The Virgin Mary brought me into the Catholic Church.
First, when I was in middle school, my father gave me a bust of Mary cradling the Christ Child. No one in our family was Catholic. It was just a piece of art given to Dad as a gift and he gave it to me because I was the religious one of the family. I did not have a warm, close relationship with my mother. Instead of making me miss what I didn’t have, the statue comforted me. It was as if I was being loved through the image.
Secondly, also around the same age, I was meditating on Jesus’ crucifixion. Now, I was a Baptist. We didn’t meditate. But that was what I was doing, though at the time I called it “pondering Scripture”. The verse that captured my attention that day was John 19:25b: “But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag′dalene.”
It hit me that Mary had watched her own Son be tortured and killed in front of her by those in authority. I thought of how horrible and heartbreaking that had been. But she didn’t run away. Scripture didn’t note her having a nervous breakdown. Instead, she was a quiet, solid presence for her Son. I thought, “What an amazing, strong woman she must have been. Lord, make me like your mother!”
I immediately tried to backpedal by saying, “I mean, not that way.” As in, not in the Catholic, idolatrous way. I like to think, though, that at that moment, Mary and Jesus shared a smile.
Jump forward almost a decade to the third handhold Our Lady got in my soul. At this time, I was far from God, living with my boyfriend in his dorm room. But I ached for God. I knew I was doing wrong but didn’t want to repent of that wrongdoing. Not yet, anyway. Like St. Augustine, I was praying, “Lord, make me chaste–but not yet!” Also like St. Augustine, my heart was deeply restless and searching for a place to be still.
I don’t know if I came across a picture of a rosary while browsing the Internet or if someone mentioned something or if I saw it in a movie. But I decided that a rosary was the most beautiful item in the world and I wanted one.
I found a website that offered free plastic rosaries. I requested one. A week or so later, it came in the mail and I rushed back to the dorm room the State was paying for me to live in but which only held most of my stuff. I took out the pamphlet that came with it and, after a bit of studying, prayed it with the mysteries of the day. After that, I would stop by my dorm room on my way to my boyfriend’s after classes and I would pray five decades of the rosary, looking for divine connection and comfort.
The following year, wounded from my father’s death and the harsh end to an unhealthy relationship, I was looking for solace I couldn’t find in the Baptist faith. I was trying to find God. I began to read about Catholicism but the problem was Mary. Everything I had been taught came to the fore, despite the statue, the rosary, and my childlike cry of admiration. By God’s grace, I found good resources that tore down my arguments and I could finally embrace the Virgin Mary as my Mother and Queen.
I have been Catholic for fourteen years. Marian feast days are especially important to me because it was Mama who brought me home.
Is Our Lady special to you? Why or why not?