It is SO SO SO much better to be in Italy than in the U.S. on a Marian feast day! The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is such a joy. The Italians have such a passionate love for Mary, as they have for their own mothers (usually the most important people in their lives). Last year my daughter Mary would regularly tell me about her boyfriend calling his mom at least 3 times every school day. He spent all his breaks on the phone with his mamma. My daughter thought it was incredibly cute and so very Italian (and so very un-American). This love of the Italians for their mothers translates into the Italians’ love for Mary. The singing, the processions, the packed churches (even on a Tuesday!). . . oh, I am at HOME today!
Why do I love Mary? Not because I worship Mary or think she is a goddess or part of the Godhead (all heresies, of course). I love Mary because as my spiritual mother, she gently but firmly leads me to my heart’s goal: Jesus. Like human mothers with their children, she knows where I need to go, what I need to focus on, what will turn my brittle, barren self into a watered garden. She knows what will feed my heart and nourish my soul. She knows what will transform me into a fearful and self-protective little girl into a strong, courageous, wise woman. Mary is my mother, the mother of my faith, who daily directs me, consoles me, gives me the advise, pep talks, reminders and the smile that I need to get through the day. She never ever takes away from Jesus in my life. She is always magnifying Jesus.
It must be impossible for those who do not know Mary to imagine how she does not detract from Jesus. But think about it this way–it’s like a human family. If you spend any time with me at all, you’ll get to know something about my husband and children. I love them so much and think about them all the time. You cannot spend time without me without hearing stories and anecdotes about them. To be around me is to get to know my children. Well, it is that way but with much greater emphasis for Mary. Her whole vocation is to be the way Jesus came into the world (unlike me, who has a set of interests apart from my kids). Her entire ministry and life and purpose is wrapped up in her Son and his saving work. To get to know Mary IS to get to know Jesus because she is the one most absorbed with him. She loves him more and better than anyone else ever has. To spend any time with Mary is to see Jesus in his best light, to hear from the one most in love with him about him. It’s is a two-in-one: It is a relationship that gives you another loving mother (after all, my natural, biological mother loves me with all her heart! Thanks Mom!) plus her Son who saves our lives and rescues us for eternity.