I heard a story in Ireland years ago about how someone had met in the rocky wastes a beautiful peasant woman carrying a child. And on being asked for her name she answered simply: “I am the Mother of God, and this is Himself, and He is the boy you will all be wanting at the last.” I have never forgotten this phrase, and I remembered it suddenly long afterwards.
I was looking about for an image of Our Lady which I wished to give to the new church in our neighbourhood, and I was shown a variety of very beautiful and often costly examples in one of the most famous and fashionable Catholic shops in London… But somehow I felt fastidious, for the first time in my life; and felt that the one kind was too conventional to be sincere and the other too primitive to be popular… and I ended prosaically by following the proprietor to an upper floor, where there was a sort of lumber room, full of packages and things partially unpacked, and it seemed suddenly that she was standing there, amid planks and shavings and sawdust, as she stood in the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. I said something, and the proprietor answered rather casually: “Oh, that’s only just been unpacked; I’ve hardly looked at it. It’s from Ireland!”
She was a peasant and she was a queen. She was barefoot like any colleen on the hills; yet there was nothing merely local about her simplicity. I have never known who was the artist and I doubt if anybody knows; I only know that it is Irish, and I almost think that I should have known without being told. I know a man who walks miles out of his way at regular intervals to revisit our church where the image stands. She looks across the little church with an intense earnestness in which there is something of endless youth; and I have sometimes started, as if I had actually heard the words spoken across that emptiness: “I am the Mother of God and this is Himself, and He is the boy you will all be wanting at the last.”
Yes, he is the boy we shall all be wanting at the last.
~Top image: prayer card depiction of Mary’s boy.