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Mary, Our Mother

By Jennifer Gregory Miller (bio - articles - email) | May 24, 2019 | In The Liturgical Year

I think I’ve mentioned here before that my full-time day job the last few years has been the Elementary CGS catechist and assistant in a local Catholic Montessori School. Our Elementary class has 36 children ages 6-12. At different times of the year the extra activities with school and family can tip the scale and leave me little time for writing. Now is one of those times; the Easter season including the month of May is when I am wearing many hats. I spent a week coordinating the Used Book Sale at my local parish festival. The next week I was the “retreat master” for our First Communicants, helping ten sweet souls on a week long retreat ending with their First Confession, renewal of Baptismal Vows and their First Communion. After that it has been full time activities in preparing for our Elementary opera. My extra duties during the day include help direct the music and the costumes and at night I’ve been sewing costumes. The opera is mainly a child-led production, with the adults assisting when needed.

The opera the children are performing this year is Harlequin by Sanford Jones, part of his Youth Opera International. He has written several operas that fit well with schools following the Montessori philosophy. The story is set in Italian Renaissance on Fat Tuesday or Carnival. The central character is Harlequin, a young boy. His father, a tailor, has died, and left Harlequin and his mother with very little. His mother has to work as a seamstress to keep food on the table. Harlequin wants to join in the Carnival festivities with his friends, but has no costume to wear and his mother can’t afford to make one. His friends decide to give him scraps from their own costumes. His mother sees the potential in the pieces of material and sews a costume for his son just in time for the Carnival celebrations that night. His costume is glorious, and Harlequin enjoys Carnival with his friends.

I have been reflecting upon the opera story while stitching and ironing. Although not written as a Catholic opera, Catholic culture is woven throughout the storyline. There are themes of Carnival and Fat Tuesday, ushering in Lent, the season of repentance. All the celebrations end at midnight. During the opera, the mother prays an “Ave Maria” to have Our Lady watch over her son. Part of the festivities includes a priest leading his choir through the square singing “Dona Nobis Pacem.”

While the children in the opera are generous and give their fabric scraps to their friend, I have been reflecting how the real “heroine” is the mother. She works behind the scenes, loving her son by giving of her time and talent to make this costume for him. If it weren’t for her labor of love, Carnival time would not have been a reality for Harlequin.

Being that the month of May is dedicated to Mary, I’ve been trying to turn my thoughts and prayers to Our Lady more. The role of the mother in the opera is just what the Blessed Virgin Mary does for us. She isn’t in the spotlight, and yet, she is always working behind the scenes and enabling us to be closer to Jesus. If it weren’t for Our Lady in our lives, I think we would be stumbling a whole lot and missing out on much richness that can nourish our souls.

Those bits of scraps are the prayers or “Aves” we send up to heaven asking for help for friends and family. Before presenting them to Jesus, Our Lady whips them up together, making them even more beautiful and efficacious than just our stand-alone prayer. This completed beautiful patchwork garment or quilt is presented to her Son. It seems Jesus would be more responsive to his beloved Mother’s presentations of our petitions.

Tomorrow morning is our dress rehearsal and in the evening will be our opera. I’m excited to further reflect on aspects of Our Lady from this opera.

May Our Lady look kindly on us with favor, now and at the hour of our death.

Jennifer Gregory Miller is an experienced homemaker, mother, CGS catechist and authority on living the liturgical year. She is the primary developer of CatholicCulture.org’s liturgical year section. See full bio.

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