Worth Revisiting: Assuming Mary

For those that have grown up in the Catholic faith, this feast is well known perhaps at times a bit too familiar. Do we stop and take the time to truly ponder the life of Mary as we celebrate this honor bestowed on a life well lived? Or do we simply take for granted Mary’s yes and assume we know her while failing to see the implications for our lives today?


Assuming Mary

“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother,“Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” John 19:26-27 NAB

Like all good movies, there will most definitely be a prequel and subsequent sequels to this conversational confession of my conversion to Catholicism. Yet, with the Church’s celebration of Mary’s Assumption today, I could not bear to let this day pass without sharing my own journey of rediscovery of Mary. Not having grown up in the Catholic faith, I knew of Mary, but did not truly know her. For, while well acquainted with biblical stories, I still never fully reflected on God’s choosing, her response, or her role in the life of the Church. Beginning with an initial inquisitiveness, this path has led me through faith, scripture and onto a pursuit of heart and mind to understand who Mary is and truly wants to be, in my life today.

My confirmation day in the faith was the equivalent of suddenly finding out that you have family- all over the world, spanning centuries of belief , that are joining in on the celebration. That not only are you part this timeless, vast community, but they are to be a part of you as well, and in the struggles, hopes and joys that are to be encountered.  This is such an incredible immeasurable gift that quite honestly I feel I have been unwrapping it ever since that day! So too has been the journey of getting to know our mother Mary. No longer is she resting still in the shadows of the nativity scene, just one of the many characters of a beloved story but an indelible part of my own story as a woman of faith.

mary&babyJesus
The Manger by Gertrude Kasebier

Paramount to this animation of faith, is that in considering her as God’s chosen, I am compelled to also recognize Mary’s beautiful choice to add her “Yes” to God. In doing so, she modeled a faith so pure and trusting, expressive of her love of God and desire for service, that in this moment she became the very first disciple.  At the tender age of probably 14 or 15, she possessed an awareness of the situation before her, expressed deep acceptance and commitment, and spent a lifetime of learning and growing in faith and understanding. Isn’t this what we too desire in our own lives as Christian daughters, sisters, and mothers? Do we not want to be known by our love, dedicated lives of service with hands and feet that lead others to Jesus? Following Mary’s guidance, over the last few years, I began recommitting myself to God at the start of each new day. Before my eyes even open, and despite my inclination to stay in bed,

  I simply say “Thank you God for the gift of this new day”. Then quite deliberately before my feet hit the floor I say “Yes!”. To what you might ask? It is my yes to what God has in store for me, in the ability to accept the unknown as opportunities of grace and the choice to be a part of God’s loving plan in my life.

So too has it been in my life as a mom. With each of my three children, I have prayed, “Lord please grant me a healthy child that is loved, nurtured and is to flourish within. May I be worthy of this gift of life, and may you continue to guide me in guiding him or her in the light of your love”. (Lk. 1:39-56) For me, Mary has been a part of God’s promise to do just that- to become a constant guiding light for my children. Equally as true, she has comforted me when I have been at wits end, seeking more patience than that day had allowed. In keeping with this very thought, one of my favorite scriptures as a parent has been the finding of Jesus at the temple (Lk 2:41-52). Tangibly, I can sense the very real frustration, and “anxiety” of Mary and Joseph as they, having searched for 3 days, finally discover him teaching all present including themselves.  It is said that Mary, not fully understanding, took her Son’s words and “kept all this in her heart”. 

Yes Lord, when I have failed to understand the why I too need to keep your words in my heart.

This is no more fully witnessed than at the foot of the cross. Oh, the profound sorrow that she as a mom felt at the loss of her Son, and the love poured out for a rejecting world! Yet, here too Mary was asked to meet this both with an open acceptance, and allow God to transform the pain into the hope of salvation. Even in Mary’s life, there is transformation, for in the simplicity of Jesus’ presentation of the gift of Mary to John we begin to grasp the importance of the larger family. We are never alone, but part of an immense communion of believers. Thank you God for the hopeful promise that we like Mary will enjoy an eternity with you one day. Until then,

“Father, please use my humble hands, feet, voice, and heart to serve you as you will.”

In Christ Always,

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Assuming Mary

For those that have grown up in the Catholic faith, this feast is well known perhaps at times a bit too familiar. Do we stop and take the time to truly ponder the life of Mary as we celebrate this honor bestowed on a life well lived? Or do we simply take for granted Mary’s yes and assume we know her while failing to see the implications for our lives today?


