“A Sword Will Pierce Your Own Heart:” Thoughts on Our Lady of Sorrows

lady-of-sorrowsI grew up a non-Catholic Christian of Hispanic heritage…. which means that I saw Mary in some of her more “traditional” titles before I ever understood or appreciated them as a Catholic.  To be honest, a lot of them made me squirm with discomfort and then look away from what could only be described (at that time) as over-exaggeration of the importance of Mary.  I grew up comfortable with her in our Christmas pageants – as long as she was being told of God’s plan, on a donkey, or kneeling before a manger.  Any more than that at any other time of the year and it would be deemed “too much Mary.”

Fast-forward ten or so years.  Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows – a day when Catholics around the world remember the horrors of Calvary from the viewpoint of the one human heart most broken by it: Mary’s.

Can you imagine?  Imagine the heart of a mother that has loved her Son beyond words.  She wasn’t just a surrogate.  God chose HER to be the mother of the Son.  She rocked him to sleep as a baby and woke up again and again through the night to nurse him.  She watched him toddle about as a baby and learn to walk.  He ran to her when he fell and got hurt.  If she was like the rest of mothers everywhere, she watched his face in the moonlight as he slept.  For the rest of His life, when she looked at him, she would have seen the baby, the toddler, and the boy in the man.

And this was the woman who stood at the foot of the cross – weeping.  Do we really grasp that?  I cannot imagine the agony of watching my child die like that!  We talk about the sacrifice that God made in sending His Son – and rightly so!  We sing songs about Christ’s sacrifice that day – and again, rightly so!  But, we forget that there were two parents that day whose child died.  Mary’s Son died that day on the cross – and she stood there and watched it happen.

Why?

It’s simple, really.  Because she was His mother.  She could not hold him that day.  She could not stop the nails.  So, she did the best that she could do.  She stood at the foot of the cross and would not leave.

When most of His disciples fled, Mary stayed.    When the ground shook and the sky grew dark and she could see her Son beginning to fade, Mary stayed.  When the agony of watching her Son die on a cross broke her heart, Mary stayed.

And, in the end, this mother received the broken and destroyed body of her only son.  The hands that she used to stroke as a baby were now pierced from nails.  The back that she could remember scrubbing as a toddler was now striped beyond recognition and that sweet face that she gazed on adoringly as he slept was so marred that one could scarcely tell he was even human.

And this, this is the heart that we delegate to Christmas.  This is the broken heart that we have minimized to simply that of a surrogate womb and breast; when in reality, this is the heart of His mother.

Mary never, ever tries to take the place of her Son.  She above all others knows what He is.  But, we do ourselves the greatest disservice when we forget about her.  You see, if the cloud of witnesses is real, if those in heaven are praying for us on earth, then who would be the greatest and most fervent in prayers that we remember the sacrifice of Christ?  Who would be the most ardent in desire that we recognize sin for what it is and what it does?  The woman who stood beneath the cross of her Son and watched as he died the most agonizing of deaths because of it.

And that, friends, is the message of Our Lady of Sorrows.

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Show Thyself a Mother: Mary and My Breastfeeding Journey

 

Show Thyself a Mother

I don’t really remember much of the first time I saw little dude.  There’s a fuzzy memory of a baby being placed in my arms after my C-section and this feeling of relief that everything was over.  The next memory I have of him is waking up in the recovery room and my husband bringing little dude over to me.  That would also be the first memory that I have of nursing.  It didn’t go well.

In fact, it didn’t really go well for the next several months.  Little dude lost weight in the hospital.  (He was in for ten days due to an unrelated issue.)  The nurses and lactation consultants worked with me for days and finally, by the time we left the hospital, we had begun to hit our stride…or so I thought.  A few days after we were released, I ended up with severely cracked nipples, horrible pain during nursing, and double mastitis.  The mastitis and cracked nipples went away, but the pain during nursing stayed for months.

I went back to work after eight weeks and ended up pumping and supplementing with formula until little dude was six months old.  (I finished out the school year and didn’t teach the next one.)  Once the stress of teaching went away and I was able to sleep during the day to make up for the sleep I wasn’t getting at night, I didn’t need to supplement anymore.  Unfortunately, sleep and less stress didn’t change the discomfort or complete aversion to being touched that I had by that point.

