Monday, August 22, 2011

The Queenship of Mary

“She knew, better than anyone else will ever know it, that the greatest of all griefs is to be unable to mitigate the suffering of one whom we love. But she was willing to suffer that, because that was what He asked of her,” writes Caryll Houselander of Mary in The Reed of God.
Not long before I got sick, I was assigned through an academic internship to spend some time with people who had been referred to my care by their doctors. All of them were sick and most of them were dying. They were all grieving in various ways, various issues they had yet to resolve. Some wrestled with leaving young children behind, while others were much older and coping with spousal bereavement on top of the losses and loneliness they were experiencing through their own ill health.
Among them, however, was one who did not seem to struggle as the others did. And, in my opinion, her situation was by far the worst. Of course, to honor my promise of confidentiality I cannot tell you her story, but I will tell you of my own struggle.
It is difficult to see a person nailed to a cross in any case, but in a case where the place that person is nailed is hell, it is all a body can do to hold back from taking that person and their cross, throwing them over your shoulder and making a run for it. Sure, keep the cross, but can’t we move it somewhere nicer?
I would tempt this woman with the better life she could have if only she would relocate. It was just too much, what she was bearing… too much for my heart. At each visit, she would greet me cheerfully with a cup of tea and a chocolate, or a bowl of soup, mingling stories of fond memories with tales of woe she was currently enduring, her Bible always at hand on the table where we sat.
Clinically, she was no masochist. Moreover, she was perfectly lucid and aware of her situation, much more so than any of the others. She was where she was for a reason, a good reason, and at the time, I had difficulty accepting that. I let her be and stay as she was, but ended our sessions feeling as though I had failed in that, because nothing had changed for her. 
Some months later, bent in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament on the Marian feast day of the Visitation, I was struck with the insight, the admonition really, that in the person of this woman, I had tried to remove Jesus from the cross. That realization sliced right through me when it came. Boy, did I fail! Thankfully, my own failure to recognize Christ so profoundly present in her did not alter the fulfillment of her mission to be His presence in the midst of that place.
I am sorry now that because I couldn’t get past my desire for her relief from that suffering, I was unable to share more deeply with her that cup which Our Lady shared in full with Our Lord, Jesus. This is but one of the reasons why Mary is crowned Queen of Heaven and we honor her today, because “[s]he would not try to take away His suffering. In this she was more than one with Him.” (The Reed of God)
It is the grief and inner struggle every care giver, friend, mother, father, wife, husband, and child is called by God to engage in loving a person who is long suffering and/or dying slowly, to be with them, simply be with them until it is finished.

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