Today is the final day of a week long retreat I’ve been giving in Covington Kentucky to a group of Sisters of Notre Dame and several of their Associates. The theme was Encountering Mary. My talks over the course of the week considered various aspects of, and ways we relate to, Mary: as Mother of God, Our Lady of Sorrows, Mother of the Church, Prophet of Justice, to name several. Our evening activities included two films (Nativity Story and Song of Bernadette, the latter of which some of the sisters had not seen for several decades), an evening of Taize prayer, a prayer service on the Seven Sorrows of Mary, and a group rosary.
One of the days this week was devoted to encountering Mary in art, poetry and music. I had available multiple images of Mary, a packet of about fifteen Marian themed poems, and a playlist of Marian music that played throughout the day. After a talk in the morning about visio divina, audio divina and the use of poetry in prayer, the retreatants had most of the day to pray with Mary using one of more of these media.
One of the images that one of the sisters prayed with was the below picture of an aged Mary, that was part of my collection of images. We don’t often think of Mary in this way, but seeing her like this reminds us that her life continued after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and that she had many years to continue to “ponder” his presence in her life. And for those who are aging (like the sister who prayed with the image), it makes Mary a continuing model, beyond in the ways we tend to think of her.