By Hannah Coley
Hannah Coley is a Jesuit Volunteer in Belize. Over the next few months, check out #JVStories as she examines the way women in Scripture have given her clarity and resolve as a women in the Catholic Church, this week we focus on Mary.
While at Loyola University of Chicago, I had a spiritual director with both a creative and open heart. They walked beside me during prayer and for the last two or so years have instructed me to use imaginative prayer. Together we had sat to recall the lives, roles and spirits of the women I find in Scripture. A practice welcomed by JVC as St. Ignatius used the same method to pray. JVs also use the prayer practice during retreats, gatherings and sometimes spirituality nights.
However, it was not until I picked up the book “Soul Sisters” while a Jesuit Volunteer in Belize, that I have been able to understand how I had been feeling about the experiences of these women. Likewise, the ways I have instinctively been connecting their experiences to my own and to those of women I love so dearly. During JVC, it is common to sit intentionally with these questions and to reaffirm those you are so thankful for. This week, I reflect on being consoled by Mary and finding the calm in other women. I do so as a thank you to all those in my life who offer me consolation.
Being Consoled By Mary
“She was deeply troubled by his words, and wondered what his greeting meant. The angel went on to say to her: ‘Do not fear, Mary. You have found favor with God.’” Luke 1:27-33
To flee all that defines home is not a feeling I know intimately. Nor have I feared for my own life, or the lives of those I hold most dear. When I recall the life and narrative of Mary, she helps me to empathize with mothers, sisters and daughters who escape home. Those among us forced to be mother, protectors and endurers.
Mary reminds me that it is in a mother’s love and soothing whispers and gestures of okayness, that fear and sadness often subside. I can hear in a whisper the words that Mary spoke to calm and nurture her baby boy in her womb.
She cradled her tummy along a rigorous, painful, confusing and unsure journey to find a reality of the “okayness.” Moreover, the love she promised the son of God. Mothers and sisters around the world nurture their loved ones with words and touches of gentleness and maternity. Despite some realities of forced displacement, fright, abandonment and confusion.
All The Others Too
When I recall and pray with the life of Mary, I also pray with and for mothers who have lost or fear losing their children to judgments and misconceptions. Alternatively, to the institutions greater than judgement, that carry out the systemic violence and discrimination. I feel for all mothers who are overwhelmed by a God that is supposedly good, compassionate, forgiving.
Then I recall that God is a Mother. She lost Her son to the hands of judgment and misconception, and to Her son’s revolution of love. She knows the pain of mothers. She is you and She is Mary. She is the spirit that connects us women by heart and desire.
Validation of Hope
Mary was not prepared for motherhood, for she was but a teenage girl. Mary was caught off guard. Motherhood or finding one’s place in administering maternal care is not always expected or wanted or prepared for. However, Mary had Elizabeth and Anna the Prophetess to guide her. They were able to offer her wisdom and words of hope and encouragement along her journey. We too turn to our own mother figures in times of seemingly lost faith, weakness and doubt.
I find sanctuary in a God who is feminine, a God who is Mother. She validates my hopes, fears, worries and pains. She feels my pains and my deepest joys. She holds me in Her womb and protects my own. She consoles me.
Hannah Coley graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 2016, prior to signing the covenant as a Jesuit Volunteer in Belize for the 2016-2018 program year! She serves as a Youth/Liturgical Coordinator at St. Peter Claver Parish.