Published August 11, 2014 at Catholic Exchange: http://catholicexchange.com/mothers-tears?mc_cid=f6636d477f&mc_eid=8b5ab9148c
Why do mothers weep? What pain crushes their hearts the most? And when do they cry out to heaven in supplication, in total surrender and confidence to the divine will of God?
It is when their children are in trouble.
Innately, a mother sees, knows, understands, and then acts. Whether her child is still in the womb or in middle-age, a mother loves, unconditionally. She will never abandon her maternal duty. And when her children are threatened she will do anything to save them, even when all hope is lost. It is then she cries out to God with the one power she still has left: her tears.
As a man, this is a hard thing to see. Whenever my wife cries, or my daughter, or God forbid, my mother, there is also something in me innate or paternal or instinctively male that forces me to try and do something to alleviate the pain. This happens in all men – even boys. We must do something to fix it. After all, isn’t our job to protect and defend? Surely, this is engineered into our DNA by the divine architect. We may not understand the reason for the tears (unfortunately, this happens more often than we would like). But fix it we must.
There’s been a spate of stories over the internet about weeping statues and paintings.
It’s always her. Mary.
But it’s not something new. Last year, while researching a novel I was writing, I stumbled upon a wonderful and miraculous story of the Irish Madonna of Hungary. It was a fascinating, well-documented account of a painting of the Virgin, with the child Jesus sleeping contentedly in a crib beneath her folded hands.
The picture was, supposedly, brought to Hungary by an Irish bishop, Dr. Walter Lynch, who was forced to flee, first from Clonfert, where he was appointed bishop in 1647, then to Galway City, and then to the Isle of Innishbofin, off the coast of Ireland. Bishop Lynch and the remaining soldiers of the Catholic Confederation were doggedly pursued by the invasion force of Oliver Cromwell and the conquering army sent by the English Parliament in 1649.
Lynch lovingly brought the painting with him to safety when he found a ship to take him and the Madonna to the continent. The mournful tears of thousands of Irish mothers are a testament to the brutality and hatred of the time of Cromwell and its devastation upon Erin’s soil. The crimes were unspeakable.
The Irish bishop, in exile, somehow found a home and a welcoming flock in a small town called Gyor, in Hungary. There he spent the rest of his life, yearning, as all expatriated souls torn from the loving arms of their mother country, for hearth and home. Upon his death, he willed his most valuable possession, the painting of the Madonna and Child, to the cathedral and the faithful of Gyor. It was hung in a small, side chapel and forgotten.
Thirty-four years later, something remarkable happened: a documented miracle. On St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1697, the Irish Madonna started crying.
“Copious tears,” one priest wrote – tears of water and blood. There were hundreds of witnesses. Testimonies were signed by both catholic and protestant clergy, even by a Jewish Rabbi. In Gyor, no one knew why Mary cried.
At that exact time in Ireland, the parliament began passing the penal codes. Anti-clerical acts aimed first at catholic hierarchy and religious orders, then priests. The “Act for Banishing All Papists Exercising Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction, and All Regulars of the Popish Clergy Out of this Kingdom” was the initial blow. The idea was to either completely eradicate Catholicism in Ireland or secure the economic ascendancy of the protestant minority or both. Forcing bishops to leave upon penalty of imprisonment would effectively stop new priests from being ordained. No foreign priests were allowed into the country. Priests who did not register with the government and went into hiding were hunted down by freelance bounty men. The thinking was that the registered priests, one for each civil parish, would grow old and die, leaving no one left to administer the sacraments. Catholicism would simply die with them. But not so fast as to have everybody enjoy the benefits of membership into the orange world of Protestants. That may be coerced by silver, but only one step at a time. After all, ascendency required catholic subservience. And membership was exclusive.
Exiled in Hungary, Mary wept.
The penal laws would pile up, one upon another, for fifty years. The church had much to suffer. The Madonna knew this. She knew the pain her sons were about to endure and she cried as she did at the foot of the cross.
Women cry and men will try to fix it. This is not a theory. It is a principle based not on any replicated experiment designed in university laboratories, only on the testing grounds of the human heart.
A mother weeps because she loves. Her heart is broken. Whatever the pain her children feel – she feels also. She lives it. She experiences the pain, in an interior way, more than her children do physically.
While doing my research, I saw a remarkable photo of Cardinal Mindszenty, the courageous and persecuted prelate of Hungary, kneeling before the Irish Madonna at the cathedral in Gyor about sixty-five years ago, when communism chained the church and her people behind the Iron Curtain. He knew the history of the painting – he had to. All Hungary knew the story. That’s why he was on his knees. His face was drawn. You could see the tautness of his skin. He was burdened beyond belief from yet another trial and crucifixion of the church. Like John Paul the Great, he, too, persevered bravely through the hellish eras of Nazism and communism.
Josef Mindszenty, to Hungarians “the peoples’ priest,” endured decades of imprisonment with beatings, torture, even being forced to dress up in clown clothes to humiliate him. He ate almost nothing because he knew his food was tainted with mind-altering drugs. Whenever he was allowed to sleep, he was prodded awake. The communists did everything they could to break him. Hidden in his clothing was a picture of Jesus crowned with thorns with the inscription devictus vincit: “defeated, He is victorious.”
This is how the cardinal fixed it: he knew when he suffered, she suffered. He saw her tears and fixed it by accepting his own crown of thorns. Mindszenty, stubbornly faithful to his church and his people, gave his fiat, his yes, to his own crown of thorns; thereby alleviating the suffering, if only for a moment, of the Mother of God – the Irish Madonna of Hungary. In our lifetime, Hungary and history have witnessed enslaving chains broken link by link through such sacrifice.
Today, Mary cries, too. Who can deny it? Look at what her children are going through. Abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, slavery, war, poverty, sexual abuse, hunger, murder, holocaust, you name it and Mary feels it. Hence, the tears of the mother come pouring out. Love demands no less.
And so, she weeps. Of course she does.
She, Mary, wants something.
Now, love also demands, what are we going to do to fix it?