My Mother’s Heavenly Role Model

When I was a child, May was Mary’s month. My mother demanded that we children convene after dinner and say … Continued

When I was a child, May was Mary’s month. My mother demanded that we children convene after dinner and say the rosary every night. We complained, cut corners, giggled, and misbehaved. But for the most part, we did it.

How could I have known that 40 years later, I would be saying the same Rosary with my mother as she lays in bed at 86, struggling for health. Some days, speech is difficult for her and walking impossible. Some days, it’s all she can do to raise her head.

But even on those days, the words of the rosary come easily.

“Do you want to lead Mom?”

“Yes. Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee…”

In the traditional language of religion, Mary is her “devotion.” And for her, Mary became not just an object of veneration but also a guide for how to raise children, how to work, and how to live a life of meaning. Mary is my mother’s role model.

I can understand how many of today’s mothers shy away from such devotions. Many mothers today feel that they should not force religion on their children. Many feel that traditional devotions like my mother’s are out of date and represent the most arcane of spiritual practices. Many emphasize emotions like empathy and compassion instead of devotions like attending church and following rules like the Ten Commandments or the moral codes of religions.

But I can hardly begin to capture how much meaning and purpose my mother’s devotion to Mary has given me. The rosary was my first exposure to the power of repetitive prayer and led me to study the meditative practices of all religions where mantra and repetition form a pathway to silence and peace. Those beads in my fingers still create an almost biological reaction: “calm down” they seem to call out no matter the moment. Move to your center. Be still.

Mary was everywhere in my house as a child and also set the tone for a resolute belief in the importance of women. My mother pushed and pushed for women in politics, in science, in religion, in advocacy. I find myself over and over again asking if there is a female perspective on a problem that I’m missing, a women’s role that is being overlooked.

Mary was our symbol of struggle too. My mother taught me to be a fighter for those with special needs, to be resolute in believing that Mary’s message was that every child was valuable, that all life pointed to the giver of life, that we should allow no one to diminish the dignity of the vulnerable. Mary’s words remain with me almost daily: “My spirit rejoices in God, my savior. For he has looked with favor on his lowly servant…He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.”

Now, my mother is struggling with Mary’s most difficult lesson: acceptance. For 86 years, my mother’s life has been restless and engaged. I can still see her in the pool, teaching swimming to a child with special needs. I see her in meetings, directing her frustration at those who move too slowly for change. I see her on edge, in the battle, in control.

But it’s not so now. She is no longer in control and the most difficult words of Mary keep washing over me: “Let it be done to me according to thy will.” It’s no longer my mother’s role to lead the charge. Now her role is to learn to let go and do what her role model did: Trust that despite the pain and fear of life, God’s will be done.

Hopefully, I have learned the lesson of her devotion. My mother now needs to be mothered herself, and at such times, even a man can try to “mother.” So I try to repeat the lessons of my mother’s devotion — to pray, to honor her, to side with the vulnerable, to accept God’s will. I try to be as Mary would and love.

My mother’s devotional religion may be out of fashion these days. Today’s mothers are more physically and emotionally expressive than my mom was, and they tend to be less prescriptive too. They tend to emphasize following a tradition less and figuring it out for yourself more; following rules of behavior less and searching within for whatever works for you more.

Much of this shift seems healthy—a way of creating more emotional safety and honesty between mothers and children; a way of removing some of the burden of conforming.

But in a way, we may be coming full circle. Today’s young people who have been raised by mothers who have left many of the big decisions to them are searching too. They’ve been given the gift of great opportunities and open pathways to find their place. But my unscientific survey suggests that many of them want a devotion. They’re looking for role models. They want to know who to follow as they try to find peace and purpose.

Maybe few will end up on their knees saying the rosary or practicing a devotion to Mary or to a spiritual figure from their own tradition. But they could do a lot worse.

Timothy Shriver
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  • Kenneth

    Its strange how most Christians consider themselves to be monotheistic, yet they worship lesser dieties like Mary.I thought there was only one God, but if you pray to Mary, there are more than one.All and all, what a ridiculous vacuous post.

  • Angela

    This is a remarkable and wonderful story however, we have an intercessor and His name is Jesus Christ. We should not pray to God through Paul, Peter, the Beloved Disciple John, Just pray to God through Jesus or else it’s considered idolatry.

