The beginning of Mary’s month of May and the American bishops’ consecration of our nation to Mary juxtaposed a couple of ideas and reminded me of a conversation I had with an old Irish priest about the Blessed Mother Mary.
We were chatting about the difficulties of a convert to the Catholic faith and he asked me what, in particular, I found troubling. By this time I had been a Catholic for several years and I admitted that the Marian dogmas had been somewhat of a hurdle, but it was the actual devotion to the Blessed Virgin that got me through. Arguing about the Immaculate Conception or Mary Co-Redemtrix etc. only got me so far. When I began to pray the rosary things came together and there was clarity and unity of mind and heart.
“However, Father,” I continued, “there is one thing I still find baffling about the Virgin Mary.”
“And what would that be?”
“Well, I mean no disrespect, but why are there so many Marys?”
“What do you mean?”
“There’s Our Lady of Knock, Our Lady of LaSalette, Our Lady of Kibeho, Our Lady of Grace, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Akita, Our Lady of Walsingham, Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Our Lady Help of Christians, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of the Americas…the list goes on and on. I don’t get it. Why so many different Marys? We don’t do this with other saints and angels. We don’t even do it with Jesus. We haven’t got St Peter of the Andes and St Peter of Russia, St Peter of London, St Peter of Iceland, St Peter of Nigeria. So why are there all the different Marys?”
The old priest thought for a moment and said, “You know, it’s a good question and I’d never pondered it that much myself. You just accept these things and this is why you converts are a gift to the church. You help us see things we’d missed. But I think I have an answer for you.”
“Well, maybe it’s a bit like your Miss America pageant. All the lovely girls come out each one of them looking just beautiful, and they each have the banner of their state across their bosom. Miss New Jersey, Miss Arkansas, Miss Iowa, Miss Alaska, Miss Florida, Miss South Dakota and so forth correct?”
“So they’re all lovely and in a sense each one is Miss America. Now one of them will receive the crown and there will be tears and flowers and hugs all around from the lovely ladies, but that one who wins the crown wins the crown for all of them really. So you could say each one of the fifty girls typifies what it means to be Miss America in one way or another, and the one who IS Miss America wins because she displays the best of all fifty in one person. So there is the Blessed Virgin Mary in Heaven. She’s the queen of heaven the way Miss America is crowned queen, and all the other images of the Blessed Mother are expressions of who she is, but she also sums up and gathers up all of them in herself.”
Then he took his sip of whisky. “Does that help?”
I grinned, “Yes it sure does. It helps a lot. And I suppose we don’t do the same with the other saints and angels because they’re not really in the same league as the Virgin Mary.”
“To be sure. She is far above not only all of us poor mortals, but also far above all the other saints and angels. She is the highest of all created beings because she had the unique privilege and honor to bear God’s own son and to contribute her own flesh to the incarnation of God…and there’s another thing.”
“You know they tell us that the genetic material of the child a woman bears remains in the mother’s body for the rest of her life. She carries the child to term, but she also carries that child next to heart–even in a biological sense–for the rest of her days. It’s a wonderful mystery. So the Blessed Mother must have carried her son–God himself–next to her sorrowful heart. A bit of God remained with her you see, and that’s why she was assumed into heaven and that’s why she has a special role of intercession here on earth. She is a link between this physical realm and the heavenly realm in a wonderful mystery that is very hard for us to comprehend. That’s why I think she is the one who so often appears to visionaries…and not the other saints…because she has this link with the earthly realm like no one else.”
“And maybe all the historical appearances in different forms is her way of staying in touch with us on behalf of heaven.”
“Indeed. Just like Miss America spending the year of her reign going around America opening shopping malls, going to county fairs, speaking to high school students and being an ambassador of good will.”
“I’ve just got an idea for a new Marian title…”
“What would that be?”
“Our Lady Ambassador of Good Will”
“I think it might catch on. I do. Another wee drop of whisky?”
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