When speaking to groups of Catholics, or sharing one-on-one, I often ask, “Are you consecrated to Mary?” And the large majority of the time the response is “no” or “I don’t know” or “what is that?” I can’t blame them because that was my response as well some 30 years ago. In fact, I only knew Mary as a hard, cold, cement statue–certainly not as a mother. There was no personal relationship there. Nor did I think there could be.
Little did I know, though, that Mary was very present in my life. She was interceding in a very powerful way for me through all the years that I was straying from the Church and the faith. In fact, through a powerful conversion experience, I gradually came to know her personally.
It is here that I want to encourage all mothers, grandmothers and really anyone who prays for others; because right after experiencing supernatural graces amidst my conversion, I was immediately aware of my grandmother, who had since passed away, whom I used to see quietly and faithfully praying the rosary daily. It is as though I had a sense of her presence with me and the special intercessory role she had played in bringing about my conversion (even though she didn’t see it while alive). And, I clearly needed conversion graces because I had gotten to the point of not only not going to Church, but not even knowing if God existed any more. May this witness bring hope to all situations. Just as St. Monica and my grandmother persevered in prayer, may we all have the grace to do so for those we love.
Mary Is Alive and Real
Vatican II encourages us the faithful to “foster a filial relationship with Mary.” But, even after a reversion to the Catholic faith, I didn’t experience such an intimate relationship with her. She still seemed so distant… until one day, I was watching a program on Mary, and one of the gentlemen in the audience stood up and said, “I have to share this: Mary is alive and real, and I experience her in a personal way. She is not just a statue.” When I heard this, a longing stirred deep in my heart to have such a relationship with her. I began talking to God about it, and I also continued to be faithful in praying the rosary and striving to live my consecration to her Immaculate Heart.
And, sure enough, before long, I understood what this man was talking about. I was in awe as I began to experience personally the “Secret of Mary” that St. Louis de Montfort wrote about: that she really is alive and present in our midst and desires to be our Spiritual Mother, carrying us in her arms, clasping us to her heart, taking us by the hand and teaching us how to dispose and surrender ourselves to God’s presence and His Holy Will.
A Heart So Tender and Loving
Mary is very present and alive in our midst today in a way that very few realize. Jesus gave her to us when he said, “Behold your Mother” (John 19:27) on the cross; and, she was assumed into Heaven and crowned Mother and Queen of Heaven and earth for a reason. Just as Jesus tells us, “Blessed are those who do not see but believe,” we could say the same about Mary. Because of her assumption and crowning graces, her Immaculate Heart is truly living and beating among us. She is truly present to us if we but open our hearts to her. It is only a matter of exercising our spiritual senses in order to encounter our Mother and Queen.
We all have earthly mothers; and some have been more loving than others. Some of us have experienced abandonment and rejection from our mothers (possibly even in the womb through a botched abortion). Some have been on the other end of the spectrum, experiencing deep love and care from a very saintly mother. Most of us will find ourselves somewhere in between.
As psychologists tell us, on the natural realm our relationship with our earthly mother has the most significant effect on us in our early formative years (our earthly father, a close second). All other relationships are meant to build on this foundation.
Therefore, if it is a solid foundation we will have healthier relationships with our friends, colleagues, spouses, etc. But, if the foundation is shaky, relationships with others will not be so healthy. Yet this is where great hope comes in for us all. God knows very well that none of us had perfect mothers except for Him. So, along with giving us His Mother to be our model, guide and intercessor, He gave her to us so that we could experience the love of a perfect Mother. He knew we would need healing in our deepest core, due to the ways our earthly mothers (and others) weren’t able to love and accept us unconditionally with the Love of God.
In my meetings with others, I’ve had both men and women share struggles of not knowing their mother’s love in a holy and healthy way. For the men, often it has led to pornography and sexual promiscuity. For women it has led to unhealthy relationships with other women, and at times homosexual relationships. In both scenarios, the unfulfilled longings for the mother/child bond have led to disorder. But, if all who struggle with either situation could just hear the words of Jesus to them personally–“Behold your Mother!”–and actually receive the gift deeply into their hearts, divine order would return, and healing and fulfillment would take place.
In My Own Life
I have come to know Mary in a deeply personal way. Her heart is all sensitive, pure, holy and loving, and she desires to envelope us in the womb of her heart of love. She wants us to bond deeply with her as our Heavenly Mother. This is what has happened in my own life. As beautiful, loving and selfless as my earthly mother was (now deceased), in my earlier years, amidst the good formation there was also faulty formation, such as the mindset that to cry and show feelings of hurt showed weakness. I felt I needed to bury my feelings. I think many of us have experienced this to varying degrees, in the culture in which we’ve grown up.
But it is precisely in this whole area where I’ve experienced great healing through Mary.
Just as an earthly mother is meant to be the heart of the family and the home, all the more our Heavenly Mother is meant to be the heart of the Church and the world. Her heart is so receptive and sensitive to us. As I’ve spent time fostering a “filial” relationship with Mary, she has called forth my deeper heart and given me courage to face who I am and invite God in. This is the grace of her Immaculate Heart, which is so open, vulnerable and receptive before God. And, she wants to take us each by the hand and inspire us in the same.
I have shared with so many people about this personal relationship with Mary that I’ve come to know. And, in the beginnings they would tell me they desired this too. And, sure enough, in time they would tell me, it has happened: “I understand what you mean.”
Now this doesn’t mean that we will always feel Mary’s presence. It is the same as with Christ. Our faith muscles are exercised as we must grow in trust and confidence in Mary’s presence in our lives as our spiritual Mother.
Behold Your Mother
Countless popes through the ages have encouraged us to consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The primary purpose of Mary’s apparitions in Fatima was to foster devotion to her Immaculate Heart. Pope John Paul II’s motto was Totus Tuus Mariae (“I am totally yours, Mary”), and he attributed all of his success in life to consecration to her.
Pope Francis, reflecting on Jesus’ words, “Behold your mother,” tells us: “In these times … there is a great sense in the world of being orphaned, it’s an orphaned world,” he notes. “Jesus tells us: ‘I am not leaving you as orphans, I’m giving you a mother.’”
May we all, especially throughout this month of May, open our hearts to Christ as He is saying to each of us personally from the cross, “Behold your Mother!” May we truly have the grace to receive this gift of a perfect Mother, and take her deeply into our hearts and homes.