"Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh-o-o, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?"
--Negro Spiritual, sung each year at our parish Lenten Pageant
The Children's Living Stations of the Cross at our local parish are as anticipated a part of our Lenten season as ashes, palm, and purple. We are blessed with a director who truly loves the project and participants, treating all the children under her direction with infinite kindness and care.
This year, eleven-year-old Theresa was especially excited, musing more than once, "Wouldn't it be great if they asked me to play the Blessed Mother?"
"If they do, you will play the role perfectly," I told her with frank mother's admiration, adding, "but please do not be disappointed if they don't!"
"Oh, I won't," she assured me stoutly, "I'll be happy with whatever part I get."
The evening of the first practice rolled around with a flurry of snowflakes and flutter of anticipation. By the time we arrived, the three younger children were dozing in their carseats, and I decided to wait outside, giving one last instruction to the girls: "Please keep an eye on Marie, and, whatever you do, remember we are team players. Be happy with any parts you get, and make them the best they can be." With nods of assent, my four young actresses took off, and I spent a quiet hour jotting ideas in my journal, praying part of a Rosary, and wondering how the girls were making out.
Before long, four figures emerged from the church. Theresa and Margaret, beaming with excitement, raced ahead of the others to the car. "I'm playing the Blessed Mother!" Margaret announced in joy mingled with a note of amazement, adding, "Can you believe it, Mom?" Theresa looked perfectly happy, chiming in with honest pride, "Isn't she going to be great?" I was glad for Margaret, but not a little surprised. She is only nine-years-old, and the part of Our Lady is usually reserved for a sixth grader. "Margaret, honey, that's fantastic," I assured her, still wondering how such a thing could have come about and scanning eleven-year-old Theresa's face for traces of disappointment. It was not long before a story unfolded.
When the girls first arrived, the director had greeted Theresa with the good news that *she* would be playing Our Lady. Theresa was overjoyed, but, within a few minutes, it became clear that this might not be a perfect arrangement. The Pageant did not have enough taller children signed up (and very few boys), and Theresa was the only one the right height to fit into the costume . . . of a soldier! The director asked her if she might switch parts, leaving nine-year-old Margaret as the next in line for the role of Mary. Remembering my admonition about being "team players" and glad to see her sister in the coveted role, Theresa cheerfully accepted this change of fortune, trading in the promise of a flowing blue mantle for a clanking coat of chain mail.
How can I reflect upon this unexpected turn of events? My little girl (no longer "little" in reality, but forever so to me) has shown what it is to go beyond talking about Lenten sacrifice and self-denial, and to live it out willingly and unflinchingly, in a spirit of obedience and love. The bud opens its first petals to reveal the color of the rose it will one day become.
I am looking forward to seeing Margaret play Our Lady, and my pride in her cannot be overstated, but you may be sure my camera will be clicking wildly to capture the pretty soldier standing tall behind the Cross.