Assuming Mary

“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother,“Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” John 19:26-27 NAB

Like all good movies, there will most definitely be a prequel and subsequent sequels to this conversational confession of my conversion to Catholicism. Yet, with the Church’s celebration of Mary’s Assumption today, I could not bear to let this day pass without sharing my own journey of rediscovery of Mary. Not having grown up in the Catholic faith, I knew of Mary, but did not truly know her. For, while well acquainted with biblical stories, I still never fully reflected on God’s choosing, her response, or her role in the life of the Church. Beginning with an initial inquisitiveness, this path has led me through faith, scripture and onto a pursuit of heart and mind to understand who Mary is and truly wants to be, in my life today.

My confirmation day in the faith was the equivalent of suddenly finding out that you have family- all over the world, spanning centuries of belief , that are joining in on the celebration. That not only are you part this timeless, vast community, but they are to be a part of you as well, and in the struggles, hopes and joys that are to be encountered.  This is such an incredible immeasurable gift that quite honestly I feel I have been unwrapping it ever since that day! So too has been the journey of getting to know our mother Mary. No longer is she resting still in the shadows of the nativity scene, just one of the many characters of a beloved story but an indelible part of my own story as a woman of faith.

mary&babyJesus
The Manger by Gertrude Kasebier

Paramount to this animation of faith, is that in considering her as God’s chosen, I am compelled to also recognize Mary’s beautiful choice to add her “Yes” to God. In doing so, she modeled a faith so pure and trusting, expressive of her love of God and desire for service, that in this moment she became the very first disciple.  At the tender age of probably 14 or 15, she possessed an awareness of the situation before her, expressed deep acceptance and commitment, and spent a lifetime of learning and growing in faith and understanding. Isn’t this what we too desire in our own lives as Christian daughters, sisters, and mothers? Do we not want to be known by our love, dedicated lives of service with hands and feet that lead others to Jesus? Following Mary’s guidance, over the last few years, I began recommitting myself to God at the start of each new day. Before my eyes even open, and despite my inclination to stay in bed,

  I simply say “Thank you God for the gift of this new day”. Then quite deliberately before my feet hit the floor I say “Yes!”. To what you might ask? It is my yes to what God has in store for me, in the ability to accept the unknown as opportunities of grace and the choice to be a part of God’s loving plan in my life.

So too has it been in my life as a mom. With each of my three children, I have prayed, “Lord please grant me a healthy child that is loved, nurtured and is to flourish within. May I be worthy of this gift of life, and may you continue to guide me in guiding him or her in the light of your love”. (Lk. 1:39-56) For me, Mary has been a part of God’s promise to do just that- to become a constant guiding light for my children. Equally as true, she has comforted me when I have been at wits end, seeking more patience than that day had allowed. In keeping with this very thought, one of my favorite scriptures as a parent has been the finding of Jesus at the temple (Lk 2:41-52). Tangibly, I can sense the very real frustration, and “anxiety” of Mary and Joseph as they, having searched for 3 days, finally discover him teaching all present including themselves.  It is said that Mary, not fully understanding, took her Son’s words and “kept all this in her heart”. 

Yes Lord, when I have failed to understand the why I too need to keep your words in my heart.

This is no more fully witnessed than at the foot of the cross. Oh, the profound sorrow that she as a mom felt at the loss of her Son, and the love poured out for a rejecting world! Yet, here too Mary was asked to meet this both with an open acceptance, and allow God to transform the pain into the hope of salvation. Even in Mary’s life, there is transformation, for in the simplicity of Jesus’ presentation of the gift of Mary to John we begin to grasp the importance of the larger family. We are never alone, but part of an immense communion of believers. Thank you God for the hopeful promise that we like Mary will enjoy an eternity with you one day. Until then,

“Father, please use my humble hands, feet, voice, and heart to serve you as you will.”

  In Christ Always,

Signature

“I Found It!”

During my undergraduate years at Mt. Holyoke College, I was to take the first course of what was to become my life’s work. Yet, at this very secular college, Philosophy of Religion had not been framed as articulate reasoning to believe. Rather, it was most often presented as confounding belief despite the fallacies, heresies, and multitude of reasons stacked up against it.  Yet the more I listened to the Harvard trained divinity professor reinforce his opinion in lengthy lectures, I wondered if he was actually a believer at all.

Extremely interested in grade point averages, students at this ivy leagued college scribbled feverishly with aching hands every word spoken…myself included.  Despite this, something beautiful happened- though I saw the difficulties to belief I became more and more enthralled with the moments of conversion. In seeing that in all the muck and mire, with the many mountains humanity creates, God is there working through every single one of us.

Midterms for this class were a nightmare, with 5 pages of insane but cleverly crafted questions to confuse the student to the point that one wasn’t sure of any answer. To his delight he announced that no one had passed, but since he graded on a curve that many of us were safe. As one of the best of the worst, I now took a deep breath and could only imagine what finals would be like.

