Contemplating her child's readiness to receive the sacraments, Anni Harry looks to the example of the Blessed Mother in the story of the Wedding at Cana.
A few years ago, when my oldest started kindergarten, I wrote a heartfelt open letter to him for a secular site about all the emotions that were stirred up as he started his year. In the piece I remarked on how he was ready to go, but I was so unprepared to let go of his hand … yet I knew that it was time to let go, and let him fly.
The same year my son started kindergarten, he randomly turned to me in a conversation and said, “Mom, I’m ready to receive Jesus. I would like to receive Jesus.” I told him I would consider it and spent a great deal of time speaking with our pastor, family, and friends before making the decision.
Driving down the shoreline, deep in thought on my way to the grocery store, as clear as a bell, the words from one Examination of Conscience that I use came to mind, “Do I keep my children from having access to the sacraments?”
That unsolicited answer made me realize I could not justify holding my son back further, when many times he has made the direct request to prepare for First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion.
To say that I have been plagued with doubt for the entire year of preparation would be an understatement.
“He’s so little, does he really understand??”
“He doesn’t seem to understand the gravity of what he’s about to do, maybe he’s not ready??”
“He doesn’t even face the front of the chapel on a good day, why would I think he’s ready to receive Christ in the Eucharist?!”
But, when rational heads prevailed in clear and honest discussions with him, my son never wavered – he wanted to receive Jesus and was prepared to do the leg work to receive Jesus.
He was recently blessed to receive his First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion. As the morning dawned of his sacraments, I still felt so unsure – was he ready?
Sure, he was able to demonstrate intellectual understanding, but was he truly ready emotionally, and even spiritually?
As I stared deeply into my reflection, preparing for the day ahead, I asked myself, “Is it him – do I really think he is not ready? Or, is the reluctance me being unprepared, just like kindergarten? Am I ready for this next phase?”
The next thought on my heart was chilling, comforting, and deafening, “Was Mary ready?”
Mary was a good and faithful servant, free from sin from the moment of her conception. And, while she wasn’t fallible in the same sense that we are due to our original sin, she still made active choices in her life to remain close to God, to always be in a state of Grace, and to not sin. It is also taught that Mary was learned – she knew Scripture, and when the Angel of the Lord appeared and asked her to be the mother of the Savior, she would have intellectually known that it would require her Son to be sacrificed, like the sacrifices offered to God in the Old Testament.
Even if she didn’t know all the particulars of the agents in the plot, and the specifics surrounding how His death would come about, she would have known He would have to become a living sacrifice.
And still she gave her yes …
Yet, that yes is not what struck me so powerfully the morning of my son’s sacraments. Rather, it was the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1-12) which stood out the most. In John 2:1-12, we read the account of what is now known as Jesus’ entrance into public ministry. We witness how Mary approaches her Son to intercede for the wedding party, and in turn instructs the headwaiter the same as she continues to instruct each of us, “Do whatever he tells you.” Biblical scholars such as Dr. Edward Sri and Dr. Scott Hahn have written so eloquently about this particular passage.
What struck me the most on the day my son received his own sacraments, was the contemplation that Mary would have had, and the bittersweet love she would have felt as she gave her yes to intercede.
As the family went to bed the night before the wedding, did Mary have time to sit alone with her thoughts and prayers, knowing that the next day her Son would be guided by her hand to begin His public ministry?
The morning of the wedding feast, as she prepared her own garments and possibly laid out what Jesus would wear that day, did she have a gut feeling that it was time for her Son to fly?
When she looked around the room as she arrived at the celebration, did she know that in a few hours’ time she would be encouraging her Son to begin to fulfill all that had been written?
And still she gave her yes …
I have loved reading the aforementioned scholars’ works as they recount and explain the Wedding Feast at Cana and Mary’s role. As a mother, I connect with her ability to gently, but firmly, push her Son to start living His gifts and talents.
I see things in my own children that they sometimes fail to see, or that aren’t as important to them. Like Mary, I routinely encourage my own children to reach out of their comfort zone, and step into living their gifts among their peers.
Yet, sometimes, the encouragement is so scary. Unlike Mary, we are fortunate to have a perfect example to look toward when we support and encourage our children to lean into God’s will. We have an opportunity to look toward Mary and find comfort that she shows us precisely how to mother – knowing when to step back and let God manifest in our children.
What is missing are those inner thoughts – the ones she held closest in her heart …
Those missing thoughts are what brings her witness most to life. I don’t believe she was a heartless, unemotional woman whose focus was purely on the end goal of salvation.
Rather, I like to believe that she was a passionate wife, mother, and woman.
I like to find comfort that she often wondered if she was doing the right thing by the Gift given to her by God, and that she often doubted whether or not she was making just the right choices at the right time. I like to find support in contemplating that her encouragement to the headwaiter came with a bittersweet acceptance, knowing it was leading her Son into fulfilling His mission, purpose, and saving souls in the process.
I find strength in knowing that, again, while not fully knowing the particulars of how the end of Jesus’ life would come about, she still encouraged Him to enter into His life’s mission, knowing that ultimately her Son would be a living sacrifice.
And still she gave her yes …
Motherhood isn’t for the fainthearted, and we are all going to doubt, struggle, and at times, resist. But, the beauty of our motherhood in the faith is that we have a Blessed Mother who shines through her witness, and can give us comfort as we contemplate her role in Salvation History, knowing all she endured for love of God.
The question is, though, will you turn to her and invite her to share her feelings of motherhood?
Will you ask her to lead you?
Will you ask her to share some of her strength with you?
I have no doubt she will still give her yes …
Copyright 2020 AnnAliese Harry
Images (top to bottom):
By Cornelis de Baellieur, Public Domain
Copyright 2020 AnnAliese Harry. All rights reserved.
About the Author
AnnAliese Harry is a proud Army wife to her husband Chris, and a mother to their young children. She has a BA in History, a Masters in Social Work, and has worked with disabled veterans, troubled teens, and in early childhood intervention therapy. AnnAliese volunteers with several military chapel communities and serves as a lector, EMHC, Adoration coordinator, and Catholic Women of the Chapel (CWOC) chapter president and vice president. She blogs about Catholicism, parenting, and military life at A Beautiful, Camouflaged Mess of A Life. Follow her on Twitter, on Instagram, or on Facebook.