I married at 41. I became a mother at 43. For decades, the blessings poured out so freely on other women were denied to me. That cross was heavy, but I mostly managed. Except for in church on Sunday mornings.
At Mass, surrounded by smiling couples and beautiful babies, I felt the full weight of my cross. I was alone. I was barren. And I didn’t think I fit in.
While families around me hugged and kissed during the Sign of Peace, I stood by myself, hugging no one. Afterwards, mothers chatted while their children played, but no one talked to me. Like so many single and childless women, in church I felt invisible and ignored. There, like nowhere else, I was tempted to resentment, bitterness, and self-pity.
As the years passed, though, I learned to fight those temptations by looking up and to the left. There, in the rich reds and blues of nineteenth-century stained glass, I would see the Virgin Mary, assumed into Heaven and blazing with glory.
She too had lived unseen and ignored by the world. But unlike me, she didn’t resent her littleness. She rejoiced in it. She saw it as an opportunity for God to do a great work in her. “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,” she sang, “and has lifted up the lowly” (Luke 1:52).
Looking at her in that stained glass window taught me to do the same. It reminded me that to be the unseen one, the humiliated one, the rejected one is also to be the blessed one. It is to receive an invitation to hide from the world with Jesus and Mary and find my worth not in the opinions of men, but rather in the opinions of God, Who always sees me, always loves me, always treasures me.
God feels the same way about you.
So never despair when you feel the sting of the world’s rejection. Instead, rejoice with Mary. Run with her to Jesus’ Sacred Heart. Hide yourself there. And know that all who hide with Jesus, like Mary, will rise with Jesus. Not to earthly greatness. But to heavenly glory.