ALICE VON HILDEBRAND
Mary is the gem of God’s creation. For God made great things in her ("quia fecit in me magna qui potens est"). She has been honored as Virgin, Spouse, and Mother, but we tend to forget that she also was a widow and this is a topic which we wish to address briefly.
She was married to the chaste Joseph who was the first to be informed of the miracle which had taken place in her womb, the one to whom was granted the awesome task of protecting and supporting her, the one who accompanied her to Bethlehem, who was present at the Birth of the Savior, the one who brought her to Egypt to escape from the murderous plans of Herod.
He was privileged to accompany her and the Holy Child back to Nazareth; he shared Mary's anxieties upon noticing that Jesus was not with them on their way back from Jerusalem. He rejoiced with her when the Christ Child was found in the Temple.
But that He was not present at Calvary—when the Holy Virgin needed him most—tells us, without the possibility of a doubt, that Mary was then a widow. His absence is not even mentioned.
Omissions can be very eloquent. Was it not fitting that he, who had shared her life in a unique way, should be with her at the foot of the cross? He who, more than anybody, would have shared her agony.
God had other plans, and Joseph's absence is profoundly meaningful; God had decided that Mary—the one who suffered most after the Holy One—should also experience the pains of widowhood to give comfort to widows who, like her, carry the cross of loneliness. God had decided that she was to watch the agonizing suffering of her Son alone.
St. John was, of course, there. But who could replace St. Joseph?
There are millions of women who share her fate, and have tasted the bitterness of losing the person with whom they had such a tender bond for precious years of their lives, who had shared their sorrows and their joys. What a supernatural consolation it would be for them to meditate upon the fact that Mary had tasted the same bitter fruit of widowhood.
The Old Testament often mentions widows (never widowers) as deserving special care and attention. In the Acts of the Apostles, they are explicitly mentioned. It is a Judeo-Christian tradition that they desire special care and love.
And yet, surprisingly enough, the Holy Catholic Church has not honored the holiest of widows as could be expected, by dedicating a special feast in her honor. It would, I believe, be an immense consolation for millions and millions of Catholic women to have one day of the year dedicated to honor Mary as Patroness of Widows.
Women are often referred to by the fathers of the Church as the "weak sex"—those who need special protection, even though the Church knows that when they love, women can exhibit a heroic courage that often fails men. They came early on Easter Day to anoint the Sacred Body of their Savior. Women are called, in the liturgy, the "pious sex"—those who because of their frailty—being more emotional than men and usually less in control of their feelings—are blessed with a consciousness that they need help.
To be pious means not only to give the proper response to the holiness of God, but also to turn to Him for help. It is easy for a woman worthy of this name to say; "Without thee, O Lord, I can do nothing." Moreover, the truly saintly woman would gladly add: "Without you, I do not want to do anything." The Little Flower wrote in her autobiography: "I have never been able to do anything alone."
The widow is humanly alone but by humbly acknowledging her helplessness and grief, she can, like Mary, beg for divine help. To know one's weakness, to show one's bleeding heart to the one who said "Come to me, you that are burdened, I will refresh you" are spiritual pearls essential to true prayer life.
"I am the Handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word" is the motto of womanhood whether married and widowed, or whether a consecrated virgin. When Mary spoke these words, the immediate reward was the Incarnation.
Her virginal body became a sacred temple which sheltered Jesus for nine months. In Mary, we find the glorious beauty of virginity, the sacred bond of marriage, the joys of motherhood (with matching sorrows) and the grief of widowhood.
May Holy Church add one more official jewel to her crown and dedicate one day of the year to Mary, Queen of Widows. It is certainly the wish of Catholic widows that the Church should honor this facet of Mary's life which, up to now, has not been highlighted.