Thursday, July 28, 2011

There's Something About Mary

When I tell people about my past, I often hear “How did you turn out so well?”

My mother was a German immigrant whose parents fled to the United States to escape the Nazi Regime. Her paternal grandfather was heavily tied to the Nazi Party, but her father would have nothing of it. My mother was taught simple prayers by her mother and occasionally attended Mass on Christmas and Easter.
My father was raised with no faith to speak of, though I heard that my paternal grandmother was raised Catholic. When my father was drafted in the Vietnam War, my parents, who were dating, decided to elope. Neither of their families supported the marriage. I was born just after my father returned from the war.
My mother had me baptized (against my father’s wishes) at a beautiful cathedral in San Jose, California. My godfather was a drug dealer, and my godmother was the woman who talked my mom into leaving my father.

They divorced when I was just 3 months old. My earliest memory is of being sexually abused by a man whose wife babysat me, I was three years old. My childhood was anything but functional. I was physically, sexually and emotionally abused growing up and this culminated until I was removed from my home in the 8th grade and placed in foster care. The abuse I endured growing up had created a huge father wound that led me into a life of promiscuity as well as a mistrust for anything masculine. I became pregnant when I was 18 years old and while I am profoundly grateful for my daughter, I often say she was not given the mother she deserved because of my many inadequacies and the life of rebellion I was living against anyone or anything in authority.

While there are many things that led to my conversion, Our Blessed Mother had a major part in all of them. God sent his Mother to me to ensure that the way to him would not be lost. He knew me intimately and because of this, He understood the deep woundedness of my heart from the many men that had failed me.
Mary's role was and still is one of bringing Christ to others. For me, it was the perfect way to be invited into relationship with God.

My first encounter with Our Lady was when I was about 6 years old and it was extremely powerful. I did not even know who God was, or who Mary was but that did not matter because He knew me.

I was walking down the road one afternoon when suddenly, a car stopped alongside of me. The passenger side door opened and I was pulled into the car by two strange men. The man in the passenger seat grabbed me and shoved me down under the dashboard using his feet to hold me down to the floor. It happened so fast, I did not really have time to think. I do remember crying and I remember the man that was driving was screaming at the other to make me shut up. I vaguely recall one of them trying to calm me by telling me that they were friends of my mothers and she told them to pick me up and go to the store to get some milk.

Then, I heard her. She was in the back seat of the car. I could not see her face but I could hear her and when I listened to her, I could no longer hear the men. I remember now, as an adult that I could see their mouths moving but I could not hear what they were saying, I could only hear the lady in the back seat.

She talked to me in a soft and gentle voice and this is what she said.

“Christina? Can you not hear me? Can you not hear my voice?” she asked.
“Yes, I can hear you.” I answered. The men were getting more angry at me now.
“Don't listen to them, only listen to me. Christina, do you know what a lion looks sounds like when it roars?” she asked me.
“Yes.” I said all the while trying to twist and turn so as to see where this woman was sitting because I could not see her but I could hear her. I thought perhaps the headrest behind the men's heads were some how blocking her from my view but whenever I tried to move to see around them, the man shoving me would hurt me more.
“Christina,” she continued...”..I want you to pretend that you are a lion. I want you to roar and shake your hair like a lions mane like a wild and angry lion. I want you to roar as load as you can!”

I listened to her and then I roared like a lion. I shook my hair and flailed about screaming and roaring while I whipped my hair back and forth.

“Good Girl!” she continued. You are such a good lion! Now I want you to take your lion claws and I want you to scratch like you are sharpening your claws on a tree. I want you to scratch up and down until you feel the bark peeling under your fingernails and the slippery sap flows out”.

I continued to listen and I roared and I scratched until I felt the wetness that she described to me. The men stopped the car and threw me out and drove away. I later discovered that my mother had no knowledge of the men I told her about.

It is my belief that this was the Blessed Mother, and I was under her protection. As an adult, I know now, the best thing to say to a child being abducted, so as to protect them from the horrific situation that they are in, would be to do exactly what I believe Our Lady did for me. God could have done any number of things that day. I think that in choosing to act through the feminine, through a mother, I was best able to receive Him and all that He has for me and that is the premise of why Mary is a unique mediator of all graces to mankind.

There are many things I could share with you in regard to how Mary has manifested God in my life but perhaps I will share the most significant. It was years later, when I was in college and exploring fertility goddesses and Indian charms, and tarot cards when my live in boyfriend invited his Todd, a friend he knew from high school to his graduation from college. Todd brought his girlfriend, Shannon, with him. They were both devout Catholic. At the time, I thought it odd that they slept separate and that they went to mass while visiting but hey, to each his own right?

