Learning to Love Mary

Learning to Love Mary September 28, 2007

My comadre gave us a beautiful little chapel to place in our prayer room. My husband installed it on the wall the other evening and then the question became, “what do we place in it?”

I immediately glanced over to the corner shelf where I have icons and statues. There was only one statue that could possibly fit well with this little chapel–my statue of Mary. My statue has quite a story to tell so I thought I would share it with you.

My great-grandmother, a devout woman, bought the Mary statue. Her church was having a fund-raiser yard sale and she came across Mary. My great-grandmother, whom we called ‘Mom Mom’, thought Mary was beautiful. She could not take her eyes off of the very simple statue. The statue itself, upon close inspection is cheap, very light, maybe made from plastic, I am not sure, and all white. But Mom Mom was taken with it. When Mom Mom brought Mary home with her, she thought Mary needed a little glitz so she glued gold glitter all over her. The result is, up close it looks odd, but from afar, it really is pretty. Over the years, Mary fell and broke, but my Mom Mom glued her back together and cared for her and always returned her to her special location. When Mom Mom died in 1997, my mother inherited the statue and gave it to me.

What makes this story absolutely remarkable is that my great-grandmother was Protestant. She woke up early every morning and read her daily Scripture and prayed. She would then watch her daily dose of the 700 Club. She came from an anti-Catholic tradition, like so many Protestants. Yet, she was still drawn to Mary and a statue at that!

Even though my immediate family & I converted to Catholicism we never could really get over our problems with Mary. My parents had deep admiration for other saints–Francis, Padre Pio, Dorothy Day–but Mary was a different issue. I think my mom (my dad was raised Catholic) inherited her unease from centuries worth of anti-Mary sentiments and passed them to us. My own father, raised Catholic, shared my mother’s deep discomfort with “Mary worship” that they felt many Catholics slipped into when it came to Jesus’ mom.

Despite my deep devotions to St. Anthony and St. Michael the Archangel, for a very long time I have struggled with Mary. I disliked the Rosary, refused to learn the Memorare, and felt extreme discomfort with Marian medals. Then I went to the University of Dallas where every evening at 10 p.m. we gathered in the chapel to pray the Rosary together and sing the Salve Regina, a prayer I always loved, but had never heard in Latin. Even though the evening rosary drove me nuts–one guy who led, in his pious devotion would pray SUPER slow–I looked forward to singing the Salve Regina. Somehow singing that ancient prayer that countless faithful had sung for millennium began to break down my anti-Mary barriers. When I discovered that my great-grandmother, a devout Protestant Christian, had a Mary statue of all things in her home, I began to think, “well, maybe it is ok to love Mary.”

I married, became a mom, and it has been my motherhood that has led me to a true appreciation of Mary. She comforts me. When my husband was diagnosed with melanoma, a disease that had taken a college classmate a year before, I turned to Mary. When we lost our baby via miscarriage, it was a Rosary I placed in my car that gave me great comfort. At times I would pull over my car and just hold the crucifix part of the Rosary and kiss it and I would feel better. When my newborn daughter would cry for hours and hours driving me insane, I turned to Mary asking for her intercession to help me deal with my baby. When my toddler throws tempter tantrums or pushes ever expanding boundaries, I turn to Mary. With my latest health crisis, I turn to Mary. Her presence comforts me.

So when we walk into our prayer room, it is She who we see-sweet, broken, glittered statue –that was loved by a woman who should not have loved her, but did. It makes me feel as if I have come full circle.

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