By Denise Trull
August is the month dedicated especially to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Holy Mother Church invites us to quiet our souls and ponder with our Lady all the things she has stored in her heart.
Whenever I think of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, I always imagine a jewel covered book with creamy, pristine pages. As a writer, I still -- and always get -- a little thrill when someone gives me a beautiful journal with a lovely leather cover. It is a sign to me that thoughts matter and that they should always be only the best kind if they are written in such a book. When I open to the first page and find it fresh, smooth, and free from any marks, I take a swift little intake of breath. What will be written there this year, I wonder? What ponderings will be indelibly inked upon those pages?
As the year travels on, the pages may get worn, there might be lines crossed out or perhaps ink or coffee stains spilled here and there. Some pages may be ripped out entirely as rueful after-thoughts throw away hasty judgements, or perhaps seek to forget particular days I do not wish to remember. Some pages may go on and on in a confident, bold hand -- days of inspiration pushing my pen faster than it can write. All my “prayers, works, joys and sufferings” of each day are recorded.
At the end of the year, I quietly ruffle through the pages and my life passes before me. It is a life symbolized by those ink and coffee stains, those ripped pages, those inspirational highs and the inevitable lows of one born with the stain of Adam’s sin. The pages tell me that I am a work in progress. They show me where I must decrease and where Jesus must increase, where fear must give way to love. That is the beauty of journals honestly kept. They show us what we have found worthy to ponder in our heart.
Our Lady’s life is a book whose creamy, immaculate pages are never torn, never blotted with regrets, or stained with sin. They are pages solely filled with the fine, firm hand of her Son and His Father’s will. What we read in her is ever and always Jesus -- He who has done unto her a ‘mighty thing.' And just as we might share our most intimate thoughts with a trusted friend, and we hold out our book of heart’s pondering to them, Mary trustingly opens her whole heart to us and allows us to read every inch of it. But what is written there? Mysteries. Faithfulness. Surrender. Sorrow. Mother love. Her book is much like ours except for sin. We must truly believe this. She is not some far off goddess. She dwelled among us just as Jesus consented to do. She understands our ways. One of my favorite poets, John Lynch, says this of her:
By reading Mary’s ‘book,’ we learn how to write our own. The more time we spend with her, the more we read what is written in her heart, and the better we will be at writing our own lives -- or letting Jesus do the writing as she did.
The best way to ‘read’ her is through our rosary each day. Holy Mother Church gathered up all of Mary’s stories and adventures for us. We can find them all in one place as the beads slip slowly through our fingers. We ponder as she ponders.
In a very real sense, Our Lady was the first to pray the rosary. She lived each mystery as it came and wrote it in her heart. It is like she opens this beautiful book filled with words and pictures and says quietly, “come sit,” as she pats the place next to her, and we turn the pages together.
These are her travels. She, leading us down the beads like pages of her life, and stopping to point out that silent moment when mighty Gabriel stood before her with his message and she had a decision to make; where she and Elizabeth embraced, one happy mother with another and the Magnificat was exhaled into the world -- her joy, her sheer excitement at saying the words out loud!
She tells us the best of all birth stories. We know she was scared and far from home, but she trusted in God’s mercy and was rewarded with that beautiful Baby God looking up at her. She relates with a marveling sigh when skies were filled with angels’ song, where shepherds shyly entered a cave to sit quietly by her Child and suddenly find their hope. She tells us quite honestly that she lost Him once. That He wandered away from her and Joseph. We feel her panic and fear at losing her boy and the utter relief in finding him again -- maybe her hand trembles a bit as she turns that page for us. The feeling of losing Him is a hard memory.
We sit with her listening to the sermon on the Mount for the first time. This new and beautiful law of love. How her heart expanded at the voice of her Son gathering in the lost and the sinners with His kindness. We taste the mysterious wine of Cana with her and share her delight that His first miracle was at a wedding. She loved weddings like we do.
We walk silently through His passion wondering how she could have born it when we perhaps think of our own sons so dear to us and we shudder. Could we bear the thought of them being terrified unto sweating blood? We feel Our Lady’s real and devastating trauma in watching Him die on a cross and being unable to save Him as every mother would. His sorrow, hearing the insults, the callous game of dice below His cross. This is an emotional trauma that stayed with her all her life. She lets us into that sorrow and we instinctively draw close to her in our own.
We glory with her in the sunrise on the third day coming through her window, knowing He came straight away to embrace her in His glorious arms. We stand below the clouds with her as her Son is taken up into heaven. We are allowed into the upper room when the Holy Spirit came with the fire of His love. We sit quietly with the apostles as they mournfully say good-bye to her at her Dormition. We know how happy she is to see her Son again as she rises to meet Him. She understands how we might miss our own children who live so far away. At the end, we cheer loudly with the whole host of heaven at her crowning as Queen.
After each rosary, Our Lady quietly closes her book and we smile up at her. What a life she led. What a journey she took. Her pages flutter in beautiful, immaculate fiat through the fingers of our souls. And we find strength, light, and wisdom to open our own lives up to the fine, firm hand of Jesus and the Father. What will He write there? Share it with Our Lady. She understands. She will love reading it.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!