  • Kenneth

    Angela,Its quite arrogant to think you know the mind of God (ie: what God considers idoltry).Why pray through Jesus? Why not pray directly to God? I know exactly where you can shove your stupid religion.

  • speed123

    Catholics have reverence for Mary as the Mother of God; however, they do not worship Mary as a god…If you do not have reverence for the miracles associated with Mary then, in a small but significant way, you deny the divinity of Christ.Luke 1:28 “And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

  • Kenneth

    Speed123,I not only deny the divinity of Christ, I mock religious people whenever I can, after all, shouldn’t irrationality be mocked?

  • a mother

    Praying in repetition only brings a dry mouth.”And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore, do not be like them.” And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Matthew 6Teaching belief that Mary hears prayers, can take away sin, or affect your salvation diminishes Christ’s finished work and is in direct contradiction with the infallible word of the living God.Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Religions command people to perform or participate in rituals, ceremonies, and other traditions, all of which can not give eternal life. Jesus said to them, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know. I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14

  • caandide

    Shriver, didn’t you realize the trouble you would have? The evangelicals cannot accept Mary. They hate her, they hate you. Don’t cast your pearls (or rosary beads) before swine.

  • paul c

    Kenneth, A for the rosary, if done properly, it is not a dry repetitive prayer. A you say the prayers, you are supposed to meditate on one of the 20 mysteries in the life of Jesus and Mary. This brings spiritual awareness. As for Catholics and Mary, we draw inspiration from Mary because she was the first and best disciple of Christ. She is not a diety in the least, but i considered the perfect human, without sin and therefore someone who should be emulated. We also believe in the communion of Saints, which means that all the Saints living and dead can help each other through prayer. When we pray the Hail Mary, we say:Hail Mary Full of Grace, the lord is with you.As you can see, we do not pray to Mary, we ask Mary to pray for us.. She is not God but as a Saint, is part of the Communion of Saints that supports each other through prayer to God

  • Brambleton

    Kenneth & Candide,How sad your lives must be without hope. I pray that, someday, someone will touch your life in such a way that your hope is restored and momentary happiness becomes eternal joy.

  • Anonymous

    Kenneth:Speed123,I not only deny the divinity of Christ, I mock religious people whenever I can, after all, shouldn’t irrationality be mocked? May 12, 2008 3:11 PM***************Wrong, mocking is for fools and you have proven yourself to be just that.

  • Morgan Gale

    If I ever thought Eunice deserved anything, she deserves grace. I wish others would post opinions not germaine to the topic somewhere else in this great internet world.Mark, I wish you and the children peace as both of your parents struggle valiantly on.

  • Ryan Haber

    Mr. Shriver,I am deeply moved by your story. I do not see why people are so afraid of Mary. Maybe they take their own natural, human jealousy and fear of sitting second fiddle and project those onto our Blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as if God-made-flesh would be upset because somebody loved His mother?Fulton Sheen said again and again that we mustn’t bury our distinctive devotion to the Mother of our Lord because not all of His followers attend to her as well. Our Lord was certainly devoted to His mother; should we abandon His holy example on this point alone?Of course, when we bear our heart to anyone, and especially to strangers, we run the risk that they will pierce it. Our Blessed Lord was pierced in His Sacred Heart after His agonies were completed. Mary was standing at His feet during that final humiliation. We can rejoice in being united to Him in this way, if we died unto ourselves and show the world what is in our heart, however much they mock us.Our Lord gave us not only His life and death, but the only possession He had left of any worth to Him: His mother. There is no other way to understand the moving passage in John 19:26-7, “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” Our Lord, to prevent His mother from falling into destitution, and thence the temptation to the illicit remedy thereof, gave her custody to the only Apostle to stand with Him to the bitter end, and the only one who was unmarried and thus certainly chaste. Any other interpretation renders our Lord’s superfluous. Imagine, on your deathbed, using your last breaths to say, “Hey ma, I’ve got a brother!” Our Lord never wasted anything, let alone His last moments.If our Lord saw fit to give St. John His mother to be his own, can we surmise that St. John treated her with any respect less than our Lord did? Are we to think that, our Lord willing His mother to be cared for, St. John disregarded her, or that we are to disregard her?Looking to the example of the wedding feast of Cana (Jn 2) we see that recourse to the Mother of Jesus is the surest way to move Jesus’ Sacred Heart to act because He, a good son, respected and loved His mother lifelong. Our recourse of need and devotion to Mary ought to be as constant and repeated as the delivery of roses from husband to wife, or of nice little cards and macaroni necklaces from son to mother.We have no fear of violating the scripture’s injuction to avoid repetitious prayer, because it says no such thing. The Greek phrase in Mt 6:7 is “me battalogesete” and means, “Do not babble.” “Logos” in Greek means “word,” and “batta” is something of the sound the Greeks used to indicate, “Blah blah blah.” “Battalogein,” then means to drone on mindlessly, to babble. Babbling and repetition needn’t have anything to do with each other, and in sincere and devoted people, do not. It is not babbling when a husband, each night, before turning out the light, turns to his wife, looks her in the eye in silence for ten or twenty seconds and says, “I love you.” What woman wouldn’t love such a repetitive ritual? Who would even think to call it repetitious? Likewise, we all know people who can drift from topic to meaningless topic, without ever repeating themselves, and yet babble throughout nonetheless.I grateful for your piece, Mr. Shriver. It is a nice turn from the invective and unpleasant controversy normally invited by the OnFaith forums. I am sorry that so many people have chimed in with such insensate animosity, or uncomprehending cliches. The advice against throwing pearls (or rosary beads, lol) before swine is well met; while I will not in this forum share more of heart about Our Lord’s mother and ours, let me suffice it to say that she has ever been my sweetness in life’s trials and, as we speak, works to secure my devotion to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.Pray the Blessed Mother lead sinners and hecklers alike to true repentence and thence to her Son, as she led the steward at the wedding in Cana, and has led people ever since.

