Last week I wrote about the hands of Jesus. This week I’m giving a talk about his mother, Mary, at a local parish, and this prompted me to write about her hands now.
Mary did not have the soft, pampered hands of a queen, but the strong, capable hands of a working woman. As a young girl, I’m sure she helped her mother Anne around the house with daily tasks. What was Mary doing when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her? People conjecture that she was fetching water from the well or spinning wool.
When Mary went to help out pregnant Elizabeth, at their meeting her hands probably embraced her cousin and caressed her wrinkled face. Then for three months, her hands were kept busy serving Elizabeth and mute Zachary with love. Perhaps the two women sewed baby clothes during this time of waiting.
In Bethlehem, Mary’s hands were the first ones to hold God-made-man except for the person who delivered him. Scripture says that she wrapped her newborn in cloths and laid him in a manger. From that moment— and for the next thirty or so years— her hands were busy caring for her Son. She burped Jesus, tickled him, and held his hands as he took his first steps. She washed him when he was dirty and sweaty, and when he was hurt in the carpenter shop or playing rough with the other boys, she dried his tears and soothed him.
When Jesus as a preteen was lost for three days, I envision Mary wringing her hands with worry and then on finding him, taking him by the shoulders and giving him a little shake.
In charge of Joseph’s household, Mary kneaded dough, made clothes for her men, swept the floor, and stirred countless stews. No doubt, when Joseph died, it was her hands that lovingly prepared his body for burial.
When Jesus returned to Nazareth as a successful teacher and enraged his neighbors by his words in the synagogue, Mary was a witness. She saw her friends and relatives ready to cast Jesus off a cliff and her hands probably flew to her mouth in horror. (On a precipice in Nazareth is a chapel in ruins called Our Lady of the Fright.)
When Jesus visited Nazareth did he stay at the parental home? Did Mary prepare meals for him and his twelve apostles? Could be.
Michelangelo’s poignant “Pieta” reminds us of the dreadful day when Mary held her Son’s body for the last time, now a mutilated, bloody body. It’s been proposed that Jesus’s garment that the soldiers gambled for had been made by his mother.
Before Jesus died, he had entrusted his mother to the apostle John. Then Mary had another “son” to care for.
But Mary also became Mother to all of us. In the Morning Offering we pray, “O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you….” Mary is not eternally resting in Heaven. No. She is busy working for us as an intercessor. We ask our heavenly mother to “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”
St. Catherine Labouré had a vision of Mary, which is reproduced on Miraculous Medals. In this vision rays of light were streaming from gems on Our Lady’s hands. The Blessed Virgin explained: “
The rays are graces which I give to those who ask for them. But there are no rays from some of the stones, for many people do not receive graces because they do not ask for them.”
Someone just asked me for the words of the oldest Marian prayer. In case you aren’t familiar with it, here it is: We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.
Note: My book Heart to Heart with Mary with daily reflections remains my most popular book. On each page Mary speaks to you personally.
• What is your favorite prayer to Our Lady? Which of her titles is your favorite?