Mary and the Saints/My Faith/Theology Seeing Beyond the Poop: Mary’s Perfect Love by Rachel Penate Hands folded, eyes closed, head tilted… perfect face, pristine lips… this is Mary. At least, this is the Mary we see. This is the Mary sacred art depicts. This is the Mary I encountered growing up. This is the Mary I thought I knew. She is a gentle woman, stainless and beautiful. These images of Mary that peer in from the stained glass windows and stand stoically as a statue in the corner are indeed accurate and true. But, what we see is only the exterior, like the Instagram pictures we post. What took my heart longer to discover was the caption, the chaos, the story that exists beyond those tender snapshots. In many ways, I understood who Mary was, but I didn’t quite understand what her role was in my life. That is, until I became a mother myself. Okay, okay, before I lose you — as I’m sure many of you are not mothers — here is the straight talk: Mary is as much my mom as she is yours, and Mary is such an incredible advocate. What I’ve learned about Mary’s role as our mother in the year that I’ve been a mother is something that I find valuable enough to pass on to you. Even the Poop Have you ever felt as though you can’t relate to Mary because she is so perfect? Being a mom has taught me that Mary actually doesn’t mind all of our “poop.” Before my daughter was born, I probably changed a total of three diapers, and each time I gagged a whole lot. I was a little bit surprised upon spending the first few days with my little girl that I didn’t care one bit about her poop. It was still poop, it was still gross, but it was somehow different – she was my daughter. Mary looks at all the “poop” in our lives – those dumb situations we often weasel ourselves into – and she doesn’t bat an eye. It doesn’t bother her, but (the best part is) she doesn’t leave us in our filth. She sees the messiness in our lives, and with her assistance, she offers us a change of heart and practice. For Real Do you ever feel undeserving of Mary’s attention and love? Me too. But the good news is this: By simply being her child (despite any insecurity or impurity), Mary loves us. My daughter hasn’t done much of anything to win my love. She poops, she sleeps, she does smile, but she also has a terrifying scream. There has been no conversation, no plea in which she’s vied for my attention or poetically tried to win me over. She is my daughter regardless of what she has, says, or does. And, I love her intensely. Mary’s love for us is even deeper than this, and thank goodness for that! Because, my insecurities and impurities are overwhelming sometimes and a life in which we need to constantly prove ourselves is exhausting. We don’t need to prove anything to Mary. Her love is unconditional. Endlessly Patient Do you ever wonder if Mary gets sick of picking up the pieces after us? I thought I was a patient person at red lights, and then God gave me a screaming infant. Even when I’m at the end of what I think my limit is for patience, there is more somewhere deep down inside that I dig out. Mary’s patience is even greater. I’m convinced her love is too great to give up on us. She’s patient with us because she understands the disposition of our hearts. And as I try to understand why my daughter cries and respond patiently to her needs, I know that Mary does the same. She sees the value of continuing to extend her hand out to us when we’ve fallen away from the Lord. Because she knows that every time she reaches out her hand to us there is another opportunity to know our Lord greater and love Him deeper. Full of Big Dreams and Hopes In the end, no matter how many times we ponder these questions about Mary and ourselves, she is always there for us and she is always cheering us on. When we feel defeated, when we feel directionless, Mary is there. She is always there. When Jesus handed Mary over to John (and subsequently all of us) at the cross as our mother, He didn’t place any conditions on the relationship (John 19:26-27). He didn’t say “behold your mother… for the next 10 years or until you do something stupid.” No! He said “behold your mother.” Period. End of sentence. She has been placed into our lives permanently, as our own mothers are permanently bonded to us in the same way. There is nothing we can do to lose her favor as her children. Even when we don’t deserve it. I think of my own mom who always stood right by me in the mess I made but then pointed me to something greater. I want to be just like that – always there by my daughter’s side guiding the way; always there with her while she chases her dreams, even running right by her side if necessary. This is Mary, Our Lady. She has hope for our future and is always leading us back to the One — the only One — who has the power to fulfill our every hope and desire. Mary, my mother, I desire to know you better this day. Lord, teach me about your mother – may I know her in the stories of Scripture but also in the depths of my heart. Mary, pray for me, please pray for my soul. Always take my hand when I fall and always lead me back to Christ. May I love you more deeply today than yesterday and may my love for you and others reflect the love of your son. Amen.