Our newborn son cried out with terror in the hospital. In order to run a test, they needed to obtain a vial of blood. They couldn’t find a vein. So, they continued to poke him here and there and, at least to his limited experience of the world, everywhere.
As parents, we sat by watching the scene with sorrow. What could we do to soothe him? To offer a moment of tenderness to our newborn son, letting him know that even this pain would pass?
Almost as if by instinct, we began to chant, “Salve Regina. . .”
At once, he began to quiet down. Maybe, it was the sound of his parents’ voices. Maybe, it was the soothing sound of the chant. Maybe, the pain had passed. Maybe, Mary had heard the voices of her poor banished children, crying out in their vale of tears, and responded by offering relief to her most vulnerable of children.
Whatever the reason, this thirteenth-century chant found a place in our home’s night prayer. For years (at least from the end of Pentecost to the Presentation of the Lord), my spouse and I would often end Compline with the singing of the Salve Regina. Having offered our nascent domestic Church to the Blessed Virgin on our wedding day, we found in this hymn a way of renewing our patronage to Mary, the Mother of God.
When our children came along, this practice of singing to the Blessed Virgin continued. We don’t always get through the full singing of the Salve Regina. Often, our two-year-old daughter decides that it would be more fun to tackle her big brother than to continue the chant. It is not unusual for one of the children to include the roar of a dinosaur in the middle of the chant. I suppose, it’s acceptable for even pre-historic creatures to offer their praise to the Queen of Heaven.
As we have chanted the Salve Regina over the years, it has led us to a deeper devotion to the Queenship of Mary. Earlier in my life, when I prayed the Rosary, I had little connection to Mary’s Queenship. I imagined the Blessed Virgin assumed into heaven, arrayed in gold, regally distant from human life. I could imagine Mary gazing at her newborn Son. I could join with her in the revulsion of seeing her Son crucified on the Cross. But her Queenship was just too much. It seems to surpass my imaginative capacity.
This practice of singing the Salve Regina in our home with our children has rescued me from my false sense of Mary’s Queenship. Her heavenly Queenship is not a matter of regal distance, but of tender proximity to the sorrowful cries of the human family.
Our son’s newborn screams of terror will not be the only sorrow that our family will undergo. There will be a time when our family mourns the death of a loved one, maybe even the death of one of us. There will be a time when the bonds of love that hold us so closely to one another break apart. There will be the pain of distance. As long as there is time, as long as there is contingency, we journey in a valley of tears.
But, we don’t journey alone. The Blessed Virgin, an image of the Church, walks along with us. She is our life, our sweetness, and our hope. Not because she is the distant Queen of heaven. But because she is the tender Mother of God, the Mother of mercy, who soothes the pain of the Word-made-flesh’s brothers and sisters.
She is the Queen of Heaven, because she is the Mother of the Church. She is our Mother.
In singing this hymn with our kids, we’re giving them access to the tender Queenship of Mary, the Mother of God.
If they’re anything like the rest of men and women, they’ll need it.
Featured Image: Accipe Coronam by Lawrence Lew, O.P.; CC-BY-NC 2.0.