Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace:
Inspiration for Motherís Day

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the May 3, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

Mary Cronk Farrell This time of year itís easy to get sentimental about motherhood. Going out to brunch, receiving a card or gift does help a mom feel appreciated. But most of us need more to sustain us through day-to-day motherhood, a vocation that calls for the strength of steel as well as the softness of rose petals.

The rewards of motherhood are undeniable. So too are the challenges and grief. Mothers need supportive friends and family to listen, encourage, and lend a hand. We need role models, women who live hard choices with soft hearts, who bring discord to wholeness, who nourish authentic life in a culture of false promises, and who choose faith in the face of doubt and death.

Mary, Mother of Jesus, has long offered inspiration. But like many of my generation, I grew up with a glass figurine image of Mother Mary. In my mind, the Blessed Virgin would never have doubts, raise her voice, or question authority. I imagined she had not struggled with the temptations or challenges I faced. I deduced that, likewise, the ideal Catholic women would not have these struggles.

I couldnít live up to this, but I believed I should keep trying. Being named for the Blessed Virgin Mary, I was especially devoted. Through my childhood I wore a miraculous medal and treasured a small statue given to me by my aunt, Sister Agnes Marie. In the statue a sky-blue veil covered Maryís blond hair, and set off her flawless cream complexion. Eyes closed, hands folded in prayer, she was the epitome of sweet, serene, submission.†I said countless ďHail MarysĒ in my efforts to become like her.

As an adult woman and mother, life eventually brought challenges that could not be met with submission. I could no longer ignore my doubts, keep quiet and go along with authority. I looked for new role models who could help me see how to live as a woman of faith and integrity engaged in the world. I discovered some women had cracked the plaster, freed Mary from her pedestal and brought her to life down here in the real world with the rest of us.

Now I picture her with dark hair, olive skin, work-roughened hands, and coarse clothing. She goes by the name Mary of Nazareth. I understand she lived less like me, and more like an unwed welfare mother, a Third World peasant, or a refugee in an occupied land, who sees her son killed by soldiers.

The Gospels give us few details about Mary. Extrapolating from historical context and current biblical exegesis, we discover Mary was a radical woman of faith and courage.

At the Annunciation, God calls Mary to be a partner in the work of redemption, similar to how God called Moses in the burning bush. She freely agreed to trade what security she had for the unpredictable and dangerous. Scripture tells us she asked questions. She pondered things in her heart. Despite the fear and doubt she must have felt, Mary stepped out in faith.

In her Magnificat she proclaimed a radical message. God is doing great things for the poor: bringing down the mighty from their thrones, exalting the lowly, filling the hungry, and sending the greedy away empty. God fulfilled his ancient promise through her. For she embodies the humble of this world whom God is liberating. As theologian Elizabeth Johnson says, with a mother like this, itís no wonder Jesusí first words in Luke proclaim that he has come to free the captives and bring good news to the poor.

In her older years after Jesusí resurrection, Mary participated in the early Jerusalem community, a Jewish Christian community. Maryís understanding of faith remained Jewish Ė that is, a belief that the coming of the Messiah would bring about justice for all.

There is nothing sentimental about this Mary of Nazareth. Facing the challenges of motherhood, she is an empowering role model. She inspires me to live with joy in Godís faithfulness, and with hope Godís justice is at hand.

© 2007, Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and childrenís writer. Her latest book, Celebrating Faith: Year-Round Activities for Catholic Families, has been published by St. Anthony Messenger Press. Contact her at

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