By Alli Bobzien
The morning light ripples through stained glass, illuminating the image of Mary in a way that only occurs at this precise time of day. Her face alight with compassion and strength, this image of Mary supplies both my squalling daughter and me with the fortitude needed for school drop off.
My youngest daughter, at almost two years old, has started attending school on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. This transition has presented a challenge for each of us as she wails at my departure, and I loathe leaving her when she’s upset. Though her teachers assure me that an adjustment period is normal, and she settles in throughout the day, her tearful farewell each morning makes me ache. Yet, through his mercy, the path to her classroom passes through a small outdoor gazebo which houses the loveliest stained-glass renderings of Mary and Jesus.
Each of my daughters have formed a dear attachment to Mary, or Mama Mary, as she is affectionately called in our home. We greet her as we pass her garden in our parish, frequently bringing small flowers, dandelions and even the occasional vibrant leaf to lay at her feet. Throughout Mass we wave to her statue nestled in the alcove of the sanctuary, my youngest interrupting prayers with small shouts of “Hi Mama Mary! Hi Mama!” And we talk about her love for “her baby Jesus” a great deal at home. I’m grateful that my daughters have a woman with whom they connect so deeply and see clearly in a place of honor in the church.
As we walk through the gazebo to my little daughter’s classroom, I see her chubby hand reach out for Mary’s image, stretching and wiggling her fingers to grasp Mary’s mantle. Though the glass is one dimensional, her hand finds purchase and softly strokes Mary’s cheek, “Mama always comes back,” she croons softly. This phrase has become her mantra for school, and she repeats it throughout the day: Mama always comes back.
After I’ve given hugs and endured the tears of drop off, I take a moment to collect myself in the small gazebo. My gaze lands on Mary’s image and I find my own eyes welling with tears as I repeat, “Mama always comes back.” I too reach out, craving the strength and wisdom reflected in her eyes, wishing for the embrace of another woman who has watched her child grow up and knows the pain and pride intermingled in their journey to independence.
I want to pour out my worries, to hear assurance that it will all work out, and for someone to dry my own leaking eyes. Ignatian spirituality provides a beautiful model for what my heart yearns for in these moments of vulnerability: colloquy. A colloquy, according to Ignatianspirituality.com, is simply “an intimate conversation between you and God the Father, between you and Jesus, or between you and Mary or one of the saints.” Within these conversations, we can express our feelings, thoughts and struggles in a genuine way, like you would with a dear friend. Meant as a dialogue, we create some time of quiet to listen and reflect, drinking in the wisdom that meets us in the silence.
As I lean against the wall beside Mary, I whisper, “How did you do it? How did you let him go? How did you know when the time was right?” Then, in the same breath, “Will you watch over them? Will you intercede for my little ones with your son?” I feel a light breeze stroke my cheek and know they are in far better hands than mine. I experience the peace of one mother assuring the other that this too is a part of motherhood, a difficult but necessary aspect of both the mother’s and child’s growth.
Sitting in the silence, breathing in that quiet consolation, I realize with awe that my sweet daughter prayed a Marian colloquy, too. Her dear heart, filled with love for the Mama of the Catholic Church, instinctively knew the comfort of a heart laid bare in conversation with Mary. Childlike faith truly is a thing of wonder.
I know my little one will cry when I return to pick her up. The weight of the day and all the emotions she’s kept inside will spill out in a short burst of tears. When I share this observation with my own mother, she pats my back and replies, “There’s just something about seeing your mom; it all comes out.” How right she is! I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve unburdened myself to my mother, letting it all out and knowing the heart beside me understood.
That is the beauty of a mother, she offers a safe place to land, the comfort of her presence and the peace of tender care. For though the tears will flow at school pickup, our walk always brings us back to Mary, our mother, who continually guides us to her son.
Alli Bobzien is a full-time mom and a nap-time graduate student of theology at Fuller Seminary. When she isn’t playing outdoors with her two spunky daughters, she writes about nature, family, spirituality and women in Scripture. You can find more of Alli’s writing in her monthly newsletter The Pondering Heart and on Instagram @bobz.alli. Her writing has been featured in Grotto Network, Live Today Well Collective, Wallflower Journal and Wisdom’s Dwelling.