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Thoughts on Mary

Gerard Manley Hopkins, the great Jesuit poet, said in his poem, “The May Magnificat,” that the reason May is Mary’s month is that it is the season of growth. In Mary grew the vision that made her open to the Incarnation; in Mary grew the image of the strong and independent woman; in Mary grew the Christ who changed the lives of all of us. Mary is not a plaster statue. Mary is the woman whose commitment and courage saved the world from self-centeredness. 
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One of my favorite remembrances of grade school is the memory of the May altar. Everyday we said our prayers in front of it; everyday we loaded it down with fresh flowers purloined from every yard along the way to school. It was a child’s way of growing into the idea that heaven was not without a mother’s protection and a woman’s care. This culture has substituted machoism and power for feminine concern and openness. Maybe that’s why all the violence of our time is still such a shock to our systems. It is clearly time for May altars again.
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“Mary, our mother,” is one of Mary’s most common titles. We cling to it all our lives. Why? Because “mothering,” the sense of being cared for and protected, supported and understood, is the human being’s primal need. “Mother’s Day” is the call to all of us to remember those—both women and men—who have mothered us in life and then be conscious of our call to mother those around us, as well.
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The monastic prayer of Compline always ends with a Marian hymn. In the Easter season, monastics sing the Regina Coeli, or “Queen of Heaven.” It is amazing that the church’s attitude toward Mary has not marked the Church’s attitude toward women in general. Perhaps the reason is that we could not see beyond what culture told us that women were and so never really came to conversion. Whatever the reason, we all have a lot of growing to do if the woman, Mary, is ever to be seen as God saw women and saw her.
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It is not insignificant that Mary, Queen of Peace, is also Mary of Nazareth and not Mary of Jerusalem, or Mary of Caesarea. The most significant woman of all time came from one of the area’s most insignificant of places. Mary made nothingness visible. It takes a lot of human growing to find value in the valueless—in small places and simple things and powerless people. But that is the basis for peace, both inside of us and in the world around us.
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In the rosary, when we pray the mystery of the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven, we see a woman raised to the feminine counterpoint of the Divine. It is a call to see equality as the fullness of the Will of God. Are we missing our own message? May is woman’s month. Do something to make the life of women better.