Our Blessed Mother is an ideal companion as we live through the days of Advent, which this year begins Sunday, December 2. For four weeks we wait for her Son, but Mary waited for nine months! Imagine what that time must have been like for her. She had never been a mother before, and hers was an unplanned pregnancy. More startling was the fact that her child would be the Son of God. The day of her birth announcement, Mary must have been stunned and maybe wondered if she hadn’t imagined or dreamed the conversation with the angel. She waited. But then her body told her without a doubt that she was pregnant. Perhaps she worried about the impact this news would have on her parents, the food for gossip it would provide for neighbors, and, most heartbreaking, how her beloved Joseph would react. In addition, she also knew full well that the punishment for pregnancy outside of marriage was death by stoning. She waited for Joseph’s decision: would he divorce her or not? When an angel explained the situation to Joseph and he married her, Mary must have been greatly relieved. Then she only had to wait for the miracle birth.
Mary chose to spend part of her waiting time ministering to her elderly cousin Elizabeth, who was also waiting for her son to be born. Like any pregnant mother, Mary endured morning sickness and the discomfort of changing size and feeling awkward. But surely she was thrilled to feel the baby inside her give his first kick. Her voice was the first one he heard, and she probably sang to him as she waited to see him face to face. Then while Mary’s time of waiting was almost ended and she looked forward to giving birth in the comfort of her Nazareth home with her mother nearby, she unexpectedly was called to another town. She could have had her baby on the side of the road; instead she gave birth in a stable surrounded by animals, their smells and sounds.
During this Advent like Mary we may be asked to do surprising things. We might become involved in situations that cause us stress, have to wait for problems to be resolved, come down with the flu or other disease, face an uncertain future, and be taken out of our comfort zone. Whatever these weeks hold, we can look to Mary to understand. You might use my book Heart to Heart with Mary during these weeks of waiting and hear her speak to you personally every day. Others have found much comfort and inspiration in it. This book, a yearly devotional, also makes a good Christmas gift since the New Year soon follows. Until December 25, I (not Amazon) will be selling them for $12.00 instead of $14.00. Just email me at email@example.com.
Mary was a teenage Jewess in a small village when she was called to be Mother of God. Now we picture her as Queen of Heaven, crowned, and in royal blue robes. What is your favorite image of Mary? When has she been a mother to you?
Speaking of mothers…
BOOK REVIEW. Stairway from Heaven: A Daughter’s Undeniable Proof of Life after Life. Shushana Castle. $10.95, 146 pp.
Mary Maizy Kherkher, originally from the Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad became a Roman Catholic after moving to the United States. A beautiful woman, she also had an interior beauty. She was a woman of deep faith, prayer, and practical love for whom miracles were routine. Her daughter, Shushana Castle, enjoyed an extraordinary relationship with her mother. After Mary died, Shushana experienced more than fifty miracles confirming for her that her mother still lived.
Inspired to share these miracles in order to bolster faith in the afterlife, Shushana wrote Stairway to Heaven. On page after page she tells of the eerie signs that served to connect her to her mother. They commenced two days after Mary’s death when receiving a call from Shushana, her husband Jack asked, “Why did you change your ring tone to church bells?” “I didn’t,” Shushana replied. Then she recalled that her mother loved the sound of church bells and would make the Sign of the Cross on hearing it. Shushana figured that her mother was reminding her to appreciate Jack. Mary had loved Jack and called him an angel, the perfect partner for her daughter. At the funeral, Shushana spoke about her mother’s love for the old song “Stairway to Heaven.” Afterwards when she and Jack got into his car, the radio turned on, and the song playing was “Stairway to Heaven.”
Shoshana tells the miracle stories simply and with wonder. She marvels at the “coincidences” and hopes that readers will realize that they are more than that. The bishop of Victoria in Texas, Most Reverend Brendan J. Cahill, wrote of the book, “Your testimony reminded me powerfully of the many ways God communicates love and beauty each day. Your mother’s gifts in these miracles are extrarordinary and a true blessing. The Catholic faith of her and your father shines through in the hope we have in the communion of saints. . . . In the midst of a violent and mean spirited world, it is uplifting to see the harmony of God in our lies.”