This year we celebrated a new feastday yesterday, the Monday after Pentecost: Mary, Mother of the Church. Pope Francis has added it to the liturgical calendar to bring out the connection between Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and how Mary is the mother of the Church and each one of us. Like a most tender mother, Mary helps each of us in our journey to Jesus. She is with us even in our personal wounds.
“Within your wounds hide me.” That line from the beautiful prayer Soul of Christ is very evocative, even haunting. It is addressed to Jesus, and while it can be said anytime, it is often prayed after receiving Holy Communion. What does it mean?
The Gospels tell us that after Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples, his glorified body bore the wounds he had suffered in his Passion and death on the Cross. They didn’t go away, but they were changed—transformed from marks of pain and death into brilliant signs of life and victory over death and sin. Those wounds were healed—he was raised to life again—but the very wounds that had caused his death now shine in glory in heaven. They are eternal reminders of his love, his wounded love.
What about Mary? Did she have wounds too? Yes! But they were not physical wounds on her body, but the pains and wounds she suffered in her spirit as she accompanied Jesus on the Way of the Cross. And just like Jesus still bears the marks of his wounds on his body, in some mysterious way Mary still bears the marks of her spiritual wounds in her soul even in heaven. They don’t cause her suffering any more, but they are glorified.
This seems hard to understand—that Mary might have wounds in heaven, even glorified wounds—but it makes perfect sense. Catholic tradition has honored Mary under the title “Our Lady of Sorrows.” I had always thought of that as honoring something that Mary had suffered on earth but was now over. Yes, the painful experience is over, but the spiritual wounds still remain in her heart. That is why she is the merciful and compassionate Mother.
So what does this have to do with Mary as Mother of the Church? She is Mother of the Church because she is not only the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God, but she is also the Mother of all the members of the Church—each one of us.
Each one of us bears wounds from the crosses and trials of life,
from the effects of the sins of others
and from our own sins.
And because Mary is a wounded Mother
—though one without any sin—
She is compassionate. She is merciful.
She is the mother of the whole Church and of each one of us.
So we can go to her with our own wounds, and we can bring to her the people we meet and may minister to, with all their wounds. How many people have been wounded by the ills of our secular culture and society! Think of family wounds, addictions, sexual sins, abortion, violence, and the list goes on. Mary understands. Though she never sinned, that doesn’t make her separate from us. Sometimes people think that Mary was so holy and sinless that she can’t relate to us. But she can because she was wounded, though without sin. On this new feast day, let’s ask Mary to cover our wounds with the glorified wounds of her heart, to bring us healing and peace.
By Marianne Lorraine Trouvé, FSP