Years ago, I worked for the U.S. division of an Italian motorcycle manufacturer, and one of the many things I used to tease my overseas colleagues about was the number of holidays they had.
“You people get more days off in a month than I ever did in twelve years of Catholic school,” I once quipped to a manager at headquarters.
“You Americans live to work,” she drawled nonchalantly. “We work to live.”
And that was particularly true during August with “Ferragosto” — an ancient Roman holiday that eventually merged with the Aug. 15 Solemnity of the Assumption to become the traditional highlight of the Italian summer.
Staff at our Milan-area factory received close to three weeks of vacation for the ferie; production lines were halted, emails trailed off, and year after year I tried, without success, to convince my boss that for the good of the company, he really needed to transfer me to headquarters.
I’ve thought of and prayed for those former colleagues lately; many lived in the Lombardy region of Italy, one of the areas hardest hit by COVID-19. And this year, as we celebrate the Assumption — when the Lord lifted his blessed Mother, body and soul, from earth into heaven — I’ve also found myself thinking (and praying for) something else:
“Take me with you, Mary.”
After months of plague, civil unrest, political and economic instability, environmental crisis — how wonderful it would be to cling to Mary’s skirts and slip through the clouds into the kingdom, “the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1024).
No more tears; no more agony or anguish: heartaches healed, sighs transposed into songs of joy. And although (as we know from vintage holy cards) heaven strongly resembles Tuscany, even the best Ferragosto couldn’t come close to an eternal vacation with the Trinity.
Yet while our fingers cannot grasp her mantle, Mary is more present to us than ever. Her Assumption isn’t merely a divine reward for a job well done as the Mother of God; rather, it is “a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians” (Catechism, 966).
Out of sight but never out of heart, Mary “by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation” and is therefore “invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix” (Lumen Gentium, 62).
For a church wounded, especially in recent years, by division and discouragement, the Assumption reminds us that Mary is the icon of God’s ultimate and undefeated plans for the Bride of Christ: “The Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the church as it is to be perfected in the world to come” (Lumen Gentium, 68).
Amid the radiance of heaven, Mary’s eyes look with longing for the rest of her children; indeed “the church is awaited by the one she venerates as Mother of her Lord and as her own mother” (Catechism, 972).
And if the same arms that held Christ are stretched out to embrace me, I can only say, “Take me with you, Mary.”
See the Mass readings for the Vigil and the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
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