What I want to do is fall to my knees at her feet, to take hold of, and touch to my face, the hem of her long blue skirt. But I can tell she doesn’t want me to do this. What she really wants is some help in the kitchen.
She motions to me to join her in what she is doing. As my mother did when I was young, she hands me my own ball of dough to roll out with my own rolling pin.
She’s busy. She doesn’t want to talk, but to have me do what she does. So I watch her and together we roll out several large, oblong pieces of flat dough. She hands me one of my mother’s biscuit cutters (where did she get that?) and together we make small rounds of all the dough, placing each circle on a long baking sheet.
When the first batches are in the oven, and we have mixed more dough, she puts the kettle on, and motions for me to sit down at the kitchen table.
I look around with interest at the house we are in. It is a plain, comfortable house, probably built in the early 60’s, a combination of wood, brick and worn linoleum, a small window over the kitchen sink, honey suckle vine growing across it. There is a stack of books on the round kitchen table, next to a flowerpot with ivy spilling out of it.
She sets down a cup of a spicy black tea in front of me, and sits down with me. She seems thoughtful as she sips her tea, looking out into the back yard at her garden.
I notice that the books on the table are copies of the various documents of Vatican II.
I tell her I’ve been reading Lumen Gentium and that it is my favorite Vatican II Document. She smiles.
I ask her about Chapter VIII, which was written about her in the life of the Church. She said that as we grow as God’s children, we will see her, in clearer and clearer light, as the Holy Spirit leads the Church. She says that in different ages, different emphases are needed for us to grow in our faith, and understanding, and therefore, love.
I am thinking about this as the kitchen timer rings.
It’s time to take more bread out of the oven and put the next batch in. Fortunately it is a big oven, and this is our last batch.
She makes me a sandwich, pats my shoulder, and goes out to clip some roses from her garden. She then arranges these in the box she packs the now cooled little rounds of bread into.
She washes her face, straightens her kerchief, and motions for me at the door, to come put my sandals on as she is doing.
Soon we are walking down the front path with the boxes of the flat little circles we have baked and crossed on the top.
We head through the neighborhood and then turn onto a down town street. We find a small, simple Catholic Church. (Did that sign really say St. Everyone?) The Church office is closed for lunch, but the door is open, so we leave our boxes inside.
She wants to pray in the main church, so we head back out and around the corner. A side door is open. I whisk my veil onto my head, she pulls her mantle up over her kerchief, and we walk into the cool silence, genuflecting. When she stands up to look at me, I notice a slight glow from the tabernacle and then I glance at her, standing still in the middle of this little church. She is gazing at me, her hands out, the growing glow from the tabernacle illumining her, until she seems made of that light.
In her dark and lovely eyes, I am suddenly lost in a mighty ocean. I understand the immense capacity of her heart to praise and love God continually. In the thundering roar of waves and the groaning of the deep, I understand her longing for her children to know the joy of Jesus and the conversion of their hearts to Love.
I close my eyes, and it seems she takes me through the whole world. Together we move like a gust of wind among people of all ages and races and nations; the suffering, the unfairly treated, the persecuted, the poor, the imprisoned, the used and abused the addicted, the mentally ill, the troubled, the sick, the ignored, the unloved, those who know not how to love, the violent, the hateful, the selfish and the weak, the afraid, the judgmental, the prideful and the powerful. Together we touch them all. Sometimes she takes my hand and touches people with my fingers. The cool, sweet wind of the Spirit blows around us and through us, blessing us, blessing those we walk among.
“Jesus is Love, Jesus is Life. Jesus is Peace. Jesus is Truth. Jesus is the Way,” she says. “My children, pray. Pray. Pray.” She presses small crosses into each hand. Her heart glows with that same light I saw flowing from the tabernacle at the little church, the light of Jesus, who is the Light of the Church, Light of the World.
This Divine Breeze, as well as this humble touch and presence of Mary, too, transforms and unites everyone in Christ, bringing all toward His Love, Redemption, Mercy. This is what she does all day. This is her dream for us.
Now we walk along with the people of God, a holy nation, the Christ light of the world, as they are praying, working, being sanctified and sanctifying the world in all they do.
Then with flashes of lightening and with peels of thunder I see Mary standing on the moon, her crown of stars on her head, clothed with the sun. I hear her wailing in the pains of childbirth and I realize I am crying out with her.
And then we are again standing in this little church, two women of small stature, each a little dusty with flour, in spite of our best efforts. But people are coming in to mass now. I try to recover myself, and breathe normally. I shake my head to clear it.
“If you went to Mass, where would you sit?” I ask her, looking around, wondering what to do.
“I do come to Mass. And I sit with everyone else. Today I will sit with you.”
We sit near the back, and she attends devoutly, listening carefully to the Word of God, saying the responses and making all the gestures with us. She receives Holy Communion with quiet devotion, and prays intensely afterwards. She sings all the hymns with us.
She holds my hand.
I had recognized the bread we had made as it was consecrated and changed by the priest in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) into His Body and Blood.
I am beginning to understand Chapter Eight of Lumen Gentium as it has unfolded in our day together. She squeezes my arm.
We greet people as we walk out into the fresh air and sunshine. She kisses the hand of the priest and he lets her, humbly. Does he know who she is? I wonder.
She puts her arm around me as we walk home. I reflect on the fact that she is the greatest woman who ever was or who ever will be, yet she is also a simple servant of the Lord, walking beside me in worn sandals.
I fall to my knees at her feet. I take hold of the hem of her long blue skirt, touch it to my face, and kiss it.
This time she lets me, though. And she laughs.
O God, Father of mercies, whose only Begotten Son, as he hung upon the Cross, chose the Blessed Virgin Mary, his Mother, to be our Mother also, grant, we pray, that with her loving help your Church may be more fruitful day by day and, exulting in the holiness of her children, may draw to her embrace all the families of the peoples. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, Amen. ~ Liturgy of the Hours for May 21 Morning Prayer
Happy first ever Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church. 🙂