A Mary Moment Monday post
I love to say that I hate Christmas (though no, I guess I don’t, not really), and Advent means Christmas is getting closer.
I’ve been preparing for an Advent talk I’m giving tonight, and there’s the matter of that Advent book I wrote. If I’m not careful, I’m going to start thinking of myself as an expert.
I’m no expert, not by a long shot. One of the reasons Welcome Baby Jesus is so short is that I don’t think I could look people in the eyes and tell them that yes, they can do this complicated thing with their families when I know I couldn’t do it with my family.
On the other hand, there’s the temptation to skimp, to take it easier on myself than I really should. (I can’t win!)
So where’s the sweet spot?
This is when it’s good to look to Mary. In fact, November 14 marks the feast of Mary as Mother of Divine Providence, and it’s a good reminder for me as the season of the year threatens to overwhelm me. She’s the ultimate reminder to trust in God.
Trusting God doesn’t always make sense. In fact, we are often asked to trust Him when it makes the least sense.
Mary is a model for me of trust in God. At the wedding at Cana, when they ran out of wine, she could have just shrugged. What did it matter to her, after all? There was no need to get involved.
Yet she did. She went to her Son and asked, and then she trusted that He would listen.
How often do I approach Jesus with that level of love?
In Mary’s title Mother of Divine Providence, I’m reminded that she’s my mother too and that Divine Providence is the best route for achievement. It’s not the kind of achievement that will win me worldly renown, but it will give me peace.
One image of the Mother of Divine Providence is shown with a sleeping toddler on her lap. He has that trusting look that small children so often have when they just pass out on their mother’s laps. She’s gazing down at Him, holding one of His hands within both of hers.
Her loving look must have been the first thing He saw when he awoke. It’s no wonder, then, that when she asked the small favor at Cana that He cooperated. He had grown up waking up to her loving gaze, hearing her soft voice, being reprimanded and taught by her.
There are different ways to read the passage in the Gospel of John that recounts the wedding feast at Cana. The lesson I’ve taken from it, in light of the story of the Mother of Divine Providence, is trust that God is, in fact, interested in even the things that seem to be inconsequential.
Did wine, after all, really matter? It did on the day of the wedding, in that day and time, but in the larger picture, did it really make a difference? I imagine that in a few years, the family would have laughed about it, perhaps even turned it into a sort of shorthand for poking fun at someone’s failure to plan. Maybe the teasing would have been directed at not being able to imagine how people would have drank all that wine that quickly.
Mary, though, took an opportunity to witness. Jesus took her cue and obeyed her, while pointing out that He didn’t have to. He chose obedience. He chose to make it a day memorable not for failure, but for something miraculous.
He chooses to help us in our own time and place too, at His mother’s request. She’s called Our Lady of Divine Providence because of her intercession on behalf of the Barnabites, an order of monks. In 1611, they were building a church in Rome dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo, but found themselves in such a financial bind that they had to halt construction.
The pastor, Father Blaise Palma, traveled to Loreto to beg Mary for help. He must have been picturing her, holding her Son so tenderly, as he traveled, probably on foot. Through the long nights, I picture him praying for her protection and I wonder if she smiled at the sacrifices he was making, knowing that it would result in success.
When Father Palma returned from his Loreto pilgrimage, the monks received the money they needed to complete their church. They finished it in 1650, and Father Palma, not wanting the monks to forget this intervention of Mary, wrote a long account of the facts. He put his report in the parish archives, where it was discovered years later by Father Januarius Maffetti.
Reading Father Palma’s account, Father Maffetti was moved by the confidence and devotion that resulted in his church being built. He was so touched that he began spreading devotion to Mary as Mother of Divine Providence. The image that was first associated with this title was painted bgy Scipion Pulzone, also known as Gaetan, one of Raphael’s disciple.
The Infant is looking up at His mother. There’s no drool on His chin, but I imagine there would have been soon, because He looks like He’s just about to break into a big toothless smile. Mary’s looking down at Him, a hint of a smile on her face. His chubby fingers are gripping her first two fingers, and, recognizing the hold she has on Him, I have to wonder if what follows is a wiggle and a giggle. Though they both have haloes, and we don’t hear about them laughing, I think they must have laughed a lot. How could they not?
Their joy in each other must have surfaced again and again, and it surfaces today, when I find myself, yet again, asking for their help. My problems are often no big deal in the larger scheme of life, but maybe that’s the point. Maybe it’s not about the size of my request, but the habit of trust and hope. Maybe the lesson I need to learn from Mary, Mother of Divine Providence, is that no appeal is too small.
Mary, my Mother of Divine Providence, teach me the trust that you knew so well, the trust that gave you the courage to ask Jesus for His help, again and again. Help me to keep hope in God’s will and to accept it, though I may not understand it. Amen.