Sr. Maria Veritas Marks, OPOne of the elements of Christ’s Passion that struck my students this year, particularly as they watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, was the stark aloneness of the Apostle John. Of all Christ’s inner circle of chosen disciples, John alone witnessed the events of the redemption.

When asked to brainstorm why John might have stayed the course, the students produced some insightful ideas: knowing himself to be Christ’s beloved disciple, John perhaps felt a greater obligation or desire to remain with Jesus. Maybe his youth made his arrest less likely than it would have been for some of the older Apostles. Or maybe, as befits the young, he simply feared repercussions less and loved more boldly.

Notably, in The Passion, after fleeing with the rest of the Apostles from the Garden of Gethsemane, John does one thing differently from the rest: he runs to tell Mary what has happened. From that point onward, he remains at her side as she accompanies her Son to Calvary. In Gibson’s imagining, the fundamental reason John stood beneath the Cross was because John stood with Mary.

The lesson applies to our spiritual lives. Sometimes it can be hard to be with Jesus. Being with Him means speaking the truth, for which we fear not arrest, as the Apostles did, but ridicule or censure. Being with Him means encountering our own or others’ sinfulness, which pains us, just as John suffered to watch soldiers and bystanders torturing and mocking his Teacher and Friend.

Lisa Johnston | CNS photo

On our own, we are tempted to flee. But we need not be on our own. If we want to stay with Jesus, let us stay with Mary. Just as Mary kept John close to Jesus in the most agonizing moments of their lives, so she provided direction and strength after Christ’s resurrection, as the Apostles awaited the mysterious “Spirit,” whom Jesus had promised them. Gathered around Mary, they experienced the ground-shaking, heart-shaking event of Pentecost.

How can you stay close to Mary? Ask in prayer for her help. Consecrate yourself to her through the time-tested method of St. Louis de Montfort. Pray the Rosary. Especially during this upcoming month of May, bring flowers to her statue at your parish.

Read about her. This year, 2017, marks the 100th anniversary of Mary’s apparitions at Fatima. Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words, the firsthand account written by Lucia, one of the three shepherd children visited by Mary, transports the reader to those days of extraordinary grace and generosity.

Venerable Fulton Sheen’s World’s First Love remains a classic; in his finely crafted meditations, the archbishop’s world-famous eloquence is put to the service of a heartwarmingly tender devotion. In fact, time and again, you will find that spiritual masters — from the medieval St. Bernard of Clairvaux to 20th-century St. Josemaria Escriva to today’s revered Dominican preacher Fr. Romanus Cessario — suddenly become children when they speak of their Mother.

Close to Mary, we can all rediscover the spiritual youthfulness of John — and the boldness of his love for Christ.

Sr. Maria Veritas Marks is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.