My husband and I are photographers who specialize in photographing the Sacrament of Matrimony. We also carry the cross of secondary infertility (we have been blessed with one miracle child who is six years old). Being immersed in the language of the Sacrament of Matrimony has helped us to better understand our vocation, infertility and all.
Instead of summarizing everything we’ve learned, I want to focus on one line from the nuptial blessing. This line always pops out at me, so I figured it was time to take it to prayer and find out what God was trying to tell me. The priest prays, “May the grace of love and peace abide in your daughter N., and let her always follow the example of those holy women whose praises are sung in the Scriptures.” Love and peace. These are the first two things to go when my infertility is bothering me. I become jealous and restless. Maybe you can relate. But here in this prayer, I am reminded that the grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony fills me with love and peace. I can claim love and peace to be my own.
“…let her always follow the example of those holy women whose praises are sung in the Scriptures.” Who are these holy women? Sarah, Rebecca, Ruth, Judith, Esther, Elizabeth, the Blessed Mother, Mary Magdalene, Martha and Mary, etc. Were any of them praised for their large families? Well, yes and no. Many of these women are at the center of a miraculous motherhood, but that motherhood is not the reason they are praised.
Let’s look at the Blessed Mother. In the Gospel of Luke, a woman says to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked.” (Luke 11:27) And Jesus responds, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” (Luke 11:28) Jesus does not say that his mother nor motherhood is bad or unholy, but how greatly they pale in comparison to what truly makes his mother and all women blessed: hearing the word of God and keeping it.
It was by hearing the word of God and keeping it that Mary was blessed. Her famous Magnificat, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) is greatly praised and we strive to imitate it. Why? Because Mary heard the message of the angel—she heard God’s plan—and she agreed to let it be done to her.
What is the plan God is presenting before us? Maybe it’s a medical diagnosis that has complicated the fertility of our marriage. Perhaps it’s month after month with no baby and no explanation. God is presenting so many plans before us, but it’s easy and tempting to look at what He is doing with others instead. Mary is the Immaculate Conception. The stain of original sin does not corrupt her, as it does us. She models for us how we are to accept the plans of God.
Yes, it is true that God’s plan revealed to Mary in the Annunciation—that she would be given a son—contained good news, whereas the news of my infertility feels sad. It would be easy to echo her Magnificat if His plans for me were joyful, too! But the Annunciation is not the only time Mary accepted the will of God. Let’s turn our attention to Mary at the foot of the cross, where we see her proclaim a Magnificat once more.
At the foot of the cross she stood. Her Son, her flesh and blood whom she nourished and loved, hung tortured and suffering before her. The insults from his persecutors and encouragement from the crowd filled her ears. She did not look away. She did not say that it was too much to bear, or that it was unfair. Mary stood before her beloved son and echoed her Magnificat once more. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
Our infertility puts us there at the foot of the cross with Mary. Her looking at her dying Son, us looking at His cross, which we bear. There can be pain, confusion, and sadness present in both of our hearts, but to imitate Mary we must have that profound trust that allows us to say, “Let it be to me according to your word.” It doesn’t make sense on this side of Heaven, but trusting You is enough for me, Lord.
Mary received everything—the seemingly good and the seemingly bad—with the same interior disposition. We hope that all wives are able to do the same. There is a reason why we sing Mary’s praises and why she is worthy of being imitated. She shows us the way to her Father and to her Son. Let us follow her with haste!
Amy Ambrose and her family live in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where you’ll find them tending to their ever-growing garden, reading at the library, or yelling for one another to come check out the view of the sunset.