In today’s cultural and political climate, it’s common to find ourselves in difficult conversations with colleagues, friends or family. The social and political landscape appears fiercely polarized. Whether we’re talking about politics, religion or cultural values, there seems to be a propensity to engage one another with a kind of predetermined attitude and defensiveness.
More and more, we find conversations turn into uncivil exchanges, with each professing to have the ultimate truth on a particular issue, and closing ourselves to any insight that might challenge or transform convictions. The value and art of a reasonable argument or meaningful dialogue seems lost to the intensity of the moment. In short, the divisive tone and uncharitable interactions we face leave us wanting for more.
When we look around for models of civil discourse, it’s difficult to find credible ones. At the risk of sounding pessimistic, our news, social media and public figures seem to exhibit a penchant for controversy, polemics and, sometimes, hostility. One might get the impression that expecting more from our public leaders and figures is unrealistic.
Yet, there is something in our human spirit that yearns for more than an increasingly polarized life. In our family, faith or social environment, we recognize and hold on to some basic level of dignity. Deep in our spirit, we know that the experience of the moment isn’t sustainable and reflective of our authenticity. In faith, we know and trust that our desire for what is good, true and beautiful will ultimately lead us to better pastures.
For many of us, in fact, it is through our faith that we find the corrective directions we often need. Whether through an inspired Sunday homily, a contemplative moment of prayer or a warm spiritual conversation with a friend, we often find the balanced cadence and way forward.
Indeed, for us Catholics, Mary’s positive response to God’s call has becomes the model of Christian living. In her direct and generous “yes,” Mary mirrors a life lived with and for others. More to the point, in her attentiveness, humility and fidelity to her vocation, we witness not only a life of service, but also see an example of how we might move through our own polarized environments and circumstances.
There are plenty of examples from Scripture, faith tradition, Marian spirituality and personal devotions we can point to in Mary’s life that show us how to be more attentive, humble, generous and faithful in times of strife, uncertainty and division. Mary’s image and disposition before the cross.
There, we are told, Mary stood near the cross (John 19: 25-27). I suspect that part of what made this nearness to Jesus on the cross for Mary meaningful and possible was the manner in which she kept all things close to her heart (Luke 2:19). In our own time, when the temptation is to create divisions and distance ourselves from one another, Mary shows us a different way. She models for us how we, too, have to risk holding things close to our heart — no matter how difficult our challenges or daily crosses may be. Like Mary, we, too, have to come near Jesus on the cross, to hear anew our vocation to be instruments of genuine concordance and reconciliation.
Orozco is executive director for human dignity and intercultural affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.