May is a time to honor our mothers, grandmothers, Godmothers and of course the Blessed Mother–Mary, the mother of Jesus. And rightfully so, for it was Mary who was brave enough to respond with her YES, that set this great story in motion. When I reflect on Mary, I think of my grandmother who raised me. My grandmother was the glue that held our family together. With hard work and unceasing prayers, she raised seven children and many grandchildren. Her life’s work was dedicated to raising over 350 foster children in our county. I can remember Sunday dinners when all of our family would gather at our house and my grandmother would make a huge pot of ham and cabbage. All of the adults would sit and visit and the children would play together. My grandmother took the role of matriarch very seriously; Grandma could quiet a rowdy child by giving them “The Look”; we all would do her bidding as she was a formidable woman! She was also a gentle and giving soul; she loved having an extra person or two show up unannounced for a meal. She prayed for each and every one of us by name, helping whoever she could, and offering a safe comfortable space to rest a while or just share what was on their minds.
My grandma taught me many things; most importantly to be aware of those in need of a helping hand, and then BE that helper. Growing up, I was often “voluntold’ to go to the store for a neighbor or two or to drag someone’s garbage cans to the curb on garbage day. My uncle and I would rake the leaves in the fall for several of our neighbors. My grandma was often seen on our front porch drinking coffee with neighbors, sharing friendship and love along with the coffee!
I remember one summer day when I came home very upset for a reason long forgotten, my grandma showed me how to pray the rosary and told me how important it was to take those feelings home to Mary so that she can comfort us and intercede for us.
I recently read a poem titled; Cana Wine from the book Woman Un-Bent by Irene Zimmerman, where the scriptural account of the wedding at Cana from John chapter 2 is described. In the poem, Mary was approached by the mother of the groom and was told they had run out of wine. Mary told the woman not to tell anyone else and worked her way through the crowd looking for Jesus. When she found him, she said “They have no wine”. Jesus answered “What concern is this of mine? My time has not yet come.” Mary–not taking “No” for answer–went to the servants and said “Do whatever he tells you.” Mary interceded for the mother of the groom and when Jesus questioned her, I like to think there may have been “the look” as she continued to instruct the servants. Mary gently pushed Jesus to begin his ministry. Did she know what that meant for Jesus, herself and world around her?
I see so many similar qualities between Mary and my own grandma. I’m positive my grandma knew what she was doing when she taught me to pray. When I chose a religious community to explore decades later, I felt called so strongly to a community that honors and celebrates Mary. The Sisters of Bon Secours have a strong devotion to Mary and were given the name under the invocation of Our Lady Help of Christians. We celebrate May 24th as our congregation feast day. My grandma passed away in 1997 but left me with the knowledge of Mary as a spiritual mother. So, this month as we celebrate Mary, let us remember and say thank you to all the “Mary’s” in our own life, our moms, grandmas, aunts, sisters, and the Sisters in community who know us better than we know ourselves, who hold us accountable, love us unconditionally and challenge us as Mary challenged Jesus at the Wedding feast in Cana.