"You Just Put Your Hand in Mary’s and Let Her Lead you to Christ"

As a young very young child I was so close to God. I spoke to him in a very natural way and He too spoke plainly to me. I have very few memories of early childhood but surely one of my most vivid is how close I was to God. But somewhere, as early puberty approached, I slipped away from God, drifting into the rebellious and angry years of my teens. As the flesh came more alive, my spirit submerged.

The culture of the time didn’t help. It was the late 1960s and early 1970s and rebelliousness and the flesh were celebrated as “virtues.” Somehow we thought ourselves as being more mature than our pathetic forbearers who were “repressed.” But at that time there was the attitude around among the young  that we had come of age somehow and we collectively deluded ourselves through the message of rock music and haze of drug use that we were somehow better.

So it was the winter of my soul. The vivid faith of childhood gave way to a kind of indifferent agnosticism. Though I never formally left Church (mother would never had permitted that as long as I lived in under my parents roof!) I no longer heard God or spoke to him. I may have told you that I joined the Church Youth Choir in High School. This was not religious passion but passion of another kind. There were pretty girls in the choir and I sought their company, shall we say. But God has a way of using beauty to draw us to the truth and week after week, year after year as we sang those old religious classics a buried faith began to awaken.

But what to do? How to pray? I heard I was supposed to pray. But how? As a child it was natural to talk with God. But now he seemed distant, aloof, and likely angry with me. And I’ll admit it, prayer seemed a little goofy to high school senior still struggling to be “cool” in the sight of his friends and in his own eyes. Not only that but prayer was “boring.” an unfocused, unstructured and “goofy” thing.

But I knew someone who did pray. My paternal grandmother “Nana” was a real prayer warrior. Everyday she took out her beads and sat by the window to pray. I had seen my mother pray now and again, but she was more private about it. But Nana, who lived with us off and on in her last years just knew how to pray and you could see it every day.

Rosary Redivivus – In my parish church of the 1970s the rosary was non-existent. Devotions and adoration were on the outs in that sterile time. Even the Crucifix was gone. But Nana had that old time religion. So I asked her one day to show me how to pray the rosary. My mother had taught me as a little child but that was over ten years back. Nana gave the technical details but more importantly she gave me the vision. She said, “Holding these beads is like holding Mary’s hand. You just put your hand in hers and let her lead to Christ.” She went on to say, “You’ll be fine.”

Ad Jesum per Mariam – There are those, non-Catholics especially, who think that talking of Mary and focusing on her at all takes away from Christ. It is as though our hearts were a zero-sum game and we could not do both. But my own experience was that, just as my grandmother said, Mary led me to Christ. I had struggled to know and worship Christ but somehow a mother’s love felt natural, safer, more accessible to me. So I began there, where I could. Simply pole-vaulting into a mature faith from where I was did not seem possible. So I began, a little child again, holding my mother’s hand. And gently, Mother Mary led me on to Christ, her son. And through the rosary, that “Gospel on a String,” I became reacquainted with the basic gospel story.

The thing about Marian devotion is that it opens a whole world to you. For with this devotion comes an open door into so many of the other traditions and devotions of the Church: Eucharistic adoration, litanies, traditional marian hymns, lighting candles, modesty, pious demeanor and so forth. So as she led, she also reconnected me to many things I only vaguely remembered. The 1970s suburban Catholicism had all but cast these things aside and I too had lost them. Now in my late teens I was going into the “Church attic” and taking things down. Thus, little by little,  Mother Mary was helping me put things back in place. I remember my own mother being pleased to discover that I had take some old religious statues out of a drawer in my room and placed them again on my dresser. I also took down the crazy rock and roll posters one by one and replaced them with traditional art, to include a picture of Mary.

Praying the Rosary and talking to Mary began to feel natural. And, sure enough, little by little, I began to speak with God. In the middle of College I began to sense the call to the priesthood. I had become choir director by now and took a new job in a city parish at, you guessed it, “St Mary’s Parish.” There the sterility of suburban Catholicism had never taken hold. The candles burned brightly at the side altars. The beautiful windows, marble altars,  statues and the traditional novenas were all on display in Mother Mary’s Parish. The rest is history. Mary cemented the deal between me and her Son, Jesus. I became his priest and can’t stop talking about him. He is my hero, savior and Lord. And praying again to God has become more natural and deeply spiritual for me.