That morning in a heavily proctored lecture room I took my envelope and found a seat near a window. As I stared at the words and images on the single page exam, my heart stopped as I realized God had given me the perfect essay prompt to vocalize all that was within my heart. Out of all the choices, one just leapt out at me. A Peanuts cartoon with Charlie Brown desperately searching for a ball hit into a field of tall grass..with a 3 word exclamation at the end. “I found it!”

This was for me what we describe in teaching as an “Aha” moment- that instant when a student suddenly grasps or acquires deeper meaning in the material presented. I wrote for what seemed to be only minutes, but filled an hour and a total of 8 pages.  Weaving in centuries of historical arguments with the personal conversion stories of those like Augustine and Dostoevsky, my soul soared.  As I put down my pencil and placed the exam in the folder, I knew that whatever grade transpired I had put my whole heart on paper that day.

Interestingly too, I began to look closer at the work of artists, cartoonists, architects, popular authors and musicians as expressions of belief in a very secular world. Very relatable yet quite frequently going theologically unnoticed, these works speak profoundly to the Divine. In seeking to evangelize, we must not look only to the theologians and doctors of the Church, but to these everyday believers and would be saints who put their faith and soul out for the world to see and believe.

Do you have an “ah-ha!” moment? How have you found God evidenced in the world around you today? Have you also shown God to others in what you say and do?

Peace,

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Conversion: This Journey of a Lifetime

Some time ago, I had promised to share my own story of conversion to the Catholic faith. The anecdote, if you will, of how a young Southern Baptist girl found herself walking in the doors of a Catholic church and leaving forever changed…


Freshman year at Mount Holyoke College was an exciting time of rigorous study, new friendships, challenging adjustments and unbelievable growth. Over 1,200 miles away from home, I found myself both seeking comfort in the familiar but also joy in discovering who I was to become. Though I studied hard and partied equally so, I still made time to attend church either on campus or locally in town with a classmate. Yet, I was noticing that something was missing, something I couldn’t define but leaving me incomplete. Perhaps the experience of worship service had changed, or I had –even a bit of both.

Then one Sunday as the minister spoke of metaphorically of finding one’s center, I realized that was it! While I knew my center was Christ, I could no longer feel his presence as near and tangible. My soul yearned for so much more. This internal pull was intense, and over the course of the proceeding months I truly felt God working within asking me to let go and let Him lead.

That morning getting myself ready after a late night out had caused me to miss the first half of service.

I could just go back to my dorm room I thought.. but wait, there is a Catholic mass starting soon. Rather than being uncomfortably late, I could be on-time. Yet, I know so little of Catholic practices…will my unfamiliarity be too easily distinguishable? What I heard in response within my heart, was “This is an opportunity, to find what you have been searching for.  God is here.”

As I turned the handle on the door of the chapel and took my seat towards the middle of the church, I knelt before God for the first time. In this silence before mass began I found such peace and comfort in my anonymity. Here in this sacred time and place, I whispered  “I am here too Father”. Admittedly, as mass began it was all too obvious as I looked to my left and right for guidance, that I was a newcomer. Yet, just when I started questioning the reasoning that had brought me here, God reached out and drew me close. On either side hands outstretched were the beautiful recognizable words of the Our Father echoing throughout the chapel space. I was home.

Soon thereafter, I was to discover the love of my life in the deep friendship that had begun previously that fall. (That story featured here) A Catholic and sophomore at UMass Amherst, I couldn’t believe how blessed I was that God had planned it all! Though we frequently attended mass together I still held back, for some time, in telling him how God was moving me ever closer to conversion. With prayer and discernment so significant in my life, I was cautious and wanted to be certain that this was indeed where God was leading me to go.

Yet, when that moment did arrive, there was no looking back. My searching heart had been filled with a fullness of faith, joy and love. And to my surprise, my family not only respected my faith decision, but prayed and supported me throughout it all. To this day, I still remember the phone call to my mother. After sharing the events that had brought me to this place, there was a long pause for what seemed like an eternity.

“It all makes sense now” was her response.

“What makes sense?”, I curiously asked.

“Before you were born I had a dream that you would be a Catholic. Standing before a multitude of others gathered, you then spoke passionately of your love and faith in God. I know now that God was preparing me for this day.”

“Mom, why have you never told me this before?

“Well, I didn’t want to persuade you should that not be God’s will. I knew that if it was, that God would certainly lead you there.”

Twenty one years have passed since this conversation, yet I thought of this moment again this weekend as I was asked to speak at St. Patrick’s in Wareham. Through these years, I have been blessed with countless invitations to serve, witness and grow in my faith. For me, it is the journey of a lifetime-one I joyously embrace and continuously seek each day.

Peace,

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