One of my favorite mysteries of the rosary to think about is the second joyful mystery, the Visitation of Mary with Elizabeth. Mary finds out from the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation that Elizabeth, her much older relative, is pregnant with a son. Despite her own startling news from the angel, Mary chooses not to look inward, but to look to the needs of others and serve. Mary goes “in haste” on a ninety-mile journey to be with Elizabeth in her need. What a gift that visit must have been to both women! What a comfort they must have been to each other. With only a greeting and the babe leaping in her womb, Elizabeth immediately recognizes Mary as “the mother of my Lord!” I love to imagine Elizabeth offering Mary the wise council of a woman who is “righteous before God,” according to the first chapter of Luke. I envision Mary humbly serving Elizabeth by helping prepare for her baby. Think of them side by side, talking, praying, reminiscing, perhaps weaving and sewing a layette of blankets, gowns, diapers and swaddling clothes.
Mary Virginia Merrick was inspired by Biblical stories and the stories of Charles Dickens she must have heard so many times at church and home. She said, “When I read ‘She wrapped him in swaddling clothes,’ I longed to do the same, and He Himself taught me that I might still do so in the person of His poor, and a great desire was born within me to go out and find the poor that I might find Him.” Think of the young Mary, living with the physical pain of her injury and the mental pain of her grief over the loss of her parents and the loss of her mobility. She said in her writings, “when your helplessness appalls you, think of the Maker of the universe wrapped in swaddling clothes.” Rather than dwell on herself, Mary Merrick got busy and gathered others of wise council around her. Struck by the thought that a family might be so in need of resources that they would have to wrap their baby in newspapers rather than soft blankets, she and her friends created a layette for a couple expecting a baby at Christmas. Thus, the tiny seed that would grow into the Christ Child Society was planted in that spirit of Christmas giving. What a gift it has been to many, that rather than looking inward on her problems, Mary Virginia Merrick was inspired to help others with theirs. Countless children have been helped by her desire to find a need and fill it. And countless volunteers have been fulfilled by helping to fill those needs. A great gift indeed.
Through the season of Advent and Christmas (you do know the Christmas Season ends February 2nd with the Presentation of the Lord at the Temple, so no need to take down those decorations quickly) I like to read something to deepen my understanding of the season. This year I am reading Scott Hahn’s book Joy to the World. Each chapter is an in depth look into a part of the Christmas story as it is presented in the Bible. I hope you will get a copy of Pasadena chapter member, Mary Lea Carroll’s book Somehow Saints. Each chapter is part travelogue, part lives of the saints or saints in the making and one of them is about our very own Mary Virginia Merrick. Did you know our NCCS board member Susan Ferraro Smith has written a book? She shares her spiritual journey in Joyful Possibilities in a way sure to inspire you.
Thank you for your continued service to children through the Christ Child Society. I think we will see needs increase in 2021, so we must increase too! Invite a friend or two to join you as a chapter member. Tell the story of your CCS chapter in your circle of friends and family and be sure to share the inspiring story of Mary Merrick’s mission to serve others. I pray that the loving service you give to others will be returned to you double and triple in blessings this Christmas Season.
Yours in the name of the Christ Child,