Last week, I wrote about my difficulty with Marian devotion. This week, I’m going to share with you some experiences that will make you think that I don’t have any difficulty at all. Although I’m not devoted to “Our Lady,” I still have a relationship with her — a rather fruitful relationship.
Before I get to that, a much too brief recap of my journey to Christ (which will be greatly expanded in the memoir that’s currently under construction):
Raised as something of a nominal Catholic, but with a poetic/spiritual bent and real hunger for truth, I became an atheist when I was about 20 years old. Then, after something like a mystical experience (something like) that made me aware of the truth of “that which we call God,” the Infinite Eternal One, I wandered for seven years exploring spirituality itself and the religions of the world. I did not want to be a Christian, because I thought that Christianity was a dead question. It had been asked and answered: not true. Over that seven years of wandering, I found that the other religions of the world did not uphold the two things that I knew were true: God is real — one, personal and mysterious — and life is beautiful. Rather to my surprise, the Christian religion alone seemed to exactly profess these two things.
So I reluctantly began to wonder if it might not be true.
If Christianity were actually true, and not just a myth that one could use as a kind of guide toward transcendent relationship with God (which is what I wanted), then that would mean that Jesus is the Son of God, the Divine Word made flesh — God Incarnate. That seemed to me like a very big, rather preposterous, leap. As I pondered the possibility of the Incarnation, however, I discovered that it, compared to any other religious beliefs, spoke to me more profoundly and clearly about the awesome reality of God’s infinite power and the sublime beauty of being a living human on Earth.
Again, to make a long story far too short (far, far too short), after reading the first part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I decided to take the leap of faith in February 2002 and chose Christ. Of my own accord, I became a Christian.
Well, that is, I started becoming a Christian. (I’m still in the state of becoming a fully authentic, fully engaged, fully alive Christian — aren’t we all?) It took me many more years to develop (to allow) a truly loving and personal relationship with Jesus, through His Sacred Heart. The very fact that I can write His name so often now shows how far I have come! One of the tools that helped my mind and heart to open to the reality of Our Savior was the rosary.
Yes, the rosary.
Meditating with the Rosary
That may seem an odd choice since I had no previous relationship with Mary, the mother of Jesus. Still barely a Christian, a Christian who could not even comfortably speak the name of Jesus and who certainly did not pray to Him (I preferred going “directly” to the mystery of Infinite, Eternal God), I took up the prayer beads. That’s what I thought of the rosary, like the prayer beads from Buddhism and Islam only with different words and intentions. My intention for the Christian beads, since I had newly discovered that there are Mysteries of the Rosary, was to meditate upon these moments in the life of Christ in order to perceive Jesus as Christians did.
I did not consider rosary prayers absolute communication with God, and certainly not with Jesus’s mother Mary. When I actually thought about The Virgin Mary during the course of my meditation, it was kind of like this:
“Mary, if, somehow, you really can hear me through these prayers, then may this meditation be my act of sitting at your feet as you teach me about your son. Show me your son, show me Jesus through your eyes, who He really is, so that I may better understand and know Him.”
I didn’t use these words, but this was the basic sentiment. It didn’t bother me much if it turned out that Mary couldn’t hear my words, as it was the meditation that mattered most. I was not so much praying to Mary and asking for her help, as seeing Mary as a mother and a teacher, the one human being who was with Him from the beginning to the end of His earthly life, knowing and loving Him intimately. By meditating upon the life of Christ through Mary’s eyes, with the aid of imagination, I thought I may be able to gain some wisdom and understanding of Him better than any other way.
And yeah, I know now that that sounds an awful lot like devotion to Mary! But it wasn’t an act of love at the time. Just a tool. As anyone who comes to the rosary with even a skeptical kind of faith can tell you, however, these prayerful meditations upon the life of Christ are powerful. Years later, I heard someone say on an EWTN program, “If you don’t want to become a Christian, don’t pray the rosary.”
“Sweet Virgin Mother”
My rosary meditations took me deep into the mysteries of Christianity, giving me clarity, understanding, and a loving appreciation for the beauty, wisdom, and goodness of the Incarnation. With Mary as my symbolic aide, or perhaps, I admitted, my actual aide, insights unfolded before me, and the full humanity and full divinity of Christ captivated me, growing more understandable to my heart and intellect. (I will be sharing some of these early insights in October reflections.)
Jesus had instructed His beloved disciple to look upon Mary as his own mother. Wanting to be a better student — disciple — I knew that I should strive to do the same. But what should I call her? The terms “Queen” and “Our Lady” didn’t register any meaning or affection for me. (Am I too American? Are my Puritan roots too thick?) Over the years, I have come to rather unconsciously call her “Sweet Virgin Mother.” Beyond the rosary, however, I did not venture much further in my relationship with her. I did begin to ask Mary to pray with me for special intentions, and still do. And if I do not know what to particularly pray for someone, I ask Our Blessed Mother to pray for the person, figuring she knows better what is needed.
This does seem like a pretty solid devotion to The Blessed Virgin Mary. But I still demure away from Marian devotion. From my earliest intentional relationship with God, I have craved simplicity. In my weakness, I fall very easily beneath the burden of too many symbols and spiritual aides. My past denial of God is not something to take lightly. Words can sometimes get in my way and bring me down, when all I want is pure truth. All I want is God. God has helped me to receive Him by taking on my human nature and uniting Himself intimately with me: Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.
Reverence for His Mother Mary, I have discovered and continue to discover, brings this reality of God’s love into high relief. More on that in my September reflections.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
© 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.