  • Angela

    Candice, I forgive your tongue. We all should read our bibles and not look to man to give us wisdom which comes through the preaching of God’s whole counsel through the Holy Spirit. Also, the biblical definition of an idol is anything that we exalt w/God or over God; not my words or thoughts: God’s word. The bible clearly states that we cannot come to God except through Jesus Christ and if we ask for anything in His name, if it’s His will, it will be done but first seek His kingdom and all things things will be given to you. Mark 3:31-32: A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” 33″Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. 34Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”. Mary was a virtuous woman of God, used as an instrument by the Holy Spirit to bear Jesus. No where in the bible does it exalt Mary.

  • Ann

    Mr Shiver, Thank You for that insighful post. I am not Catholic but I too have observed the power of prays, said almost as a mantra, to lead to that place of stillness. That place of stillness where it is easier to hear the voice of the Lord above all the noise in your own mind. I too am struggling with accepting my new role as ‘mother’ as I watch my once strong, vibrant mother fade slowly to vagueness and confusion. I am given gifts sometimes, however, moments when she is again bright, funny and disrespectful of smug authority. She and I both struggle with acceptance, accepting that at 87 she is slowing, quietly leaving this world and her family.

  • candide

    Angela, I’m candide not candace. I think evangelicals are evil. Even more evil than the Catholic church.

  • speed123

    Angela writes “Mary was a virtuous woman of God, used as an instrument by the Holy Spirit to bear Jesus. No where in the bible does it exalt Mary.”Mary was more than a virtuous woman and since evangelicals fundamentalists like to quote the Bible, let me quote for you:Luke 1:28 – “And he came to her and said, ‘Hail O highly favored one, the Lord is with you.”Although Immaculate Conception cannot be proven absolutely from Scripture alone, it cannot be ruled out on the basis of Scripture, either.

  • Believer and proud of it

    candide: “Angela, I’m candide not candace. I think evangelicals are evil. Even more evil than the Catholic church.” May 12, 2008 6:59 PM ††††††††††††††††††††††††Good for you, I am an evangelical and I can assure you that I am not “evil” as you say “evangelicals” are.Having said that, with your thoughts of evangelicals and type of thinking I suggest that you keep those thoughts to yourself because they are not “worth” mentioning or hearing.

  • Athena

    “I do not see why people are so afraid of Mary.”Because she’s the Great Mother Goddess in disguise. The veneration of Mary picked up about the time that Europe was converting from Paganism to Christianity. The Pagans realized that they could still have their Goddess if they just called her “Virgin Mary” instead of their local name for Her. The Virgin Mary’s many attributes (Star of the Sea, Queen of Heaven, etc.) are all from Isis and other Mother Goddesses.

