For a while now I’ve been a fan of Heidi Hess Saxton’s eloquent writing about adoption and motherhood over at her blog Mommy Monsters, so I was delighted when she offered to send me a review copy of her new book, Behold Your Mother: Mary Stories and Reflections from a Catholic Covert.
I could relate to many of Heidi’s experiences that she shares in this little 70-page collection of reflections, including the strong, clear way that God guided her to cultivate a new respect for and appreciation of his mother. “Why go to Jesus’ mother when I could go directly to the Source of answered prayer?” she writes. “My relationship with God had always been a high priority. I wasn’t afraid of Him, and knew that He heard me…the very idea of talking to Jesus’ mother held no appeal.” She then tells the story of how some kind words from a friend, an unexpected gift, and an incredible series of answered prayers that changed her outlook entirely.
The rest of the book is filled with one-page chapters, each with one of Mary’s traditional names as its title (e.g. David’s Daughter, Mother of the Lamb, Our Lady of Sorrows, Lady of Courage, etc.) In each one Heidi begins with a Bible verse, then offers a poetic personal reflection on the verse, and concludes with a prayer.
I enjoyed using each of the verses at the beginnings of each chapter for my own meditations, and Heidi’s imaginings often offered intriguing starting points for visualizing Christ’s life. For example, she pictures Joseph telling Mary about creating a cedar chest for a publican over a steaming bowl of stew. And in one of the most haunting reflections in the book, she muses on John 19:25:
Together they pushed aside the gawking crowds,
Holding one another down the twisting
way of sorrow, to Golgotha Hill
Tenderly she pulled Mary close, shielding her eyes
as the nails were driven home.
She could do nothing about the sounds.
She could do nothing about the sounds. That line has really stayed with me. Too often when I meditate on the horror of the crucifixion I focus almost exclusively on the visual. In general, when I picture any part of Jesus’ life, in my head it’s more like a silent movie than a real event with not only sights but smells, textures, tastes, and sounds — sometimes terrible, terrible sounds.
Picturing Jesus’ life as seen through the eyes of his beloved mother — as well as asking for her prayers that I might better understand the One whom she was blessed to know so intimately — has deepened my connection to Christ’s life and actions by breaking it out of the silent movie and bringing alive the colors, sensations, smells and sounds that were a part of it. I found Behold Your Mother to be a great resource for these types of meditations, and plan to keep it handy to flip through when I need some inspiration.
You can read of Heidi’s writing on this topic at her book blog, Behold Your Mother.