By Gemma Keane
This past July I said goodbye to the comforts of American life to serve the country of Uganda with FOCUS missions. Our team worked alongside ministries such as Imprint Hope and Missionaries of the Poor for one month, caring after special-needs children in a country that views those with disabilities as hopeless. During my team’s daily commute to different work sites, we utilized our time together by napping, singing, and conversing. One day as I sat in a Ugandan taxi with my team of missionaries, one of them asked:
“If you could have one super-power, what would it be?”
I eagerly listened to the group list off powers, which included telepathy, flight, telekinesis, and a variety of others. I was the first and only one to say “invisibility.” Yes, if I could choose to have any super-power in this fantasy Marvel world we were creating, I want to be invisible.
In middle school and high school, I wanted nothing more than for people to notice me, to marvel at me. I wanted to have this insatiable quality that drew their eyes upon me in wonder. I thought wearing better clothing, putting on more makeup, and changing my hairstyle and color would create the result I wanted. At the time, beauty pertained only to the exterior of the human body. If only my heart had understood the true beauty it craved.
In my mind, those who were clearly beautiful on the outside had that eye-catching characteristic I longed for. Yet many of those girls also spread gossip, chose selfishness, and dated recklessly, riding much of the school year on a roller coaster of emotions. If only I could have their looks but my personality. Then people would notice me, and I would still be happy. Oh, how patient God is with us and our convoluted ideas!
Eventually I grew into a more developed body, endured fewer breakouts on my face, and matured and increased in confidence. My craving for attention transformed from a burning desire to be seen for my outer appearance to an ache for my thoughts and goals to be recognized instead—to have my true beauty showcased.
So, as a 25-year-old woman, what changed my heart to crave invisibility instead?
A relationship with our Blessed Mother.
Growing up Catholic, it is easy to know who Mary, the Mother of God is, but we are not called to simply know about someone; we are called to relationship.
As I entered into adulthood, I struggled to have a relationship with Mary because I could not grasp how she fit into my relationship with Christ. I knew that she was the Mother of God, but I did not know how praying to her could lead me closer to her Son.
I watched other women in our parish maintain deep, thriving devotions to Momma Mary, yet I sat at the feet of her statue in our church with a mixture of loss and confusion welling up in my heart. Why can’t I have that kind of devotion to you, Mom? What makes me drawn to your feet even when I don’t know you?
At the feet of Our Lady’s statue, Mary led me to ponder the question: what makes her beautiful? I had been blind to the answer for many years because I failed to understand the meaning of true beauty. I could not grasp Mary’s beauty because I failed to comprehend that which I could not see in myself.
Beyond the beautiful portrayal of Mary’s physical body, I was drawn to her soul—full of grace, peace, willingness, docility, motherhood, selflessness, and the ability to actively listen to God.
Mary’s characteristics redefine what true and authentic beauty means and points towards one archetypal quality God designed for women: invisibility.
Before you sigh with disappointment or disapproval, understand the context in which I am using the word “invisible.” I used to think that to be invisible meant to go unnoticed or unappreciated; the word had a sad and almost pathetic connotation in my mind. It was not until I saw the concept of invisibility in Luke’s Gospel that I came to understand it in a different light.
The Angel Gabriel comforts a confused Mary, who has just been told she is to be the Mother of God, with the words:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35 NAB).
God wants to overshadow us. He wants us to lessen ourselves so that He can work in us and through us, just as He did in our Blessed Mother when she said “yes” to becoming the most holy tabernacle.
I long for my fallen nature to be invisible so that God can shine through. That is how our Blessed Mother came to be authentically breathtaking in the fullest version of herself. Invisibility is allowing Our Lord to overshadow us so that He can work through our lives for the salvation of His people. Our Blessed Mother’s “yes” depicts this choice, and it is a choice God freely gives to us all.
Gemma Keane is a graduate student majoring in English TESOL and a composition instructor at California State University Stanislaus. She loves all things that inspire creativity—some of her favorite hobbies including leading worship, painting with water colors, and writing. You can read and listen to more of her work at: https://gemmacatherine8.wordpress.com/