Hey y’all. I decided to start this new series of very brief reflections on the mysteries of the rosary, linked to songs, so you end up with a kind of rosary playlist. We’ll begin at the beginning, with the Annunciation.
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Pretty much every time I pray this mystery I am praying for my clients at the pregnancy center and their families, and for me to serve them more humbly. (And less… not-humbly.) So much of what I try to do is to give the angel’s message, Be not afraid. In a time when many people around a woman are telling her that she can’t and shouldn’t give her child life, we try to be voices of hope and encouragement.
We can’t do this honestly if we downplay how much there is to fear. Economic hardship, familial rejection, and social stigma are probably the biggest things our clients fear, and their fears are realistic. I’ve counseled girls whose parents threatened to put them out of the house if they didn’t get an abortion, or explicitly said that they would force the girl to abort. Women who have just barely begun to struggle up from poverty often view pregnancy as a horrifying turn of Snakes and Ladders, which will cast them all the way back to the beginning, rendering worthless their long years of work and suffering.
And yet so many women do choose life for their children, even in the face of these fears. We do our best to make it easier, but there’s only so much we can do: We can talk to your mom, we can help you find medical care, we can call shelters and maternity homes, we can give you diapers, but our ability to share your burden is extraordinarily limited. One thing we try to do is honor our clients’ suffering and their struggles. These struggles are often treated as stupid or meaningless, which adds humiliation and confusion to the women’s burdens. When we’re at our best, the center is a place where all pain is honored: the pain of doing the right thing, and also the pain of doing all the other things.
Here’s a song which expresses things many of my clients have said about the pressures they faced, and the hope they found in their children. It captures the joy of the Annunciation–it is a joyful mystery–but also Mary’s fear and confusion to which the angel responded. Oh and wow, listening to it just now, I’d actually forgotten that it opens with an explicit connection to the Annunciation!