A Holy Mother models and encourages heroism
I was raised in a home with a mother who desired sainthood, but unless I was paying attention, I didn’t notice. I’m remembering now, for what it’s worth, that I don’t recall her ever purchasing an item of clothing for herself. She loved the Catholic Faith of her childhood, her priests, her family, and jigsaw puzzles; that’s about it. And wouldn’t you know it, right after the last of her eight children, John, left home, Judy Wells died too young from cancer.
If a single snapshot is able to capture the image of a lifetime, it would be this of Mom: I would occasionally walk unannounced into my parents’ bedroom to find her in the afternoon’s half-light, kneeling alone by her bed, praying the Holy Rosary. She’d look up with hesitant eyes that told distinctly different stories: her self-consciousness at being caught in the raw nakedness of prayer, and her hope that I’d kneel beside her. The openhearted look hangs forever in my mind like a warm remembrance.
Mom was certainly as guileless and meek a person as I’ll ever know, but her love for truth carried her to places most others don’t venture. She knocked on neighbors’ doors, asking fallen-away Catholics if they wanted to join her family for Sunday Mass. She hand-wrote tender, pleading letters to encourage shackingup couples to separate and renew chaste relationships. She worked for decades as a counselor at Mary’s Center, a tiny, poorly funded pregnancy center in a tough area of town, where she continually encouraged calloused women to cast their ringed eyes beyond the veil and into the bright hallelujah of their babies’ tiny heartbeat. If walking the unseen sacrificial path of small daily trials marked the identity of her motherhood, it was the rosary that kept pointing her back into those disregarded places.
More than two dozen priests processed down the aisle at Judy Wells’ funeral, wanting to offer their gratitude for her esteem for their priesthood. I think these priests realized that Mom – like our Blessed Mother – expected only heroism from them. In a stunning visual of Marian ferocity, [our priest] Monsignor Esseff shared with me a mental picture of Mary as related to a priest’s relentlessly heroic duty owed as an alter Christus; it was the same picture Mom could have given me…
…“Mary is relentless with me,” he said. “…I see her on the ground taking me into her arms at the Fourth Station, and I’m already completely beat and broken. …she looks down at me and says, ‘Your Father said, “You go and die.” You better do that, son – you undo it.’ And she helps me up so I can move forward with the cross. That’s who Mary is to my priesthood. …I can’t be a priest without this relationship with Mary.”
Excerpt from Kevin Wells’ book, The Priests We Need to Save the Church (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2019), from Chapter 7, “The Blessed Mother,” pp. 101-104 .
KEVIN WELLS, former Major League Baseball writer and award-winning journalist, is an active evangelist who speaks on Catholic topics. He is president of the Monsignor Thomas Wells Society for Vocations, and his work with youth earned him the James Cardinal Hickey National Figure Award from the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. He lives in Millersville, MD with his wife and children.