Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May -- Month of Dedication to Mary

Welcome to May, the month of Mary! I think that one huge mistaken piece of information that those of other religions or secular society has about Catholicism is that they think we worship Mary. (And yes, I get to say "we" now, because at Easter Vigil I was baptized, confirmed, and received First Holy Eucharist! More on that later ...)

Here is the basic dealio:

If you start with the premise (I know that many of you are not starting with this premise) that Jesus was a real person who really lived and who was really God and was born, died, and resurrected and is seated at the right hand of God the Father, and that he was immaculately conceived ... then you still are at the very beginning of a very confusing faith journey and I think that Mary is one of the most difficult theological topics of all. Naturally, I still want to write about her.

See we believe that there are "supranatural" (to use a word borrowed from Kyriacos C. Markides who I believe borrowed it from a Russian sociologist ...) events and knowledge that are mysteries to us, and that we don't currently understand. This could be as simple as something yet to be discovered in physics, or as complex as a multidimensional divine gift that we will never be able to understand. Basically, there are mystics, and "mys" implies mystery. It means that we are saying "We don't really understand this right now and that is okay." It's kind of like being at peace with not knowing everything about this beautiful world, and saying hey, just because we don't know what makes particles vibrate doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about them vibrating.

So that being said ... Mary is a mystery. What we do believe, as part of our faith, is that she is in heaven, and that she is Jesus' mother, and as such she has a really close special relationship with Him and with us. As such, and this is the same logic that explains our belief in saints, which I will get into another time, her prayer is very special. When we pray, God listens of course, but asking Mary to pray for us too is like asking your Mom to ask your Dad something instead of asking him yourself. She is close to him, she knows him, and she is able to not only pass on that message but also to bring you grace and peace and maternal love.

It is important though that it is not only this supranatural thing, but that Mary and Jesus really existed. One reason that this is so essential is because we need to be able to relate to them. What truly helped me to understand Jesus was reading about / meditating on / praying the Stations of the Cross. (Jesus' journey to his death, carrying his cross). I was overwhelmed by the emotions that Mary must have felt at this time. She was watching her only son be tortured and spat on and dying and there was nothing that she could do about it. She watched Him fall in the dirt, she saw him bleed, she saw how no one wanted to help him and how utterly alone He was at this time in his life. This brings up such emotion in me, even though I'm not a mother, I feel for her and I can relate to her pain and it makes me so sad even though I know, as I believe she did, that it had to happen that way. I wish that it didn't. I have this theory that if the disciples could only have stayed awake for one hour in that garden when Jesus asked them to, He wouldn't have had to die. We abandoned Him, and He was completely alone except for God, His Father, who was with him always, as He is with us always.

Pietà di Michelangelo nella Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano.

So, Mary is not only Jesus' mother, but she is our mother, and if we ask her to pray for us, she will, and if we pray the rosary and meditate, we are able to grow closer to her in a way that is a mystery to me. She has taught me about being a woman, about trusting God, about handling life gracefully without grasping for control. She has taught me about femininity and modesty and beauty, and about a mother's love.

Here is how we ask her to pray for us, and you can say this even if you are not Catholic, or even if you don't accept the mysteries, but would like to understand more:

Hail Mary, full of grace.
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

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