My original dream had been to make it to twelve months nursing and then slowly wean.  I would have done that, but there was a problem.  Little dude was nowhere near ready to wean.  It wasn’t just that he was nursing for nourishment.  Nursing was one of the few reliable ways to calm him down or to get him quickly back to sleep.

It was around that same time that I began to discover the incredible concept of the saints in heaven.  Growing up as a non-Catholic Christian, I had never thought about the idea that there were thousands of people (potentially more than that) who were rooting for me and praying for me in my life.  I had fallen in love with Saint Monica and Saint Joseph pretty quickly.  It took a flare-up of touch aversion and mild thrush for the same to be said of Mary.attempt 2

I remember laying with little dude on his mattress in his room.  (We co-slept because he was still waking up multiple times a night and I needed the sleep.)  It was probably 10 o’clock at night and little dude was on the way back to sleep.  By this time, I was back to gritting my teeth and counting internally to get through the discomfort of nursing.  As I lay there on the mattress, I went over the nightly promise to myself that, if this was how I felt in six weeks, I would quit.  Just then, a picture settled in my mind.  It was a picture I had seen a few days earlier of Mary nursing Jesus.  (It’s called Maria Lactans art and I think every nursing mother – and the rest of Christianity – should see at least one such picture.)  At that moment, the idea that Mary had nursed Jesus and dealt with all the issues that go along with that was incredibly comforting.  I closed my eyes and whispered, “Jesus, if you do this, please tap Mary on the shoulder for me.”

Just like that, a calmness settled down over me like a blanket – a mother’s warmth that I hadn’t felt in awhile and I rolled over and hugged my son.  The touch aversion didn’t leave immediately.  (In fact, it took getting off of birth control six months later for many of the physical isses to subside.)  I still experienced discomfort and frustration in nursing, but that picture of Mary and Jesus stayed with me and, when I needed that comfort, it was there.

Contrary to what I worried about, my son did eventually end up weaning around three.  I made it two years past my original dream.  The final grace that kept me nursing was finding a doctor to remove the birth control rod in my arm – and finding one within our price range.  I am convinced that we found that doctor through Mary’s intercession – much like I am convinced that Mary looked down from heaven and saw a young mother who was struggling – not just to nurse a baby, but even with motherhood itself at that point – and said, “I know what it’s like.  Let me help you with that.”

The Barefoot Mama’s Easter Basket: 2016

little dude

This is little dude.

Little dude makes Easter basket stuffing hard sometimes.  He is your very typical three year-old boy.  Loves trucks, outdoors, and looking at our new puppies.  It has been just within the last week that he has started understanding and asking for Bible stories.  I enjoy reading other mommy blogs and love all the creative ways that they incorporate Easter and spiritual education into Easter baskets for their children.  The beautiful books and dolls, the Lego sets, even the candy is symbolic of Easter…..and it will all fly right over his head like one of those planes from the movie he loves.

So, what am I planning on giving a little dude that isn’t old enough to truly understand Easter basket goodies?

I’m so glad you asked.

While I’m still giving him Easter and Bible story books, I decided to get him something that will be useful during this coming spring and summer.

watering the garden

Little dude LOVED helping in our garden last year, so we’re giving him his own garden set.  To be honest, there were about three that I thought of buying.  In the end, we decided to buy him the Green Toys Watering Can and Garden Set.  (We might pick up some cheap seeds at Walmart for him to have his own plants.)

Other than the garden set and a few small stampers and bubbles, we’re just going to use this as an excuse to get some more things for his Mass/ church bag.  (He’s started getting bored with what’s in it now.)  Last year, we gave him the Jesus coloring book by Catholic Book Publishing.  He loved it and so this year, I went to the Catholic bookstore and picked up a coloring book about the Bible.  It’s also published by CBP and is just lovely!   I also bought four small Bible story books and then remembered that I had snitched another one from my in-laws house when we were visiting in December.  Then, my mother and father in-law sent a whole box of books and some candy for Easter, so we may be stretching out some of those book giftings over the whole season of Eastertide.  What can I say?  We love books in this family!

