Friday, January 30, 2009

Dog Tired...: A Meditation on "Pethood"

Last night as I was letting Maddy out for the umpteenth time last night (she likes to lie down on the front stoop to cool off when the flannel duvet cover on our bed gets too hot for HRH's delicate undercarriage), the thought occurred to me: "Did Mary let Jesus have a puppy?"

Animals served a utilitarian function in that society ... and made regular appearances in the life story of the Lord. He was born among cattle, and laid in a manger. He spoke of sheep and goats, and chicks and hens. He was Himself called both the Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd. (Admittedly, His references to dogs are devoid of His characteristic compassion and kindness: Mark 7:27-28; Matthew 7:6, 15:26; Luke 16:21).

Still, I think that -- given the opportunity -- Jesus would have had a soft spot for anything that made a child smile as much as a creature with a wagging tail and a hyperactive tongue. And I think Mary would have willingly done the 3 a.m. "potty patrol" just to see her Son on the business end of a rousing game of "fetch."

But in reality, if Jesus had a pet, it was most likely ... a lamb. Every year at Passover families had to sacrifice a lamb "without spot or blemish." The wise parent, however, would probably have tried to prevent the kids from having too much contact with it. In Behold Your Mother, I envisioned one such scenario:

The fuzzy head bleated with indignation.
"He wants his mother," young Jesus observed,
scratching the animal behind its ears. Joseph chided,
"Come ... It's almost time.
Tonight we remember, as God commands,
how we gained our freedom in Egypt.
For a price."

Later, Jesus scampered into the kitchen
as Mary bent over the coals' rosy glow.
"Mother! Where's the lamb? I want to feed him..."
Then stopped as he saw the bloody wool.
Turning, Mary saw his chin tremble. "Oh, Son!
It was born for a task: to help us remember
that first sacrifice."

To order the book, click here. Makes great Lenten reading!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Blessed Mother: the Heart of Hispanic Peoples Everywhere!

Today on the Women's Channel at Catholic Exchange, Cheryl Dickow is running an excerpt of "Contempla a tu Madre."

Please pass this along to any Spanish-speaking friends and family members. This little book makes wonderful Lenten reading!

(Of course, the English language is still available for the rest of you ... You can order both editions -- Spanish and English -- directly through my website.)

God bless you!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Reflecting on Mary after the Nativity

Elizabeth Foss reflects on Mary and her relationship with the Baby Jesus in a recent article for the Arlington Catholic Herald.

During the Christmas season, it's so easy to imagine Jesus as a baby. From there, we can imagine Mary, a young mother who assented to God's holy will and held the baby so tenderly in the stable cave. Then, almost suddenly, the liturgy brings us to Jesus as a grown man being baptized by His cousin John. This year, with a new baby of my own, I've been considering those "hidden years," the years when Jesus was physically the center of Mary's life and during which theirs was the closest possible relationship.


He came as a baby for her. There is no experience like that of mothering an infant that so completely requires incessant self-giving, while at the same time filling and nurturing the one who gives. The first lesson in holiness that the Blessed Mother learned was to go to her God again and again and again, day and night. She learned to keep Him with her, probably right up against her chest, all the time. We know this to be the foundation of growing in sanctity as mothers: keep Him with us all the time. He taught her to love completely and fully and He filled her with Himself. And then, He was a 2-year-old.

Do go read the entire thing!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mary, Inspiration for Modern Women

Back in 1974, in his apostolic exhortation Marialis Cultus (For the Right Ordering and Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary), Paul VI mentions concern about Mary being and outdated example to the modern woman.
The picture of the Blessed Virgin presented in a certain type of devotional literature cannot easily be reconciled with today's life-style, especially the way women live today. In the home, woman's equality and corresponsibility with man in the running of the family are being justly recognized by laws and the evolution of customs. In the sphere of politics women have in many countries gained a position in public life equal to that of men. In the social field women are at work in a whole range of different employments, getting further away every day from the restricted surroundings of the home. In the cultural field new possibilities are opening up for women in scientific research and intellectual activities.

In consequence of these phenomena some people are becoming disenchanted with devotion to the Blessed Virgin and finding it difficult to take as an example Mary of Nazareth because the horizons of her life, so they say, seem rather restricted in comparison with the vast spheres of activity open to mankind today. In this regard we exhort theologians, those responsible for the local Christian communities and the faithful themselves to examine these difficulties with due care. At the same time we wish to take the opportunity of offering our own contribution to their solution by making a few observations.

This is something I've struggled with reconciling and explaining to others. How, exactly, do I relate to a young girl, probably only a teenager when she was first pregnant, who, though sharing the vocation of motherhood, differs from me in background, experience, and all sorts of other ways? Just what do we have in common? How can she teach me things that are specifically useful to my modern way of living?

I found wonderful inspiration in what Paul VI had to say about this (emphasis and breaks in text are mine):
[O]ur own time, no less than former times, is called upon to verify its knowledge of reality with the word of God, and, keeping to the matter at present under consideration, to compare its anthropological ideas and the problems springing therefrom with the figure of the Virgin Mary as presented by the Gospel. The reading of the divine Scriptures, carried out under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and with the discoveries of the human sciences and the different situations in the world today being taken into account, will help us to see how Mary can be considered a mirror of the expectations of the men and women of our time.

Thus, the modern woman, anxious to participate with decision-making power in the affairs of the community, will contemplate with intimate joy Mary who, taken into dialogue with God, gives her active and responsible consent,(102) not to the solution of a contingent problem, but to that "event of world importance," as the Incarnation of the Word has been rightly called.(103)

The modern woman will appreciate that Mary's choice of the state of virginity, which in God's plan prepared her for the mystery of the Incarnation, was not a rejection of any of the values of the married state but a courageous choice which she made in order to consecrate herself totally to the love of God.

The modern woman will note with pleasant surprise that Mary of Nazareth, while completely devoted to the will of God, was far from being a timidly submissive woman or one whose piety was repellent to others; on the contrary, she was a woman who did not hesitate to proclaim that God vindicates the humble and the oppressed, and removes the powerful people of this world from their privileged positions (cf Lk. 1:51-53).

The modern woman will recognize in Mary, who "stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord,"(104) a woman of strength, who experienced poverty and suffering, flight and exile (cf. Mt. 2:13-23).

Why do I always think I have to come up with the answers on my own? Here it was, all along, and quite purely by "accident" (in quotes because I think it was a little divinely inspired, me finding this online yesterday) I found it.

How else do you find, as a modern woman, that you are inspired by Mary? Comments welcome.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Being More Like Mary

I found this delightful piece on Mary over at Karen Edmisten's place, and though I'm including a little snippet here, you'd do well to go read the entire piece. What an excellent reminder to us all!
I dislike comparing myself to Mary, because it's akin to holding my Sculpey creations next to Michelangelo's Pieta and asking what kind of artist I am.

The differences are painful to see and ultimately laughable. But, I do it anyway, because it's good spiritual exercise.

Mary was a wife and mother, as am I. Mary cooked meals, cleaned house, and did laundry, as do I. There the comparisons end.