Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (2 May 2015)
Superheroes or secret agents are quite firmly entrenched in psyches and we know about how they all live double lives. People at large have two different ways of seeing and relating with them. In their private, ‘secret’ identities, they move around just like any other person on the street. Clark Kent, the mild mannered alter-ego of Superman was a journalist. Their superhero or secret agent selves however, inspire awe and wonder among others and many admire them and want to emulate them. But despite these differences, both personae belong to the same person.
It’s May and it’s the month of our Blessed mother and during this month, we remember Mary in a special way and come especially to the Novena to our Lady of Perpetual Help to pray with her for our intentions and for the world. I’d like to share a reflection on two articles on Mary I read in the Herald recently. What we sometimes don’t realise is that we also have two very different ways of seeing and relating with her. One way is to relate with her as Mary Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven, Star of the Sea, the first disciple and Mother of the Church. We have many titles for her and all of them are wholly appropriate but in our veneration of her, do we sometimes forget her other side?
Other side, one might ask? Yes, the other side where we realise that Mary was also an ordinary woman dealing with ordinary problems. When we look closer at her life, we realise how powerless she was in her ability to respond to things that happen to her. In her fiat, her saying ‘Yes’ to God, she had to let go of her plans for her own life and followed the Lord’s instead. She fled to Egypt, back to Nazareth and lost Jesus once at the age of 12 for several days and later experienced the ultimate sorrow of losing Jesus to the crucifixion. In the midst of all this, she did what all mothers and wives did – cared for and loved her family. Pope Francis pointed out how ‘wonderfully humble’ she was and we realise how utterly ordinary she was while she was extraordinarily blessed by God.
Perhaps that’s what makes her so extraordinary – that she realised that we’re all blessed despite our seeming ordinariness. She said as much in the Magnificat and we should recognise that too. However, the ordinariness and our blessedness are sometimes not evenly matched. We sometimes lose sight of our blessedness and grace and instead wallow in self pity at how ordinary we can be. At other times, we think we’re so extraordinary that we forget how all those too are gifts from God. Our Blessed Mother does neither of these and leads us to live a life fully embracing God’s will and gifts while being committed to living the ordinary lives well.
And perhaps that’s how we’re called to live – ordinary lives with the extraordinary grace that God imbues in all of us. To live like the superheros, secure in the knowledge of their giftedness but content to live as an ordinary person, bringing out the powers as and when they’re needed. Mary led a silent, unassuming life. But it was a life that was full of love, expressed in her bringing Jesus up and staying with him through everything. We also learn that her ability to deal with all that life throws at her comes from her close relationship with her son. Her ordinary love and her relationship with Jesus – keys to living that extraordinary life.
This May, as we spend our time deepening our devotion to our Blessed Mother through praying the rosary, coming for Novena prayers and the like, how about spending some time trying to be like her. Seeking to love in our ordinariness and to nurture our relationship with Jesus her son. By reaching out to others as she did all her life. The Holy Father mentioned celebrating the humanity of our blessed Mother. We should do that while celebrating the humanity, the God-gifted blessedness of each other during this month of May. Isn’t that a worthy gift that we can give to others and to Mary this month?