There is always considerable movement around us, and as we transition from the relative quiet of summer to a new school year, that movement intensifies—even to the point of agitation and stress. So much to do! We cannot escape set schedules and concrete obligations, but surely we can find occasional quiet moments to assess the scope and underlying intentions of our actions.
These intentions, however directed, are key to our disposition and critical to our plans. God willing, the relaxing moments of the past couple of months allowed some reflection and perhaps even resolutions to make this year’s transition less frenetic, but as long lists claw at our finite time and resources, it’s so easy to lose one’s calm. What would Our Lady do?
Surely, we think, she lived so long ago and so far away. There is virtually no practical overlap between her life and our own! Or is there? A wise biblical scholar—much devoted to the Blessed Mother—once reminded a group of us at a conference that some images can be lost in translation, for example the account of the Nativity. As the newborn child slept on her lap, the awe-struck shepherds had departed, and the jubilant rejoicing of the angels was replaced by a reverent hush, it was written: “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). That word “reflecting,” sometimes rendered “pondering,” we were told, is better understood in the Greek, which likens it to the actions one uses with a hot potato, which must be thrown from hand to hand. This doesn’t necessarily assume frustration (for it can be done with joy and the anticipation of eating) but it does reflect intense action. The difference is that, in the case of Our Lady, the action is entirely unseen.
There must have been other times of deep “reflection,” such as the loss of Jesus in the temple, the implications of his teaching during his public ministry, and the growing agitation and anger his words elicited. Despite Mary’s purity and docility to God’s will, unfolding events still allowed for considerable mental scrambling and inner motion. Unfortunately, in our fallen state, the motion can get out of control and lose its focus.
That is why we must exercise discipline, ensuring that our movements always bear a vertical scope. Strictly horizontal activities—appointments, carpools, commutes, assignments, deadlines, celebrations, and the like—cannot be avoided, but they can be repackaged to a considerable degree, baptized if you wish. Cardinal Newman offers a helpful analogy, reminding us: “When we read a book of fiction, we are much excited with the course of the narrative, til we know how things will turn out.” Our lives—dull, overworked, or otherwise—are not fiction, and yet, despite an inability to know in advance the details of each page, we do know how the story ends. There will be an individual judgement upon death, and later the marvelous drama at the consummation of the world, when the actions of all will be brought to light—not only every movement but the motivations.
Our motivations must be considered, even (especially!) amidst the most frantic activities. We are made for heaven and these actions certainly matter, but they must safeguard divine priorities if they are to help us on our proper trajectory. A morning offering is key—offering everything to God and begging for his help—and then we must keep in mind that this is our proving ground for something greater than excellent grades, well-planned events, or successful careers. For all the hot potatoes thrown our way, knowing they are allowed by God and manageable through his grace should help us move heavenward despite the daunting events of the most trying chapters.
Mrs. Kineke is a parishioner of Our Lady of Mercy in East Greenwich.
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