It all began one day when I took Mary’s hand and let her lead me to Christ. And hasn’t that always been her role? She, by God’s grace, brought Christ to us and showed him to us at Bethlehem, presented him in the Temple, ushered in his first miracle even despite his reluctance. Said to the stewards that day and to us now, “Do whatever he tells you.” And on account of that miracle the text says. Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him  (John 2:11). And so her intercession strengthened the faith of others in her Son. That has always been her role, to take us by the hand and lead us to Christ.

42 Replies to “"You Just Put Your Hand in Mary’s and Let Her Lead you to Christ"”

  1. This reminds me of something that Saint Theresa said. She said faith, hope, and charity go together hand in hand, and it is love – the youngest of the three – who leads them on. In apparitions Mary sometimes appears young. So, in a way, Mary leading us to Jesus by the hand is like love leading faith and hope forward.

  2. For us converts, Mary is a difficult concept, just because it feels so foreign to pray to someone other than God. Once I realized that the word prayer has several connotations (including the concluding “prayer of the legal petitions I had filed, “praying” the court for relief”) I got there. But it still felt odd-praying my first rosary was complicated and I remember asking Mary to overlook it if I didn’t “do it right.” It wasn’t long before I realized the Blessed Mother was–in fact–a mother, and I can talk to any mother anywhere about any thing…. especially the kids. Mine and hers. What a gift she has been in my life, and I fully intend one of these days to be one of those grandmothers who sits in the rocker with her beads….meantime, you’re SO right. The more I talk to Mary, the more I talk to God, natural, throughout the day, almost reflexive, so much a part of the fabric of my thought has prayer become. Thank you, as always, for a wonderful post.

    1. I always rejoice when I hear converts wrestling with the concept of our Blessed Mother. It thrills me to think of the joy they’re in for if they stick with it. A good place to start is to consider Mary pregnant with Jesus in her womb on earth. She was the first earthly vessel/tabernacle of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Now, everytime I enter a Church I can’t help but think of the symbolism of also entering the womb of my Savior’s Mother. Likewise, everytime I see the tabernacle and contemplate the true presence of Jesus, I can’t help but also contemplate the presence of our Mother as well.

      1. Dismas–my favorite statue of the Blessed Mother is Our Lady of Hope–Mary, pregnant. I found one at the Eucharistic Congress this past June and immediately bought it, and I love every detail. She brings me such peace –though I must admit my Protestant friends have some trouble with the image… 🙂 Our Lady is well worth the wrestling.

      2. BHG – You just tell your Protestant friends that as soon as they stop honoring all the pictures and images they probably have in their homes of their family and friends, you’ll do likewise with your statue.

  3. A few days ago I was fairly down in the dumps, laying in bed contemplating a recent surgery and how much I was suffering. I called to our Mother “Are you there?” and on the pillow next to my head I stretched out my arm and asked her to hold my hand. I know that she did. She is such a good Mother!

  4. Beautiful reflection, Monsignor. How many souls have Mary and her Rosary lead to Christ?!

  5. Beautiful post. My husband just had brain surgery, all he wanted to do while hospitalized was pray the Rosary. I have no doubt that Our Lady not only held our hands in that time, but flat out carried us to her Son.

  6. As much as I love my non-Catholic Christian friends and colleagues, their (seeming) aversion to all things Marian baffles me, and on occasion annoys me. As you note, Msgr, Christianity is not a zero-sum game – we can worship Christ whilst at the same time adore His Mother. Our prayers to Jesus ask for his intercession – so why the objection to asking His Mother (and the saints) to intercede with Him as well? Can you shed any light on this?

    Relatedly, this Sunday’s short gospel (the Vigil Mass) – was stunning and arresting.
    While Jesus was speaking,
    a woman from the crowd called out and said to him,
    “Blessed is the womb that carried you
    and the breasts at which you nursed.”
    He replied,
    “Rather, blessed are those
    who hear the word of God and observe it.”

    I think it illustrates very well that important though our mothers are (our biological mother and Mary), listening to and obeying God’s word are far more important. Perhaps this extract from Luke could allay the fears of our Protestant friends.

    1. If only our friends realiized the damage they do by dismissing their Saviors mother. Would you not at least be as baffled and annoyed if they treated your own earthly mother with the same disrespect?

