Mary, sweet Mary.

14 Dec

I’ve been Marian in devotion my entire life and didn’t know it.

From the time I was old enough to drag the children’s illustrated Bible off the book shelf and flip through the Christmas story illustrations, I was fascinated with the fact that Mary was a GIRL. She was a REAL, LIVE, HUMAN GIRL. The “Humble Mary” song from the Donut Man Christmas show was one of my all-time favorite Donut Man anthems – and that’s saying a whole lot. I used to pretend to be Mary, I would put this little black dance skirt over my head, stare into this beat-up white-wash mirror that I had leaning against a wall and pretend to be a nun named Maria. In my little pre-school/early-elementary Fundamentalist Protestant mind, Mary was The Bomb. Dot. Com.

I never grew out of that admiration for her, and Marian devotion wasn’t something that was difficult for me to grasp once I started the conversion process. But a few months ago I hit a brick wall. I had a rare day off work, so I was studying the Marian Dogmas, playing The Postal Service on my computer, and enjoying the day when leftover ugly Protestant rebellion raised its obnoxious voice.

I was angry.

Why do I have to believe this?

Never mind the fact that I had believed almost every bit of it for my entire life.

Because the Church DARED to tell me I HAD to believe it, that this woman was somehow more important than any other woman that had been born (“God is no respecter of persons!” the good Fundamentalist screeched in my mind), I was digging in my heels and refusing to budge.

I threw the book down, squeezed my eyes shut, and began to pray.

“Okay, Mary. . .I’m trying to accept this. I really am. I don’t want to pick and choose the things that appeal to me, and leave out the things that just irk me. So. . .you’re going to have to do something. Or tell God to do something. Or however this damned thing works. Because I don’t want to feel this way, and I want to believe.”

Ugly, irreverent, flawed, broken, and raw. I have a long way to go.

Right in the middle of Clark Gable my computer froze. After the whir of my grumpy old Acer died down a beautifully simple and sweet piano intro began to play.

“Mary, sweet Mary, your heart overflows, deep in the night, child, a babe is born.
Sacred and holy, blameless, and pure. . .
Mary, sweet Mary, tonight your child is born.
Mary, sweet Mary, so strong, yet so frail. . .”

All I could do was crawl towards my laptop and stare at the screen. The song’s name was Mary Sweet Mary, by Selah, with guest vocals by Plumb – none of whom are Catholic, I might add. How it got on my computer, I do not know. And why it would begin playing when the Postal Service is neither Christian or Christmas, I also do not know. But the entire song played and while I was already an emotional wreck from a lot of things going on in my life at that point, I definitely lost it then. All I could say was, “Okay, God. I get it. I mean, I don’t get it. But I believe it.”

Did every theological brick wall come tumbling down? No. Do I understand everything about Marian dogma? No. But it doesn’t matter. Because I believe. And that’s enough.

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7 Responses to “Mary, sweet Mary.”

  1. convertingheart December 14, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

    Wow! Goosebumps!!! God really is faithful to let us know how we should believe and feel about His Mother, if we only ask. My story about getting over the Mary “hump” isn’t as goose-bump-inducing, but still very real to me. Thanks for sharing!

    • The Secret Vatican Spy December 16, 2010 at 1:57 pm #

      You’re welcome! I’d love to hear about your experience – this is an area of conversion that seems to hold the most trouble for the majority of converts I’ve spoken to, and I really enjoy hearing how other people “got there”.

  2. Jackie December 15, 2010 at 12:26 pm #

    I really struggle with the Immaculate Conception. When I think about it and whether or not I “believe” it, I probably don’t. But, I believe in the Church that teaches it, and believe that it probably knows more than I do on this matter.

    Other teachings of the Church, I’m fine with rejecting. Birth control? I think it was a political decision, and not based on philosophy. (Research the history of the decision; it’s pretty interesting.) That one falls under the “I’m pretty sure its wrong” file.
    The Immaculate Conception, to me, goes into the “I don’t understand it, but I’ll trust in it.” I feel like “belief” isn’t something you can force. It’s a feeling, and it’s tough just to change feelings. But you can choose to trust.

    One analogy I heard helped it make a lot more sense. It compared Mary to the Arc of the Covenant. That God couldn’t tolerate sin, and needed a sinless womb.

    I don’t know if it makes total sense to me. I mean, does sin infect our physical bodies or something? And didn’t Jesus touch sinners? But it helps.

    • The Secret Vatican Spy December 16, 2010 at 2:04 pm #

      A wonderful Catholic professor at the very-much-Protestant university I attend uses the same Ark of the New Covenant analogy, and I thought it was spectacular.

      I understand what you’re saying about rectifying Church teaching with personal convictions. I’ve come to some different conclusions about birth control in general than you have, but I 100% understand and respect where you’re coming from.

  3. priest's wife December 15, 2010 at 2:06 pm #

    a very simple way to ‘get’ Mary- if you want to get close to a Jewish man- should you ignore his mother? (haha- bad joke)

    about birth control- marriage is UNITIVE and PROCREATIVE- using artificial birth control destroys both- sex with birth control rejects the ALL of the other (read Christopher West for more)- and I don’t have 12 kids (not that there’s anything wrong with that)

  4. Mike December 16, 2010 at 11:17 am #

    “One analogy I heard helped it make a lot more sense. It compared Mary to the Arc of the Covenant. That God couldn’t tolerate sin, and needed a sinless womb.”

    You may have seen this on Conversion Diary if you read that blog, she posted a youtube video that explains some stuff about Mary. I think the video starts out by showing parallels between the beginning of the Gospel of John and the beginning of Genesis. They both start “In the beginning”, make references to water, light and darkness, etc.

    It then compares Mary to two things from the Old Testament. Firstly, it compares Mary to Eve. I think it references how Jesus refers to Mary as Woman (in a non pejorative way), which is the same way Adam referred to Eve. Mary is seen as the “New Eve”. Where the Old Eve brought sin and death into the world, the New Eve brings grace and life.

    It then compares Mary to the Ark of the Covenant, as you mentioned. The Old Testament required an Ark that contained the Word of God inscribed in stone and some of the bread that God used to feed the Israelites when they were wandering. Mary then becomes the new Ark, and her womb contains the Word of God inscribed in flesh (Jesus is referred to as the Word in the Gospel of John), as well as the bread of life as flesh. As Eli mentioned in one of his recent posts at The Practical Catholic, in the Gospel of John Jesus mentions “My flesh is real food”.

    You can also take it a step further and say that, just as people were not allowed to touch the Old Ark, neither could people touch the New Ark, at least not sexually.

    I think there are a couple of other things it mentions. According to John, as Jesus is dying on the cross Mary and one of his disciples are at his feet. He says to Mary “Woman, here is your son”, and he says to the disciple “Son, here is your Mother”. This strengthens the idea that Mary is the New Eve, the new mother of humanity.

    The imagery of Mary as the Queen of Heaven and Earth also comes from the Old Testament. In biblical Israel, the Queen of Israel was the mother of the King. Since Jesus is King of Heaven and Earth, that would make Mary Queen.

    Here’s a link to the video:

    It explains it better than I could and contains more info. Also, as a disclaimer, i’m not an expert in this stuff or anything, so it’s possible I could of gotten some of the above wrong. If anyone sees anything to correct please do.

    As for practical advice about how to “get” Mary, have you tried the Rosary? The times I’ve felt closest to her were when I was praying the Rosary. And, once you feel her presence, there isn’t much to “get”, she just “is”.

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