tasks out of love for Him. Often we are blessed with experiencing a tangible dose of that love in return – a cuddle, a kiss, an “I love you mummy”.
Commitment to consistency
Mary was with Jesus for 30 years before He entered His public ministry. She began her mornings praising Him, her days learning from Him, and her nights adoring Him.
What started as a simple change in orientation towards prayer and commitment to consistency, has slowly been producing growth in both the time and effort I put into my prayer life. I have a long way to go, but that first step was vital.
Motherhood, for all its joys, is a tough journey. The dry periods in prayer can make it even more challenging, particularly committing to consistency, but Mary’s unwavering faith in her Son continues to inspire me.
In his marian encyclical, Redemptoris Mater, Saint Pope John Paul II shares a beautiful insight into Mary’s faith:
Jesus was aware that "no one knows the Son except the Father"; thus even his Mother, to whom had been revealed most completely the mystery of his divine sonship, lived in intimacy with this mystery only through faith! Living side by side with her Son under the same roof, and faithfully persevering "in her union with her Son," she "advanced in her pilgrimage of faith,"
Mary is our model for perseverance in our relationship with Christ, even when it seems all hope is lost – like say, you lose the Son of God for THREE days! She will never stop going to her Son to intercede on our behalf, just as she did at Cana.
Help in our vocation as mothers
When I’m having a tough day, when I need help, advice, or just to vent, I call my mum. There’s just something about her maternal care which makes a world of difference.
More and more I’m finding the same is true of when I go to our Blessed Mother for help. Whether it’s in reflecting on her example for inspiration, trying to live out her ‘fiat’ by being open, receptive, humble and obedient to God’s will in my life, or in asking her to pray for me, she has never let me down.