"I do have a question, though. I commonly see blessings in my life and see them as God's "fingerprints", if you will. I don't quite understand why you would think Mary is the one at work there. Is there something different about what haopens that makes you think of Mary?"
Oh Mommy Mary, let me sing of your glory!
I see most of the blessings in my life as straight from God, as well. My miracle house, the healing baptism of my daughter Tess, and my latest baby--those are blessings I see as straight from God, not Mary.
But "seeing Mary" at work--that is something cool. Our Lady is just in her own class! Here are some examples.
At my Grandfather's death bed on December 24, 2009, I was flipping out. As a novice Carmelite (and as his only Catholic relative) I felt all this pressure to pray for dying. I really wanted to have a holy experience like Joy Behind the Cross. I wanted to sit in the hospital room, hold my beloved Grandpa's hand, and pray endless Divine Mercy chaplet's for his soul. It was absolutely KILLING me that we happened to be in a Catholic hospital but my Grandpa couldn't get the Sacrament of the Sick. (Because he was Protestant). In the absence of that special, reassuring visit from a priest, I felt tense and alone.
Also, I found "caring for the sick" to be soothing and familiar. Worrying about my weak Grandpa's fluid intake, wiping his chin after a drink, making sure his legs were in a comfortable position, singing some favorite hymns--these were all things that as a mother of young children--just felt innate. Caring for him at the end of his life was a special way for me to say "thank you" and "goodbye."
To the rest of my family, however, death was something to be avoided at all costs. They kept insisting that everyone leave Grandpa's hospital room often to "regroup". I was also requested leave my Grandpa alone for long periods to have a normal Christmas as possible at my parent's house.
There was one family meeting that we had in the hospital waiting area that was so emotionally painful for me. I sat slumped in my chair, broken-hearted. I really, really wanted to be physically near my dying Grandfather. Instead, I was stuck in this random room having a ridiculous conversation with my parents and my siblings. My mom sat directly across from me and she said something really awful. And I looked up--and there she was!
Three feet above my own Mom's head was this giant picture of Mommy Mary. (I think it was Our Lady of Guadalupe). The peace that I felt in that moment was supernatural. The message that I felt immediately in my heart went something like this: "I'm your Mom!" (As in, be kind to this lady who gave birth to you. Cut her some slack! Her Dad is dying. But always know that I'm your Mom! I've got you, and your Grandpa, and this whole family situation covered!")
I remember getting through the rest of that awful conversation by glancing at that beautiful picture over my my own Mom's head periodically. It was so reassuring. I felt like a shy child holding onto his Mother's apron strings.
Seeing Mommy Mary's picture helped me start to "go with the flow." I agreed to leave my grandfather's hospital room to help cook a big seafood Christmas Eve dinner for my family. For most of that weekend, I prayed for my Grandfather far away from his hospital room.
As a more mature Christian, I can see now that sacrificing my desire to hold my Grandfather's hand while I prayed for him--was actually the more holy choice. Work can be a powerful prayer. My family really needed "normalcy" to cope with my Grandpa's sudden health crisis. By cooking dinner for my family, I helped my parents feel more comfortable. Time away from the hospital room, probably made their shorter visits more pleasant and meaningful.
In the moment, however, I was very confused. I had a firm picture of what a "holy death" should look like. It hurt so much that the reality of my Grandfather's experience fell so short of this perfect image in my head.
That's where Mommy Mary is such a genius! Because sometimes when I'm alone with my Bible and my love for God, Satan can get me honestly confused. (Not that I don't help Satan often through my own extreme sinfulness!) But sometimes, despite my best intentions, I get mixed-up. I get lost. I don't know which path is the one God truly wants me to take.
Back in that moment inside the hospital waiting room, I was lost. I was fighting so hard. "I'm the Carmelite. I'm supposed to be praying for the dying. Leave me alone so that I can pray!" My tense attitude caused a lot of extra drama in an already bad situation.
Catching that surprise glimpse of Mommy Mary--that was everything to me. She reminded me that she was present. Praying for a dying Christian was her special role. She had everything under control. I could just relax and do my part--which was always something very, very little!
(More examples to come. Thank you Carrie, this is very fun! To Other Catholics, what are your unique interactions with Our Blessed Mother? Can you write about them and link to his blog?)