Catholics + the "Weird Mary Thing"
Confession: the "Mary thing" has bothered me, for some time.
I knew exactly how it bewildered other denominations—I didn't get it, either.
Wasn't it some kind of false worship? Wasn't it (at least borderline) idolatry to be so obsessed? Shouldn't we be praying to the Lord our God, the Lord alone?
But I went along with it.
You might even say I faked it.
I tried to act my way into believing: I prayed the Hail Mary, the Rosary. It felt flat, insincere. But I trusted that the ancient Church—the one, true Church started by Jesus Himself—had a compelling reason for its love and honor of Mary. If she really mattered that much, I had to know, why.
So I brought this up with the Lord.
I asked Him to make the truth evident, to expand my small human brain with the right understanding—should it be His will.
He took His Godly time.
But I became curious and open to things I had been previously closed off too. I read the few Gospel passages that involved her, over and over. I learned that most of Europe, Central America, and South American celebrate Marian feast days as national holidays. I read up on her. I tried novenas and devotions and consecrations. I was chilled and captivated by the people and photos and fulfilled prophecies of the Fatima miracle.
And somewhere in there, I became a mother, myself—a struggling mother.
A stay-at-home mother. A mother who had a pridefully hard time with the abrupt transition from her old, self-structured life. A mother who felt very alone, like no one understood the difficulty she was having with the sacrifices of new motherhood. I was a mother in need of a mother—and a role model. I needed someone who could be always available to counsel me, help me, support me, lead and inspire me through the constant, humbling days of motherhood. I needed a mother like Mary.
I imagined her as the most perfect, most natural of mothers—to whom mothering came easy and enjoyable. I contemplated the way scripture and the mystics and great artists portrayed her: gentle, willing, thoughtful. Calm. Slow to react, but quick to respond. Soothing and watchful. Immaculate. Ageless, intuitive, kindhearted. Without sin. Gracious, loving, warm. Radiant. Utterly flawless.
I was nothing like her.
I was defeated by my own lack of capacity, my sudden powerlessness and inefficiency. I couldn't figure out how to meet my child's needs, to fix things, and it was hard for me to handle. I broke down over naptime refusals. I yelled at the whiny, leg-clinging toddler. I had a low tolerance for playing and reading books. I wanted to run away. There were no instant rewards in keeping my son clean, fed, safe, and alive each day. And just when I had started to settle in—to feel as though I was adapting and surfacing—we miscarried our second baby.
And all the while, God was using these difficulties. He was steeping my head and heart in a greater need and understanding of Mary. And then He revealed an epiphany that magnified it.
This epiphany came to me in the most unlikely—and most perfectly fitting—of ways. I heard the most adorable little boy singing this precious children's song: (Link to song by Foxhaven Family Singers Kids)
Jesus picks flowers for Mama Mary, Jesus loves us so-o.
Jesus picks flowers for Mama Mary, Jesus loves us, this I know.
Jesus obeys his Mama Mary, Jesus loves us so-o.
Jesus obeys his Mama Mary, Jesus loves us, this I know.
Jesus now helps his Mama Mary, Jesus loves us so-o.
Jesus now helps his Mama Mary, Jesus loves us, this I know.
It was humbling, laughable, the way I was riveted by this simple song. I could not get it out of my head. It was like He was singing it to me, over and over, until I got it.
And I finally did.
I finally stepped into a new world—the world of child Jesus' and His love and honor of his mama, Mary. A love and honor that remains just as sweet, just as faithful, just as unbreakable, now, as it was then.
It clicked; it was the answer to "the weird Mary thing." I thought back to the scripture, the way it reveals nuggets of the way Jesus deeply loved—undoubtedly still loves—His mama, Mary.
As a child, Jesus subjected Himself to her, "he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:51).
And who would He work His first, public miracle for? His mother, of course.
Jesus turns the Cana wedding water into wine, for no reason other than Mary asks—or rather, hints. All she has to say to Him is, "They have no wine." (Jn 2:3). She does not press him, but in great, motherly confidence, she tells the servants "Do whatever he tells you." (Jn 2:5). Because of nothing less than His great love for Mary, Jesus worked a miracle at even this slightest of her suggestions. And He doesn't just obey—he goes above and beyond. He fills the jugs with a rich wine, the best wine.
It's as if Jesus wishes to not just honor Mary, but to also point out her incredible importance, and His commitment to fulfilling even the smallest requests she might make of Him.
How could He not? How could Jesus not have the softest of spots for Mary, the immaculate. woman whose "yes" permitted His very existence? Can you imagine how His love, His devotion, His most willing and obedient heart is now amplified for her in heaven, as they dwell in the divine dimension of loving perfection?
How could Jesus possibly deny Mary anything she asked or placed before Him? Is she not both His favorite person and His most beloved mother? How could her quietest word or gaze not prompt His most tender heart to do anything and everything good, holy, miraculous—out of His pure, inexhaustible love for her?
Jesus wants us to go to Mary. Not because we have to, but because He longs to honor her, again and again, working miracles through her, for her—for us.
We would be wise to ask for her motherly insight and influence. She is the greatest mother who ever lived, and she aches to keep mothering—to hold, nurture and instruct us as she did the small, dependent child Jesus. Her heart and hands long to serve, to present our requests to her son. She willingly approaches her Son, on our behalf—which delights them both.
Mary has infinite sway; she is our most powerful ally.
If you want to know God the Father, you must go through His Son—Jesus. And if you want the most efficient route to knowing and loving Jesus more perfectly, just go through His dear, sweet Mama Mary.
Points to Ponder + Discuss:
- When you picture Mary, how do you envision her appearance, her voice, her mannerisms, her interactions with Jesus, etc?
- Do you have a personal relationship or specific devotion to her?
- What qualities do you share with Mary?
- Which of Mary's qualities do you still lack, but aspire to?
- Ponder / discuss the following verse as it might relate to this article's topic: