Flashback to Sunday, January 1st, 2017:
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 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.
However, thanks to growing up Protestant, I´ve got a rather strained relationship with Mary, 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?
I´ve asked my husband, what the deal with Guadalupe is, and he just responds that he likes having a mother to talk with. Unfortunately for me for that argument, I was raised in a fairly liberal church. One day in fourth-grade Sunday school, the pastor was visiting our class, and we must have had something like "Pick Pastor Ron´s Brain" Day. One of the girls asked him if we could refer to God as a She.
This was one of the more fundamental moments of my faith formation. Without betting an eye, Pastor Ron said, "sure." So, for the rest of that year, I took great delight in shocking my more conservative friends by regularly referring to God as She.
I can´t explain how grateful I am for that answer. But it also means that I have no need to pray to Mary, taking refuge in a mother-figure, as God Herself is that Mother figure for me. Let´s face it--no matter one´s opinion of God, for those of us willing to admit that God exists, I´m sure we can all agree that (S)He is too big to get tripped up by gender labels.
I pray the rosary occasionally, and I enjoy it. But it seems like a waste of time (if not downright idolatrous) to pray to Mary, instead of going directly to God.
I realize I sound rather defensive. That´s really not my intention! At this point for me, pulling that name out of that basket was like opening a door. It feels like I´m opening an investigation into Mary and her manifestations in order to find out what impact she may have on my life. This is where I need you, dear reader. For those of you out there, who are more into Mary than I currently am, please explain this to me! (If you don´t count yourself among that group, feel free to tune out here.)
I´m not asking this to criticize or judge anyone else´s faith. I genuinely want to know. How do you relate to Mary? What does she mean to you? Your story is your story and whatever your story is, it´s important. I love learning from others. So please, share your story with me! For those not comfortable posting in the comment section, (or if you´ve got more to say than fits in a comment) write me at email@example.com.