Mary: An Ordinary Woman

Catherine Doherty

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Consider Mary as she really is. Everybody glorifies Our Lady. Of course she is to be glorified. She is the Mother of God.

But I would like to tell of her ordinary life. There are many women like myself who feel that she is so high up that nobody can touch her. It is true that she is high up, but she is also very ordinary.

What did she do all day? I imagine she washed and scrubbed and cleaned. She was married to a carpenter. She wasn't a big shot in Nazareth. Nazareth was a small town. Joseph wasn't a big shot, just a carpenter. She tended to her husband and Son, especially when he was small. She cooked, she scrubbed and she washed and wove and attended to the garden and did the laundry. Our Lady was the first person who really knew how to do the will of God in its minute details.

I revel in her normality because she is ordinary and at the same time extra-ordinary. It was an ordinary household and that is a most fantastic thing. Our Lord chose for his mother a working woman, because that's what she was, a working woman.

She got up in the morning, and on some days of the week carried the laundry to the pool. The women of Nazareth must have come to her constantly because she was who she was. She must have kept, not a cookie jar, but the Eastern sweets that all the Eastern people love, and children must have come to her.

I think of her in realistic terms, but I also think of her as the woman with the power to stand under the cross of her Son silently, and in some sort of an incredible way, understand at that moment she became the mother of all humanity, for whom he died.

She's the woman of speech and she's the woman of silence. She's stronger than an army in a battle array and as weak as only a woman can be with God. She dusted and she cleaned. And she cooked and she knew how to weave because she wove his seamless garment. Her life was a sea of small things so infinitely small that they're almost not worth mentioning. The corn had to be ground, her house swept, the meals prepared; day after day, the Mother of God did those things.

From her we can learn the quality of listening, and of taking up the words of men as well as the words of God, holding them in our hearts until the Holy Spirit cracks them wide open and gives us the answer as he did to her, for he was her Spouse.

You asked me to explain who Our Lady is. You could say that she's the gate. She's the gate to the way to the Father, because it is through her that Christ came to us; it is through her that we return to him.

Who is Our Lady? A woman like you and me. She is someone to whom my heart goes out all day and who is with me as a friend, and with whom I can talk.

We all should talk about her Son. For you see, she changed his diapers and he drank her milk, and she kissed his boo-boos away like any woman does to a toddler. He scratched himself, so she kissed it away. He went, and he fell and he got up and he grew up, and she probably said, "Eat your porridge," and she probably said, "Don't forget your sandals. It's wet."

Who has lived with God as Mary has lived with him? To whom can we go and find out that he is really a man? From whom shall we know the Incarnation better than from the woman who carried him in her womb nine months?

How can one talk about throwing devotions to Our Lady out? Do you want to throw out the woman who was pregnant with God and who will never lead you away from him but always to him?

Is it not astonishing that you know little about her, because you think of her in terms of the queen of the angels, which she is; the queen of the universe, which she is. But you see, God was a carpenter and she was a housewife. And God is in heaven and he still has calloused hands in his glorified body. And she, who also has been assumed into heaven and has a glorified body, still has hands that show she was just a working woman; that she was a woman like you.

They say she lived to be about sixty, so she must have been a woman like me. She is all things to all people because she is the mother of mankind. How can you not love her? How can you not go to her, run to her? She has the secret of everything, now that she is where she is. And when you worry about some kind of a mystery or have a hang-up on something or other in spiritual matters, why don't you go to her? She'll say, "Oh relax, kiddo. I've had it for sixty years. I only found out now. But it's all yours. What I know now, it's all yours. Let us sit down and talk."

What a strange thing it is that God chose her, and because she was the gate through which he came, there it is a gate, wide open for us to go through to him. She is that gate.

(This "Pass It On" was adapted from the new book Bogoroditza Ch.11)

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Matthew Brooks is a Catholic artist, sculptor and Founder of Art for the Catholic Restoration, an organization which seeks to restore the visual arts to their former high standards in service of the Church. The example of his work shown in this article and others can be viewed in more detail at the ACR web site.