Mother of the Invisible

Pauline Perdrau was still in her late twenties when in 1844 she painted the original fresco of Mater Admirabilis, whose feast we celebrate today. She was also still in her first few months of religious life, just beginning to learn and grow in the contemplation and interior stillness she so skillfully and gently depicted. The following year she left Rome for France, never to return. Although she painted several more images of Mater, and copies were made and sent to Sacred Heart convents around the world, she never set eyes on the original again.

And then, in 1883, and now in her late sixties, Pauline painted one last image of Mater in the house of St John. There are echoes of the original in the later image, as well as accentuating differences. The original Mater is a rosy young girl, bathed in light and golden hues, caught up in a reflective moment; the older one dwells in a subtler, different sort of light, as befits a much older woman. One is all spring turning to summer, the other is autumn flowing into winter.

And there are two other, very noticeable contrasts. The first lies in their hands: young Mater's hands are still, having paused in her work to ponder God knows what; older Mater's hands are busy, somewhat symbolically cutting the thread on a long piece of work. But she isn't focused on her work; instead, she is gazing ahead, into the distance. And therein lies the second difference: young Mater's eyes are almost closed, her gaze turned inward; older Mater looks straight ahead, rather intently. She is as absorbed in God as her much younger self, but she is able to keep working - she has become a contemplative in action.

Young Mater is pre-Incarnation, unaware of the great work for which God was preparing her. Older Mater is post-Resurrection, her spacious heart a treasure chest of joy and pain, anguish and hope - especially hope. But she doesn't spend her time looking back in reminiscence: she looks ahead, past and future as one; looks far beyond what can be seen, with focus, confidence and a joyfully quiet, serene hope. Whatever she can see, it is invisible, except to the eyes of a heart filled with faith and love.

In 1949 Mother de Lescure wrote a prayer to Mater invoking her as the Mother of the Invisible and the Mother of the Essential. Although it was intended for young Mater, we can address it to older Mater too, specifically...

Let us ask her to detach us, to free us from all that is not important, to lead us on, and fix our gaze upon the Invisible which her own eyes look upon: the Invisible Presence, the Invisible Life; the Invisible Action: the Invisible Love, all those things which are eternal values in us and the great realities of faith... 

One thing alone is necessary - the will of God and the work of His love. May Mater give us the singleness of vision so that we, too, may see the Invisible and Essential in all.