Behold Your Mother- No, Really Behold

I have a friend whose Marian devotion sometimes borders on superstitious.  She once told me, in hushed, urgent tones, that anyone could tell that one particular apparition was from the devil, simply by looking at the Our Lady’s feet.  “Real apparitions always show the Blessed Virgin’s feet.  And her feet are always bare.”

I mulled that over for a bit, and asked her why this was.  She sighed, the sigh you give children who ask questions even they should be able to answer, and said, “Because Satan can’t hide his cloven feet.”

Her response, of course, only led to more questions, but I realized that there was nothing profitable to be found there, and happily let the conversation drift off to other topics.  But the exchange did help me articulate one of the puzzling things I’ve noticed about the relationships we try to forge with Mary.

I knew Mary, and had a friendship of sorts with her, long before I ever became Catholic.  In fact, during the wilderness years when I had rejected every single shred of Christianity, I still respected Mary.  Oh, to be sure, I dressed her up in New Age triple goddess costumes, and imagined her a victim of the Catholic Church, kidnapped and enslaved by evil patriarchal forces, but I still admired her.  I even, from time to time, spoke to her, offering her just enough space for her powerful prayers to work on my soul.

Maybe because I had spent so much time giving Our Lady makeovers in whatever oddball spirituality I was pursuing at that time, when I finally entered the Church, it never occurred to me to keep our Mother frozen in first century finery.  In fact, I found myself drawn images of Mary that reflected the culture she appeared in.  The Aztec princess Mary of Guadalupe, the Asian Marys, in kimonos and obis and long flowing hair unveiled, and the African Mary of Kibeho, whose feet, I noted wryly, were decidedly hidden.

But even all those images of our Mother struck me as somehow too formal for the woman who had been by my side for as long as I could remember.  The Mary I knew was a real, living person.  She loved me and protected me, and took care of me just as much as my earthly mother did.  So why would I keep her swaddled in miles of robes and veils, outward signs of her modesty somehow keeping her from being a real person who would teach me real modesty- and so much more?

I wouldn’t dream of telling you how to conduct your relationship with Mary.  But now, in her month of May, I would urge you to examine it.  Jesus didn’t ask her to become our mother so we could keep her in a box and only take her out on fancy occasions.  Just like our Protestant brethren miss out by only trotting Mary out at Christmas, so do we miss out if our conversations with her are restricted to a Hail Mary or a Memorare.

There is something to be gained from regal images of the Queen of the Universe, and certainly few pictures grasp a tiny bit of the majesty of heaven quite like seeing Mary attended by countless angels.  But, just like you don’t insist that your earthly mother put on her wedding finery every time she interacts with you, we shouldn’t do that to our spiritual mother. Remember that Mary is more than her imagery.  She’s more than a haughty Botticelli Madonna, she’s more than a fingertip Madonna.  She’s more than a 20th century tween in saddle shoes, and she’s more than the probably intended to shock, but ends up being charming superhero Madonna.  She’s bigger than an interesting piece of artwork, or a beautiful set of prayers, or an odd set of barefoot superstitions.  She’s a real woman, and she is your mother, and she wants to have a relationship with you.

So call on your mother.  Call out to her, and don’t be scared if you meet a real woman who wants to lead you closer to her Son- even if you can’t see her feet.

image: meunierd /

Cari Donaldson


Cari Donaldson lives on a New England farm with her high school sweetheart, their six kids, and a menagerie of animals of varying usefulness. She is the author of Pope Awesome and Other Stories, and has a weekly podcast about homesteading at

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  • Jenny Uebbing

    beautiful, Cari.

  • chrism

    Cari, I always enjoy reading your posts and have missed seeing you here. I am encouraged by your words as I think of my sister who is very “new age-y” but still prays the Rosary. I love the analogy of our own mother’s wedding attire. Beautiful. Thank you.

  • Cari Donaldson

    Thanks, Chrism. I’m praying for your sister, but am confident that our Mother already has it in her capable hands.

  • José R.


    This is excellent:
    “She’s a real woman, and she is your mother, and she wants to have a relationship with you.”
    There is much to meditate on in this simple sentence. Also, I had no idea about the African Mary of Kibeho! I must look into this. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Additionally, for any one seeking more articulation on the role Mary can play in our lives, and how she keeps us humble before Christ, I recommend “The Glories of Mary” by St. Alphonsus Liguori—it has been helping me in my own relationship with Our Lady.

