“She isn’t just one puzzle piece in my puzzle of theology.”
I’m a cradle Catholic, which partly explains why for a long time I never really thought about my relationship with Mary. Statues in church, the Hail Mary, and an occasional family rosary were just part of life. One of my favorite childhood memories was the annual May crowning. The kids who had just made their first Communion were able to don their fancy white dresses and little ties again, and one really special girl actually got to crown the big statue of the Blessed Mother – one that they brought into the church especially for May Crowning.
I remember thinking she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. The statue seemed huge in my little eyes. This idea was reinforced by the fact that they built temporary steps up the back of the statue for the little girl to crown her. Mary’s hair was loose and flowing, her hands folded, and her head bowed down. I loved when they brought that statue into church. I loved May Crowning and the special songs we would only sing that night, like “On this Day, O beautiful Mother.” I wanted to sing them all the time, but knowing we only sang them once a year made them that much more special. Afterwards, even though it was a school night, informally everyone would meet up at the local frozen custard stand and eat ice cream. Our parents would visit, and we would run around and play with the friends – the same friends we would see the next morning at school, but somehow it seemed so special. We were all dressed up and out on a school night.
Mary was just a part of life. She was a natural part of my experience of God. In September 1995, my mom made her Marian Consecration, and in the next few months, my whole family followed suit. If you have ever read St. Louis de Montfort or 33 Days to Morning Glory by Father Michael Gaitley, you know that this can be a process that takes weeks of preparation. But for good or ill, I didn’t prepare for weeks. I was in the sixth grade and it was just something I thought I should do. So at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, telling myself that if Christmas wasn’t a Marian feast day, it should be, I made my consecration to the Blessed Mother for the first time.
People talk about how their consecration to Mary was life-changing. Mine wasn’t – at least not then. Maybe it was because it was what I just described. It was just something I did because it seemed natural. I didn’t struggle with it or do intense preparation. To be honest, I didn’t think much about it. I just gave myself to her, using the prayer of St. Maximilian Kolbe.
All of this is to say: I don’t have a dramatic story about the Blessed Mother, a reversion after being away, or a struggle to understand Marian devotion. And that in itself has been a bit of a struggle. Recently, I did read 33 Days to Morning Glory, and I struggled with the fact that my Marian Consecration in 1995 happened the way it did. Did I do it incorrectly? Had I just phoned-in a relationship all these years? Why didn’t I think of Mary more? Did I have a devotion to her, or was I just going through the motions?
Growing up in the Midwest, I wasn’t really exposed to much misunderstanding of Catholic teaching about the Blessed Mother. In high school, we learned basic apologetics and studied various objections and explanations, but I never really encountered anyone who asked me if I was saved, much less who thought I worshipped the Blessed Mother.
That has changed now that I live in the Bible Belt. I’ve encountered the misunderstandings that people have about Church teaching. I’ve encountered the thought that somehow our devotion to the Blessed Mother hinders or even completely stifles our relationship with Jesus. But this isn’t in accord with my lived experience, growing up with a relationship with both Mary and Jesus.
Mary is the Mother of Jesus, the daughter of the Father, and the greatest creation that the Trinity has ever created. She is Jesus’ most perfect disciple. Our relationship with her does not take us away from God, but brings us closer. Our understanding of Her doesn’t hinder our understanding of God, but increases our love and adoration for Him.
This is why St. Louis de Montfort said, “We make more progress in a brief period of submission to and dependence on Mary than in whole years of following our own will and relying on ourselves.” Mary knows God. She knows He is faithful and is confident she can trust Him. Simply put, she knows all of these things that I struggle with every day. So why wouldn’t I want to be close to Her?
My journey to find where Mary fit in my life ended up showing me that I don’t need to figure out where she fits, as if she’s a puzzle piece that needs to fit into my theology.
She isn’t just one puzzle piece in my puzzle of theology. In a very real way, she’s the friend holding the box lid with the picture on it. We don’t need to try to figure out where she fits… because she’s always next to Jesus, leading us to Him when we need it, or accompanying us in our prayer when we’re with Him.
Yes, she’s always just kind of been there as part of my life. And maybe I struggled with that a bit. Does that mean I take her for granted? Does that mean I need to work harder to foster more of a devotion to her? But in fact, it is what she wants. She wants to just “be there.” She never steals the show. She always leads us to Him.
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