I was recently looking through our family photo albums at my parents’ house and noticed a curious lack of photographs of my mother. There were the requisite pictures of her at the births of each of her 6 children, of course. But, to be honest, even most of the hospital pictures are of our father or us children with the new baby or of various visitors holding our new addition.
Truly, there are only a handful of other pictures of her. They are precious and few.
I know that she was always there. She was quietly behind the scenes. Or, behind the camera. She was making our meals, cleaning our messes, kissing our hurts, praying in the carpool line. She was a constant and steady presence in our home. She spent her days teaching and forming us, her children, to know God and bear witness to Jesus. And, yet, there are so few pictures of any of her essential work in weaving the fabric of our lives.
In the day to day practice of her maternity, there were no photographers to document the hidden life of this woman—always there, incredibly important, but mostly unrecorded.
To be sure, the rarity of her appearance in our family albums is no indication of an absence from our lives. I think the same of Mary, Mother of the Church, whose feast we liturgically celebrate universally this Monday after Pentecost.
We know that she was and is always there.
St. Josemaria Escriva, a devoted son of “the Mother of God and mother of mankind,” remarks in his work Christ Passing By that Mary is indeed our Mother in the order of grace. “From the first moment of the Church all Christians who have sought the love of God—that love revealed in Jesus Christ—have encountered our Lady and experienced her motherly care.” Truly, can there be anyone on this earth who better fits the bill for blessed motherhood as described by her own Son: “blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it”?
By hearing the message of God and observing it, she said yes to become the Mother of the New Adam. She was there the very moment our Savior took flesh in her womb. Through her body and in the care of her heart passes to us the source of all grace, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
We have only a handful of Gospel snapshots of her, but her presence is that of a loving and humble Mama who needn’t be in every picture to be prominent.
We celebrate this feast of Mary, Mother of the Church, so fittingly on the day following the birthday of the Church, Pentecost, because she was there as our Mother. Quietly. Behind the scenes. She compassionately suffered in the upper room the labor pains of a Church about to be born by the Holy Spirit. She knew, more than any creature in the history of mankind, the power of His overshadowing and the fruit born from cooperation with the Spirit.
Pope Benedict XVI once observed, “The Holy Spirit, who at Nazareth descended upon her to make her the Mother of the Word Incarnate, descended. . .on the nascent Church joined together around her in the Upper Room.”
We are given this day as a liturgical “snapshot” in our Church’s “family album” for us see that she was there at our birth. She has loved us, prayed for us, and watched over us from our nativity from the singular place she enjoys as “Mother of the Church.”