    2. Yes, the Bible repeatedly calls Mary blessed. We Catholics fulfill scripture which says: “Henceforth all generations shall call me blessed fr God who is mighty has done great things for me. Luke 1:48

  7. Since my mother died when I was 14 years old, I cling to Mother Mary like I have a real earthly mother beside me.I am now 72 years old but still I have never been abandoned by Mama Mary.She always get the answer of my prayers from God.Since I don’t have mother , I give a birthday party for Mother Mary ‘s birthday every year.
    I advise everybody who loves Mama Mary to pray the rosary.

  8. Yes Terrance, i can shed light on this. Necromancy is useless and forbidden. Asking dead people for things is useless.

    1. Jesus rebuked the Sadducees for just your error. They considered Abraham, ISaac, and Jacob dead. But the Lord says they are very much alive:

      Mark 12:24 Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 26Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”

  9. Thank you so much for that blast from the past. It made me cry like a child. Perhaps, it is that hand-holding that you get from Mama Mary….that constant Momeee feeling that envelops you, that makes you write so wonderfully well both about her and her Son. May the good Lord guide you to keep writing like this and lead more and more souls to Jesus.

  10. I remember my grandmother, “Shorty” I called her because I remember the day I realized I was taller than her and the name stuck. I was a very sick child and Shorty was always there praying the rosary. When I was in second grade I came down with pneumonia. Everyday Shorty was at my bed side and I remember opening my eyes after a nap seeing her in the chair praying the rosary. I already had a heart condition so it was a touchy situation. Anyway, it looked like I was going to be in the hospital for Christmas but Shorty kept praying while the family started thinking about how to bring Christmas to me. Then, the day before Christmas Eve the Doctor came in and looked at Shorty with her beads in hand and asked simply would I like to go home for Christmas. Shorty lost it and called home right away and I remember her shouting, “He’s coming home! He’s coming home!” Now most people say it was coincidence because it’s not like it WAS Christmas or even Christmas Eve for that matter. TRUE. But in my family Christmas Eve was the big one for family to get together. And I was going to be home with plenty of time to get ready. I believe the Blessed Mother and The Father heard Shorty and that is why I was home for Christmas. Today, not a day goes by I don’t pray the rosary. I guess when the Blessed Mother took Shorty’s hand she didn’t mind Shorty holding onto mine. I miss you Shorty, my Grandma.

  11. I must admit there was a time when I was a little uncomfortable with marian devotions even though I loved saying the rosary mostly because I have known some Catholics who focus on Mary to a distraction of Jesus. But I experienced a very powerful moment last December when I was walking home and saying the rosary as I walked. I was a little unfocused in my prayer, and I passed by a Protestant church which had on its bulletin board “…talk to Mary” I was a little stunned, and on closer inspection I realized that it was just about if you were interested in participating in some program.

    The message was clear to me, however, and my rosaries have been less distracted and fulfilling ever since.

  12. “You Just Put Your Hand in Mary’s and Let Her Lead you to Christ”

    I like to think about St. Joseph being told “Take Mary’s hand in marriage” and then she lead him to Jesus. And when I read the above information from Msgr. Pope’s blog today I thought how St. Joseph was the first example of how taking Mary’s hand first worked!!

  13. This was a great reflection. My own mother said the rosary regularly. She died in a mental hospital with 8% of her lungs in tact (on Christmas Eve, the same day her mother died). One of the last things she gave me was a rosary made from olive wood and knotted string from the Holy Land. Believe it or not, I say the rosary each day as I drive to and from work. I have learned a lot about meditating through this routine. I’ve noticed my attitude when driving has experienced a total conversion. I now pray for people who cut in front of me or zip past me 5 or 10 miles beyond the speed limit. Instead of judging them or making some negative remark, I ask God to protect them and those around them. I have also found that I am always calm and peaceful behind the wheel.
    To anyone who claim Catholic devotions are out dated or irrelevant to our culture, I suggest you allow your faith form (reform) your culture rather than letting your culture form (deconstruct) your faith.

  14. Dear Barbara,
    Thanks for taking the time to send me the invitation about Mary. The first verse that came to mind was
    : ” There is one God and One mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus”. The second thought was, when the disciples asked how they should pray he mentioned nothing about Mary or any other person but ” Our Father” and then the verse I quoted from Hebrews one night when we were talking was Hebrews 4:l5 and 16. ” For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet was without sin.” Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. I see no scripture that indicates we need or should go to a person in heaven. Yes, Mary is alive in Heaven, but I don’t see scripture indicating we can or should communicate with her or any other person. If you can talk to God himself, why would you want to talk to anyone else. I’m grateful the priest was drawn to Christ through the grandmothers prayer beads, but how much greater to talk to the father of all creation Himself. In my mind it’s like running a race the long roundabout way instead of the direct way. Why would you do it? ( All the above is said in a gentle kind voice because I know you are trying to be kind and showing me your way of thinking. ) Let’s keep the dialogue going. Warmly, Joy .

