Maybe I could call this reflection, “Confessions of a Less-than-Catholic-Feeling-Catholic”.
I know that I shouldn’t feel guilty, however. I simply have questions.
The Virgin Mary herself had questions. Her first words recorded in the Bible were in the form of the question “How…?” I have some “why” questions that are, at heart, questions about “how.” For this particular series of reflections beginning now, just before the Feast of the Assumption, and ending with the Nativity of The Blessed Virgin, I’ll focus on these particular questions of mine:
Why is there a Catholic devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary? Is the Sacred Heart of Jesus not enough? If Jesus is the one mediator between God and Man, between Heaven and Earth, then why on Earth do some Catholics seem to depend on Mary’s prayers of intercession?
Some new, little insights that I’ve recently received regarding these questions will be given later in this series. For this first reflection, I want to share with you, to confess to you, dear reader, my difficulties and hesitancy in having a devotion to Our Lady. This hesitancy of mine, these questions and difficulties do not prevent me from recognizing who Mary is — the New Eve, Our Blessed Mother, and truly the Mother of God — or from having love for her, but I do feel myself pulling back whenever I hear someone with a strong Marian devotion suggest that I pray to Mary and that I will find all that I need beneath Mary’s protection.
When I’m continually directed to Mary, I sometimes feel like I am being detoured. I keep thinking, “But… I chose Christ. It is Jesus whom I seek and desire, Jesus who is my Savior and Lord.”
Let me take a moment here to say something intimately important.
You, my dear reader, may have asked Mary’s intercession on my behalf. You may have shared your beautiful devotion to Our Blessed Mother with me on this blog, through email, or in person. Thank you. I want you to know that I have heard you and have taken you seriously. People with beautiful Marian devotions are, well, beautiful, and I have great admiration for all of you. Indeed, you are the inspiration for these reflections, as your words and your prayers have encouraged me to take a second — and third and fourth — look at my relationship with the Mother of our Lord.
The Heart of the Problem
It’s very difficult to be a member of the Catholic Church without being pulled over and over again toward Marian devotion, especially when witnessing the prayers of faithful men and women who extol her goodness, beg for her intercession, and call upon her as their guide and guard. My question is asked internally — But isn’t the Holy Spirit our guide and guard? A certain liturgical prayer may ask for Mary’s intercession, or a good, holy person may tell me that all will be well for me because Mary is watching over me. But doesn’t Jesus hear me? Isn’t God watching over me? Can’t I trust the love, mercy, and goodness of God?
The Bible gives us a beautiful, simple, powerful, and profound understanding of Jesus’s mother, the first of His disciples, the one whom all generations will call Blessed. Although I haven’t read the whole Catechism, I have taken courses on the Church’s teaching on The Blessed Virgin Mary and appreciate the theological reasons for dedicating dogma, doctrine, holy days, and churches to her. However, when I read the writings of Saints who have passionate and lofty devotions to Mary and what they say about Mary, how they feel about Mary … well, I certainly see that I am not like them.
Is that wrong?
Helping Me to See
There are sound theological answers to all of my questions. And I know that the Church forbids worshiping The Blessed Virgin — Mary is not God. The Church also doesn’t require me to put images of The Virgin Mary in my home or to try to pray the rosary every day. I do these things because they help me, for instance, to be mindful of the beauty of God’s love.
I simply haven’t wanted to keep stopping at the image of Our Lady, focusing continually on relationship with her. I want to go beyond, I want to go to her Son, Our Lord Jesus, and, in going to her Son, I want to delve wholeheartedly into the transcendent reality of Almighty God in His merciful gift of divine union. Of course… this is precisely what true Marian devotion is intended to accomplish. We are never meant to stop at the image of The Blessed Virgin Mary.
Throughout my journey of faith, although I freely acknowledge the importance of Catholic doctrine when it comes to Mary and the theological truths of her importance, I have not desired a personal devotion to her. This has not exactly changed. What has changed, why I’m writing this long, multi-sectioned reflection, is that I don’t want to dance around The Virgin Mary anymore. I don’t want to feel myself take a heavy sigh whenever I hear that Mary answers every prayer or someone tells me that I’m under her mantle of protection. I want to embrace the truth that is hidden in these words, in these attitudes, and see the whole truth of who Mary is and what my relationship with her should be.
Jesus told His beloved disciple to look upon Mary as his mother and that disciple did so, taking Mary into his home. I, too, want to be a beloved disciple of Jesus, so I need to heed His words: if I truly want to take Jesus’s words to heart, if I truly want to be Jesus’s beloved disciple and do what He says, then I really need to know how to behold Mary as my Mother and take her into my home.
So let’s see where this new series of reflections will take us…
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.
© 2022 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.