Dashing out of the rain, I hastened down the wet chapel steps trying not to be late for midday Mass. Seconds later, missing two of the steps, I landed with a thud in the narthex. Excruciating pain in my ankle momentarily blinded me to the reality of where I was sprawled on the floor… I lay at Mary’s feet, as she looked down at me from the Lourdes grotto built into the alcove.
I whimpered a prayer: Here I am again at your feet, Mary, and, as usual, it’s not pretty. Please help me!
Three months ago I had my hip replaced. This fall might be a serious setback in my recovery.
Remarkably, I took comfort in the fact I took my fall in front of Mary. (Of course, I realize her statue had no power of its own to help me, but its presence reminded me of the Mother who did.) My meager prayer was heard. With faith in her maternal protection, I assessed the damage, and slowly stood, hobbling into the last pew. After Mass I limped back to my car and drove myself to the hospital for x-rays.
I sat in the ER contemplating my crash at Mary’s feet. This was not the first time I have found myself looking to her in desperation.
This points to my thesis: all of us should fall for Mary. Not that I’m suggesting personal accidents, but rather, we should fall in love with Mary, and not wait for tragedy to strike before we invite Mary into our lives.
As a younger woman, I avoided the suggestion that Mary should be a part of my life or, worse, a role model for me. To my way thinking, with a feminism formed-by-the-culture and not necessarily by the Gospel, Mary was a weak role model for me. Despite this bias, I never doubted Mary’s role in God’s plan. I just didn’t include her in any of mine.
Back then, for me, Mary was more of a historical character — necessary for God to take on flesh — an iconic reminder of the Jesus story. I knew she showed up at Christmas and at Calvary, but I didn’t appreciate much beyond that.
My Catholic education taught me Mary was the mother of Jesus, the mother to the Church, and a mother to me. I accepted the first two titles fine, but I denied she had any connection with me. I had no “relationship” with her, other than praying the “Hail Mary,” and an occasional rosary.
As a teenager, I had a dynamic conversion to Christ. But even with a growing faith, outside influences still swayed me. I confused staid depictions of Mary with the truth about her nature as a human person brimming with grace. I was influenced by prevalent skepticisms about Mary. My false impressions were not rooted in Scripture or Church teaching.
Two events in my adult life drew me toward love of Mary. The first was my first pregnancy. At the time, I was so sick I vomited around the clock. My life was in tatters. My only prayer was “Lord, help me!”
Jesus answered my prayers by sending me his Mother, armed with the “girl talk” and strong feminine connection I needed. And I was desperate enough to accept Mary’s help and example.
It wasn’t pretty, and I often faltered but, for the first time, I asked Mary to pray for me.
Over those nine months, I began to see what was missing. I traced Mary’s life through the scriptures, discovering the many lessons she had for me. The rosary and its meditations on the life of Christ and Mary became sources of inspiration.
I no longer kept Mary on a distant shelf — like a statue. Now she became a living, holy presence in my life. She never diminished my relationship with Jesus; she only increased it. And I began to trust the wisdom of the Catholic Church — not outside opinions — about Mary and Marian devotions.
Mary took me in — the one who denied her for so long — mothering me as I entered motherhood, forgiving my years of neglect. I trusted her. She wanted the best for me: faith, hope, and love in the Holy Trinity. After all, she is Daughter of the Father, Mother to the Son, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit.
Ten years later, a second event deepened my relationship with Mary. At 36, as a mother of three small children, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I faced my own kind of Calvary.
Recall John’s Gospel:
[At Calvary,]… standing by the cross of Jesus [was Mary]… When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home(John 19:25-27).
Mary, who stood at the foot of her Son’s cross, and later embraced His broken body, now stood by me. I was broken. It wasn’t pretty. But there she was… filling me with her gifts of grace-filled power… a mother at Calvary beside the child she loves.
Twelve years later, I still take my cue from Jesus’ words, and the action of St. John: I have made a place for Mary in my home. More important, I have embraced being Mary’s daughter.
My falling for Mary continues… I still have messy stuff in my life that needs cleaning up. I still fall and Mary picks me up and dusts me off. With her help, I’m becoming a better woman, a stronger Christian.
The ankle x-rays reported a sprain. No other damage; none to my newly replaced hip joint. You could say that I had the best possible fall, given my circumstances. I believe Mary had a hand in that.
If you haven’t already, let yourself fall for Mary, our Mother. But don’t just drop in on her “by accident,” call on her today!