Right around this time last year, JC and I were in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, asking Mary for the grace to have a child. We had been married for three months and we both wanted to put all of our hopes in Mary's hands. So we passed under her image holding hands, asking for the gift of a baby.
At that time, I didn't know that I was already about five days pregnant with Olivia. It was a kind of Visitation between two pregnant women, except one was unaware of the gift growing inside her.
Now we will be going again, and it will be a kind of Presentation of our baby to Mary. I just want to stand under her image and tell her-- and the Baby Jesus whose heart beats in her womb-- here is the fruit of my own womb. Here is the promise fulfilled. Here is the prayer come to life, a cheerful little girl we named Olivia Juliette. You listened! You did it! Thanks!
A few years ago, JC and I had made another trip to the Basilica to thank Our Lady for our relationship, which had just begun in October. Two days after that trip, on February 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, he proposed marriage to me. I had come home from the consecrated life just a year and a half before, so it was the second half of a transition from consecrated virginity to marriage and motherhood. An Annunciation of sorts!
And that little pilgrimage of thanksgiving was preceded by another pilgrimage (in September) to Our Lady of Guadalupe. I went to the basilica in a taxi by myself on the last day and prayed under her image for a husband. I really prayed. I think I went along that conveyor belt about twenty times just to make sure she heard me loud and clear. A month later, I met my future husband.
So these little coincidences catch my attention. I interpret them as an invitation to develop that relationship, to turn to her more often, to trust that when I ask her for something, she really answers. She's a mother, and I'm starting to understand from my own experience how strong her love for us must be. When my baby cries, I can't not answer. If she needs something, it would go against my nature to ignore her. If I refused to feed or soothe her, I would be doing violence to myself. It's like part of me now lives through my baby's experience; there is a kind of empathy or compenetration that bonds us together. And I never realized this before, but Mary must feel the same way about all of us. When we cry out, when we really need something, and when it's good for us, she doesn't just stand by filing her nails. She comes running. She is generous in her love. She wants to answer. We are always her babies.
And this is the ultimate symmetry of life. It's not just the symmetry of dates and mysteries that bear a surface resemblance to our lives. It's that all of us, no matter our state in life, begin to understand the gifts we have been given only when we are called upon to give the same (or analogous) gifts to others. Being a mother helps me to understand how to be a child, how to live with greater confidence in the reality of a love that surrounds me-- and all of us-- every day like the protective wings of an eagle... or like the mantle of a loving mother.
"Is there anything else that you need?"