Mary and Motherhood
By Cheryl Dickow
The celebration of women and motherhood is most beautifully portrayed in a new book by Catholic author and speaker, Heidi Hess Saxton. Saxton, a convert to the Catholic faith and adoptive mother herself, exquisitely reveals the relationship between Mary and us, her adopted children in, “Behold Your Mother: Mary Stories and Reflections from a Catholic Convert.” Beginning with three short personal stories that set the stage for the tone of the book which is one of love, honor, and a clear understanding of Mary’s role in guiding us all to Christ, Saxton gives us the perfect book for time spent in quiet contemplation or when we are in need of a gentle reminder of the power we have in calling upon Christ. It was my good fortune to interview Heidi about her book, the way she has beautifully packaged it for Mother’s Day to include a special blend tea bag and with a pretty envelope for mailing, and her blogspot that celebrates motherhood, www.beholdyourmotherbook.blogspot.com/.
Cheryl: I love your book, Behold Your Mother: Mary Stories and Reflections from a Catholic Convert, and thank you for sharing it with us. It is clearly a work of love and commitment to sharing Mary’s role in our own personal journey with Christ. Please give us a little background on your inspiration to write this book.
Heidi: When I converted to Catholicism in 1994 from the Evangelical Christian tradition, I had no desire whatsoever to get to know Jesus’ mother. She was just that – his mother, someone who makes an appearance in the Christmas crèche each year, then goes back into the box. Praying to Mary made no sense to me (though I did ask my friends to pray for me from time to time). I figured, why go to her when I have always gone straight to Jesus myself?
As I continued to grow in the faith, however, I began to change. There were two events that facilitated this change, which I describe in the book: a broken heart, and becoming a mother myself. And yet, I suspect that both these experiences had this affect on me because, as a new Catholic, I had been forced to return to a childlike kind of faith. More than ever, I had a sense that I was a child of God. And it was in that context that I came to experience Mary as truly my adopted spiritual mother.
Sometimes women feel overwhelmed by their role as caregiver and while we love to look at Mary as an “ideal,” which can sometimes seem daunting, how can we also look to her as just “another mom?”
I remember those first weeks after receiving three children into our home (the oldest was later placed with another family), with little sleep and no time for little luxuries like a sit-down dinner or a shower. On one occasion, I watched helplessly as one of the children flushed a sock down the toilet while I was bathing the baby. I think that was the breaking point. “Help!” I cried. “You were the perfect mother, and had one perfect Son. I am and I have neither of those things. Pray for me!”
Outwardly, nothing changed. The sock did not miraculously resurface, the bathroom was still wall-to-wall water and kids. But inside, I was calmer. I no longer wanted to send the culprit down after the sock.
It was studying the Gospel passages about Mary, and imagining the “back story” behind the Gospel account, that led me to the “real” Mary – the woman behind the Man. So much of her life was hidden – as is ours. But she was – and is – first and foremost, human. Taking care of Jesus (and possibly Joseph’s children from a previous marriage as well) was no different from raising any other child. The same mess. The same worry. The same choice to offer each moment back to God. When we keep that image clearly in mind, talking to Mary becomes no different from calling up Mom on the phone (except doesn’t spoil the grandkids).
Cheryl: I was struck by the realization that this is the perfect “card” for Mother’s Day because it can be cherished all year long. I also see this book as the perfect accompaniment to Eucharistic Adoration. I actually have a copy in my purse because it is such a perfect “pocket size.” Is there a particular way you recommend the book be read?
Heidi: Most people I’ve talked to read it from cover to cover when they first get it, then go back and read it again at a more deliberate pace (especially the second half of the book containing the reflections). It’s perfect for a “Mommy time out”; I enjoy pouring myself a cup of tea and spending some quiet time just letting my mind explore the images and scenes the book describes. It’s a particularly good resource to have on hand for those who know of someone who is exploring the Church, particularly those who come from another Christian tradition. (My Baptist sister said she stayed up all night reading it.) The reflections could also work ...
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