The following is a transcript from the Raised Catholic podcast. To listen to the podcast, click here.
Today is episode 18: Mother Mary
Well, before I start today’s show, I wanted to let you know that I’ve gotten a few comments from listeners wondering how they can support this podcast. That is so kind. Well, my answer is always this: please share it with your friends. Sharing, rating, reviewing, subscribing – all of that is so helpful and I really appreciate when you do that, so thanks so much!
Okay, now to Mary.
If you live or walk around my neighborhood, it would not be an uncommon thing for you to see me standing in front of the Mary statue at our chapel with my hands in hers. I often stop there on my way home from a walk or a run to pray, and just take a minute to put my people and my prayer intentions into her hands. I sometimes think that passersby must think I’m a bit crazy or one of those Mary-worshipping Catholics or maybe a mix of both, and honestly it was not all that long ago that I would have agreed that Catholic behavior around Mary can range from the weird to the seriously problematic.
For the record, I don’t think that Mary or anyone else embodies a statue, just so you know, but there is something about the image of her that helps me to remember her humanity, her realness, and her motherhood, and the physical representation of that statue just helps me to connect with all of that, because let’s face it, we all need a mother.
My own Mom went to Heaven eight years ago this past November and almost immediately after her loss, I realized the gap she had left behind. There wasn’t anyone else on Earth who was ever going to love me like that again, no one who was going to see me and my family with that lens of knowing and unconditional and sometimes overwhelming Mom love. There wasn’t anyone who would answer my questions in the same way she would, or who would muse for months over just the right birthday or Christmas gift just for us. There wasn’t anyone who would clear the path or believe the best in the same way that she did.
It was probably a couple of years after the loss of my Mom that I found myself praying alone in a church and looking up at a statue of Mary when I asked her to get down from there. I’m not kidding. After all, If Mary was really my Heavenly Mom as I had been taught that she was, then I needed her help. I needed more than an idea of a Mom – I really needed her to walk with me through some spaces in my life that desperately needed a Mom at that time. And here’s the weird thing: she did.
That day started a relationship in which I got to know Mary as a person. I read about her, prayed, journaled, and spoke to her just as you would speak to a mother. And I slowly realized, she was never the fair-skinned, delicate, serene version of Mary who populates so much of the Catholic music and art we enjoy. No. Mary is fierce. She did the impossible, saying yes every day to the unknowable reality of raising God as a human child – really, can you imagine the complexity of that? She loved, taught and protected Him for over thirty years, and then stood feet away watching while He was unjustly tortured and murdered. In His absence and in her grief, she mothered an infant church full of scared and wobbly disciples with no idea of what was going to happen next. And Mary didn’t turn away from Jesus’s pain or from her leadership role in an ever-evolving church, and I’m convinced, she does not turn away from our pain or our suffering Church, either.
When we emphasis Mary’s purity or virginity, or her young motherhood, we can forget: this is the same Mary we read about in the Book of Revelation with her heel on the head of a snake. She’s a Jewish mother who toiled morning until night to care for her family. She’s the Mom who saw a human need at Cana and prompted Jesus’s first miracle. She’s the only human besides Jesus who ascended body and soul to Heaven. And if you believe the apparition stories at places like Lourdes, Fatima, and Medjugorje, she has translated her fierce presence and protection of Jesus to wrap her arms around all of us by making herself known even now.
In my own life, the biggest thing that Mary has taught me is to trust God, by her example and also by her actual direction and help. Mary is always pointing us away from herself and toward God, never receiving glory for herself. And in her mothering, she sees us and gathers us in and brings us to her Son, like a doorway made of kindness. And as I look back on my life, I remember situations that I needed to hand over control to God, but I just could not. Maybe you have stuff like this too – the most inexplicable, challenging, scary stuff, the stuff you can’t figure out on your own and you have no idea how you’re going to get through it or how it could ever change for the good. It was only deep in prayer that I understood that I could hand over control of these precious situations into the hands of God through Mary. I remember one day in prayer visualizing exactly that – holding up my shaking hands and giving Mary something and watching her give it to Jesus, and that was the day when everything started getting better and clearer all around. It’s no wonder they call her, among many other things, the Undoer of Knots. She’s also called Star of the Sea, Queen of Heaven, She Who Shows the Way, Mother of Mercy, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, Gate of the Dawn, Mother for the Journey, and Our Lady of Providence among hundreds of other titles given to her by people just like you and me. And if you ever wonder why literally thousands of Catholic churches are named after her, many of them built by the poor, it is because generations of Catholics experienced her as a mother who intercedes and gives practical help in our time of need.
Fr. Frank McFarland was a priest on Boston Catholic Television years ago and it was through his daily broadcasted rosaries that first I learned to appreciate that form of prayer. And it’s not something I do every day, but I just loved Fr. Frank’s descriptions and his evident devotion to Mary. He called the beads a kind of “lasso” that connects us to Jesus and His Mother and in his many recorded rosaries, Fr. Frank often encouraged viewers to “run to your mother who will wrap you up in her mantel and take care of you.” Well, I have experienced the visceral care of Mary many times and I can testify that what Fr. Frank said is true. Mary is holding out open arms to you and I right now. She’s a good Mom and good mothers – they never ever let us go.
In today’s show notes, I have a ton of resources for you – everything from artwork to music to books and prayers, journal prompts too, and these help you to take Mary down off the statue for yourself and get to know her a bit better. I hope you will check those out, but for now, let’s talk to Mom.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
Hello Mary, you are filled with grace and goodness, and God is with you. You’re blessed and you carried the Son of God and made Him real to us. And you do this still every day and we are grateful. In your kindness and your holiness, please intercede for us as a loving Mother would. Pray for us, your children, today and every day until we see you face to face. Thanks, Mom, amen.
Okay friend, I’ll see you next time.