Why I Love Mary

As a practicing Catholic in the Bible Belt, many Protestants–Evangelical, Pentecostal, or otherwise–take notice that I believe what the Church teaches. Furthermore, while I am a sinner, I do my best to live my faith. Inevitably, when I dialogue with them, the Roman Catholic tendency to venerate Mary as Mother of God is prominent in our conversations. It rubs them wrong way.

I used to try to give some basic apologetic to argue for the Roman Catholic practice, but I just don't bother anymore. I let them rant on why, according to their conscience, it's idolatry. Furthermore, I let them also rant against Marian dogmas such as the Immaculate Conception or Mary's Perpetual Virginity, or her Assumption into heaven. I listen and bear it. I understand where they're coming from as a convert. But I know they're just rehearsing the anti-Catholic polemic taught them since they were babies. I don't really challenge them. Not that I don't have the knowledge or the ability. Riling them up further isn't very fruitful. Let the Protestants keep up their protest. At the end of the day, Catholics worship the Triune God and not Mary. One could hope that point would sink in during a conversation with them. However, it usually goes into one ear and out the other.

No diatribe will make me stop loving her.

I'm unashamed of loving Mary because she's my mother. Her Divine Son, Jesus, gave her to us at the cross. He told John to behold His mother and Mary to behold the Apostle as His son. That should be good enough for the rest of us.

Furthermore, I follow Mary's example because she is the first Christian. Her fiat is the cry of every obedient Christ follower. We ought to always say to God, "Let it be done to me, according to Thy word."

And yes, dear non Catholics, I pray to Mary. I try to say the Holy Rosary once a week. I will recite the Salve Regina before I go to bed. I love the Fatima Prayer Our Lady gave to us back in 1917 and say often while at a stoplight: "Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell; lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy."

Of course, praying to Mary may miff you. But I ask for her prayers. I believe she's alive with God. I believe in the intercession of the saints–here on earth, and especially in heaven. And because Our Lady is a prayer warrior, I've seen little miracles occur. Why? Because Our Lord loves His mother. Jesus has listened to her prayers and mine. And I've seen Him give sight to the blind (no metaphor here) and convert hearts to Him. And that's nothing to sneeze at.

Being close to Our Lady has made me close to God. I love Jesus because Mary gave Him flesh. Flesh that allowed God to die on a tree for my salvation. Because Mary said yes to God, bore the humiliation of being pregnant while betrothed, I can call God my brother in humanity. Jesus looks like Mary. When I look at Mary, she's leading me to her son, the only begotten Son of the Father.

Christ is the New Adam. Mary is the New Eve. Salvation came through a woman bearing a child. As the song Silent Night says, "Jesus, Lord at thy birth!"

And that mystery of the Incarnation is nothing to be ashamed of.

As the Angel said, Hail Mary full of grace.

As Elizabeth said, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

Blessed is Jesus, the savior of the world.

As Mary says while pregnant, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior."

It's a mystery I cannot stop contemplating. And Mary contemplates with me and prays with and for me.

That's good enough for me.

Lord Jesus, thanks for the gift of your mom, Mary. Also: come quickly, Lord. Let's have that family reunion soon, where Mary, as well all the angels and saints will worship you, the Lamb who is the Light of the Eternal City.

Amen.

Pitter Pat

The heart can be a fickle thing, people say.

The heart wants what it wants, people say.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, people say.

What do I say?

I say that my heart is going pitter pat, pitter pat. But it's not in my chest. It's with some shoeless girl with glasses in Kansas hundreds of miles away. I hope to be reunited with her, my heart, soon. I miss her something fierce. I do.

The heart wants what it wants and so it grows fonder–discerning why often makes us think it's fickle, and thus our brains pickle.

Ha. I'm a poet and didn't know it.

Agh. I miss you, babe. I love you.

Pitter pat, pitter pat.

Musings of an Insomniac

I don't know if I should say I even want to sleep. All I know is that I don't. I haven't been able to sleep while others are sleeping for pretty much all my life. Sometimes, I just keep thinking about things. Other times, I think my body just won't shut down. In any case, there I am–tossing and turning–awake.

When I was a kid, I used to raise a ruckus. I would whine over and over, "I can't sleep!" My mom or dad would come in begrudgingly and try to console me. They'd get frustrated and just tell me to be quiet. Later, I'd turn the closet light on and opt to read a book during the wee hours of the morning.

Today, I don't feel like reading. Being Catholic has its advantages in that I can light a candle and pray instead. Yet today? I don't feel like praying. What I do feel like doing is running into the wall and hoping I pass out. But I won't because it's not my wall to ram.

Instead, I will type out my symptoms of insomnia to be read by God knows who on the Internet. I will click off my phone and toss and turn again. I will pray an Our Father and probably go to the fridge to drink something just to do something besides not sleeping. A few hours from now, I'll be asleep. It'll be fine–it'll work out.

But now is not then. And that's what frustrates me.

Doing the Right Thing

It's not comfortable, it pretty much kills you, and it's not easy. But there's always a choice. You can either cooperate with God's Grace and do the right thing, or you can rebel and do the wrong thing. Too often, I feel that I do that latter.

How is it that God still loves me when my choices seem to indicate that I don't love Him very much? It's a mystery I can't even fathom. But he allows us to come back, no matter how imperfect our contrition.

