May 1, 2020


Mary was a tough woman

Catholics have always had a special devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus, especially during May, which is traditionally observed as Mary’s Month.

Artists have portrayed Mary in countless paintings, most often in mother-and-child paintings, as sweet, patient and holy—as she was. But she was also tough when she needed to be. Let’s review some of her life’s experiences:

The first thing we know for sure about Mary is that the angel Gabriel appeared to her and asked her to become Jesus’ mother. She didn’t just say, “Sure!” She wanted to know how that would happen since she has “no relations with a man” (Jn 1:34). After being told, she accepted because, as she said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38).

Gabriel also told her that her relative Elizabeth was six months pregnant. So she immediately decided to help her relative. That didn’t entail just walking down the street though. Elizabeth lived in Ein Kerem, about 90 miles away. It is likely that Mary joined a caravan there and back, traveling about a week each way, probably on foot.

Back at Nazareth, she faced the problem that she was pregnant and Joseph, to whom she was betrothed, knew that the child wasn’t his. We can only guess at the discussions they had about that, but Joseph eventually accepted the situation after learning through an angel in a dream that it was through the Holy Spirit that the child was conceived.

Then, unexpectedly, they had to travel again, this time to Bethlehem, near Ein Kerem, to register in a census. This time she rode a donkey while Joseph walked. Nevertheless, it took a tough woman to do that while she was nine months pregnant. And she had her baby in a cave where animals were stalled. Tough woman.

After that, Mary, Joseph and Jesus became refugees as they had to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s soldiers. They experienced all the hardships of refugees.

After their return to Nazareth after Herod’s death, Mary and Joseph had to put their lives together again after a long absence. Her life was probably not easy. Carpenters at the time were not rich, so Mary would have worked all day cooking, doing laundry and keeping a Jewish kosher home. There wasn’t a lot of time for her to just sit back and enjoy her family.

She and Joseph carefully followed all the Jewish devotions, and that included traveling to Jerusalem for Passover. When Jesus was 12 years old, he decided to remain in Jerusalem at the end of Passover. Imagine Mary’s emotions when she learned that and had to return to the city to find him.

Jesus remained home for 30 years. When, at the wedding feast at Cana, Mary asked him to perform a miracle and he replied that his hour hadn’t yet come, she obviously thought otherwise. She apparently had authority at that wedding feast because she told the waiters to do what Jesus told them to do. She was well aware that, once he turned water into wine, there was no chance that he could return to Nazareth and resume life as before.

Finally, there was her Son’s passion and death. Imagine the anguish she felt when she met Jesus as he was carrying his cross, with blood flowing down his face from his head crowned with thorns, knowing that he was soon to be crucified. It’s always tragic for a mother to lose a child in death, but that’s what Mary experienced. Not just any death, but the tortuous death of a criminal.

Mary’s later life, after Jesus’ resurrection, was spent with John. Their home has traditionally been considered the first Christian church.

From her experiences, she is able to understand all of our problems. We should go to her with them frequently.

-John F. Fink

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