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Mary, Mother of the Church


Date: May 24, 2021

By: Tracy T.


I have a complicated relationship with Mary. I am a convert who was raised with no formal religion and a general idea that God existed but I knew nothing about Him. He made himself present to me in a time of deep distress. I was 18, and He said to me as clearly as if he was standing in my apartment, “I love you and you are never alone.” I decided that if this was true I should probably find a church. So the hunt began. I looked at every church but the Catholic Church. In my junior high years one of my best friends was Catholic. I slept over at her place often on a Saturday night and the deal with her parents was that if we weren’t getting up to go to Mass on Sunday morning we needed to go Saturday night. So off I would go with their family. I would sit in the pew as they all went up for Holy Communion and we would giggle at the table as this family of 8 crossed themselves and said grace before dinner. I thought that you were born into the Catholic Church, I had no clue that you could join or that Christ could call you to the Catholic Church. Fast forward 2 years and I was still church shopping and nothing was clicking for me. No place felt right. Then one night, again in a place of deep distress, I got caught in a torrential rain storm and ducked into the church up the street from my apartment and parked my very wet body into a back pew. The peace that washed over me was overwhelming and I knew I was home. I didn’t know where I was, but I knew I was home.


My RCIA was 6 weeks long. I learned very little about the Church or the Sacraments. I really did go in blind with nothing but a feeling that I belonged and this was where God desired me to be. My husband Bill and I started dating in January, he was present for my Baptism and entry into the Church at Easter, and Christ has had us on a wild ride of faith for the past 32 years. But back to Mary.


I carried with me the worldview that Catholics worship Mary and I had decided early on that I was not going to be that kind of Catholic. Jesus was my Lord and Saviour; there was only room for Him in my life. But Christ knew that I needed His Mother and started working on my heart in a slow and patient way.


In 2018, Pope Francis added the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church to our Liturgical Calendar for the Monday following Pentecost. Cardinal Sarah explained it this way:

“The feeling of Christian people through two millennia of history has cultivated the filial bond, which inseparably binds the disciples of Christ to his Blessed Mother in various ways.” [1]This statement resonates with my experience of getting to know Mary and having her Motherhood revealed to me over time and in various ways. There was no one book, no one retreat, no one theological point or “ah ha” moment that awoke me to the truth of Mary in my life. It was various ways that drew me close to her.


It was through the catholic education of my children as I heard their sweet voices talk about Mama Mary with such innocence, simplicity and love. I didn’t want them to have my worldview on Mary so I dove in and pretended she meant the same for me and over time the pretending sunk into my heart and it became real. I heard the words, “she pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19) and that sounded so peaceful and wise and I desired to ponder more and react less. I explored the word “ponder” and meditated on the characteristics you would need in order to ponder. Patience, silence, wonder, gentleness, trust, and wisdom were the words that resonated with me over time. Words that I knew but were foreign to my way of being. I began to seek out the idea of growing in virtue and being Christ like and Mary like. God started to refine my rough edges and turn my focus from my success and what I could accomplish to how He wanted me to serve others in His name.


At the wedding in Cana we heard, “Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5) and over time the lies of worshipping Mary were replaced by the truth that she always points us towards her Son. As a mother I realized how intimately I knew my children and started to realize that if I wanted to know more about Christ the person that could teach me those intimate truths was His Mother. I didn’t need to be afraid to let Mary into my life if she consistently pointed me towards Christ and only wanted me to know and love Him better. She wasn’t trying to take up room in my heart that I only wanted for Christ; she was showing me how to expand my heart so that I could love Christ more fully and deeply. Pope Benedict XVI put it this way, “Mary’s greatness consists in the fact that she wants to magnify God not herself.” [2]


Mary has patiently and peacefully woven herself into my life. I love the calmness of the Rosary as it tells us the story of Christ’s life and grounds us in scripture. The thought of Mary and her suffering resonated with me, and at times pierced my own heart, as my children became adults and I knew that they were going to have struggles and would need to make sacrifices that I couldn’t fix or protect them from. Listening to my grandchildren say, “Mama Mary” with such love opens my heart even more and reminds me of the miracle of Faith and how God can change the course of history. From the beginnings of no faith, to a deep grounded faith that weaves its way through every aspect of my life, can only be a miracle.


My relationship with Mary is still complicated and I am still trying to work it out. It still surprises me how I don’t automatically go to her for help, or seek her out in prayer outside of the Rosary. I know that she is an integral part of my knowing Christ and my desire is to continue to weave her into my life. I know that she will continue to pursue me as a daughter of her Son. She can’t help it; Christ loves me, so she loves me. The question is: Am I willing to be loved by her? It is a work in progress for me. This year I will be more open to that love by recognizing the Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church and the great love and care that she has for each one of us as members of the body of Christ.


“Always stay close to this Heavenly Mother, because she is the sea to be crossed to reach the shores of eternal splendour.” St. Padre Pio


----------------------------------------------- [1] Vatican News, New Marian Memorial Aid to Christina Life, March 3, 2018. https://vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2019-03/cardinal-sarah--new-marian-memorial-aid-to-christians-life.html


[2] Coulet, Jean - michel, An Invitation to Faith: An A to Z Primer on the Thought of Pope Benedict XVI, Ignatius Press, 2007.