I am now 12 days into a do-it-yourself, 33 day retreat called, 33 Days To Morning Glory. The focus is on Mary’s unique spousal relationship with the Holy Spirit and how that relationship applies to and includes us. Much of the retreat is presented through the perspectives of four Saints of the Church, St. Louis de Monfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Mother Theresa and Blessed John Paul II.
My appreciation for Mary has been growing, even before beginning this retreat. One resource I have found helpful is the phone app created by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. The app is good at explaining a balanced approach to Marian doctrine. In my spiritual journey through various forms of Protestantism and Catholicism, I have experienced what the Marian Fathers call the two extremes of understanding Mary: Marian excess and Marian defect. Marian excess is “to think of Mary as if she were God. She is not God. She is a creature, and to think otherwise is to fall into idolatry.” I’ve noticed this approach in some Catholics. Marian defect “means to think of Mary as being ‘just like the rest of us,’ having no particularly special significance.” This is what I experienced in most Protestant circles where the regard Mary is given is perhaps a nod of affirmation during a Christmas play, if any.
My 20+ years in Protestantism made me skittish about having a relationship with Mary. I now understand that Mary is all about a relationship with Jesus (as is the rest of Catholic doctrine). Her singular goal is to bring souls to her son. She was and is the perfect disciple. She was the first person to accept Jesus into her heart and into her body. Knowing Mary and becoming close to Mary is not an obstacle or a distraction from a relationship with Christ. The opposite is true. The role of every Christian disciple is to bring people to Christ, not just by preaching or teaching, but through relationship. No one had a closer relationship to Jesus than His mother. To really know Mary and have a relationship with her is to know Jesus. (Incidentally, that’s what the Rosary is all about. It is not just a series of vain, repetitious prayers or some kind of superstitious incantation. It is a spiritual meditation on the life and ministry of Christ through the eyes of His mother).
Some folks will claim that Jesus was dismissive of His mother and actually put her down and/or minimized her. Don’t let such doctrines fool you. The Scriptures they use to support such ideas are easily shown to be misapplied. Imagine the sinless Jesus Christ going against one of the Ten Commandments to “honor thy father and mother” and you can begin to see how misled such claims against Mary are. Catholic doctrines reveal the true and perfect honor that Jesus Christ, the sinless, obedient God-man bestows on His mother and Father.
I’m not afraid of Mary anymore. I’m not the least bit scared that God will be offended if I love her and embrace her. God loves and embraces her. She is the chosen daughter of the Father, the spouse of the Holy Spirit and the mother of Jesus Christ. If the Holy Trinity honors and loves her so completely and perfectly, how can I go wrong by honoring and loving her, too? It’s not idolatry, it’s being godly. I’m looking forward to the rest of this retreat. I love getting to know my mother and her Son, my Brother. Have you ever seen the bumper sticker that says, “Real men love Jesus?” I would add, “…and real men are momma’s boys.”