Since my childhood I have always anticipated the month of May.  On the first day of the month, my heart feels excitement of having 31 wonderful days to give special recognition and honor to someone I love dearly – Mary.  May is Mary’s month.

Mary has been in my life since the moment of my baptism:  “I baptize you MARY SANDRA…” Through the years we have come to know each other very well.  To tell my life-story is to tell my “Mary-story”.  As my close friend and companion, Mary listens to my heart and I listen to her speak words of courage, hope, compassion and love. Her first “YES, LORD!”, at the Annunciation, has become my constant prayer and promise to Jesus.  Our “YES, LORD!” has carried us through many Annunciation moments of joy and sorrow, loss and grief, protest and oppression, judgment and rejection.  At all times she has reminded me to have faith and trust that all things are possible with God.  She has kept my eyes and heart fixed on Jesus.

Today we are sitting together in my favorite place in the park near the river. During this month of May we have spent many hours here in silence and conversation.  We are considered to be aging women of wisdom.  Few persons know how tired our bodies feel and how heavily our spirits are burdened with grief.  The “sword of sorrow” (Luke 2:34-35) is piercing our souls.  We see our beloved Jesus crucified day after day in so many persons suffering from violence and evil.  I tell Mary that I don’t know what to do with the agony that fills my whole being.  I cannot understand the hatred that resides in bodies, hearts and minds.  Sometimes I want to numb my heart because it is so difficult to watch day after day the inhumanity against humanity.  Even though it is difficult I cannot look away and protect myself from feeling the pain and brokenness that consumes the lives of countless persons.  I ask her to tell me how I can bring peace, hope and healing to this overwhelming sinful chaos.  Mary looks at me with compassion and, in her wisdom, gently says: “Disarm your mind, tongue and heart. That is where the violence begins.  Stand strong against the violence around you with peace and nonviolence within you.”

I realize that Mary is telling me more about herself and how she was a strong nonviolent presence in her world and how I can be the same in this world.  As my close friend and companion, she is speaking words that are difficult for me to hear.  If I am to become nonviolent I must face the violence within me.  I ask Mary to give me the courage to ‘disarm my mind’ of thoughts that judge others, of plotting ways to retaliate when I am hurt or ignored, of filling my empty thoughts with self-criticism, of dwelling on past mistakes, fear the future.  I ask Mary to help me direct my thoughts to prayer and contemplation.  Then I ask her for the courage to ‘disarm my tongue’ from angry words, from the ways I silence others by my tone of voice, from impatience and frustration when someone is confused in conversation with me, from criticizing someone who disagrees with me. I ask Mary for the grace to speak with a gentle tone of voice, to speak words of encouragement and understanding, to speak words of healing and forgiveness, to speak words of blessing and affirmation, remembering that I and every person is the beloved of Jesus.  I place before Mary my final request; that is, to help me ‘disarm my heart’.  She responds with a few words: “Love with the heart of Jesus.  Stay close to Him.  Think, speak and love with his thoughts, words and heart.  He will fill you with peace and hope.  You will stand strong as His nonviolent presence in this violent world.”

Mary’s month of May – my favorite month – is approaching its last day.  Mary and I have spent hours in contemplative silence and spiritual conversation.  It has been a month of inner disarmament and inner nonviolence.  I have renewed hope and peace.  Mary, my close friend and companion, is woven deeper into the fabric of my life.

– Sandy Setterlund