In our preceding meditations, we have reflected on somewhat superficial considerations: we have paid more attention to the technical or historical aspects of the Pieta rather than to the contemplation of the message that the image brings to us. From now on, we want to observe the Pieta with a simple, contemplative, humble gaze, and let it speak to us and teach us.
We have not wanted to bring this sculpture to St. Anne, to Gilbert, Arizona, simply because of its artistic value or its external beauty. As a priest, my main intention has been to honor Mary and to offer to our community an opportunity to learn of Jesus “at the school of Mary”, as Pope John Paul II beautifully describes it.
I am convinced that the Pieta is an authentic “school” at which we can learn some of the most important lessons of our Christian life. When I pray in our church, I stop and look at the Pieta and I am surprised at how frequently its contemplation suggests new ideas, new lessons, new shades of meaning that were previously unnoticed.
Perhaps to have the image of the Pieta at Saint Anne teaches to us to be contemplative. In order to learn to contemplate it is necessary to know how to slow down, to observe without haste, to be silent, to reflect slowly.
I believe that Michelangelo has been able to sculpt Mary in such a way that she appears before our eyes as an authentic teacher: her calm face, her body seated – a common position from which a teacher, from his chair, taught his disciples. Her open arms express meaning; her serene glance encourages us to approach her to learn. Everything she has to “teach” lies in her motherly lap: she watches, loves and offers her Son, Jesus to us.
To have the Pieta in our parish would remind us that Mary is the Teacher of our Christian life. We will not ever be able to reach sanctity if we do not go to the School of our Mother. She continues to watch her Son – whether it be in Cana or at Calvary- and inviting us to do what He tells us.
My experience as priest assures me that the soul that loves Mary always lives near Jesus. Saint Bernard said of Mary, numquam satis, never enough. It is also said that the servant of Mary will never perish (servus Mariae numquam peribit).
God willing, Michelangelo’s masterpiece will awaken in all of us love for our Mother. May she give all of us the opportunity to gaze slowly. May she soften our hearts if they have become hardened. May she melt us if our souls are frozen. May she show us the path that leads us to her Son, Jesus. If the Pieta achieves even some of this, all the hard work to bring her to Saint Anne will have been worth the effort.