While spending the holidays with my family in Scottsdale, AZ, we had the pleasure of attending Our Lady of Joy in Carefree. In the front of the chapel there is a painting of Mary holding and playing with Jesus amongst the cacti and other plants of the Sonoran desert. As I've written before, I haven't always had the easiest time connecting to Mary. But something about this painting drew me in, made me think more about Mary the person, not The Blessed Virgin Mary. What were Mary's hopes and dreams? We know very little about Mary, primarily her family, her youth, her humility and her faithfulness. But there must have been so much more to her; surely she had hopes and dreams and fears. As an only child, did she long for a house full of children, so that her children would not be alone? Though she probably didn't dream of love as we now imagine romantic love, what hopes did she have for her future husband? As a faithful, pious young woman, she probably hoped for a husband who would also be strong in faith. Did she hope that her husband would be learned or a man of means? Did she simply hope that he would be kind and treat her well? Did Mary dream of a handsome husband? Did Mary, knowing of her cousin Elizabeth's barrenness and her parents' difficulties, pray that she might not undergo that trial? Did she dream of permanence, a home where she would spend the rest of her life? We know that Mary was humble and that most Jews expected the Messiah to come as a king, so she almost certainly did not dream of bearing the Son of God.
Whatever Mary hoped and dreamed before her betrothal and visit from the Archangel Gabriel, it almost certainly was not what she got. Mary's plans and hopes and dreams, like ours, were turned upside down by God. Until that moment, I never imagined that Mary could understand the loss and pain of infertility. She may not have experienced infertility or miscarriage, but she experienced the trial of finding out that God's plan for her was different from what she had imagined for herself. Though she might not have been through month after month after year of trying, of feeling loss every month, she almost certainly had some moments of fear and uncertainty when traveling to Bethlehem late in her pregnancy or when the angel warned Joseph to flee to Egypt. Though she was obedient and faithful, Mary still may have questioned what God was doing in her life; she may have doubted or worried. Mary's pregnancy and maternity doesn't have to be what keeps me from turning to her, for it was that pregnancy and maternity that turned her world upside down, as my lack of pregnancy and maternity has turned my world upside down.