Easter Books 1

Easter Books 2

  • My Easter Basket and the True Story of Easter (There are two versions: the one printed in 2002 and a reprint in 2016.)  We have the older version that we snitched from my in-laws.  It’s adorable!
  • The Story of Easter board book (Patricia Pingry/ Rebecca Thornburgh)
  • The Story of Jesus  (Little Golden Book)  Great minds must think alike.  I bought a copy of this for little dude and then my mother in law sent a copy.  So, mine is going to my classroom and Mom’s is going in the basket.  Two birds with one stone!
  • Mary, My Mother  (Fr. Lovasik)
  • Stations of the Cross  (Fr. Lovasik)  With all the other books, this one may end up being saved for next year.  It’s probably the oldest of the books in content-age, so I don’t mind waiting a bit.

Does your family do Easter baskets?  If so, what are you planning on giving to your kids for Easter?  Anything you would really recommend for next year?  Let me know in the comments.

Easter Basket 2016

P.S. As always, some of these links may be Amazon affiliate links.  I do make some money on purchases made through these links, but I only link to things that I am purchasing or have used personally and am happy with.  So, if you choose to, click with confidence!

The Great Paradox of God’s Justice

gods justiceI was reading a few days ago.  (Ok, I was trying to get in some semblance of personal devotions while watching my son play in the dirt outside our house.)  Since getting this month’s version of the Magnificat, I’ve been trying to read either the morning or evening Scripture passages and hymns for the day.  I’ve haven’t been too successful, but I’m still trying.

As I was reading, I was struck by something odd.  In this Lenten time of mercy, in this great Jubilee Year of Mercy, the readings were from some of the imprecatory psalms.  Rather than readings that spoke of the love and mercy of God, they called out for justice, for God to reach down from Heaven and bring victory to the writer and destroy his enemies.  I couldn’t believe it.  Why, in this season of mercy, would you choose to read and emphasize Scripture that seemed so diametrically opposed to that very concept?

As I continued to read, the passages changed from psalms to the prophets where God promised His people that He would send justice down.  And then, it struck me.  These are the perfect readings for Lent.  Why?  Because in the end, they point to a specific time when God poured out His justice.

A time when God Himself hung dying on cross.  When the breath that gave life to mankind was exhaled one last time.  When the justice of God and the mercy of God came together in the greatest paradox of all time and the cry of every broken, wounded heart for justice was answered.

God’s justice is found in His mercy at the cross and God’s mercy is revealed in the justice of the cross.

The readings make more sense now.  The truth is that our world still calls out for justice.  We all have experienced hurt at some point in our lives – a deep hurt that leaves us desperately longing for the perpetrators to receive their due.  And yet, when we pray for justice to come, do we understand what we really are praying for?  Do we understand that we are asking for God to take that person to His ultimate expression of justice and love?  Do we truly grasp that we are asking for mercy to be poured out again?  And if we do, are we ready for that?

What’s the Point? Discovering the Purpose of Lent

Purpose of Lent

We are halfway through the Lenten season.  That’s three Friday fish dinners down and four to go.  That’s three Mass services without singing the Allelujah….and almost twenty days of trying very hard not to complain.

It’s not going so well.

Basically, I am failing at Lent.  Again.

Let me summarize my Lenten experiences for you.  First Lent observed, I tried to minimize Facebook.  I realized how utterly addicted I am/was to social media.  It was pathetic, really.  The second Lent, I gave up sugar and not caring what I ate.  I basically obsessed over every opportunity to consume doughnuts for the next 40 days.  This year, I quietly asked God what he wanted me to give up this year.  (I’m trying to avoid giving up chocolate.)  He just answered, “Complaining.”  So, I am trying.  And basically I’m realizing how much negative speech comes out of my mouth.  I complain at school.  I complain at home.  Pretty much, it’s my default setting.  Unfortunately, I realize this after it’s come out….hence, the realization that I’m failing at Lent.

Or am I?  Is Lent about perfection or is about realizing again the utter need that I have for God?  Is it about realizing that I cannot make this journey on my own – that on my own power, I will always fail?  And if it the latter, then I believe that it is also a season for a renewed remembrance of God’s grace and life within us.  A life so alive that it overcame death itself – and that life is at work in me if I allow it to be.

So, tomorrow I start again.  I ask Christ to fill me with His grace and life in overcoming these words of death.  I ask you, my brothers and sisters, together with all the angels and saints to pray for me.  And I press on to the prize which is our high calling: holiness.