Thursday, October 17, 2013

Hail Mary

Hail, Mary, full of grace . . . 

It is a habit that I formed when I taught a troubled and troubling group of eighth graders. When I was about to lose it, I didn't count to 10. I said a Hail Mary. Time-wise, it's similar to counting to 20, but it did more than calm me, settle my nerves; it reminded me that God is bigger than all of us. It gave me a moment to turn to Him, and seek the intercession of His mother.

The Lord is with thee . . .

There is a painting I first encountered in a college art appreciation class called "Madonna del Prato" or "Madonna of the Meadow," by Raphael, that depicts the Virgin Mary in a meadow surrounded by frolicking, sweet toddler Jesus and John the Baptist. I have often pondered that scene, but find my mind returning to it more and more as I embark on this new challenge of parenting a toddler. What was that (hypothetical and anachronistically depicted) moment like? Were these boys humanly toddler? Or were they, (by divine birth for one, and God's grace for the other) obedient?

Blessed art thou amongst women . . .

I'm sure every Catholic mother, and many a Christian one of other persuasions, has had this thought in one form or another: Mary, did Jesus, in his humanity, ever throw His peas all over the floor? Did you sigh? Again?!? Or did you merely ponder this in your heart, too?

And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus . . .

I find myself turning back to the Hail Mary as my "10 count" in these days of toddler parenting. Perhaps not as often or as quickly as I need to, but I'm learning to be patient with my strong-willed girl. I have a long way to go.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners . . . 

A few days ago, Clare was having an extreme anti-diaper change day. She was generally having a clingy, needing Mama kind of day, but diapers were particularly challenging. *Twist.* I'm doing this because I love you. *Squirm.* Believe me. *Kick. Kick. Kick.* Please. *Scream.*

In desperation, I began to pray.

I was given a moment of grace, and a reminder that what my girl needed was Mama's love. I leaned over and held her in a hug, and Clare calmed immediately. I found myself looking at my girl, at a face I've gazed upon countless thousands of times, from a funny angle. It was a perspective I had never had. And for a passing moment, I saw it. I saw the same, tiny profile captured in a sonogram so many months ago.

I saw her, in that moment, not an angry, frustrated toddler or a sweet little baby or a precocious girl in the making. I saw all of her. I saw her how God must see her. I saw an innocent child of God. I saw love.

Now, and at the hour of our death.

"Hail Mary, full of grace . . ." So often, I find myself distracted. "Mother Mary, help me to be full of grace, full of patience, to survive this moment." I find myself relying on grace and patience I don't have to get through. That's not to say I don't have my moments of frustration, anger, impatience, intolerance (shall I go on?), but that with God's grace, there are fewer of them. That, in God, there is infinite grace to live the vocation to motherhood that He has called me to. I just have to ask.


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