Rich Paxson

4.4.8b-The grandeur in the everyday: Listen and Share — Please share what Mary, Jesus’ mother, has meant to you and your faith journey. Has your understanding of Mary changed in response to this module? In what way?

I think of Mary playing only a slight role in the growth and change of my faith journey. James describes Mary as one who “… patiently helps us undo the knots that tie us into the old creation, so as to help us come to reflect the new” and also how in her life Mary was “stretched.”

“And here it really is worth our while to spend a little time with Mary, for if there is any way at all that we can understand the things I’ve been trying to point towards here, it is in her company. Her personal history is one of being stretched out of myth and into history. There is a continuity between the old creation and the new, between the Old Israel, and its institutions, and the new, and it is lived out by Mary being stretched by what is done in her as she provides the flesh for the Lord God to come among his people; and then in what is done to her as the Lord God works among his people. She is the first, and most complete example of that “secondariness” that I’ve been trying to bring out in this essay, receiving who she is through the regard of the Presence which has come into history through her.”

While that’s a long quotation, I wanted to include it all, because it reflects my dawning understanding of the meaning of Mary’s life, its connection to “secondariness,” and the reality that grace stretches each of our lives into the grandeur of relationship with all generations of our brothers and sisters.

My wife’s Aunt Dorothy comes to mind. Dorothy left Emmetsburg, Iowa in the 1930s for Detroit where she began her faith journey as Mercy nun Sister Concetta. In the second half of her life, Dorothy left the Mercy Order and married. She and Paul never had children. No, Dorothy’s children lived all over the United States.

Dorothy dedicated the last half of her life to ‘parenting’ the growth of the Teen Encounters Christ (TEC) movement in the American Roman Catholic Church. I witnessed a small fraction of Dorothy’s life of sister in Christ to thousands all across the country as she regularly reached out to include her family of origin in the witness of her faith journey.

In those times I knew I was in the presence of something both ordinary and grand. Until now in this course, however, I haven’t had the theological framework through which to understand the real genesis of Dorothy’s life and work. God stretched Dorothy’s life to receive “… who she is through the regard of the Presence which has come into history through her.”

Am I saying that Dorothy was some latter-day Mary? I don’t know. And yet I remember that when Dorothy died, many at the celebration of her life witnessed to Dorothy’s help facilitating God’s presence and action in their own personal faith journeys.