  • Anonymous

    “”Luke 1:28 – “And he came to her and said, ‘Hail O highly favored one, the Lord is with you.””**********All believers are “favored” by God and considered his children and “the apple of his eye.” Not one believer is exalted over another by God.

  • speed123

    “your thoughts of evangelicals and type of thinking I suggest that you keep those thoughts to yourself because they are not “worth” mentioning or hearing.”I could say the same of your evangelical attacks on Catholics…Do you practice what you preach?

  • Anonymous

    Posted on May 12, 2008 21:03 Athena: Because she’s the Great Mother Goddess in disguise. The veneration of Mary picked up about the time that Europe was converting from Paganism to Christianity. The Pagans realized that they could still have their Goddess if they just called her “Virgin Mary” instead of their local name for Her. The Virgin Mary’s many attributes (Star of the Sea, Queen of Heaven, etc.) are all from Isis and other Mother Goddesses. ******************Since when do you interpret that “people” are afraid of Mary??? Good thing that you are not a doctor diagnosing people. There is no fear on my part just plain and simple facts of her status from a christain point of view; of which you know little about.

  • Anonymous

    “Do you practice what you preach?”Who is asking………..God???

  • a mother

    And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” But He (Jesus) said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Luke 11The woman offered praise for Jesus’ mother. Though Jesus always honored Mary, He commented carefully on the woman’s blessing to keep the focus on the WORD OF GOD. It is easy to allow traditional practices to take the place of the authority of the Scriptures. Jesus offers His blessing to those who respond concretely to God’s will as expressed in the Bible.

  • Anonymous

    He will be asking:Corinthians 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body”Unfortunately for you, and your self righteous sect, you will not have the answer.

  • Kenneth

    Worship Mary all you want.She’ll answer your prayers, especially if you’re uneducated and poor.Worship her; she’ll answer your prayers.Timothy, one day when the United States disintegrates, I hope my grandkids have little problem with not being your countryman.

  • Anonymous

    “Timothy, one day when the United States disintegrates, I hope my grandkids have little problem with not being your countryman.”You have very little to contribute here, Ken…..isn’t there an angry, hopeless, ill-humored atheist forum somewhere?

  • Ryan Haber

    Thanks, Paganplace.I commented on fear because I cannot see another source for the vitriol. Although, I have to say that we don’t scorn nurturance, and hold submission (or rather obedience, which is slightly different) to be a high, very high virtue.God bless.

  • Paganplace

    ” Ryan Haber:Thanks, Paganplace.”Ah, were you that Anonymous? So hard to tell. :) “I commented on fear because I cannot see another source for the vitriol.”Simple aggression, and a need for control, for one or three. In an Anglo context , there’s Henry VIII to account for: the way he treated women, he couldn’t exactly have people much-venerating Queens, especially not while using a new sort of religion as a loyalty test regarding his succession, now, could he? ” Although, I have to say that we don’t scorn nurturance, and hold submission (or rather obedience, which is slightly different) to be a high, very high virtue.”Kinda heard a bit about that when I wasn’t apparently being ‘highly virtuous’ enough in the Boston archdiocese. That don’t impress me, either. “God bless.”Thanks. That actually sounded sincere. :)

  • Paganplace

    Cause, you know, Ryan, Catholics and Protestants got this thing in common: *you both choose* where you split hairs to justify things, and where you impose ‘absolutes’ and ‘obedience’ …on others. There is a dark side to Marian devotionals just as there is to demonizing them. That dark side is in fact *scaring the yellow water* out of mothers who have a miscarriage and think God cursed them, or bear kids that don’t turn out quite so ‘obedient.’ Even if for good reason, under the circumstances. Cause you got all this Mary Full Of Grace thing, but *only* in terms of making obedient kids. And submissive daughters. Not that ‘submission’ is inherently *bad,* but there’s a difference between submitting of one’s free choice, and simply having the independence beaten or conditioned out of one. Protestants, of course, avowedly got no Divine Feminine at *all,* and that has its own problems.

