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My kids and I celebrated our yearly Road Trip.

We decided to spend quite a bit of time swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. If you never swam in the ocean, or if you are afraid, here is something you may know.: If you try to face waves standing up, they can easily knock you down.

Here is something you may not know: If you duck under the breakers, you pop out on the backside of the wave, easily. This works even with really big waves, like those that come with a hurricane. I am not suggesting you swim during a hurricane…but ducking waves and surrendering to being pulled around by the ocean are two good principles to use in everyday life, as well as ocean breakers.

We stayed with family in Florida.

They offered to take us to see The Fort and The Great Cross in St. Augustine. I wasn’t sure about it, but they were into it, and we agreed to go, to be polite. The Great Cross turned out to be at The Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche. The very same shrine that La Leche League is named after! It is a shrine dedicated to motherhood and all mothers.

The Shrine is simple and beautiful.

The shrine itself is in a one room chapel with some benches, an altar and an brilliant statue of Mary nursing Jesus.  Mary is sitting in an illuminated alcove nursing Jesus, and above the alcove is a crucifix with Jesus. There are reliefs around the chapel depicting The Stations of The Cross.

As a mother, I was struck by life and death right next to each other. 

Clearly, Mary was not an ordinary mother, but she was human. I would imagine she felt overwhelmed and daunted by her responsibilities, as most mothers do. And yet, she found faith within her connection and communication with God that gave her hope and patience. She was able to see and understand the larger picture of why she was raising her child. Most mothers don’t have that larger picture, and they lose patience and hope.

At the same time, she was told all that would happen.

I don’t think she could have believed it. There are always things to surprise us in our lives. These surprises challenge us, and force us to reexamine our thinking. They force us to consider what is important. They give us a choice to be either overwhelmed or to respond with grace. In a lot of ways, our troubles are like ocean waves.

Whether you call it centering yourself, praying, or being composed in the face of tragedy, it is a lot like ducking the wave.

You come into acceptance that you can’t fight it, you bow your head and wait for it to pass, swimming in that source of love and faith. The more time I spend in the divine qualities of patience and compassion, the better I feel. I can trust that I don’t have the full picture or understanding of the turmoil I am facing. It is enough to duck below the breaking wave and feel the churning pass overhead. I don’t have to take it full on.

Also at The Mission, is a meditation walk of the Seven Sorrows of Mary.

I skipped the meditation walk for my kids’ sake. They were eager to see The Fort and I was satisfied with the time they had given to me for sitting in the chapel.

I think a lot about Mary as a mother.

I wasn’t raised Catholic, and because of the time period she lived, there isn’t that much written about her. I can only imagine, that, if being a mother of any child is hard work, being the mother of Jesus must have been especially overwhelming.

When I researched The Seven Sorrows, they were truly awful.

They were hurricane-sized problems that no mother should have to live through. When things are hard for me, (and I haven’t had any of these!) I do think about how much love, faith, compassion, patience and other divine qualities she must have been forced to learn. I say to myself: “If Mary could do it, then I can.”  Somehow, this gives me more strength to overcome my doubts about whether or not I am doing the right thing when I mother my children.

Mary learned to be a Saint through her mothering.

She may have started with more patience and faith than the rest of us, but surely her child helped her to grow spiritually into a more patient, loving and faithful person. And this is the lesson I hope to learn from my mothering experience.

If you are curious, these are The Seven Sorrows:
1. The Prophecy of Simeon over the Infant Jesus. (Gospel of Luke 2:34)
2. The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family. (Gospel of Matthew 2:13)
3. The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days. (Luke 2:43)
4. The Meeting of Jesus and Mary along the Way of the Cross. (Luke 23:26)
5. The Crucifixion, where Mary stands at the foot of the cross. (Gospel of John 19:25)
6. The Descent from the Cross, where Mary receives the dead body of Jesus in her arms. (Matthew 27:57)
7. The Burial of Jesus. (John 19:40)

Here is the link for The Shrine:
http://www.missionandshrine.org