Tuesday, May 6, 2008


No, the post title doesn't stand for "What Weapons of Mass Destruction?" though perhaps it should; I haven't been very political lately. This is largely due to the fact that as the interminable Democratic primary season drags on, it has started to be as boring as the last reel of a horror movie of the sort where it's painfully obvious that only one of the supremely uninteresting and neurotic characters is going to survive the night in the haunted house/zombie-infested mall/demon-laced town etc., and you no longer really care which one it is so long as the danged thing ends, already. 'Cause you're totally out of popcorn.

By "WWMD?" I'm simply reflecting on something like the WWJD phrase, as it applies to our Blessed Mother, whose month it is. It seems to me that pretty often in life we could benefit by asking ourselves "What would Mary do?"

People do ask themselves this question, of course. It gets brought up pretty consistently, for instance, in the ceaseless and burning question of whether the wearing of slacks is ever, ever, ever modest for a woman. I've written fairly extensively about that in the past, and don't mean to rehash it, but it seems that the skirts and dresses only crowd is pretty confident about claiming that Our Lady would never have approved of slacks--despite the fact that the Vatican allows women to wear them, and actually has more of a problem with female tourists in sleeveless knee-length dresses than the ones who wear jeans.

I've seen the Mary card played a few other times, too: by people who claim that Mary would never have sent her Son to daycare, or to public school, or that Mary would have never approved of this type of entertainment or that sort of gathering or that variety of music. It's perfectly fair to speculate that Mary would have avoided all of these things, but in the end it's not accurate to claim that one knows of one's own certain knowledge what Mary would have done or not done in any of the situations as mentioned.

In Our Lady's day, for instance, women didn't work outside the home, but we know from the Old Testament description of the worthy wife that this didn't mean the woman didn't engage in some cottage-industry commerce to add to the support of her family. I sometimes think about the seamless tunic Our Lord was wearing on the day of His Crucifixion, and ponder the thought of Mary's loving hands weaving this cloth for her Son. Do you suppose that any of the Queen of Heaven's handiwork was ever sold locally, to help St. Joseph in the work of providing for the Holy Family? There's no reason to think it might not have been, and I sometimes imagine a lovely veil sold in Galilee, ending up years later on the head of a women of Jerusalem whom we call Veronica, and pulled off in a moment of compassion and tears to wipe the face of the suffering Savior.

The point is that if a Catholic woman finds herself in the dire necessity of needing to add to the financial support of her family, she is not automatically "unlike Mary" for doing so. Sure, there are women, even Catholic ones, whose material goals are more like those of our world than they are focused on eternal treasure, but being quick to condemn each other without knowing all the circumstances isn't particularly Marylike either.

Again, it is likely that Mary taught Jesus at home; they were a poor family, and education outside the home was a luxury of the rich in Our Lord's day. But that doesn't automatically mean that following Mary demands that all Catholics homeschool; there are times and seasons and circumstances which might make the sincerest desire to teach one's children at home an impossibility. What Mary would do, I think, would be to support the others in her community and be there to help with whatever was needed.

As far as what Mary would or wouldn't approve of in our modern lives, it seems clear to me that anything that is truly immoral, truly an occasion of sin, something that has no possible redeeming value to it, would be something that would displease Our Lady as much as it displeases her Son. But while in Mary's day the time for innocent amusements was less than it is for those of us blessed to live in a land of abundance, that doesn't mean that Mary would have shunned all amusements as frivolity. One of the occasions on which she is present in the Gospels she is attending a party--a wedding party, complete with plenty of guests and, apparently, lots of drinking.

And that moment in Mary's life provides what is, to me, the definitive answer to the question "What would Mary do?" She is aware of the circumstances of the host, and the likelihood of great embarrassment for him when the wine runs out prematurely; she informs her Son of the problem; and even though He doesn't seem to be promising any help, she then tells the servants to do whatever He tells them. In other words, her compassion and concern for those around her is great, and her trust in her Son is even greater; she knows He will not refuse, and that her own compassion is a reflection of God's boundless love and concern for even the small things in our lives.

So if we really want to model Mary's behavior in our lives, we will love and trust God so much that we won't hesitate to ask Him to help us at all times; and we will love our neighbors so much that we will ask God to help them long before we ever think of ourselves.

We will love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our mind, and all our strength; and we will love our neighbor as ourselves. Because that is what Mary did; that is always the answer to the question, "What Would Mary Do?"


Paula in MN said...

Brilliant! I love reading your posts. Always thought-provoking and even challenging!

Anonymous said...

Loved the post. I will think about this more tomorrow.

Mary Poppins NOT said...

Wow. This is spectacular.

I have to admit some ambivalence about Mary as a young Catholic girl when I heard all the things Mary would or wouldn't have done. She sounded inhuman and cranky.

As I have grown, and come to know Mary more as the Theotokos, I realize just what you wrote. Particularly this paragraph of yours, "So if we really want to model Mary's behavior in our lives, we will love and trust God so much that we won't hesitate to ask Him to help us at all times; and we will love our neighbors so much that we will ask God to help them long before we ever think of ourselves."

When people use Mary as an ideological weapon, only damage can result.