This summer, I visited hospital patients in New York City. Over the course of these eight weeks, I met people of various faiths and traditions. Among Catholic patients, it was not uncommon to see a rosary at their bedside. As they endured the trial of their hospital stays, they kept their beads within arm’s reach. For many patients, their rosary was a token of hope and comfort, a reminder that Mary is their heavenly mother.
Today’s feast of the Assumption touches upon the mystery of Mary’s ongoing motherhood. The ending of her earthly life did not end her motherly concern for us. In Lumen Gentium, the Council Fathers explain:
This maternity of Mary in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, and lasts until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into the happiness of their true home. (§62)
Once a mother, always a mother. This is evident among natural mothers. Just recall those who suffer the heartbreaking loss of their child. Such a tragic death does not forfeit their maternity. The distance between this life and the next cannot separate a mother from her child.
A similar dynamic is at play in the Assumption. Mary’s earthly life ends, but not her maternity. Even more, Mary is assumed body and soul into heaven. She exists not just as a romanticized memory or bodiless spirit, but she is truly present.
Entering into heaven, Mary now enjoys the fullness of joy in the presence of the Blessed Trinity. This heavenly bliss does not make her indifferent to the trials and suffering of her children. Rather, united more perfectly with God, her heart abounds all the more with love, and this love unites her to us. By this loving union, her prayers help us on our earthly pilgrimage.
At the Cross, Jesus gave Mary to be the mother of all believers: “Behold your mother” (John 19:27). At our own crosses, let us remember the words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego: “Am I not here who am your mother?” For just as Mary stood by her Son as he suffered on the Cross, so too Mary strengthens and comforts all her children amid their crosses.
The rosary at the bedside is like Mary’s hand stretched out from heaven to earth. She reminds us that she is right by our side. She is constantly leading us to Jesus, especially by contemplating the mysteries of his life. And when we approach the hour of our death, we need not fear the unknown, the dark path from this life to the next. With rosary in hand, we know that there is a mother waiting for us on the other side.
Image: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., Our Lady Gives the Rosary to St Dominic (used with permission)