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Listen to your Mother: Pray the Rosary

The Joyful Mysteries by Jerry Windley-Daoust

Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes. —1 John 2:11

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the darkness? Turn on any news show and you’ll want to run to your nearest closet, lock yourself in, and declare the world a hopeless, evil place. But there is a key to unlock that closet, and it’s held by an unlikely girl, once a nobody, really. But then she was given a great task to become part of the salvation of all creation, and she said “yes.” She did not let darkness overcome her. She walked with it until it passed. And now she wants to lead you to The Way, to her Son. The steps on the path are the beads on her Rosary.

Pray one decade (1 Our Father + 10 Hail Marys + 1 Glory Be) on your couch with a cup of coffee. Pray all 5 decades x 20 mysteries on your knees in a monastery. Pray it on your fingers in the car. It doesn’t matter… as long as you pray it. Why? Because when you spend even a few moments of each day mindful of the feminine strength needed to bring God’s Grace to the world, you will begin to understand your part in overcoming darkness too.

When I was a child I was preoccupied with order and perfection. It’s safe to say I probably had a bit of undiagnosed OCD… and one thing I obsessed about was church rules. I would try to say the rosary before bed, but if I made one mistake, even in the last word of the last prayer, I’d start over. As you can imagine, I did some pretty heavy praying for a kid! My one reprieve was to recite it with my mother. Together, we could make all the mistakes we wanted and it was OK. Her inherent goodness was powerful enough to negate my imperfections. So I would trek down the hall to her room at 10 or 11pm, frustrated by my “prayer failures”, and wake her up from a deep sleep to say the rosary with me. And to her credit she did it. I’m sure her reaction was a mixture of happiness that I was so devout and complete annoyance that I was interrupting her much-needed sleep. Still, she was there for me. She didn’t leave me all alone in my darkness.

I continued to say parts of the rosary throughout my life, albeit less devoutly. Ten “Hail Marys” before bed, an “Our Father” on the way to a college test. No real devotion…more of a comforting insurance policy, really. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I really needed to turn to prayer for a difficult situation that comfort of the rosary became real to me. This time, it was my turn to accompany someone through darkness. In recitation of the simple prayers, holding each bead as I went along, I felt the Blessed Mother walking beside me. I was guided toward the help needed; I was given the strength to think clearly when things got scary. But most importantly, I was provided with an underlying sense of Peace. I was given the mantra “Let it Be”, which I understood to mean that in the end, all would be well. Just what a mother would say. And she was right.

“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:6-7

Recently, two of my paintings, “Hail Mary” and “The Canticle of Mary”, were included in an Illuminated book of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary by Catholic author Jerry Windley-Daoust. From an artist’s perspective, it’s definitely a boost to the ego to be included in a published collection of work with the likes of Fra Angelico, Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli! On a deeper level, I believe this author found me because we both share a vision to provide a new, fresh perspective to timeless traditions of our faith. Artwork can offer a deeper understanding for both children and adults; a good companion to the beads. Jerry’s book offers an alternative way to experience the Catholic meditative devotional to Mary: through the eyes of artists who have spent their own prayerful time at the canvas.

I hope you will consider making the rosary part of your spiritual practice, if you don’t already. They’re simple prayers, to a simple girl. And, quite simply, they can drive out darkness. The devil hates that, you know.

A preview, and copies of the Illuminated Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary can be purchased at www.pbgrace.com/joyful-mysteries 

Prints of my included artwork are available in my Etsy and Fine Art America stores.

The original paintings are part of the permanent collection at the Presentation Center in Los Gatos, CA.

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The Canticle of Mary (Magnificat)

The Canticle of Mary (Magnificat)  Acrylic on Canvas, © Jen Norton

The Canticle of Mary (Magnificat) Acrylic on Canvas, 24 x 30″

I never really pondered the “Canticle of Mary” (aka the “Magnificat”) before I was contacted by author Jerry Windley-Daoust about licensing an image for his soon-to-be released illuminated guide to the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary. It’s a good story to recall during Advent…the story of Mary’s waiting and anticipation before the birth of her Son. It is a uniquely feminine call by a new mother to join in the salvation of the world. But I also reflect that in some ways it is the song of each of us to willingly accept our place in God’s plan…to say “yes” to a bigger life than we might have imagined.

To understand the significance of the Magnificat, I looked back to the Annunciation. I imagined Mary, a young teenaged girl going about her everyday village life, slated to marry a nice carpenter and become a typical Nazarean wife. Then the Angel Gabriel shows up and throws a first-century wrench into her plans. Things aren’t going to go as expected. I’m going to make an assumption here: I’m pretty sure when an Angel of God appears, you KNOW it’s an Angel. It’s not an intuition or merely a breeze. One big clue is that when Angels appear, they always start off by saying “Be not afraid!” I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been particularly frightened by an intuitive feeling.

So let’s assume the angel is clearly and Angel. When he says,  “…the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” and you will have a son, she knows he’s not kidding. And not just any son, but THE Son of THE God! Even though she has had no relations with a man. Even though in her society she will be shunned and maybe even stoned for this inconvenience. But Mary, without sin and with unfathomable and unwavering belief responds, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Mary said “Yes.”

Would I have been so willing? I’m not sure. If I imagine myself in Mary’s place, I have to believe she didn’t run out to all her friends and enthusiastically announce her pregnancy. In spite of admonitions to “Be not afraid”, I bet she was afraid. Just a little. She would have had to inform her parents and Joseph, but then I bet they all kept this little secret to themselves.

So she goes to visit her kinswomen Elizabeth, traveling “in haste” to her home in the hills. She appears to go alone, a little stealthy. The quickness of her departure makes me think her parents might have wanted to protect her from the backlash of her community. Angel or no angel… a young unmarried girl who becomes pregnant is vilified in both modern and ancient times. So off goes Mary, torn between possibility and fear, to seek refuge and comfort with a fellow pregnant woman in the hills. I bet she wasn’t expecting the welcome she got!

Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah had been privy to some Godly insights of their own. Zechariah, a priest, also experienced an Angelic visit (complete with the greeting of “Do no be afraid”) telling him of a son he and his wife would bear in their advanced age. He was told of his son’s purpose, his name, and then struck silent until the birth as a sign of its truth.

So here comes Mary, up the hill to Elizabeth, who immediately recognizes the fulfillment of God’s promise in her young cousin. We are told her baby “leaped in her womb” and Elizabeth greets Mary with “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?… Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled!”

And while the bible doesn’t offer us any more in the way of emotional context, I can only imagine as a woman, that there was a great sense of relief in that recognition. All of Mary’s doubts and fears must have dissolved as she was fully validated in Elizabeth’s greeting. She is transported from tentative teen to a full realization of her destiny in the salvation of Israel as she says,

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day, all generations will call me blessed.
The Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His Name.

His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.
He has shown might with is arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.

The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham, and to his descendants forever.

Mary said “Yes” to God’s plan and the world was forever changed. Who knows what would happen if we all said “Yes.”

Art prints of this piece are available in my Etsy store and my Fine Art America store. Original is sold.

The reflections for this painting are from Luke 1: 1-56. The Canticle of Mary is found in Luke 1:46-55. 

I chose to illustrate this painting with the feminine pink hues used in the liturgies of Gaudete Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent. Gaudete means “rejoice” and the day is a celebration of joy knowing that Christmas is near.

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