The Crown and why Mary’s is Different

I’ve been watching Netflix’s The Crown lately. I enjoy historical dramas, and historical fiction, both TV and books. It has been so interesting to learn about Queen Elizabeth II and the people around her. Of course there have been inaccuracies, or dramatizations but all in all I have greatly enjoyed it.

I recently watched an episode where Elizabeth is struggling with a decision regarding her sister, Margaret. Margaret has had quite the time trying to find her way in the world and was struggling with politics, protocol and the Church in her efforts to get married. Ultimately, the decision falls to Elizabeth as head of the family and head of the Church of England. At a certain point, Elizabeth is having formal photographs taken in all her “get up” – full crown, blue sash etc. As she poses, the photographer recites this somewhat speech in the background to set the tone for her.

“All hail sage Lady, whom a grateful Isle hath blessed. Not moving, not breathing. Our very own goddess. Glorious Gloriana. Forgetting Elizabeth Windsor now. Now only Elizabeth Regina”

Elizabeth finds herself torn in two. She is both sister and queen. As a sister, she wants to help her sister in her quest for love. As queen, she is compelled to deny her sister because of Church tradition and political ramifications. Elizabeth, as a mere human, simply isn’t capable of holding both facets of her identity at the same time. She has to choose.

All this talk of queenship got me thinking about another queen, one far more powerful than Elizabeth could ever be. Our blessed Mother of course!

What is so incredible about Mary is that this scenario that Elizabeth faced – am I to be queen or sister – never happens with Mary. Never does she choose between being our Queen and our Mother. Let’s face it, there are probably a whole host of moments in each of our lives where a queen would have ruled one way but our mother would plead for our second chance.

When I watch Elizabeth as queen I see the distance it puts between her and her children. It’s not so hard to assume that Mary, Queen of Heaven is now more distant than simply, Mary, our Mother. But not so! Pope John Paul II said:

Thus far from creating distance between her and us, Mary’s glorious state brings about a continuous and caring closeness. She knows everything that happens in our life and supports us with maternal love in life’s trials.

Taken up into heavenly glory, Mary dedicates herself totally to the work of salvation in order to communicate to every living person the happiness granted to her. She is a Queen who gives all that she possesses, participating above all in the life and love of Christ.

Mary is solely focused on our salvation. Her whole purpose, both as queen and mother, is to draw us closer to her Son. Her Queenship isn’t about gathering power, but as JPII said, she “gives all that she possesses” so that we might see Jesus a little more clearly.

Daily Graces.

On Mother’s Day….after Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day was just a few days ago, as I’m sure you all well know. It’s hard to miss the flowers, cards, and gigantic balloons (at least they were at our grocery store, the kids loved them!). At our Mass on Sunday, and many churches regardless of denomination, there was a special blessing for mothers and we were given a rose.

I happened to be the one holding Eliza, now almost 16 months old and full of her own spunk and will, so naturally I brought her to the front with me for the blessing and flower. During the course of the blessing, she caught notice of the yellow rose and lunged. What followed was a rather comical tug-o-war between she and I over that rose. At first she managed to simply bruise a few petals, but that’s when her desire to fully experience that rose kicked in. I nearly dropped her while trying not to smack the woman next to me with that tempting rose. Despite my best efforts, she managed to get a hand on it and began squeezing the bloom within an inch of its life. I did salvage some of it, now rather lopsided and looking less than full.

We still brought the damaged rose home, along with a few extras the girls received after Mass concluded. It is in our bouquet on the dining table. As I pass it, I meditate on how it is actually the bruised rose that offers the fullest representation of what motherhood is.

On Mother’s Day, motherhood is held up as the crown of roses it is. Mothers, those with us and those who await us, are celebrated, cherished and loved. And this is both wonderful and important. But Monday always comes. And Tuesday, and Wednesday, and every day after that. GK Chesterton so wisely said, “A crown of roses is also a crown of thorns.”

There are moments of motherhood that are bursting with roses, and those when you are acutely aware of the thorns. And this is true for all vocations.

It makes me wonder whether or not roses had thorns in the Garden of Eden. When everything was in perfect balance, would roses have needed thorns? Before the Fall of Adam and Eve, they lived in perfect harmony with creation and with God. Now, as products of that fall from grace, sweetness is mingled with sour, joy often contains a tinge of sorrow, a rose has a thorn. It goes both ways though, for even in sadness we find hope.

We look to the Cross for our prime example of this. When Jesus died, we don’t call it “Sad Friday”, but “Good Friday”. Here is the most awful, horrific thing that could happen to a human being. Yet we call it “good,” because through this terrible sorrow, the whole course of human history was redirected heavenward.

