Mary's Place in the Church,


Mary's Place in the Church, Mary's Place in Our Hearts

Sean at Swimming the Tiber, is having a couple of qualms about devotion to our Lady.

My feelings about Marian devotion are usually somewhere between uneasy acceptance and vague discomfort. I have come to believe in, and am genuinely excited by, the communion of saints. And, if I feel perfectly comfortable asking a saint for intercession on an issue, you wouldn't think I would have any problem asking Mary. Yet the whole thing completely 'weirds me out'. I have a Rosary, but I usually can't get more than one 'decade' into it before I give up out of a sense of foolishness or futility. Sometimes both.

Here is my response to the difficulties he expresses (with the advantage of having been proofread so that it actually makes sense):

I sometimes wonder if the Blessed Mother isn't everyone's favorite obstacle. And in fact, it isn't usually the blessed mother herself, but the occasionally misplaced devotion that would have you believe that some in the Church think that Mary is the Author of our Salvation.

I started where you are, or perhaps a good deal further back. (I was Southern Baptist to the core, except by the precepts of my own faith I had no choice but to become Catholic, as no one else interpreted John 6 properly. Why was everything else taken literally, and then suddenly when you get to this one chapter it was figurative language?) Anyway, I started with absolute zero devotion to Mary. I saw rosaries as one step away from voodoo dolls. But despite myself, I said to God, "Where you go, I will follow." I asked Him to change my heart and to show me what was proper and true with respect to devotion to Mary.

God responded gently, as He always does. It took probably ten or fifteen years, but now I am a member of the Carmelite Order whose patron is (you guessed it) Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I still have problems with some of the overstatements and exaggerations that occasionally surround the Blessed Virgin. But then I think about my own earthly mother and the things I am inclined to say about her and some of my irritability and uncertainty passes.

Don't sweat this. Simply be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, and God will lead you where you need to go. Saying a Rosary is not necessary for salvation (although you may eventually discover that it really helps to make you aware of that precious-bought gift). Devotion to Mary is not a requirement, it is a wonderful present. If you're not ready to open it at this moment, leave it in God's hands--He'll lead you where you need to go, and He is trustworthy.

All of that said, I must say that having a heart for Mary is one of the greatest gifts God can give you.

Marian devotions are a treasury of rich meditative resources that always draw us closer to God. Mary always points to her son Jesus. Look at all the great Icons of Mary and you'll see that she is rarely, if ever, without Jesus. Sometimes she is comforting Him, sometimes proudly pointing Him out, but it is almost as though she is in the picture frame reluctantly--"Not me, Him."

Devotion to the Blessed Mother can only bring us closer to Jesus, and respect for the Blessed Mother can only endear us to Jesus. How many among us, if someone were to tell us what a great person our mother is, wouldn't feel some elevated approval or liking for that individual? So, too, with Jesus, particularly as she was one of His dying gifts to us from the Cross. He gave us His mother to care for us, pray for us, console us, and cry over us in the same way she did for Him.

Having a heart for Mary does not mean loving Jesus less, if anything, it means loving Him more. Because we are more integrated into His family, we grow into being inseparable from Him and His Blessed Mother.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 18, 2002 7:05 PM.

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