The concept of the “father wound” is a familiar one in popular psychology; that of the “mother wound” is less so. In our frantic, exhausted society, the ability of women to mother their children is strained by careers, soccer, and the paradoxical social isolation that social media engender (Why talk when you can text? Why interact with Mom when you can tweet and IM?). I realize that financial realities sometimes require that toddlers be in daycare and older kids be in after-school care. But for children to spend most of their time being cared for by strangers has to be generating mother-wounds whose extent won’t be fully understood for years to come. What a recipe for poor attachment!
In such an environment, the need for the perfect motherhood that Mary, the Blesseed Mother, offers becomes even more crucial. But she is a remedy and blessing that we always need. Through no fault of their own – only that of our first parents, Adam and Eve – none of our earthly mothers are perfect. One may be too distant; another too protective; another is anxious, or depressed, or angry, or overwhelmed; dominating or passive; overindulgent or neglectful.
The perfect motherhood of Mary and the perfect fatherhood of God are of wholly different orders, yet each are uniquely tailored to our deepest human needs. On the one hand, God is absolutely self-sufficient. He has no need of anything; no aspect of Him is given to Him by someone else – including His “status” as the Father. Conversely, all that Mary has and is, is a complete gift from God. She praises Him for this very reason (Luke 1:46-49):
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
She is the lowly servant whom God has raised up; she will henceforth be called blessed because God has done great things for her. Similarly, her perfect motherhood is bestowed, not merited: it is sheer gift to her, and through her, to all who call upon her as mother. (Not surprisingly, the human rhythm of masculine and feminine echoes this pattern: man gives, initiates; woman receives and nurtures.)
I repeatedly have found that Mary uniquely fills any maternal deficits, for those who are willing to connect with her. A woman I worked with during my doctoral training, for example, had a severe maternal deficit. Her mother had been diagnosed with Schizoid Personality Disorder, which indicates a virtual inability to attach to other human beings and a strong dislike of human closeness. On one occasion, when the client was a preschooler, a pot of boiling water spilled on and badly scalded her; her mother’s response to the client’s screams of pain was, “You got water all over the floor!” “Neglect” hardly captured the client’s childhood experience, and there was no father around to mitigate the deprivation.
As it happened, the woman had been raised Protestant but had a long-time interest in and admiration of Catholicism, due to some positive experiences with Catholic friends. I suggested that she ask Mary to be her Mother. The client had initially begun seeing me for panic attacks, the accumulation of years of undealt with emotional pain. When she began praying the Rosary, the panic attacks stopped.
In another example, a Catholic acquaintance of my wife’s had fallen away from the Church after falling into a very worldly lifestyle. She developed chronic fatigue syndrome, to the point that she could barely move from her couch. Her life closed in to the four walls of her house. At some point, she felt inspired to pray the Rosary and ask the Blessed Mother’s help; and day by day, her energy returned more strongly. When we met her, she was a complete dynamo and absolutely on fire for the Lord and for the Church: we would never have believed the inertia from which Mary delivered her.
In my next post, I’ll talk about how Mary became my mother as well.