Friday, August 12, 2011

Making Sense of Mommy Mary

I got a letter from a reader this week:

"I am becoming interested in Catholicism. But this Mother Mary stuff just doesn't make any sense to me at all. Could you point me in the direction of some help understanding this?
Thank you,

Well as a little Carmelite, rather than point you to a book or a website, I'd rather point you to having a prayerful heart and rereading the Gospel of Luke.

Mary is a real person. She existed in a specific time and place. She is Christ's first and his best disciple! St. Peter messed up a few times. St. James, St. John,and St. Paul, all very good, inspiring men--but they had flaws that Scripture faithfully records.

Mary on the other hand, consistently hit the ball out of the park.

She said YES!

Again and again and again.

So lets just review a few highlights of Mary's discipleship career.

Angel Gabriel comes and announces an unexpected pregnancy for God. An event that may mean public ridicule, divorce, and potential death by stoning as an adulteress. Mary says Yes!

Early in her pregnancy (during the first trimester when I'm personally having trouble getting out of bed in the morning) Mary RUNS to visit her elder cousin Elizabeth in a far away community. Mary has great love for people as well as for God.

Being the Mother of God has such glory connected with it as giving birth in a filthy stable, fleeing from an Israeli king who is intent on killing your toddler, living as an alien in a foreign land for several years and "misplacing" the Holy Son of God for three days as a teenager in the Temple of Jerusalem.

All of this happens prior to the major heartache of watching your son die in a painful way in the midst of great cruelty and ridicule.

Mary was a purely human being, like us, who had a supernatural gift of grace (the Immaculate Conception, not like us). We don't have to be jealous that Mary got a unique gift from God. Instead, Mary does help us all accept that "goodness" is a gift from God himself. In our lives on earth, we won't ever be able to duplicate Mary's "home run" of faith. Jesus only came as a tiny baby once and none of us currently living women will ever be able to nourish him in our womb. But Mary will help us "give birth to Christ" in our soul. We can become more Christ-like. We can start to resemble our Savior's life more and more in our frail human form.

So when we pray to her, she responds. She's real. She helps us to see her working in our world.

Two common Catholic Prayers to Mary are the Hail Mary and the Memorare.

Hail Mary
Full of Grace
The Lord is With You (this is a quote from the Angel Gabriel's words in Luke)
Blessed Are You Among Women
And Blessed Is the Fruit of Your Womb, Jesus (This is a quote from St. Elizabeth also found in Luke)
Holy Mary, Mother of God
Pray for Us Sinners,
Now and at the Moment of Our Death (This is a saying of the entire Catholic Church who wants help from Mom right now, and at the most decisive moment in their Christian life--the moment of death)

Also, my husband suggested drawing closer to Mary by using his favorite Marian prayer, the Memorare

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection,
implored your help or sought your intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence,
I fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother;
to you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful.

O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in your mercy hear and answer me.


Blessed Mother, pray for Carrie and pray for us!


  1. It's also good to remember that God Himself created his OWN mother. So, of course, He made her to be the purest, holiest, humblest...all around best woman of creation! And then he GAVE HER to us, to be our mother as well.

    Mary knows Christ better than any person ever living. If anyone can show us better how to know and love Him, it is her.

  2. Definitely all this - but I would just add, since this answer is directed at a non-Catholic, we don't really pray TO Mary, (although we tend to call it that) we ask her to pray for us and our intentions. And whose prayers are more powerful than the Mother of God's?

  3. Thank you, Abigail, for your quick and thoughtful response! I am starting to get a glimpse of what Catholics believe and do, rather than just the stereotypes about them. :)
    I will pray that God leads me to His truth in this, and to what is most pleasing to Him. I will take your advice and read Luke's gospel with this in mind.
    I do have a question, though. I commonly see blessings in my life and see them as God's "fingerprints", if you will. I don't quite understand why you would think Mary is the one at work there. Is there something different about what haopens that makes you think of Mary?
    I can see how she would love to bring people and their prayers to her son, though. I have four sons, and that definitely rings true!
    Anyway, thank you so much for your time and your prayers!