Our Spiritual Mother

By Fr. Michael Gaitley, M.I.C.
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Mothers are experts at comforting their children.

When I was a child and would scrape my knee while playing, it was mom who cleaned it, kissed it, and made it feel better. Or when I used to have to take medicine that didn’t taste so great, it was mom who would throw it in a milkshake so it’d go down easy.

But motherly comfort isn’t just for kids.

Many a war veteran has testified that when soldiers get torn up by bullets and lay dying on the battlefiled, they often cry out for their mothers.

Now, I think most of us are like those poor soliders. In other words, when times get really tough, we may want to cry out for our moms. Why? Because, again, mothers are experts at consoling their children.

This month of May, I think many of us have been thinking about Mary, not only because these days are dedicated to her, but because we need her now perhaps more than ever. Specifically, amid the growing anxiety of uncertainty and loss, probably most of us are feeling the need for the comfort of our spiritual mother.

If that’s you, if you’re feeling the need for some motherly comfort from Mary, it’s helpful to keep this in mind: The comfort Mary gives is not from some high pedestal in heaven where she’s happy as can be while we’re pining away in this “valley of tears.” Rather, she’s right here with us. In fact, she suffers with us.

But don’t just take my word for it.

In her Diary, St. Faustina Kowalska, the great apostle of Divine Mercy, relates the surprising extent of Mary’s compassion for us, her children, a compassion that leads her to suffer with us even now:

During the night, the Mother of God visited me, holding the Infant Jesus in Her arms. My soul was filled with joy and I said, “Mary, my Mother, do You know how terribly I suffer?” And the Mother of God answered me, I know how much you suffer, but do not be afraid. I share with you your suffering, and I shall always do so. She smiled warmly and disappeared (25).  

Now, that last line is often a problem: Mary smiled warmly “and disappeared.”Because we can’t see the warm smile of our Immaculate Mother, we might think that her loving compassion for us isn’t real — but it is real. Mary truly suffers with us.

And how could she not? After all, as Pope Benedict XVI once put it, “How could a mother be completely and unreservedly happy so long as one of her children is suffering?”

It’s this very real compassion of our Blessed Mother for her children that’s at the root of the great love that people in Poland tend to have for Mary. I say that because over the course of their painful history, the Poles have suffered terribly — and they know that Mary suffers with them. They know this because they’ve seen it. Specifically, they’ve see her in their national icon, the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, an image that’s marked by two large slashes on the face, two large slashes inflicted by an invading soldier who hated Mary and the Catholic Church.

I once helped lead a pilgrimage to Poland for the Napa Institute, and we got to have Mass and pray before the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa. Looking up at that image, it became absolutely clear that Mary suffers with her children. You could feel it. In fact, it hit me so hard I actually wanted to console her more than I wanted her to console me.

Way back then, I wasn’t suffering so much. But now, amid the pandemic, we’re all suffering, and Mary is here to console us.

Alright, but maybe at this point you’re thinking, “Yeah, I’m suffering right now, but I don’t have it as bad as many other people.” And that may be true. I mean, maybe you haven’t lost your job or a loved one. Maybe you aren’t struggling to feed your family. Still, and this is very important to understand, Mary’s compassion for us isn’t rationed out. Rather, she loves each one of us as if we were her only child. And just as our own suffering is real to us personally, it’s also real to her, and she has compassion on each one of us.

So, let’s let our Blessed Mother’s compassion in, and then, let’s give to others the same consolation that we receive from her. After all, there are many who don’t know the compassion of Mary. There are many who, amid their pain, want to cry out to their mother — yet they don’t think she’s there.

But she is there. We now know she’s there. So let’s be her consolation to those who don’t know it. How? By first letting Mary comfort and console us, especially during what’s left of this Marian month. If you want learn more, I invite you to visit MarianMissionaries.org.

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