  • Jenny Cook

    In my journey towards the Church, I am beginning to find myself so drawn to Mary. It’s my Protestant mom’s worst nightmare. But really, how can it be right just to mention Mary in passing at Christmastime in a few carols? Is that really what was meant by “all generations shall call me blessed?” I could go on and on about everything I’m learning about Mary, but I’ll just suffice it to say…thanks for this reflection.

  • onemig

    John 8:32
    and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

    Revelation 17:4-6
    4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:

    5 And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon The Great, The Mother Of Harlots And Abominations Of The Earth.

    6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.

    Brother and Sister Worship the Lord Your God In Truth and Spirits..

  • BillinJax

    Jenny dear, God bless you on your journey. Sixty some years ago this convert experienced the same wonderful knowledge and understanding that Mary was the Mother of all Christians. Loving her makes all the difference in realizing the true nature of our Catholic faith. Think of it like this. We have the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary yearning for the Children of God to come home to Him. Those Christians who deny or lack the love of Mary sorrowfully are in possession of a half hearted faith. I have this from my vault for you dear.

    My Mother Mary…….yes, that Mary….
    ….who was living a simple life dedicated to serving the God
    of Israel from her very early Immaculate childhood.
    …who was full of grace and awaiting the angel’s salutation
    to share a child with the Holy Spirit and cherish and carry our Lord in her
    womb for nine months that He might carry the Cross of Salvation for all of us.
    …who, in union with God’s plan, willfully in true charity
    and sacrifice accepted the prophecy, announced on her son’s first visit to the
    temple by Simeon, that because of this child her heart would be pierced like
    none before her.
    …who cared for and nourished that child sharing house, home,
    and daily family and personal exchanges of love and devotion with Him for
    thirty years as He grew to manhood.
    …whose mutual love had so entwined its trust in her young son that it would allow Him leave of her during the journey of faithful from Jerusalem for nearly two days in their humble land (a preview of his passion and burial) until she would become aware of His absence from friends and her own loving care.
    …who, as His closest companion over many years, knew exactly
    where to look for Him upon her return to Jerusalem.
    …who would accept His decision to “be about His Fathers
    work” but with a mothers love guided His youthful ambitions to a more proper
    time and place for fulfillment where at her wish and petition He initiated His
    ministry with the miracle at the wedding feast of Cana.
    …who faithful to words of God to Simeon had to watch with a
    bleeding heart the horrid brutality thrust upon her child during His powerful
    …and finally that Mary, who though weeping in sorrow would
    be so willing to lovingly listened to and carry out her son’s dying request
    along side the disciple whom He loved well that she now take John under her
    wing in place of Him and that John in turn protect and defend her among men
    until she rejoined her son the Prince of Peace in heaven.
    This Mary, the world’s very first “Christian”, is my mother
    and should be recognized in faith as truly the mother of all Christians.

  • Jenny Cook

    Wow, what a beautiful reflection. Thank you for sharing it!

  • rosebud

    Rev. 12: 17; …the rest of Her children.” Biblical affirmation of Our Heavenly Mother. I put much import on Lk. 2: 35; “A sword shall pierce your Heart so that the secret thoughts of many can be revealed.” I connect it with the Fatima request to “Make reparation for the outrages committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” as being “HEAVEN”s PEACE PLAN”. Peace begins in individual hearts and moves out to the rest of the world. Consoling Mary is a “SECRET RECIPE” for peace. [ “Rejoice Queen Mother, Your son our God has gone into the depths of darkness & illumined it with the Victory of Divine Mercy. It has penetrated the hardness of our selfish vanity & softened our hearts into praise & thanks for God (who longs to share his Glorious Love with us).” ]

  • Fernando

    I think you mistakenly got the wrong part of Revelation, the passage you’re looking for is this one:

    “[1] And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars:

    [2] And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.

    [3] And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems:

    [4] And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son.

    [5] And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod: and her son was taken up to God, and to his throne.”

    “[1] A woman: The church of God. It may also, by allusion, be applied to our blessed Lady. The church is clothed with the sun, that is, with Christ: she hath the moon, that is, the changeable things of the world, under her feet: and the twelve stars with which she is crowned, are the twelve apostles: she is in labour and pain, whilst she brings forth her children, and Christ in them, in the midst of afflictions and persecutions.”

    Revelation 12, 1-5 (Douay-Rheims)