I hope that the vocation you follow is one blessed with abundant roses, even knowing that mixed in there will be thorns. May the beauty of the rose inspire you to look for the beauty and goodness in your life, even in the midst of the thorns.Daily Graces.


Proper Language

In the past few months I’ve been trying to make an effort to be more present on Twitter and Instagram. It’s been fun, challenging and sometimes tiring, but I think it’s been worth the effort. I’ve found some pretty incredible articles and resources that I would have missed or not known about had I not been using these social media tools.

As with all things, I have also stumbled across some things I wish I hadn’t, or read statements I do not agree with. Once such instance happened this past weekend that got me so riled up, I’m still thinking about it and maybe, if this post goes well, try to formulate my thoughts into an article that I could submit to a publication (hopes and dreams anyway).

I was scrolling through Twitter when I came across this tweet from a pro-life activist:

Lots of would be mothers regret their abortions.I dont know a single mom who regrets having a child
Proper Language, especially in pro-life ministry. Daily Graces.
Photo by 2008. via Flickr. CC. Modified by Kate Taliaferro 2016

Now, there are a few things that I take issue with in this statement, and I am pro-life. Regarding the 2nd sentence, I am sure that there are mothers out there, unfortunately, who go through periods of time that they regret having children. Maybe they regret a loss of independence or ability to work, maybe they are struggling to feed all the members of their family, maybe they regret the circumstances that lead to that child. While each child is a precious gift from God, we are a broken humanity who do not always recognize God’s gifts when we receive them.

But this is not my main issue. My main issue is the term “would be mothers.” Friends, if we ever, and I mean EVER, hope to bring about a cultural revolution for the culture of life, we have to first remove the log from our own eye before looking to anyone else’s. Consider the term “would be mother.” According to Merriam-Webster, “would-be” is defined as
used to describe someone who hopes to be a particular person or type of person
having the potential to be
So, based on this tweet and it’s language, a would be mother is someone who has the potential to be a mother, but isn’t. And you might say, of course. In this context, we are talking about a woman who had an abortion, so she isn’t a mother.
Or is she?
Here’s the kicker folks, by calling these women “would-be mothers” we are denying the fact that they ever were mothers. We are denying the fact that the life in her womb began at conception. Fr. Frank Pavone says it best:

A woman who is pregnant is not “expecting” a child. She already has one. The child exists and is living and growing in her womb. She is not about to bring the child “into the world.” The child is already in the world. The mother’s womb is as much in the world as the mother herself.

The pregnant woman is not “going to be” a mother. She already is a mother. By saying she is “going to be” a mother, we inadvertently reinforce the notion that motherhood begins at birth. This reinforces the idea that the child really is a child only at birth.

Theotokos. Using Proper Language to describe mothers. Daily Graces.
By MapperDB (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
So, what we say about the mother directly impacts what we know and believe about her child. The Church has understood this for centuries. The early Church held Mary in high esteem as the Mother of God, the Theotokos. Prior to the Council of Ephesus, 431, this term had been widely used for Mary. However, it wasn’t until the council that she was officially declared the Theotokos, the God-bearer. While this may seem like the emphasis is all on Mary, it is actually another way that the Church was protecting and promoting the belief in who Jesus is, in particular that he is both fully divine and fully human (the Incarnation).

Heresies and questionable teachings abounded in the early centuries of the Church. It was up to the councils to discern the Truth through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. One of the most hotly contested topics, obviously, revolved around Jesus. Was he truly God but only pretending to be human? Was he a super awesome human, maybe even divine-like, but not truly God? Was he a split, 50% God, 50% man, or some other ratio? Who was Jesus???

At the Council of Ephesus, a man named Nestorius began spreading doubt that Mary was truly Theotokos. He claimed she was the mother of Christ, the mother of the human Jesus, but not the mother of God. After all, how could God have a mother? Do you see how quickly things could have unraveled? If the Church had accepted Nestorius’ teaching, they would have been denying the totality of who Jesus was. For Jesus to be both fully human and fully divine, there is no way Mary could give birth to only part of Jesus. It’s all or nothing. If you want to read more, EWTN has a great summary here.

What we say about the mother directly impacts what we say about her child. Before we can ask others to see these precious little ones as fully, completely, in the here and now, children, we have to adjust the way we speak about their mothers.

Do you want to get involved in the pro-life movement? You can contact your parish or local diocese about events, the March for Life, peaceful protests and prayer vigils. You can also volunteer at a local pregnancy crisis center or see if they accept donations. If you are a rosary prayer, you can also add this simple prayer at the end of each decade following the O My Jesus prayer: “Jesus, protect and save the unborn.” Most importantly, you can pray for all those mothers and families who are faced with difficult situations and feel they have no other alternatives.