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Flashback to Sunday, January 1st, 2017 (and a previous post from early this past year):
I headed off to mass, all ready to start the new year on a bright, sunny Sunday in northern Indiana.
During the sermon, Father Dan mentioned that everybody in the parish was going to make a new friend for the year. In the entryway to the church, there were baskets filled with strips of paper, listing a saint´s name and a few facts about that saint. Whichever saint we picked would be our new friend for the year.
Or, as Father Dan put it, “I like to think that the saint picks us, instead of us picking the saint.”
Admittedly, I was intrigued, and liked the idea of getting to research the life of some obscure, little-known saint. A year or two ago, I had read a memoir, My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir by Colleen Carroll Campbell. Colleen paralleled trying times in her faith journey with the life stories of three saints whose examples had helped her in those moments.
All ready to meet my new “friend”, someone who I expected to never have heard of before, I plunged my hand into one of those paper-filled baskets after mass. Unfolding the paper, I read . . .
Our Lady of Guadalupe.
You´ve got to be kidding me.
Out of all the thousands and thousands of names I could have picked, I´m quite confident that I know Guadalupe better than any other. (I’ve lived in Mexico for the last 10 years, and it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that Guadalupe Day–December 12–is almost bigger than Christmas. Almost. But it’s close!)
However, thanks to growing up Protestant, my relationship with Mary is rather strained, regardless which other name may be applied to her (Guadalupe, Fatima, Lourdes, etc). Yes, I get the whole “she´s your spiritual mother” deal. But I´ve been happy to keep her at arm´s length. And I was absolutely sure she was OK with that, too.
Up until now.
I´m not quite sure what to do with this. I feel like I´ve got Guadalupe sitting in my lap, waiting for me to do something with her. But what?
[back to December 2017]
I sat with that feeling for quite awhile.
What exactly does one do with the Virgin of Guadalupe?
A little voice in my head kept whispering, “you could pray the rosary.”
Nah, that’s just too simple.
And I kept putting it off.
But the voice kept whispering, “you could pray the rosary.”
Thanks to my hangups about Mary, I’ve got some serious hangups about praying the rosary. Or maybe it’s not Mary that bothered me, so much as the rosary. I’ve written about those issues before here.
Then, one day while I was washing the dishes, I noticed that I was obsessing over a very serious issue that dear friends were dealing with. While I was ruminating over their situation, it was brought to my attention that my time would be better spent praying for them, rather than fixating on their problems.
So I prayed. But I had a lot of dishes to wash. And I had a lot of prayers to send for these friends. After my mind wandered while praying for the umpteenth time, I decided to give the rosary a whirl.
All of a sudden, my prayer life was put on warp speed. As this issue involved the entire family of these friends, I dedicated each decade of the rosary to a different member of that family. While thinking of that specific person in connection to the issue at hand AND meditating on the mystery that belonged to that decade of the rosary, it revolutionized my prayers!
For instance, while praying for the mom, I was reminded how Mary suffered while watching Jesus suffer. So just as this mom was watching her son suffer, and suffering with him, I prayed that God would comfort and strengthen her, as he no doubt comforted and strengthened Mary. While praying for the son and meditating on Jesus carrying his cross, I prayed that God would give this friend the strength to carry this particular cross he was facing.
The repetition in the rosary ironically helped my mind focus better than when I was just praying whatever came into my head. And, while any kind of prayer is good–long or short–there’s just something satisfying about hanging onto a specific thought or intention for and extended period of time and sending it up to God. (I know God isn’t impressed by the length of our prayers, but this helps me out.)
I felt so much peace when I was finished praying that I’ve begun to pray a rosary more often than not when I face a sink full of dishes.
I can also fill up the drying rack in the same amount of time it takes to go through one rosary!
More Food for Thought
Praying the rosary does help me understand Mary better and appreciate her.
But it didn’t counter my Protestant arguments against her.
Maybe, slowly but surely, I have been investigating this. Maybe I’ve just run into these resources this year. Either way, my heart has softened a great deal toward Mary.
When I wrote this original article, and was completely mystified by the thought of making Guadalupe my “Friend for the Year”, fellow blogger Strahlen Grace answered a lot of my questions. She decided to go through a Marian consecration, and then found out that she struggled with a lot of my very Protestant dilemmas throughout the process. What she learned through her struggles has helped me relate to Mary better. Please read her initial struggles here and then the peace she found at the end here.
Then, others had recommended videos from Scott Hahn. Like countless others, Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s book Rome Sweet Home was instrumental in my conversion to Catholicism. But I’m not one for sitting and watching videos. Eventually (again, while washing dishes) I decided to put this on. Why had it taken me so long?
Parts 2 and 3 are good, too.
End of the Experiment?
2017 is drawing to a close. So it’s time to put Mary back on a shelf?
Probably not. Like any intentional relationship, this one will grow. As Strahlen Grace said, getting to know Mary can multiply my love for God.
We don’t just have a certain amount of love to receive and give. Love can beget more love–to an exponential level! Love has no limit.
So I’m looking forward to see how I’ll grow in 2018.
Some Guadalupe parting shots:
This link lists some facts about the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. They’re good to check out, but my favorite weren’t listed here. About 15 years ago, there was significant research done on Juan Diego’s original tilma. Two things they discovered that stood out to me:
1) art experts can’t identify any brushstrokes on the cloth. (There are some areas that have been touched up. But on the main image, no brushstrokes.
2) after taking a microscope to the cloth and looking at Guadalupe’s eyes, it’s possible to see an image of Juan Diego kneeling, reflected in Guadalupe’s eyes!
Since we’ll never get close enough to the tilma to verify this, we just have to take it on faith.
Or not, if that’s your stance.
But just the thought that Juan Diego could be depicted in mere fractions of a millimeter in Guadalupe’s eyes–that gives me goosebumps!