Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Devotion to Our Lady

Catholics, from the moment of birth, are tied to the idea of devotion to Mary, Mother of God. It's second nature to think of her as Mother and Protectress. But what does it really mean to have devotion to her? Is it enough to surround ourselves with her statues, recite the rosary , follow her apparitions, or read books about her? Mary is a very significant part of my spiritual journey. I was led to Carmel because of her. But it didn't always start that way. I'm sure Catholics instinctively love her even without the externals of devotion. Is that possible? I have read many books about her but none satisfied me the most until I read "Marialis Cultus" and "Mother of the Redeemer." Now, most of my books on Mary have to do with her place in the Carmelite spirituality and books written by our Carmelite Saints. It sounds disrespectful to say but it is not: The more you get to know her, the more she grows on you.

The first devotion I had of Mary was under her title of Our Lady of Lourdes. I joined a children group called Children of Mary and little girls wore the white dress and blue sash. St. Bernadette was my favorite Saint then. When I entered religious life, I was introduced to Mary as Our Lady of Mount Carmel. In time I was able to meditate on her several virtues embodied under this title. All Carmelites are devoted to her under this title. "Carmel is All Mary"- is like a line you learn from rising to retiring in Carmel. The titles I love best of Mary are "Mother of God" and "Virgo Fidelis" (Faithful Virgin). I really don't need anymore apparition by Our Lady. We have Fatima and Lourdes, these are enough for me.

Someone shared this sentiments with me.  
"Ah, devotion to Mary...Any advice for anyone in my situation? As a lifelong Catholic, I've always admired her, read many books about her, pray the rosary, have holy cards bearing her image, talk to her in my own words every day, novenas, have stopped at chapels dedicated to her, etc etc, but still have a very difficult time relating to her on a personal level. I don't feel close to her at all. For a long time I've longed to know a mother/daughter relationship with Our Lady but for some reason that remains something to be grasped at. It's like admiring a beautiful painting, a wonderful historical figure. The admiration is there, I learn about her often, but there is always that great distance. I don't know why. It bothers me although I accept it. My priest told me to talk to Mary about the very topic in my prayers, to bring it to her and put it in her hands. I've done that but there still seems to be a block. By the way, I have a good relationship with my own earthly mother , for some reason I have never been able to feel close to Mary although I would love to. I would describe my relationship with Jesus as intimate. Any suggestions or insight? Thank you."

When I was younger, I also had difficulty relating to Mary in an intimate way. I went through all the motions of rosary, novenas and holy cards ,just like my friend here have because I thought it was part and parcel of being Catholic. But although I believed in her, I did not connect with her. It all changed when I received my Brown Scapular in a Carmelite Monastery. It was a great grace I received. The many years of my own efforts to know her was done for me in a few days of public novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It was a turning point in my life and it led me to joining the Carmelites. I nourish my devotion to Mary by contemplating the events of her life as illustrated in the Rosary. The Rosary is the sum total of Our Lady's life. If you meditate on the Holy Rosary, not just recite it, but really praying the Rosary, you will find how it will yield much fruit. You don't even have to do all 5 decades if you find that is too much at one time. You can concentrate on a few decades and see Mary in the mysteries: In the Annunciation: What is she thinking? What is she doing? Imagine her feelings and emotions? The Sorrowful Mysteries- imagine and feel her pains, her sorrows, her fears because of what was happening to Jesus. Praying the Rosary this way will make her come alive. Reading books on Our Lady was not much help to me during this period of my life because I was reading life experiences of other people. I cannot relate to flowery and overly pious books on Mary. St. Therese of Lisieux used to be so disappointed with the homilies about Mary in her days. She complained that homilies were based on Mary's imagined life, not her real life. Why don't they say that she had her doubts? That she had to live by faith because she did not understand everything that was happening to her? She did not understand the full reality of Jesus.  When Jesus  was lost in the Temple and Mary and Joseph found Him, they complained, "Son, why did you do this to us?  Your father and I have been anxiously looking for you?"  But Jesus said, "Why were you looking for me?  Did you not  know that I must be about my Father's business?"  And they did not understand the word that he spoke to them." (Luke 3:48-50).  Mary's faith is the single attribute we can mostly imitate.  I would also like to add that when you have tried everything well, do not give up just because you can't experience feelings of intimacy with her. Feeling is not everything. It is the believing. I worked hard to be close to Mary but I labored in vain. And then She came to me. She changed everything with very little effort on my part. Our Lady knows you love her. Just like a good mother, she has a bond with you that cannot be broken, even if you don't feel it.


  1. Just reading this and contemplating Our Lady, in particular, contemplating her feminine love (gentleness, nurturing, etc ..) makes me feel a whole lot better after just a few minutes ..
    Respect and love to Mary.
    And respect and love to Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

  2. I love reading about Mother Mary,The Rosary etc......this is wonderful to raed ,how people want to be close to Mary in a real way! I too have been longing to be close to her .She has so may time help me through rough times...Tears were flowing but in a real warm way ,it's like I could feel her comforting me ,that was of course as soon as I picked up my Rosary...