  15. @BHG:
    Consider two passages from the NT:
    First, Luke 2:22-35. V. 35 (addressed to Mary) “and you yourself shall be pierced with a sword — so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare.”
    Second, John 19: 25-27. How do you think Mary felt, seeing her son crucified by the Romans, and dying before her eyes? Do you think that she might have felt as if she had been pierced by a sword?

    Consider also John 2:1-11. One can spend time meditating on this episode. Why did St. John include it in his gospel? And what lesson or lessons can we learn from this, to apply in our lives?
    One lesson is that Jesus is NOT all about denial, pain and suffering. He blesses a crowd of merrymakers attending a wedding by supplying a good quantity of wine. He is not averse to His followers celebrating on appropriate occasions.
    A second lesson is that Jesus sometimes does favors when requested by His mother.

  16. Our Lady brings such a purity and innocence to everybody. I love to hear about her presence on people’s journey, she always leads us to the foot of the cross. This meditation you wrote is so hopeful and a reminder that our Blessed Mother was given to us by her own Son on the Cross. Thank you for your devotion to her, she seems to really be trying to reach us.

  17. Terence Filmore says:
    August 16, 2010 at 11:11 am: “As much as I love my non-Catholic Christian friends and colleagues, their (seeming) aversion to all things Marian baffles me, and on occasion annoys me….”
    Dear Terence, Do not be baffled nor be annoyed. Non- Catholics (I am still one of them) do not get the training / education about Our Mother Mary as Catholics would. As a youngster I attended one year of Sunday School for my German- Lutheran confirmation at the end of that year. All we were taught about Mary was how the angel called onto her and that she then bore the baby Jesus in a manger. That was basically it. And yes, Scripture made it quite clear – if someone wanted to read it that way (and most Protestants and Charismatics do) that Jesus is the ONLY mediator to God. So, how can you expect Non-Catholic understanding of “praying” to our Holy Queen?
    It took me almost 40 years before I really started reading up on this “Praying to Mary on the Rosary Thing”. (Yes, I had always been intrigued by the Rosary and what it was all about, but pray to her?? Hey, since when would I pray to a “graven image”? [Icon])
    A strong influence for change was my blessed (now departed) brother-in-law – a devout Roman Catholic and a man of God, who through many years’ conversations got me to the point that eventually I learnt the Rosary and prayed it for the first time (2009). When I wrote and told my brother-in-law, he replied that he had tears in his yes, reading that email from me.
    Nowadays I pray – with understanding – the Rosary on a fairly regular basis, although only the “Hail Mary…” as I have not yet grasped the technique of praying the Mysteries. I speak to Mary as a mother (Jesus’ mother and thus my mother), and praying the Rosary has a calming, blessing effect on me and I carry my Rosary with me most of the time. The point in all of this that I had someone speaking into my heart, with love and understanding – until I “got it”. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough one day to find the right words for your friends about Mary, and hopefully you will find resonance – as did my faithful brother-in-law. Pax Christi.

  18. My maternal Irish grandmother also took time to pray the rosary every day. She would sit in her livingroom in the mid morning and fall into a centered state of mind and silently make her way around the decades gazing up occasionally towards the ceiling to heaven. She gave me my first rosary back in 1959 with my initials and first communion date 04-19-59 engraved on the back of the crucifix. I still have it but keep it in a box because the chain links are worn and it separated between the eighth and nineth hail Mary beads of the second decade. I keep a plastic glow in the dark rosary on my bedside table which I use often when I go to bed at night because I can concentrate without family interruptions. I’m not as consistent as my grandmother but I definetly owe my lasting faith in prayer to her. Her family must have emphasized such memorable giifts. I have a 17 1/2 inch statue of the Virgin May that I place on the mantle over the fireplace. My older sister gave it to me when she inherited belongings of our departed aunt who ws a nun and the daughter of my grandmother. I recently was made aware that it had been one that sat on the mantel of my grandmother’s livingroom fireplace when I was growing up. It has the date September 15, 1961 taped on the bottom. I can’t find any correlation to any birth, death or anniverrsery dates so it may just be when it was given to her as a gift. Grandmothers, like the Lord, work in mysterious ways.The power of the rosary.

