May: Mary’s month. It wasn’t too long ago that this didn’t have any real meaning to me.
When I was new to the church, despite how many times people tried to tell me about how Mary is my mother and loves me, I could never quite get my arms around it. I’d look at statues of the peacefully gazing woman in blue, but try as I might, I couldn’t establish a meaningful relationship with the Queen of Heaven. I knew about her, but I didn’t know her. She seemed unapproachable, too high an authority to be bothered with my pleas.
Thankfully that’s when my mother (inadvertently) stepped in.
I was home for some time off from college and wearing a saints bracelet that I had bought not too long before that. My mom, curious, asked to see it. We were watching TV, so distractedly I handed it to her, not paying much attention. That was until she got excited.
“Look,” she said, “That’s who I was named for. Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro.” Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
She showed me the wooden bead with the icon on it. Mary, in royal blue on a gold background, was holding the infant Jesus and two indistinguishable figures were in the top two corners.
Without my asking, my mother explained. She is the youngest of her four siblings. She was quite unexpected as my grandmother Santos, was 42 years old when my mother was born in the late 50’s. Her family was working class and medical technology in South Texas was nowhere near where it is today. So faced with obvious adversity, my grandmother prayed. My grandmother devoted her entire pregnancy to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and in return for a safe delivery she would name the baby in her honor.
Sure enough my mother, Socorro Magda, was born in mid-June and was perfectly healthy. And to think, without the intercession of the Virgin Mary, baby Cori wouldn’t have existed and neither would I. Instantly I felt immense gratitude and awe for how loving a mother Mary is to hear one humble woman’s prayer that would have so much effect on the years to come. And instantly, I loved her.
I don’t know much about my grandma Santos. She died a long time before I was born. I knew she had a terrific rose garden that I’ve seen in a picture. The garden was the whole front yard and the rose bushes were taller than her in the picture. She held a rose in her hand the size of a grapefruit. My mom was in a picture with her too, taken about the same time. Mom looked to be in her teens, which meant Grandma was almost 60 at the time the picture was taken. But she still looked strong and able.
There’s only a little more than that that I know about her really. Strong and devoted. Just like Mary.
So when I think of Mary, my image isn’t of the woman who raised me but the woman who raised my mother.
At one time I worried if my grandmotherly affection for Mary was incomplete, if I was missing the mark somehow. But last year at the May Theology on Tap the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist were there giving testimonies about Mary’s influence in their lives. My doubts about my “wrong kind of maternal” affection for Mary loomed in my mind. I was able to ask Sister Thomas Aquinas about it and she gave me all the encouragement I needed to know I wasn’t wrong.
A grandmother is a mother twice over: a matriarch.