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Always Mary's Girl

alec vanderboom

I recently attended a Memorial Service for my grandfather.

It was an amazing miracle that we had a chance to say goodbye in a church service, actually. My Grandpa had Christianity stamped in his soul. At age 94, Grandpa arrived over an hour early each Sunday to the living room of his nursing home, snappily dressed in a shirt and tie, eager to be taken to his Sunday School Class at the local Methodist Church.

For some unexplained reason, my Mom nixed all funeral services inside a church or funeral home after Grandpa's death. Instead, she directed the family to gather around Grandpa's grave site in early January in an event I uncharitably nicknamed in my mind "rolling the old man into the ground."

It seemed to me, highly unjust to bury a man who loved his Methodist Church as much as Grandpa without the final blessing of a Methodist minister. However, the Lord is hard at work on my difficult heart.

All my Carmelite prayers have started to show me the virtue of Silence. The night of my Grandpa's death, I silenced my tongue. Instead of arguing with my Mom, I took all my concerns about Grandpa's missing funeral service to the Lord in prayer.

God answered my prayer through many loving acts of my Grandpa's Christian friends. Grandpa's friends insisted on holding a Memorial Service at his old church. Grandpa's old minister put together a lovely service. Grandpa's old choir cheerfully volunteered to sing one of his favorite hymns. The United Methodist Women threw a lavish potluck in the church basement modeled on an "OSU Tailgate Party," my Grandfather's favorite football team.

At the Methodist Church Service in my Grandfather's old church, I finally felt peace and comfort after his death. I felt honored to share in the legacy of my grandparents faith. I felt reunited with my Mom and my siblings.

In the middle of a choir hymn, I looked up at the familiar stain glass window that I'd watched throughout my childhood. It's a beautiful Rosetta window with a moving picture of Christ Crucified. It's unusual to have a Crucifix in a Methodist Church. All the other churches I've ever attended had a plain cross over the alter, maybe adored with a sea shell or dove. It was comforting to see Christ's body present in this church.

As I looked closer, I saw something new. Underneath Christ, were two small figures- St. John and a figure dressed in a blue veil, My Blessed Mother Mary.

Never in my life, have I ever, ever seen a depiction of Mary in a Protestant Church. It just isn't done. Yet here was a picture of my spiritual mother directly over a Protestant alter.

I felt so much grace in my soul. This is the church where my grandparents faithfully worshiped together, each and every Sunday for over 60 years. This was the church were I got baptized. Directly under this beautiful stain glass picture of Mary is where my parents said their wedding vows 39 years ago.

It was if Mommy Mary smiled down on my conception before I even existed.

Sometimes, my life as a Catholic feels like a random accident. How did I get here? Why is a former intellectual show-off suddenly a stay-at-home Mom who rarely leaves her house? How did an easy going Methodist girl suddenly end up becoming a Discalced Carmelite who volunteers for extra penance, extra fasts and hours of extra prayers each day?

It's always a gift to be reminded that my faith isn't a random accident. I was always Mary's girl.