“She felt the peace that things would be all right... God seemed real, real enough to be present to her need.”
Three times a day we recite in the Angelus the commemoration of the saving event of God’s entrance into history, through the response of Mary’s freedom. Our founder John Cardinal O’Connor would say, “Mary would never see the world in the same way again because she had conceived beneath her heart the Word, the Son of God made flesh within her.”
In Mary, we see the capacity we were meant to live. We see the trust God has in each of us and the reality that every invitation to receive life also brings new life in unexpected ways. Unlike us, in Mary there is no resistance. She has not been wounded by anything selfish. She calls us to discover the ability that Christ gives us to see His coming again and again.
One day at our convent, a young and pregnant mother, Shanesse*, came to the door with little Miguel, her wide-eyed boy of five, clutching her hand in terror. Miguel, Shanesse explained, was a child with Autism. Gradually, between furtive glances at his mom and the Sisters, Miguel seemed to find a sense of comfort and eventually became confident enough to explore. Winking at Shanesse, one Sister slipped out to accompany Miguel as he passed down the back stairs and up the front stairs peeking in our doorway before making another pass. He was very content to keep this up as his mother and I caught up and chuckled over their adventure on the subway.
Near the end of our time, I came out to check on Miguel and discovered another adventure underway. I laughed out loud at what I saw. There, swirling around his feet, were hundreds of images in hues of soft red, deep blue and flecks of gold, in perfect cadence, each tilted carefully to reveal the gentle face of a beautiful Lady. Last year, Villa Maria Guadalupe printed their schedule of retreats on color postcards featuring the face of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The postcards had been sprinkled about – and each one seemed to smile up at us.
Shanesse emerged peering down anxiously at the scene. She was about to apologize, but when she saw us all gazing down over Miguel’s small shoulders, enraptured by his feat, she laughed. Her face, concerned about a “mess,” relaxed into the warmth of recognition. She saw that we beheld and appreciated her son – the one who brought her out of herself – the one whose own unique way of being invited her to love, to know love. And in that rest, even if at first unknowingly, she acknowledged the presence of Another. Later she actually said it was at that moment she felt the peace that things would be all right, God seemed real, real enough to be present to her need.
In instances like these it becomes evident: when we receive life, His coming to us, we participate in His giving life to the world. When we welcome Him, as Mary did, in our ordinary concrete circumstances with a readiness to respond – we experience life as abundant. When we welcome Him we experience ourselves as alive and the truth that Christ is present even when life is confusing or difficult.
Yet how often we become used to our patterns and ideas and the distractions of the day. We resist or fear interruption; time can weigh upon us and it can become habitual to hunch our shoulders against the demands of the day. We feel our limits; we feel our weakness to do more. It is here that the Cross confronts us. So we turn to Mary, and with her we acknowledge that God is the Father of everything, that He has given us everything in His Son. The openness of her embrace, her “Yes,” shines as a reminder to us. In her we can believe that everything comes to us within His Providence and it spills out of His hands like a seed or a promise – Life! Mindful of our need, we beg the grace to know in our day that nothing comes to us outside the radius of God’s tenderness for us. He is near. He is here. He is speaking to us. He is revealing something of Himself to each of us.
Cardinal O’Connor imparted the legacy of this vision to us quoting a poem, The Annunciation, by a Redemptorist, Father Duffy: “And nothing would again be casual or small, but everything with light invested over-spilled with terror and divinity…”
We seek to welcome the Light of Christ’s coming every day. These encounters are not just for Sisters, but for every Christian. Just as the Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary’s “Yes” enfleshed Christ in the great event 2000 years ago, the Holy Spirit comes to bring Christ again and again. May we seek to see with the eyes of our hearts and receive a deeper awareness of His coming right before us in each person in the ordinary circumstances of our lives. And may Our Lady accompany each of us on our journey with her maternal embrace and the encouragement of her prayers.
*Name changed for anonymity
Originally published in our Winter 2011 issue of Imprint.