When we cleaned out my sister’s apartment, we divided up her belongings. One item my sister had was a statue of Mary. This was no ordinary statue. It was quite large—over 3 feet tall. It had been given to my maternal grandmother when my mother, her first child, was born in 1915. My mother treasured the statue because it was a direct link to the mother she never knew, the mother who died shortly after the birth of her second child when my mother was only two.
We had grown up with this statue of Mary in our house. It had stood on a small wooden table in one of the bedrooms or later in the living room. I remember, as a child, putting flowers in front of the statue: daffodils, lilacs, or roses that grew in our yard.
But now, none of my sister’s children wanted the statue. I couldn’t blame them. Who wants such a huge statue in their house these days? My nieces and nephews thought: Surely I, the nun, would want to have it, right?
Well, not exactly. But I said I would take the statue to our provincial center. They might find a place for it there. More likely they would give or sell it to someone who collects religious items, such as statues and crucifixes, and refurbishes them.
Mary was too heavy for me to carry, so my nephew Chris hoisted her up and lugged her out to my car. My trunk and back seat were already filled with other “stuff” I was going to try to find a home for, so Chris stood the statue on the front passenger seat. He gently buckled Mary in with the seat belt. Then he wrapped a bungee cord around her and the seat to secure her even more. “Try not to make any sudden stops,” he cautioned.
I began my sixty-mile journey home with Mary in the passenger seat of my car. As I drove along, I glanced over at her every now and then just to be sure she was okay. There she was standing stiffly—with perfect posture—on the seat next to me. The palms of her hands were pressed together in front of her with her fingers pointing straight up to heaven. Mary was in full prayer mode the whole way. (Maybe she didn’t trust my driving!)
I wondered what other drivers thought as they passed me or pulled up next to me at a stop light. Maybe they were tempted to yell, “Hey, Lady, they make smaller ones, you know! Ones that fit on the dashboard!”
I didn’t go to our provincial center for two days. During that time Mary rode around town with me as I did a few errands. She went with me to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy. (I decided not to use the drive-thru this time.) While I pumped gas at the gas station, Mary stayed in the car, praying. Eventually I dropped her off at our provincial center. The last time I saw her, she was lying on her back on a cart as one of our workmen was slowly pushing her down the hall. She was still praying. (I thought, “That woman prays 24/7!”)
This little episode with the Mary statue got me thinking. As Christians, we believe we don’t walk through life alone. We believe God walks beside us every step of the way. (Some people like to think of God as their co-pilot. But I like the old maxim that says, “If God is your co-pilot, switch seats!”) We also believe in what is called “The Communion of Saints,” that is, our oneness with the whole body of believers which includes canonized and un-canonized saints. We also believe our deceased loved ones are somehow very present to us in mysterious ways, and that the bonds of love we had with them during their life on earth persist even after their death.
Today might be a good day to give thanks for those individuals who accompany us on our earthly journey—individuals divine and human (and angelical!), canonized and un-canonized, living and deceased. Even a few minutes of reflection will make us realize: How lucky we are to be traveling in such good company!
In whose company do you walk through life?
The song is “You Will Never Walk Alone” from the musical Carousel, here sung by “The Celtic Women.” I remember when this musical first came out. It had some wonderful songs. This particular song doesn’t mention God specifically or those who have gone before us and who accompany us now. Yet it does speak of that great Christian virtue, HOPE:
Are you traveling through life in good company? If so, who? Would you be willing to share some of that company with us?