"Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did."
- Saint Maximilian Kolbe
I should be preparing for my family trip but I am nervous so I thought maybe writing something on my blog would be cathartic and help some of my nerves disappear.
For the first time ever my family is leaving on an international trip. We will be in Croatia first for my cousin Mike's wedding and then we will be traveling to Medjugorje for our first family pilgrimage.
My journey with Mary began some time after my conversion. It began as a purely intellectual exercise. I realized as I looked around me that Mary seemed to be very important to the people I respected most in the spiritual life. I also saw that she had a big presence in the lives of several saints who I loved, especially St. Padre Pio.
From this intellectual observation, I saw that a devotion to Mary would help me grow closer to Jesus. But there was a problem, this devotion did not come naturally to me. When I thought of Mary, I did not feel very much. I did not feel love, I did not feel admiration. In fact, in many ways I did not think her life was impressive at all.
I remember doing an Ignatian spiritual exercise where I imagined I was the slave girl leading the donkey with Joseph and Mary while she was pregnant with Jesus on their way to Bethlehem. In my imagination I immediately protested to God asking Him if there was anything else I could be doing because quite honestly, this was boring! Immediately after my protest I realized that something was wrong. Here I was helping at the most pivotal moment in world history and I was bored. Something about the way that I looked at the world was not working and it was directly connected with a lack of humility.
So I set to work asking God to help me to grow in a relationship with Mary and and while He was at it to help me grow in humility. It felt forced at first, I did not really feel much for Mary and I felt like a fake but I persisted. I found a beautiful picture of her at a yard sale and I put it in a prominent place in my apartment in Oakland. I bought flowers to put in front of the picture every week and I would say a prayer to her as I placed them in front of her.
I began saying the rosary every day. I had begun this early in my conversion but I honestly had not thought of it as a devotion to Mary. I knew it was powerful, I could see how it changed my life and made temptations fade into the background but I did not think much about the person I was actually asking to interceed for me. I began praying the rosary with more fervor and directing my requests for intercession directly to her. I began to feel a powerful presence looking out for me in Heaven.
Feelings of love for her did not come easily. But one day I was expressing my frustration to a priest and he said to me "Theresa, love is not about feelings. You pray the rosary, you express your love to your Mother, what else are you asking for - feelings? Love is not a feeling, it is a willing." That relieved me, this was not about fuzzy feelings. Just because I did not feel anything, does not mean that I did not already love and have a relationship with Mary.
From that rocky beginning has blossomed a relationship with my Mother. Like Jesus did when He was a child I run to her for protection and trust that she will run to the throne of her Son and beg Him for whatever is best for my soul and my relationship with God.
Please keep my family in your prayers as we prepare to leave on this pilgrimage!