My nana clucked her tongue and pursed her lips. “Your great-grandmother would never have run like that,” she scolded as I flew into her kitchen, a teenaged tumble of arms, legs and windblown hair. “It’s neither seemly nor queenly.”
Royalty counted for something in our family. Nana had been born just this side of the Atlantic, after my great-grandmother (with another four children in tow) had emigrated from Britain to the United States. “Elizabeth,” the name of not one but two English monarchs, was revered in our household and shared by both my great-grandmother and my Aunt Bess. When I rebelled and refused to take it as my confirmation name, I was met with a stiff-lipped disapproval that was as English as fish and chips.
Aside from domestic decorum and respect for one’s elders, the British trait that Nana esteemed most was a kind of poise and self-possession that betrayed not the slightest anxiety. Even on the rare occasions when she ran late for an appointment, she didn’t scurry; her gait remained dignified and deliberate, the rhythm of her classic heels on floor or pavement steady. Although she wore no tiara on her teased white curls, Nana carried every inch of her five-foot-frame with the dignity of a queen. And a queen, she said, simply did not run.
How different (though no less dignified) is the bearing of another sovereign, whom we honor during the month of May: Mary, the mother of God. The humble girl from Nazareth, who by divine grace came to reign over the universe, accepted God’s offer to bear the Savior — and then picked up her skirts to “(travel) … in haste to a town of Judah” (Luke 1:39). Once there, she wasted no time in stating her purpose: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:46-47).
Mary is a ruler on the run, one eager to see her Son’s will fulfilled. Crowned by the Holy Spirit, she nevertheless fixes her gaze on God, her eyes like those “of a maid on the hand of her mistress” to await and obey his command (Psalm 123:2). Complete in her submission to the Lord, “the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ” (Lumen Gentium, 63). The people of God, then, should strive to keep up with their very busy mother, not growing “slack in zeal,” but being “fervent in spirit (to) serve the Lord” (Romans 12:11).
Our gait should be energetic, not frantic or harried; unlike the world’s rushed pace, the Blessed Mother’s “holy haste” is not dismissive, but devoted. It is the urgency that runs to a sick child, and then patiently watches through the fevered night with tender care. It is the eagerness that seeks out the lonely to listen at length, with focused attention and genuine concern. It is the restless, relentless pursuit of justice for the marginalized and the maligned.
As we reflect on Mary’s example this month, let’s quicken our steps to wait upon the Lord and upon all those who desperately need love, healing and hope. We truly are medics in what Pope Francis has called a field hospital. The wounds of the world are real and deep; there is no time to waste in treating them, and if we hurry, we will someday find ourselves in the presence of a smiling Queen.
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