  • Anonymous

    Mary, “The Queen Of Heaven” Many Roman Catholics , if not all, believe that Mary is the “Queen of Heaven”. The idea may have originated from the fact that since Jesus came from her womb, therefore she is the “Mother of God” and henceforth the “Queen of Heaven”. Even Davao City Archbishop Fernando Capalla declared in a local tv broadcast that “Mary is the Queen of Heaven”. With him pronouncing it, no doubt, this is a Roman Catholic doctrine. Many Roman Catholic beliefs are false because many of them are based on wrong presumptions. Here are the reasons why Mary is not the Mother of God. First, God is eternal. He has no source and has no ending. God created Mary and it should remain that way. The devil wants to turn it around and voila ! God now has a mother. The Eternal God is now under the “dictates” of a “mother”. The Almighty God will judge us purely by our own merits and not by how the “mother” will intercede for us. The real question is ” what is our relationship with God and God alone?” Forget about Mary. Like us she will have her own appointment with God. In II Corinthians 5:10, Apostle Paul said, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ…” . The phrase “we must all” pertains to him (Paul), us and certainly Mary also. As what the Parable of the Ten Virgins suggests, she too can’t share her oil. It means that she cannot intercede. Second, the Spirit of Jesus Christ existed even before Mary was born. In John 8:57-58, it says ” Then said the Jews unto Him, thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am. “In Colossians 1:17 Paul said ” And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.”Not only He was before Abraham, He was also before the existence of the universe and the creator of it as well.To give us a glimpse of His power, Apostle John described his encounter with Jesus in Heaven in Revelation 1:16-17 ” … His countenance was as the sun shineth in His strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.”Mary is really only one of the children of God and to distort this order by making her the Mother of God is just pure blasphemy.This “Queen of Heaven” Doctrine is really not new. In the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the people of Israel worshipped her. In Jeremiah 7:18, God said ” The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.”In verse 20, He continues “… behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place…”Thirdly, Jesus never called Mary as mother. He called her “woman”. (John 2:4 , John 19:26)I wonder how many times the Lord will have to ask this question for people to wake up from their trance. It’s a pity that everytime a person prays the rosary, He’s not only doing a vain act of repetitious prayer but in so doing, he also invites the anger and fury of God. If they’ll finally meet God face to face, I doubt if they will hear that question again if they will mention her name in His presence or would it be the painful parting words “depart from me, ye cursed into everlasting fire”. I hope not, and I hope they will listen.

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    Dear Dr ShriverThank you for sharing details of the inspiration you draw from your mother, your own experience with praying the Rosary etc. It is indeed an untold blessing to have a mother who is the kind of wonderful role model that your mother is. How lucky she is to have a son like you, who not only loves her with the nurturing love she needs at this time of her life, but also carries on her vision for the handicapped.Having been raised in a family where we prayed the rosary (and a lot of other prayers) every evening as a family I understand your Catholic upbringing. After the age of eighteen however (I’m three months older than you so I share the same developments in the Catholic church at the same age) reading the Bible became more important to me. I was considered a protesting Catholic because I did not feel a need for the rosary. To me Mother Mary is a model of how to be a good Christian, of how to surrender to God’s will in total humility, unquestioningly out of love and trust. The fact that she is mentioned in the Book of Revelation proves that she has a special place in heaven. It is right to pray to her and other saints to intercede for us. But to me Jesus remains the Way, the Truth and the Life. It is He who deserves all our attention and love. So often we forget that He had a deeply feminine side. His compassion for the suffering was so deep, He noticed when those who followed Him were hungry at the end of the day and could not be sent home hungry, as a loving mother, He reminded Peter to feed the sheep and lambs as proof of love for Him etc…How wonderful it is when men develop their feminine side reflecting Jesus more fully. Your deep concern and love for your mother proves that you have developed your feminine side as every man should.May God grant you the strength to continue to love and support your mother in the evening of her life! What a terrific role model your mother has been!Soja John Thaikattil

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    PS: The repetitive prayer I use when I do pray was given to me by Dom Bede Griffiths and it goes thus: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner. It is taken from the Eastern tradition and it was the prayer Fr Bede himself used during his meditation.

