In a poignant reflection, John Clark reminds us to turn to Our Lady in our darkest hour, she loves us and offers a consolation greater than we can imagine.
Years ago, I faced a very difficult stage of my life. The circumstances—the hows, whys, and whats—don’t particularly matter.
That is a story for another time perhaps. What matters is the who and where.
Back then, at the end of each day over the course of several weeks, as things grew increasingly difficult for me, I stopped in a little chapel. I slowly walked in, blessed myself, fell down on my knees in the back of the church, stared at the statue of Mary, and sobbed.
Gazing upon an image of my Heavenly Mother, I imagined myself to be a small boy, sitting on her lap, crying to her. In a world of poor listeners, I knew that a mother hears the tears of her child—no matter how big or little that child might be.
As a man of nearly fifty years of age who prides myself on how much I can bench press, this personal account is not necessarily a “manly” thing to admit, yet, in the years following, I have come to realize that this was the perfect response of an imperfect man. It’s no secret that in tough times, modern men often turn to the false consolations of alcohol and pornography, yet I found myself inebriated by the very face of purity. Mary led me closer to her Son, and I became—I hope—a better man in the process.
When Tough Times Endure
There is a saying that “Tough times don’t last; tough people do.” Not to depress you, but I don’t necessarily agree with this aphorism on either count. Tough times might last your whole life. I know people who have experienced tough times since the 1970s. Poverty, illness, and legal troubles—these are not always things that quickly vanish. And then there are the spiritual assaults of the world, the flesh, and the devils who envy our happiness and joy. These can endure also.
And as for tough people, I would counsel you that if your primary goal in this world is to be tough, you won’t have much of a life at all. Your toughness may simply form calluses on your heart and soul to the point where you can no longer feel a human touch, or a Heavenly one.
It wasn’t toughness that got Jesus through the flight to Egypt, or His scourging at the pillar, or His crowning with thorns. It wasn’t due to toughness that Jesus embraced His cross. It wasn’t an exhibition of toughness when Jesus—covered in wounds and thorns and dirt—picked up His blood-drenched cross for the third time. It wasn’t toughness at all.
It was love.
It was always love.
And it’s a dangerous theology that suggests otherwise.
The whole world encourages you to be tough, to be hardened. Fight against that. Use every ounce of love to fight against that toughness. Use every grace of God to respond to the hardness of the world with the softness of love. Because however long the tough times last, it is love that sees us through them.
Keep the Focus on Mary
We will all face tough times. You will experience physical suffering. Friends will betray you. Strangers will exhibit inexplicable malignance. Despite your best efforts, some people will cheer your misfortune. Each of these things happened to Jesus. And yet, there was Mary at the foot of the cross.
And that made a world of difference.
The world keeps revolving and many of her inhabitants keep turning away from God. But whatever revolutions might occur in your life, stay focused on Mary who knows you, loves you, and understands you.
As Bishop Sheen phrased it, “As the mother knows the needs better than the babe, so the Blessed Mother understands our cries and worries and knows them better than we know ourselves.”
Whatever life throws at me, I’m taking Jesus’ counsel to another man named John, some two thousand years ago: “Behold thy Mother.”