I became a Catholic in 2002, yet I've always had a "block" when it came to Marian devotion. I remember clearly my first Holy Day Celebration in 2001. As a new RICA member I slid into a pew at the evening service of the Immaculate Conception. "This feels pretty weird, what am I getting myself into?" as I struggled to understand why I needed to be in church at night to celebrate an "invented" doctrine from 1950 which I'd never heard before in my 25 years of being a Christian.
May 2005 brought the heart attack which signaled the imminent death of my grandmother. Mother's Day 2005, was the first time I could bring myself to sing any of the beautiful Marian hymns with any sense of interior devotion. I sang from the heart for my dying grandmother and for our Blessed Mother in Heaven.
This year, I formally consecrated myself to Marian, through the method of St. Louis de Montfort on the feast of the annunciation. It's been a slow-a pathetically slow- process. I stumble along in darkness, groping through the nightly rosary, staring a devotional pictures, trying on unfamiliar concepts like "Mediatrix" and "Assumption."
This year is the 150 anniversary of Our Lady of Lourdes. I feel a special kinship with Saint Bernadette. Her "dullness" at the her catechism consoles me. Just as her trust and faithfulness in suffering inspires me. I've gradually gone from viewing Mary as this strange, fearful BVM, to my Blessed Virgin Mother too.
Through this journey, I've always felt this "Mary block" must be mine alone. "I must have some weird mother issues" I thought. I could figure out why so many other Catholics leaped confidentially into the lap of Mary, why I always felt shy and uneasy.
Our Blessed Mother has grace my home these past two weeks with a special presence. Our parish has a "visiting Pilgrim Statute program" where a lovely 32 inch statute of Our Lady of Fatima comes to your home. The Legion of Mary teaches the entire family how to say the rosary and leaves lots of inspirational videos.
On Sunday, we had finally tracked down a neighbor's VCR and started watching the video on "First Saturday's making reparations to our Blessed Mother's Heart." The premise behind this devotion is beautiful. The faithful devote the first Saturday of five consecutive months to going to Confession, Daily Mass, saying the rosary and my favorite "keeping our Mother company for fifteen minutes."
The reason for choosing the number five, has to do with the five major ways the world hurts our Blessed Mother's heart. First, we deny the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Second, we deny the perpetual virginity of Mary. Third, we deny Mary the title of "Mother of God." Fourth, we desecrate the holy images and statutes of Mary. Fifth, we "uprooted the devotion of Mary, particularly among the young."
The priests on the video carefully explained how each of these "hurts" harm our relationship with God. The Immaculate Conception was God's first gift of redemptive grace. Mary is "the dawn of Christ's perfect day." Her quiet, hidden sanctification was God's signal to the world that we will able be saved through Christ.The perpetual virginity of Mary, was Mary's gift back to God. He accepted that gift and insured that she remained forever a virgin, even through the birth of Jesus.
At this point, I gasped openly. I felt this sting in my heart. My Methodist faith, which I'd always seen as sort of sweet and harmless, was actively promoting four of the five harms to Mary. The Methodists (and most other Protestants) recognized Mary as "the Mother of God" and trotted her out in nativity scenes at Christmas. Otherwise, my religion was actively seeking to destroy devotion to Mary as "incompatible with the true worship of Jesus Christ alone."
We denied that Mary remained a virgin and taught that she had other children beside Jesus. We denied that she was special or above us, through the special circumstances of her conception. We tore down her "idolatrous" shrines and built crisp white churches with plain walls. We "uprooted" Marian devotion, particularly among the young, particularly among ME.
This month I'm renewing my Marian devotions with fervor. I'm taking joy in sharing her prayers with my children. It's been 350 years since my ancestors traded devotion to Our Blessed Mother, for the pale, pasty imitation of devotion to Queen Elizabeth, "The Virgin Queen." I'm proud to have moved both literally and figuratively from "Virgina" to "Maryland."
What are you doing to make your domestic churches a Mary land this May?