One of my earliest childhood memories was when I was five years old at St. Eugene Catholic School. I remember every Wednesday my class and I would go to Adoration. I remember kneeling and joining the class to pray the rosary. Now, this prayer takes about fifteen minutes to do, which is not long at all, but in my five year old brain, sitting still for fifteen minutes was an eternity. This was my introduction to Mary, the Mother of God.
Who is Mary to the Catholic Church? I get asked this question all the time. Do we worship her? No, but we do honor her. She is the greatest of saints. The bond between Mary and the Catholic Church “is inseparable from her union from Christ” (CCC 964). She is both the Mother of Christ and the Mother of all mankind through “the order of grace” (CCC 967). She is Queen of both Heaven and Earth, and she constantly works to bring us closer to Christ.
As I grew older, I learned more about Mary and her significance in the Christian Faith. However, you see, there is a difference between learning and understanding. You can learn what an artist is trying to depict in a painting, but you do not truly understand the message unless you feel the emotions that he or she is trying to portray. Understanding the artist’s emotions, and who he or she is as a person, establishes a meaningful connection between yourself and the artist. This concept was the core of my struggle in my relationship with Mary. I knew a lot about her life. I knew that she said yes to God, and her life was changed forever. However, I did not understand her as a person. I did not feel that connection. I thought about this seriously and prayed about it during my senior year of high school. I wanted God to help me to understand Mary better and establish that bond with her because I knew that by connecting with her, I would, through her grace, grow closer to Jesus Christ.
Fast forward to a windy winter day during my freshman year when one of the FOCUS missionaries approached some of my friends and me and told us about Marian Consecration. In a nutshell, Marian Consecration is devoting yourself to Christ through Mary. The author of the first book concerning Marian Consecration was St. Louis de Montfort, and it was titled True Devotion to Mary. In it, St. Louis claimed that Marian Consecration was “the surest, easiest, and most perfect means” to becoming a saint. I did an abridged version titled 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley. This version involves a month-long retreat that can be done on your own or with others in which you get to know Mary better through the lives, examples, and teachings of four saints: St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.
As the days of the retreat went by, I did get to know Mary better as a person. I liked how each saint was impacted by her in a unique way. Now, you would expect me to tell you that at the end of the retreat, I felt the power of God sweep over me like a huge wave…but I did not experience anything like that. I thought to myself, did I do something wrong? In fact, I had not. God works in little but important ways. St. Elijah did not experience God through an earthquake or a big storm; he experienced Him through a whisper in the wind. Marian Consecration had opened a door for me, and little by little, I grew closer to Christ through Mary. I felt her presence more, and I prayed to her more, asking her to pray for me and to bring me closer to Christ. I was finally able to connect with her as a daughter would connect with her mother.
I also learned that Mary will come to our aid whenever we need her. This especially became evident to me during this past winter break when my brother was hospitalized. It was a very hard time for my family and me, but my mother and I prayed the rosary to let out our stress and worries. Through this whole process, the rosary became my favorite prayer, and now I never leave home without my rosary.
If you have a rosary, take it out and hold it in your hands. If not, Google a picture of a rosary. Notice that when going through the rosary, you start with Christ and end with the Christ, as depicted in the crucifix. However before you get back to Him, you go through fifty three Hail Marys and even through the medallion of Mary in many rosaries. That is who Mary is to me. Mary is the gateway to Christ. She is like our counselor who guides us towards Christ. She is our lawyer who shows us to Christ and vouches for our character and potential. Remember, at her prompting, Jesus performed His first miracle at the Wedding of Cana, marking the start of His ministry. Who better than her to lead us to Christ?
To me, Mary is the ultimate role model of faith. We are all called to say yes to God in our lives. Mary said the ultimate yes: she said yes to becoming the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ; she said yes to watching him get praised and criticized by many; she said yes to the most unbearable pain a mother could ever experience: watching her child get tortured, ridiculed, mocked, and crucified. That takes some serious courage. Her trust and faith in God inspires me every single day.
I challenge you to get to know Mary better; she will take you under her wing and lead you to Christ. She did it for me, and I have no doubt that she will do it for you because she loves us more than we can possibly imagine. She is our Mother, and she wants each of us to get to know and love her Son Jesus Christ.
“This picture is of a statue of Mary at Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa, Lebanon. Her arms are extended out to the coast as a symbol of her love and protection for Lebanon. It is one of my favorite places to visit.”
*Theotokos: title of Mary, Mother of Jesus, used especially in Eastern Christianity
Blog post written by Lara Keddissi