Column by Jonathan Nagy
Happy Easter! He is risen! Truly He has risen! In the words of Father John Byrnes, “What a difference a year can make!” Last year, we all celebrated Easter in a much different fashion. Instead of in-person Mass, we participated by watching on the internet or on television. (I can speak for myself in saying that I still find it odd that I watched myself on television, but I digress.) The Alleluias and Glorias ring out all over the earth in celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord! Based on the overwhelming joy that we feel now when we celebrate this most sacred holiday, I cannot help but imagine what it was like to actually witness it in person!
To paraphrase Father John’s saying, “What a difference a week can make.” Holy Week began with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. By the end of the week, those same people who celebrated Him were calling for His death. His supporters scattered, fearful for their own lives. Almost everyone He knew abandoned Him at that hour of need. Who stood by Him the entire way? His mother. Mary knew when she said “Yes” to God that the life of her son would end this way. Just like mothers do with their children today, she laughed with Jesus, cried with Him, taught Him, and grieved His death. However, she never wavered in her faith in God or in her son.
Recently, I collaborated with Deacon Rick Golden to write lyrics for a song about Mary. We used the tune of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” It is a modern and reflective look at the life of Mary, the Mother of God, and speaks of her emotions as she watched her son grow and save the world:
The Angel came to you Mary,
And asked you if you would carry
The Savior God Redeemer promised to you.
You did not doubt or hesitate,
You said your yes, you did not wait
And all creation cried out Hallelujah!
They made you go to Bethlehem,
There was no room there in the inn,
A stable cave was all that they could give you.
The time came for deliverance,
Our Saviors work it would commence,
And Angels sang out Glory Hallelujah!
Your son went to Jerusalem,
Palm branches laid in front of him,
They honored him as king of all creation.
But all of them, they turned on him,
Nailed Jesus to the cross and then,
You wept instead of singing Hallelujah.
Three days went by and you did mourn,
The death of Jesus, your first born
He laid there in the tomb, but all forgotten.
Then morning came and he did rise
You saw him with your own two eyes
And returned to chanting endless Hallelujahs!
So, Mary would you promise me
As I start my eternity,
You’ll hold my hand, let me stand next to you.
As Jesus judge then looks at me,
Your beauty not my sins He’ll see,
And say come into Heaven, Hallelujah!
The journey that Mary took with her son can be seen in mother-child relationships today. She wanted nothing but the best for her son. She worried about Him, especially the time He was lost, and she found Him in the temple. She wanted Him to do His best and to learn carpentry from Saint Joseph. She empathized with Him when He lost His close friend Lazarus. We have no records of it, but I am sure every time He experienced hatred, she felt sad for her son. Then the first six verses of the Stabat Mater perfectly sum up how she must have felt at the foot of the cross:
At the cross her station keeping, stood the mournful Mother weeping, close to Jesus to the last. Through her heart, his sorrow sharing, all his bitter anguish bearing, now at length the sword has passed. Oh, how sad and sore distressed was that Mother highly blest of the sole begotten One! Christ above in torment hangs; she beneath beholds the pangs of her dying, glorious Son. Is there one who would not weep, ‘Whelmed in miseries so deep, Christ’s dear Mother to behold? Can the human heart refrain from partaking in her pain, in that Mother’s pain untold?
She never left His side, especially in His greatest time of need. His concern for her went right up until the end. One of the last things He said from the cross was asking Saint John to take care of Mary when he died. Mary was also there with the apostles in the upper room at Pentecost following His Ascension. I am sure she was encouraging and motherly to all of them to go out and continue the mission that her son had given them. Mary was part of Jesus, just as much as our own mothers are part of each of us.
I always laugh when I read or hear the story of the Wedding Feast at Cana. There was Jesus, enjoying the party with his friends, when His frantic mother approaches Him shouting, “They are out of wine!” Jesus reacted like most of us would to our mothers, saying, “Woman, how does your concern affect me?” In other words, Jesus was telling his mother to buzz off and let him alone. I can picture sitting at a barbeque today and my own mother yelling for me that we are out of drinks and to go get more, and me responding, much like Jesus, “And this affects me how?” How did it affect Jesus and how does it affect me? Mothers have a keen sense of knowing everything about their children, including what they are capable of doing, and push them to do their very best. Mary always knew how Jesus could help, and my mother, Sandi, always knows how I can help.
The love of a mother knows no boundaries. Mary would do anything for Jesus, just as our mothers do for us. I can think of many times when my mother came to my rescue or defense. She has stood by me through thick or thin and has never wavered in her support for me or my siblings. She wants nothing but the best for me and beams with pride when I experience success. She has also been hard on me when she needed to be, guiding me as I grew up and helped to guide me along the right paths of life. I am sure that Mary was tough on Jesus at times, and my mother was tough on me. As she would often say, “It is tough-love.” I cannot imagine what my mother felt as she watched me live through difficult scenarios, but she knew coming out the other side that I would be a better, stronger person. She pushed me and continues to push me today, because, just like Mary with Jesus at Cana, she knows what I am capable of and is a constant source of encouragement.
Our mother Mary is also a constant source of encouragement to all of us. When everyone else abandoned Jesus and all seemed lost, she was there for him. When all can seem lost for us, she is there for us. We even pray in the Memorare, “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession, was left unaided.” She will always help us and be our guide. Will she employ the “tough- love” that all mothers use with their children? Absolutely, but only because she wants the very best for all of us.
I know I do not say it nearly enough, but mom, I love you. You have helped make me who I am. You have and always will be a shoulder to cry on, a friend forever, and beacon of light on life’s pathway. I honestly do not know how you did what you did, but I admire you and am inspired by you. I know that Grandma is looking down on you and saying in her loving voice, “Sandi, you have done well. You are a great mom!” Thank you, mom, for everything that you have done for me and continue to do for me. You are the type of mother to me that Mary was for Jesus. I know she is proud of the work you have done!
Whether our mothers are still with us or have returned to Our Father in Heaven, they are a part of us. Take the time to thank your mother, whether in person or through prayer, for what they have done for you. Pray to Mary to strengthen all mothers. She knows better than anyone how difficult it is to be a mother. Salve Regina!
Happy Mother’s Day, Mary.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
Jonathan Nagy, M.Ed., is the Dean of Students and Social Studies teacher at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg. He is also the Music Director at the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel in Loretto.
[Photo: Jonathan Nagy and his mother, Sandi, at the Our Lady of the Alleghenies Shrine in Loretto.]