Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bleeding Heart

For years, today's feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary has seemed rather quaint to me. I associated it with my grandparents and great-aunts and with pious images of Mary with her heart outside her robe, encircled with roses, but also on fire and at the same time pierced and bleeding. Sometimes you saw the little silver sword, other times, just the wound, like the one in Christ's side on the cross. I tended to see the image more in terms of a kind of sweet, but vague sense of devotion, rather than with any real substance (even though the image, in its own way, really does evoke a lot that can be found in Scripture). And the language we have come to use about the Heart of Mary can be off-putting, too. If her heart is "Immaculate" (and it is, being sinless), is it also in "mint condition"; "like new"; "unmarred" as if untouched by the disappointments, failures, humiliations and grief of real life?

Today, walking home from Mass, I was suddenly struck by an old, painful memory. It was an experience I had had while doing the Pauline mission some thirty years ago. And I felt all the impact of it as if it were happening for the first time. I wanted to just cry (I don't think I cried when it happened, though I had been quite shaken). This suffering of mine, even though it was objectively very slight (embarrassingly so), is still present and very much alive in me. For the rest of my walk home, I wrestled with this stupid memory; an experience of the past suddenly so vivid that I could "offer it up" just as validly as if it were happening in the present. (There is no "past" or "present" with God, anyway; what does he care if you are offering up something from thirty years ago?)

And while in my case, it is kind of apparent that this is an unresolved, psychological sort of situation, I am beginning to grasp something of a connection with the Immaculate Heart of Mary and its unhealed wound. Her experiences, especially witnessing the sufferings of her Son, remained alive and present and painful in her heart and memory, too. She could never "get over it." It was always there, even after the Resurrection, the way the Risen Jesus still (even now!) bears the wounds in his hands, feet and side.

Because Mary "treasured and pondered" all the mysteries of the Lord's life in that heart of hers, we can still find them there. The heart that stretched itself so wide as to treasure all God's action has room for us, too. The treasures she stored up can be found there, received there, even distributed to others from that wound in her own, unhealed and bleeding heart.


Lisa said...

Sister Anne, thank you for sharing this very personal experience. It really is very relevant to me. So I appreciate receiving it here. It correlates to how I am relating to the Immaculate Heart right now. So in some ways I believe it is an affirmation.

J.T. said...

As I spent time with Luke's gospel, it occured to me that Mary understood something that we as parents sometimes forget, or never come to fully know. Our children are God's children. They are not ours in a possesive sense like a pet or a home. We are priveleged to be blessed with them, we are blessed to be chosen to guide them and love them and show them the way of the Lord, but they are not "ours" to control. Jesus was showing this to Mary and she accepted it, as difficult as it may be.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Somethings that have happen to us are so hurtful that I guess we never "get over" it. It's a sorrow or a loss that we grieve over no matter how many years. I think it's okay when that happens. Now that I'm older and wiser I just tell myself it's just a feeling, feel it then let it go. I don't think you can stop the hurt from re-appearing...that's just life. All's we can do is try to learn from it, and even in some way grow more closer to God because of it. Because without God we wouldn't have made it through the pain. God Bless Sister.