That's more of a loving Father than I have ever known.

Please God, despite my faults, use my life for your kingdom.

And I Love Her

I didn't expect her to show up, but she did.

She was all smart. She was all sassy. She was all cute. She was just…just…there weren't any profound words. I knew. She was to be mine. I was to woo her to be my wife. And woo her I have. One of these days we will have a wedding. Yet it baffles me. She is the love of my life–the beautiful creature God created that I know as Gabrielle Rose Pandino. I can't picture a future without her.

And it would truly please me to know her further as Gabrielle Rose Richards. But there's a long road ahead. God's going to put us through the fire to test our mettle. However, there's no need to be fearful. Rather, if we put our trust in Him, he will gift us with a spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). So that, I believe, is worth fighting for.

I know other people might not understand why we are close as we are. It may seem to have happened so fast. It may seem to be mere infatuation. I may not know all the answers, but in the words of Sam Cooke, "I do know 1 and 1 is 2 and that if this boy could be with you, what a wonderful world this would be."

Simply: I want a home and a family and wife to help me to make them. Gabrielle is the woman I choose. I believe that what God has joined together no man can separate. I will love and cherish her and the children we have. I consider her a gift from God.

I didn't expect her to show up in my life, but she has. In time, I will go to chapel and I'm gonna get married. Praise God.

A Right Spirit

That famous penitential Psalm of David’s implores of the Creator to create within him a clean heart, and to renew a right spirit within him. How often have we prayed similar sentiments? Despite our many sins and open rebellion against God, we desire to have an innocent interior before the Lord yet again. We know that the likelihood of falling short of His Glory seems likely, and yet in our repentance, we dare to hope. 

No doubt, wallering in the muck of indulgence expressed in our pet sins can seem to lack resolution. We want to change, but we feel we can’t. We confess our wrongdoing over and over. When will there  be relief from ourselves? When, Lord? How long? It is easy–and understandable–that we want to despair of our salvation. 

But God doesn’t want that. He wants His children to trust in Him. To repent, and then to go and sin no more.

Conversely, God does not want us to presume our union with Him as a guarantee. We may feel that we do enough good. That we are “all right” before His eyes. That we deserve the Bliss that is Dwelling in His Presence. But we don’t. He has said repeatedly in Scripture that He will show mercy upon whom He will show mercy. 

One cannot earn God’s love by merely doing what we perceive as being good; neither can one expect His favor as a reward to cover an unscrupulous lifestyle post conversion. The truth? The Christian is in a constant state of conversion, seeking after holiness. Sanctity does not happen on a sofa while we binge Netflix. We gotta chase after the Lord with our Cross on our back.

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, yes. Yet remember: where sin does abound  Grace does much more abound. There is no rest in the Way of the Cross. We are not at rest until the Consummation of the World. We must be busy being about the Father’s business as His sons in His Only Begotten Son. Golgotha doesn’t seem a favorable destination in this mortal coil. But without it, how do we expect to shuffle it off into the glories that are to come? 

A right spirit accomplishes this. One that yearns for the gift of final perseverance. We must all have our moments of being in the Garden of Gethsameni. But rest assured: he that perseveres to the end, the same shall be saved. For the end of suffering is an empty tomb and a Ressurrected Body. 

With that said, create within me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 

Amen. 

Falling Asleep (With a Rosary)

The one hundred year old rosary I’ve been using.

Some people count sheep, I count Our Fathers and Hail Marys. I can’t say that I consistently pray the Holy Rosary every night or with much frequency like some good Catholics, but I do pray it. I like the rhythmic nature of a decade–it’s a simple litany for the prayerful intercession of Our Lady and the intervention of Our Blessed Lord. And quite often, I’ll admit, it lulls me to sleep.

Not because I’m bored, I don’t think. But because it makes me put aside other thoughts or else channel those thoughts–good, bad, or otherwise–into chanting those rote prayers that many Evangelicals abhor. I used to try and pray extemporaneously before I slept. But I always fell into the trap of trying to pray with grandeur like some eloquent Puritan. Or I opted for the infamous “Father, just…” prayers that honestly didn’t focus my attention on God. I ended up talking about me and what I wanted. 

With the Rosary, I just state my intentions (usually after the Creed), and then I focus on the Mysteries of the Life of Christ, being lead to the Lord by His Blessed Mother. I’m being rocked to sleep to rest in God’s Mercy. I’m not a bead rattler trying to make some sort of incantation; rather, I’m a child who fingers the beads given him and am content. I’ve quietly prayed the Rosary as a devotion for several years (even before I was Catholic) and I have seen miracles happen. But I don’t usually report or broadcast them.  I just am thankful, knowing that more are in store.

And so, I fell asleep last night with my Rosary about three decades into the devotion. I would wake up with a start and discover I was still clutching it. Then I would go back to sleep. I wake up and find it in my comforter, and place it in my nightstand. I’m sure Jesus heard me and His Mother is praying for me. They understand I’m their child. So they let me sleep, the babe that I am. And God the Father has gifted me of His Spirit, so like His Divine Son and His Beloved Handmaid, I can cry “Abba” with my words and actions. Even it just means I fall asleep. 

For He wakes me up again every morning and fills my lungs to serve Him anew. And for that, I am thankful.

To God be the Glory, and may He be glorified in the lives of His saints, and in His Church, both now and forever, Amen.