Luke 2:19 Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
I was praying a rosary recently using a published meditation guide. In the Fourth Glorious Mystery, one meditation leaped out at me, even though I had read it many times before. The meditation gave thanks to God for all the graces Our Blessed Mother won for the Church during the inexpressible “martyrdom of solitude” that she suffered after Jesus’ ascension. As I pondered Our Lady’s “martyrdom of solitude”, I felt it take on a greater meaning for the Church today, as well as a distinct calling to the faithful in these turbulent days.
Some experiences I have had recently have underscored how we, especially as penitents, are being called to enter into Mary’s martyrdom of solitude, a solitude where the presence of Jesus in the world is not only not felt, but rarely sought. I know you feel it too. It pierces.
On Christmas Eve I arrived early for the latest Mass, thinking there would be carols or the rosary before Mass. There wasn’t. With four Masses that night and two the next day, with only one priest and a small liturgical team in the parish, I can’t say I was surprised. There were only a few people in the church, so I thought I would sit near the front and at least meditate on the rosary before Mass on this Holy Night.
In the front pew just across the aisle, sat a family with adult children. I was alarmed and seriously distracted when a couple of the young women started taking selfies of themselves, chatting in normal tones about all manner of things. I had seen people chat before Mass before, but this I found quite disturbing. I moved to the other side of the church in front of the nativity scene and offered reparation.
I was into the second decade when another large, extended family moved in a few rows behind me. I could smell the alcohol on their breath, as they chatted and laughed even louder than the first group. I started to pray my rosary out loud. While I don’t think anyone in these two groups could hear me, I’m hoping the Holy Family was in some way consoled. Lord have mercy!
A couple of days later in a group gathering someone made a joke about priests abusing altar boys. I felt as if I was the only one who didn’t find it funny. Don’t get me wrong–I am in no way excusing the guilty. Anyone who is guilty of abusing children should be found and penalized. I just don’t think there’s anything funny about it. I was pierced by how it hurt Jesus to have his Bride so tarnished, not to mention the horrific damage being inflicted upon his innocent children. I couldn’t even speak. I could only pray.
Upon reflection it occurred to me that all faithful Catholics today carry in their own spirits these modern-day piercings of Christ. We are being called to enter into Mary’s martyrdom of solitude, and it is bound to become worse before her Immaculate Heart triumphs and makes everything infinitely better. Fiat!
On top of these piercings, I feel comforts being removed. It seems we are being stripped of all that is not Christ.
But let us not become discouraged. As penitents, we know how to offer up our piercings, and strippings only serve to separate us from our attachments, until we cling only to Him. Our Mama shows us that in every circumstance, even in the piercing of our hearts, we are called to give praise to God, keep our eyes on Christ, and proclaim our never-ending Fiat!
The evil one thinks he is winning. But the Church’s martyrdom of solitude, her Fiat under the banner of Our Lady will prove to be an invincible weapon, just as it was in the early Church. Our Lady was an unsung hero in the early days of the Church. She re-lived the silence of Nazareth, bereft of the comfort of the physical presence of her Beloved Son. Her every act, perfectly conformed to the Divine Will, won graces and favors for the fledgling Church. Her holiness was the milk that fed it, just as her wisdom and knowledge guided the Apostles and disciples in their first steps.
So let us continue to do whatever God asks of us, in silence and prayer, for as long as He requires it, embracing whatever comes as a cross-shaped gift from our Beloved. The Divine Will is indeed our joy and our hope, the tomb in which we await His glorious resurrection.
O holy Mother of God, Full of Grace, grant to us, your little children grace upon grace, that our martyrdom of solitude, linked to yours, will be an invincible weapon in your hand, leading to the glorious triumph of the Bride of Christ. St. Francis and St. Clare, all you holy angels and saints, pray for us. Amen. Fiat!