  19. My daughters were bridesmaids at their brother’s wedding last week and his wife gave them each a Rosary which was wrapped into their floral bouquets – I was reminded of how I miss the days when I prayed the rosary and have decided that perhaps the biggest void in my life today is the lack of time spent praying. Thank you for reminding that I need to take Mary’s hand and just start surrendering myself to prayer. Thank you and God Bless you for your gift. Jennifer

  20. Our Lady, Mother of the Living, our mother given to us by Our Lord Jesus from the cross, dispenses all graces.
    Just as a mother knows what her children need, Our Lady knows just what particular graces we need and, as Mediatrix, mediates them for us.

    So it is I think that all of our prayers, the aspirations of our hearts, the small unarticulated prayers of which we are hardly aware, are received and purified in Her Immaculate Heart and offered as oblation to Jesus who mediates for us with the Father.

    There are only two persons in heaven with glorified bodies. The union of Jesus’ Heart Sacred and Mary’s Heart Immaculate is safe harbour in this hour of Mercy.

  21. thank you Msgr Pope for that beautiful reflection…i can assure you of how true it is…as a non-Catholic, i simply asked our Mother to take me to where i needed to be… a short 4 days later She answered that request… of course She led me to Her Son and subsequently into His Church …i am a proud tiber swim team alum of the year of our Lord 1998

  22. Msgr. Pope, today you explained to me why I have been asking myself ‘where was I in those 70’s, 80’s and 90’s?
    I just can’t remember. I didn’t stray from the church, and now I know what that “something missing” was.
    It was all the things that I always held dear which became non-existent in those years.
    The rosary brought me back, just as you said Ad Jesum per Mariam. I will always feel bad about those years, because I should not have let those “non-existent” things become non-existent in the first place, but that was only partly my fault. They should not have become non-existent in the church in the first place.
    Do I make sense to you?

  23. Yeah, I remember that during my conversion from non-denominational Protestantism to Catholicism, that the Blessed Virgen was probably the last struggles I had — more than the Eucharist, if you can believe that. I think there was an inherent jealousy in her obvious greatness. For some reason, I think, I saw her greatness as a competitor to mine. Isn’t that horrible? I suppose this was one of Satan’s chief stumbling blocks, which is why she so visibly and completely defeats him throughout history. Well, in some smaller measure, I had the same pride or envy. I do wonder if that isn’t the story behind most people.

    Well, in that divine irony we all encounter, my chief challenge has become one of my chief consolations. My devotion to our Blessed Mother has been the source of unbelievable consolation–not that I don’t wish it were more pure and holy, mind you. I have recovered from the worst situations and sin with recourse to her intercession. And all the big events in my life seem to touch her or some holy day of hers: I met my wife on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe while on day 7 or 8 of a Novena to our Lady of Perpetual Help; I got married at St. Mary’s, and on and on. You know, too often to be brush off as coincidental…but not so infallibly obvious to go around talking about it with others. They’re subtle reminders/signs of an intense maternal love that draws me to her Son.

  24. You went through a winter, I’ve been walking a dessert until my Parish Priest recently had a sermon where he spoke of this very subject. I pulled out my beads and started up my engine again. And it seems my dessert is blooming. Thank you Mgsr. for this post, I’m sending it to my friends 🙂

  25. Beautiful sharing of faith. Would suggest that Faces of Mary be slides of each painting. Adults are better able to accept the transition of each pose, however, teens and immature audiences may find the transition of eyes from one painting to another to seem a little strange.. Would suggest a separate slides for each painting or perhaps a horizontal bar that overwiites the bar above it to reveal the entire picture. Just a suggestion. Thanks for a beautiful presentation!

  26. Beautiful sharing of faith. Would suggest that Faces of Mary be slides of each painting. Adults are better able to accept the transition of each pose, however, teens and immature audiences may find the transition of eyes from one pose to become a distraction from the beauty being displayed of Our Lady. Would suggest separate slides for each painting or perhaps a horizontal bar that overwrites the bar above it to reveal the entire picture. Just a suggestion. Thanks for a beautiful presentation!

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