Why go to Jesus' mother when I could go directly to the Source of answered prayer? My relationship with God had always been a high priority. I wasn't afraid of Him, and knew that He heard me. I did from time to time ask my friends to pray for me when things got tough, but that was different (or so I thought). The very idea of talking to Jesus' mother held no appeal.
In the years that followed my conversion, slowly my outlook began to change. It all began with a romantic disappointment, which left me dreading going to Mass alone (my friend and I had always gone together). I mentioned this to "Marilyn," a mature Catholic friend, and her response floored me. "Have you told Mary about it?" I shook my head. "Why would I do that?" "She's your mother, too, you know. She cares." Opening her purse, Marilyn took out a little metal disk imprinted with an image of Mary and the infant Jesus. A blue piece of yarn was strung through it to form a necklace.
"Here. Take this. The next time you feel lonely, ask Mary to help you." Not seeing a graceful way to get out of it, I accepted her gift. I put the medal on the passenger seat of my car and promptly forgot about it.
That Sunday my eyes fell on the medal as I drove into the church parking lot. Almost gingerly I picked it up. It was still cold with winter chill. Closing my eyes, I said, "God, I don't know if I should be doing this. If this isn't something I should be doing, don't let anything happen today that I could take as a sign that this is OK." I paused, then took a breath and spouted out, "Mary-if-you-can-hear-me-I'd-like-someone-to-sit-with-in-church-today-Amen." I entered the church, went to my usual pew, piled my coat and purse beside me (on the aisle, so no one could slip in while I wasn't looking), got down on the kneeler, and began to pray.
When the pastor told us to turn and greet people, I looked up to find a woman about my age standing next to me. "Hi! Can I sit with you? I just moved here a month ago and don't know anyone yet." Dumbfounded, I moved my coat and let her slide in.
It's a fluke, I told myself.
The next week I repeated the same routine, asking God to keep me from error, sending up a quick reminder to Mary that I wanted someone to sit with, then going into the church and barricading myself in the pew. When I looked up that time, an older woman was standing there. "Can I sit with you, dear?" The third week I knew what was going to happen. "I mean it, God. I'm going to keep doing this if You keep sending me pew mates. Mary, I'd like someone to sit with me. Amen." That week I had not one but four companions … a new family had settled in front of me, displacing the four Hispanic sisters who usually occupied that row. One of them, Anna, tapped me on the shoulder. "Would you mind letting us sit with you this week?" OK, God. Got it. From that point on, I knew that when things got ugly, I always had someone who would look out for me as only a mother could.
Some time after the publication of the first edition of this book (With Mary in Prayer), I was charmed to discover that I was not getting preferential treatment from the Blessed Mother. Standing in line at the seminary cafeteria before class one day, I noticed a woman behind me was carrying a copy of my book. I asked her if she'd like me to sign the book for her. She looked at me as if I'd just slapped her.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"You wrote this? Really?" I nodded, smiling. Haltingly, she said, "It's just that … well, I read about how you asked Mary to send someone to sit with you in church. I asked her to send someone to sit with me at lunch today. And she did … the author of this book!"
Do you find yourself wondering about Mary, and what it means that she is "Mother of the Church"? Do you worry that honoring His mother in any way detracts from the worship we offer God alone?
"Honor your father and mother," the Lord commands us. Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law, and continues to honor His mother even in heaven.
The reason for this is simple: Mary never keeps any honor shown to her. Rather, she is a channel of grace, showing us to her Son, and leading us closer to His Sacred Heart. All true devotion to Mary always leads to Jesus.
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