Why Mary Matters

I didn’t grow up with a relationship with Mary.  I didn’t hear about her, nor experience Marian devotions.  But when I was twenty-seven, I became a missionary in Bolivia, teaching English to 6th to 12th grades.  I had wanted to go to Africa but civil wars redirected my plans.  I was afraid to go to a Spanish-speaking country because I’m not proficient in languages, but God had things He wanted to show me.  Unbeknownst to me, Central and South America have a great devotion to Mary, the Mother of God.

Artwork by Tom Mussio
Artwork by Tom Mussio

I lived in a small village called Loma Alta, meaning “high hill.”  During the month of May, the rosary was prayed each night in a different family’s home.   After the rosary, someone played guitar and we sang lively songs of praise.   After this, we ate.  Families prepared delicious empanadas, fruit, flan or cakes.   We’d try to guess what would be served the next night.

As I started feeling more of a connection with Mary as my “heavenly mother,”  I thought of different times in my life when I had felt lonely, lost, or sad and realized that I could have picked up a rosary, “contemplated the life of Jesus through the eyes of Mary,” as St. John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Letter on the Rosary,  and been comforted.

The Salesian order, with whom I served as a Lay Missionary, also has a very down-to-earth way of relating to Mary.   They use the title, “Mary, help of Christians” and see her as Mother of their Salesian family.

In his Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,”  Pope Francis writes, “popular piety enables us to see how the faith, once received, becomes embodied in a culture and is constantly passed on.”  Through the people’s great faith and devotions, I learned to love Mary.  I came to understand that she’s my mother, who prays  for me.

She’s your mother also, who prays for you.  Why not pray a “Hail Mary” or decade of the Rosary today?

If you’re asking the question, “Why do I need a relationship with Mary when I already have one with Jesus?”  let me ask you a question.  Would you like to grow closer to Jesus?  Mary’s sole goal is to lead us closer to Jesus, so that we might listen to Him.  Think of the wedding feast of Cana.  What did she tell the stewards when they discovered there was no more wine?  “Do whatever he tells you”  (John 2:5).   She was looking out for the best interest of the wedding couple, who were in the embarrassing predicament of running out of wine!  Jesus initially told Mary that this situation didn’t concern Him.  But when she persisted, He performed his first public miracle.  Jesus apparently realized God was prompting Him through his mother.

With Pentecost approaching, here is one more reason to call on Mary’s intercession.  St. Luke tells us in the  Acts of the Apostles, that Mary was present and praying, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles.  This is not merely a detail.  It is recorded so that we may know that Mary will pray with us for the all the gifts that the Spirit wants to bestow upon us.

Come Holy Spirit, and pray for us, Mother Mary!