The Humility of Peace in the Pietá

By Maria Sermersheim

Meditatione Ignis

When we perceive some personal injustice, it is easy to inflame our pride and search for a method of exerting influence. When we are wounded and consider some recompense due to us, the default response is often to assert authority by any means necessary, appealing to the power of numbers or the media to strengthen our case. I have recently witnessed a situation in which several acquaintances called for a more forceful outcry in order to make their point, but I questioned if this is the way they should pursue the aim. Indeed, taking notes from Mary, I argue that it is not. In all our days and situations, we must proceed in peace, not passion.

St. Alphonsus of Liguori wrote of Mary and her humility in his beautiful work, “The Glories of Mary,” “although she saw herself enriched with greater graces than all other creatures, she never preferred herself to anyone.” This weighty statement demands much thought from each of us. In our pride, we too easily see the graces God has given us and thus, prefer ourselves. We falsely attribute his gifts and graces to ourselves, when in truth, they come from the Lord and are entrusted to us with the expectation of good stewardship. In an inverted pride and blindness, we sometimes see others’ gifts and not our own. It requires humility to honestly acknowledge and give thanks for the graces the Lord has given us. It is characteristic of humility, “the foundation and guardian of virtues,” to see clearly both God’s good gifts and our eternal indebtedness.

Importantly, this indebtedness endures through all strife and injustice. We must persevere by remaining in the peace that flows from our knowledge of God’s graces and Mary’s example at the foot of the Cross.

Mary is blessed among women even as she holds her dead son in her arms. This thought struck me as I prayed the Hail Mary while gazing upon a Pietà statuette, and the entire prayer gained a new color of meaning as I meditated upon the Mother of God after the death of her son. Mary is blessed among women for the fruit of her womb, Jesus — even when 33 years later, he is dead in her arms because she remains nonetheless the Mother of God, both Mater Dei and Mater Dolorosa. She sees the gifts she has been given, Jesus Christ as her son and the years with him in her home, and she does not bewail the injustice that she lived to see her son die. She did not prefer herself to another, for the unfortunate truth is that many parents live to see their children die. Mary did not accuse God of robbing her because she knew everything was a gift, and “the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). In her humility, Mary found peace. In her peace, she buried her son and saw him rise on the third day. 

Not everything in life will go the way we hope. Many things that go awry may not be fixed in the way we hope. But these are earthly hopes. In his providence, our Father in heaven gives us our daily bread. I pray that we proceed in peace so that his will may be done. In our many decisions each day, let us be attentive to the promptings of peace in our hearts rather than ceding to the passionate temptations that appear flashy and effective. Mary, humble and peaceful Queen of Heaven, pray for us.