This past week, a lovely lady in Mexico happened upon this blog and read ALL my posts, and commented on a good number. In one comment, she said, "...He's been struggling with reaching out to Mary (it's the "problem of Mary" thing with us converts) and I've been asking her to bridge the gap. She is so faithful!"
I can understand the feeling of foreign-ness associated with the veneration of the Blessed Mother for those of us who were taught that Mary was important, but not so much as to overshadow or compete with Jesus for our affections. And definitely taught to fear how Catholics "worshipped" her and other saints. Even going so far as to make idols in the form of statues. Okay.
I could copy and paste passages from the Catechism. But anyone could go and look that up as easily as I could. Instead, I am going to give you my experience and thoughts about embracing Mary from my perspective as a convert.
1. Newsflash for those thinking of going to RCIA. You will not learn enough to sustain your faith forever. It is just a jumping off point; a place to get the nuts and bolts, and ask your questions. The Catholic faith is a deep well of which no human ever gets to the bottom. We are talking about God here, and our minds can only comprehend so much of Him. Though really, it is a matter of the heart. Knowing, loving, and serving God does not require a PHD, just a willing heart. But having TOO little teaching, or even worse, BAD teaching, will do a big injustice to you in your life as a Catholic. At worst, you may give up altogether. That can potentially have the most dire consequences there are.
So here are a few great sources for converts, besides the Catechism:
--Scott Hahn. A convert himself, and Bible Scholar. He words things in a way people that were not raised Catholic can understand. Sometimes, Catholics don't know they are speaking Catholic-speak.
One good one is Rome Sweet Home, but there are scores of works.
--Father Corapi. Yes I know the controversy. But I also know His teaching was as solid as anything out there. If you can get hold of any of his books or recordings about the catechism or the Rosary, He explains Mary in a way that dispels all doubt. One thing I remember Fr. Corapi frequently said was, "If she is good enough for Jesus, she is good enough for me."
2. Logic. Here is the way I thought about accepting the Church's teaching:
A. Do I ask people here on earth to pray for me?
B. Do I usually pick the ones I know pray a lot and love God?
C. Do I believe that Christians who die (eventually) go to heaven? (Not doing Purgatory here, that is for another post).
D. Are they still alive there?
E. Do I think Mary was a Christian believer?
F. Do I think she went to heaven?
If I believe all of the above, why then, would I have any reservation in asking her to pray for me? Because that is ALL we are doing. We are asking her to intercede for us. Something we have no trouble asking of another imperfect human, we can ask the Mother of Our Lord. Why would anyone not want to do this?
Our Lady of Czestochowa
Queen of Heaven
4. The Rosary. Again, not an exhaustive treatise about the Rosary here. Just a few observations.
-- A quote from Father Corapi; "To pray the Rosary is to pray the Gospel." Think about that. The Mysteries walk us through the life of Jesus. The life of who? Mary? No. Jesus. Mary always points us to Jesus. One of her few recorded quotes is "Listen to Him."
The text of the Rosary is taken from the prayer Jesus gave us, the Our Father. The Hail Mary prayer is taken directly from the words of scripture. Gabriel's words; "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed Art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus." And then a plea for her intercession. Holy Mary, Mother of God (Jesus=God. Christians should not have a problem with this?) pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
Years back, I heard a speaker at a (gasp) Charismatic conference say this-"Praying the Rosary changed my life." That statement alone was so powerful that I wanted to try it. I was a new Catholic then, and not in the habit of praying the Rosary. By the way, another speaker at that conference was Father Raniero Cantalamessa preacher to the Papal household. Even Papa Benedict XVI.
Anyway, the praying of the Rosary contains great power. But! you may say, I pray right to Jesus, in my own words, from my heart! Yes! By all means. But if you are thinking that the Rosary falls under the "empty repetition" category, please refer to number 3. No emptiness there. The repetition keeps us meditating on the life of Jesus for more than two seconds, slows us down enough that we might give God a chance to bless our ever-wandering-and-rushing-about selves. I don't know if that is the reason for the number of Hail Marys but it makes sense to me.
5.A really big reason for praying the Rosary. Humility. Heck a really big reason for believing in Jesus at all. We understand that we humans are the created, not the Creator. We don't make the sun come up in the morning. Some of us can hardly make ourselves get up in the morning!
Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, "The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description."
To have any obedience to Jesus in His Church at all, we first have to get off the throne of our life. Some things may not make sense to us at first. Some teachings may really make us upset. BUT. If we understand that it is we whose minds and hearts are fallen and deficient, and we who don't understand, we can trust God and be docile to the Church and ultimately, to God. So many seem to want God and the Church to jump through all THEIR hoops, and to conform to their own ideas. That, sadly, is much of what makes it to the headlines. I am pretty certain Jesus doesn't put much stock in headlines.
7. My humble suggestion. Pray the Rosary. Every day. If you cannot get through five decades, do one at first. Say yes to God as Mary did. She didn't demand to know everything beforehand. She trusted God. And if you really want to get to know Mary-- go through the Consecration. There is a link up on my sidebar. I try to do this three times a year or so. There is another version, called, 33 Days to Morning Glory, which I also really like. The original one is a bit more formal, but both are life-changing.