On one of the days they were with us, Shannon and I where driving to the store when I noticed a beautiful deep blue charm around her neck. I noticed that under the blue enamel, there appeared to be a figure of a woman. So I asked her, what is that thing around your neck? Well, she proceeded to tell me that it was called “The Miraculous Medial” and that it was cast as a medal hundreds of years ago. Mary appeared in a vision saying that the rays that flow from the jewels on her hands are of all the graces that her son desires to pour out to those in need but they are being wasted because no one is asking for them. She told me of many miracles from this medal and that when it is worn, the person who wears the medal and says the words cast on it “Our Lady, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee” she will intercede, she will protect and guide them. Every thing in the image had a significant meaning, and I LOVED that about the medal.

Well, I was hooked. A beautiful and unique piece of jewelry that had an awesome story that went along with it was right up my alley! I asked her how to get one and she said she would send me one. I had almost forgot about the whole thing when a few weeks later I received a note in the mail. It had two Miraculous Medals, with the blue enamel in it. One for me and one for my daughter Maegan who was about 3 years old at the time. Unbeknownst to me, they were also blessed. I immediately began to wear mine and put the other around my daughter's neck. The next few months were an express elevator of faith. All of a sudden, there welled up inside of me this deep ache and longing for God. I began to go to Church. I became so hungry, so longing for something that I was consumed by this desire to be in relationship with God.

This desire grew and grew. Before long, we were married, we moved to Appleton, where my husband grew up and I met the mother and sister of his best friend from high school. There names are Pat and Kara. They taught me the rosary and brought us to their church. To make a long story short, Pat is my husbands God mother, (he was raised Jehovah's Witness and so was never baptized) and Kara became our first child's Godmother. We had our marriage blessed on the day our 2nd child was baptized.

By putting on the Miraculous Medal, I demonstrated a mustard seed of a yes. When I opened the door of receptivity, the floodgates of Mercy poured in and washed over me. God will not trample on our free will. He will not force himself on us. So my small yes, became an opening for which He could flow into. Mary is our model of receptivity. She is open and it is in her that God has entered and fills so full that she is full to her capacity and then overflows to all around her. It is a gently means of evangelization and it was perfect for someone like me who would have ran in the other direction if He had come to me in any other way.

I believe Mary is Our Lady of Divine Mercy because she both reveals and demonstrates what Divine Mercy is. God's Mercy is a deep ocean of unfathomable depth. God desires to bring this love to the those in misery, not because I say so, but because God has said so. Arch Bishop Fulton Sheen also said that it was through Mary's yes that the savior was born and from which the very hands and feet were provided to us so that they could then be nailed to the cross so even in this most significant aspect, Mary had been invited in.

I had many spiritual mothers who loved me through my youth. Had I not, I may not have believed that their could possibly been a Father in Heaven who loved me. I was so broken and so wounded, that it was Mercy that I needed and Christ in His Mercy, responded by gently sending Mary, the Mother of Divine Mercy to my side. She helped me to open myself to Him.

This invitation from God through Mary, includes those of us who feel burdened and unworthy. Remember that Jesus hung out with a woman who as a prostitute, He touched lepers, He ate with tax collectors in fact, it was those who were the littlest that were able to see Him and hear Him as He invites us through His Divine Mercy to accept the invitation. Just as the prodical son was lovingly embraced and celebrated upon his return so to will of us who allow Christ's Merciful love flow out of the font of His pierced heart and wash us clean, heal our wounds and quench our thirst for love from God. This truth is revealed through the Icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego.

Saint Augustine interprets the word “misericordia” as meaning miseris cor dare –to give oneself to, or to pour one’s heart out over the weak, the outcast, and the fallen. I have heard others define it as "one who gives itself in love to those in misery". I think I like this one the best. 

God the Father desired an intimate and personal relationship with with me as His daughter. He desired to protect and care for me and did so through His mother's intercession that day when she spoke to me in the car and continues to do so today.

God the Son desired an intimate and personal relationship with me as His Bride. He brought Mary through the Miraculous Medal which gave me the courage to say yes and give my fiat as Mary did and once I opened myself to Him, I began to love more rightly.

God the Holy Spirit desired an intimate and personal relationship with me as a doctor to heal my wounds, counsel my heart and to lead me into deeper communion with Him.

There are so many things that Mary revealed to me about God through her example and through her direct intercession. Perhaps the most beautiful lesson I learned, was the words uttered by Blessed Pope John Paul II “Be Not Afraid”. For so many years I was afraid. While I still continue to heal and grow in receptivity to God, I am so thankful that Mary showed me how merciful God is as well as how to follow the example she gave to be brave amidst the sufferings of life. She taught me His Mercy, by demonstrating how God introduces Himself to us in a language we can receive and that He will go into the darkest and ugliest of places to find us. She taught me how to be brave through her example of enduring so many sorrows for the sake love. I thank God everyday for sharing his Mother with us because if it were not for her, I might have missed His invitation.

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