by Maria Seraphim.
Last spring, when I came to Madonna House to visit Mary P., I was having tea at St. Mary’s and talking about her. "Did you take care of her?" someone asked me. "No," I replied, "She took care of me."
Because Mary P. was quiet and hidden, I don’t remember her on my first visit. But in a subsequent visit, I was assigned to work in the laundry, which is next to the sewing room.
Since much of the folding of the household linens is done in the sewing room, Mary P. was often nearby while I worked. I sensed a peace surrounding her and filling the room, and there were times when I felt as if I were in a heavenly dimension.
She sewed rips, applied patches, and mended with love poured into every stitch. She did everything perfectly, not so that she would be approved or loved (as I would do) but with and for love—love for the owner of the garment and love for Someone Else. I used to wish I had something that needed mending so that I too would be clothed with a garment she had transformed as if for royalty.
Over the years, I was a guest at Madonna House many times. Though I did not know or truly appreciate it during those dark days when I was suffering from pain, shame, and disassociation, God was there, blessing me with the gift of Mary P.
With Mary P., I didn’t have to be anyone but who I was—broken, crushed, deeply wounded, one of the walking dead. Mary P. was not afraid of my emptiness, my numbness, my pain, or the thick wall of fear that I had built to protect myself from being hurt again.
How did this frail vessel shine her light of love and take care of me? In a multitude of small, hidden ways. A few times when I stayed in the chapel after Mass after everyone had left, as I attempted to get up from my crouched refuge on the floor, Mary P. quietly and suddenly appeared to help me get up—her mouth moving in silent prayer. Her prayers willed me to move into the next moment.
For a long time, she saved me a place next to her at all the meals, creating a harbor of peace and safety at a time when it was so difficult for me to engage with or even be with people.
Between my visits she wrote me a note every week. Then when I left MH after a long stay to continue my healing journey in "the world," she wrote short newsy letters on carefully chosen stationary or cards. This told me that, though I was gone, I was not forgotten.
Above all else, she clothed me with her love and prayers. She loved me and prayed me into a relationship with God and into healing.
By her love and example, she taught and encouraged me to trust God in all things.
When I asked her to pray that I could forgive, she told me that I would be able to forgive if I prayed, not just said, the words of the Our Father.
When I wrote to her about my tendency to self-judgment, she shared a bit about herself. She told me that she had struggled with self-hatred early in her life, and that her healing had come through a prayer she said daily for years and years. In it she asked God to fill her so completely that others "see not me, but Thee," and that I might "spread Thy fragrance to all I meet."
Why did she choose to love me? I often asked myself. "Why not?" a staff worker once answered. "It is a pure gift."
Now I believe that it is the love, prayers, and care she received from her MH brothers and sisters in her pain that she passed on so wholeheartedly. Now I, in turn, am called to pass on this love and prayer and care and to stand with others in their pain.
Thank you, God, for sending Mary P. to take care of me.
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