  • Ryan Haber

    Mary is NOT divine. Catholics do not, nor have we ever for one whit or moment given her worship, which is due to God alone.Mary was not smuggled in by pagans as a substitute for local mother-goddesses by crypto-pagans who had never really converted. Devotion to Mary within the Christian community begins far earlier than those times – it begins in the catacombs where Christians hid while still persecuted by pagans. For it is in the catacombs that the prayer “Under Your Protection” is found in Alexandria, dating to about AD 250, during one of the fiercest persecutions. That prayer, the oldest Christian prayer outside the Bible, reads,”We fly to thy patronage, But devotion seems to go even earlier than that. St. Luke wrote his Gospel at about AD 70, and St. John wrote his at about AD 100, and both contain tender references to her.—Anonymous,You do not understand what it means to be a mother. It does not mean to dictate or rule. Moreover, it doesn’t even mean to be before someone, because a woman might mother someone older than herself. It means to nurture and care for, and normally, to give birth to. Mary did all those things for Jesus. She was the Mother of Jesus. Jesus is God. Mary is the Mother of God. It’s really very simple. If she is not the Mother of God, it can only be because either Jesus is not her son, or Jesus is not God, or both.—To heap praise upon a person is a sign of admiration and affection, of respect and love. It is not a sign of worship. Protestants, it is true, have only songs, prayers, and praises with which to worship God. Seeing us offer those same things to Mary, they naturally confuse our actions with worship. Those things are not how Catholics worship, although we include them in our service of worship to God. We worship in the way that Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ showed us (Mt 26:26-29), in the way our Lord himself commanded us to do (Lk 22:19-20), in the way that the Apostles received from him and transmitted to their successors (1 Cor 11:23-29), and in the way that Our Lord promised would give us eternal life (Jn 6:53-56). The Eucharist, together with sound moral living (1 Pt 3:21), is how Our Lord wants to be worshiped.This saying is hard, and many will reject it. In doing so, they reject Our Lord himself (Jn 6:66).

  • Ryan Haber

    Paganplace,You’re right. Obedience is a free act of the will. Otherwise, what looks and (kinda) acts like obedience is really pavlovian conditioning, or servile fear. For someone to attempt to rob another of one’s will through psychological techniques or brute force is a horrible crime and an affront to human dignity. Of course, I am not saying that however we exercise our will we are justified by the mere fact of having made a choice. Some options that we choose are wrong and society has a right to defend itself by punishing, and to some extent restricting our ability, to choose harmfully. That said though, the means of mass communication, social education, and increasingly of law enforcement all aim at aversive conditioning – that is, training us to be averse to options that others have deemed bad.On the reverse side of the coin, not so much dealing with your situation, I hope that we, as a Church, can come up with a more honest solution to the difficulty of family members who leave the Church and whose families then want them buried by it. Ultimately, a more honest solution will be more consoling to the families as well, because the consolation, however paltry, will be real.Obedience, since it is the giving of our will over to another, is the greatest gift we can give to somebody – it is something like the gift of self in sexual relations.Who you are won’t be erased in your final self-gift, but perfected. You’ve been, Paganplace, it seems, someone who has made serious efforts to love for a long time now, even over a number of serious difficulties and wounds. A final gift of love, though it hide your preferences from the world, will consummate your efforts.It’s funny. You for your reasons, and I for mine, would both like to be buried in a fairly natural and simple manner. I want a pine box, don’t want any embalming (as a sensibility, but it also strikes me as befitting my father’s Orthodox Jewish heritage), and would be buried in at minimal cost with a simple marker. Although, my affection for the Blessed Mother does make me feel it would be a shame not to have her imagine on my stone. Maybe I’ll have etched upon it her image and symbols from the Miraculous Medal, which I’ve been ambivalent about having tattooed on my back.You know, if you ever want to email me to converse less publicly, my email address is withouthavingseen at gmail dot com.God bless. (Lol, taken as you will, and I DID mean it :)

  • meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

    Timothy ,your beautifull its true,i saw your face in a crowded place and i don’t know what to do because i’ll never be with you,seriously your mum is a great lady and it would appear that she has raised children who love and respect her.And even more importantly have an inherited responsibility.Unfortunately not all faiths understand Catholics adoration of Mary.I always understood her to be the link,go to her and she’d put in a good word for you.How quickly we forget the wedding of cana and her influence over the boy Jesus thus enabling all the drunks.Any pagan worth his or her salt should at least respect her for that.All the best ………

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    Dear Dr ShriverI wish you a Happy Holy Trinity Day! Fr Bede recommended prayerfully reading John 14-17 (and considered it among the two most important passages of the NT, the other being the Sermon on the Mount) and I find it most appropriate for this Sunday reflection.Soja John Thaikattil

  • Bob Brown

    Timothy, I say AMEN to your beautifully written article and prayers to the Mother of God, I too, recite this prayer every day and have been doing so for decades. It helps me get through the day !Dr. T, keep up the great columns ! “Don’t let nobody, turn you around !”