Mary is Always With Us
By Colleen Constable – Recently I had an encounter with a young woman in her early twenties trying to gather strength to deal with the pain that goes with young life.
When we prayed together, she was reluctant to say a special prayer for Mary’s intercession. “I don’t have that devotion to Mary,” she said.
She is not alone — many young women have been in that space. May the Mother of Sorrows, whose feast fell on September 15, touch them in a special way and draw them to the safety and protection of her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.
I came to know Mary through prayer. My late mother instilled in me a devotion to prayer in the early years of my childhood.
It started with the “Gentle Jesus” night prayer which she taught me to pray, allowing me to add my own words at the end of the prayer as it flowed from the depths of my little heart. It shaped my relationship with Jesus and prayer.
By the time I was eight years old, I knew how to pray the Rosary. This too was the grooming of my late mother and my late catechist. The red rosary I received at my First Holy Communion was always around my neck. Little did I know that they had prepared me for battle.
One afternoon around 17:00 I was with my late dad, who at the time was the head electrician in the rural village where we lived. He was with the assistant electrician and I observed that there was some conflict escalating.
As I saw a violent tension building between them, I ran to the nearest building: a bucket toilet, the hallmark of the apartheid system. My little heart was pounding in my ears. I was scared. I had a strange feeling that something bad was about to happen.
Instantly I knew that I had to pray — pray to Mary with my little red rosary. I prayed one decade in the toilet, ignoring the smell of faeces, praying under great affliction and anguish, with childlike trust.
As I stepped out of the toilet, my dad was on his back as his colleague hovered over him with a heavy iron hammer, about to bring it down on my dad’s head. But in a split second it seemed as if the iron hammer was stuck in the air, unable to be moved by another.
My dad got up: unscathed. On that day Mary saved my father’s life. That day my eight-year-old self knew that I had witnessed a miracle: Mary’s miracle.
Sadly, by the time I was a twenty-something successful career woman in a painful relationship, my personal relationship with Mary was watered down. The reason: I simply stopped praying the Rosary. I claimed not having enough time for it.
I opted for simple daily prayer. The Rosary was something I prayed only during emergencies.
One such time was during my mom’s sudden hospitalisation: that evening we prayed the Rosary together. It would be the last time. She unexpectedly died the next morning.
The nurse told me that my mom looked at a particular area in the room as if she saw someone and said, “Jesus”. At that very moment she peacefully passed from this world to the next. I have no doubt that Mary’s intercession was at work here; my mom believed in praying the Rosary.
In my late twenties I lost my father. On his sickbed, this Methodist asked to see a Catholic priest. That day he converted to Catholicism. He died a week later. I see Mary’s hand in all of this.
My twenties were marked by success and professional achievement, but also by loss, pain and sorrow. Professionally I broke “the glass ceiling”. In my private life I lost my parents and I had to cut ties with the man in my life.
In my thirties I visited Medjugorje — out of guilt rather than devotion. I knew that I had neglected Mary while she had stayed true to me, all the time.
During this pilgrimage my relationship with Mary was restored. I encountered her in a very profound manner. I embraced her with childlike trust, surrendered my afflictions, my sorrow, my pain, hurts, wounds, aspirations and inspirations.
Twice I climbed Mount Krizevac (Cross Mountain) barefoot to do penance for myself, my relatives and my ancestors. I joined the 400 penitents who queued in a single day for confession as Mary led me to the sacrament of penance and reconciliation in Medjugorje. This confession was so different from all other confessions—it was a healing confession.
Two years after that visit, Our Lady answered a very important petition I presented for her intercession at the time. She answered it explicitly, leaving me with no doubts at all — she produced the evidence of a prayer answered.
I discovered Mary in all the instances of my life: she was always there, leading and guiding, even protecting me. I find great solace in the devotion to the Sorrowful Mother as my encounters with Mary started at a time of great affliction and anguish. Now my devotion to her is one of reparation and praise. I’m at peace in her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart — that is my space.
Women may go through different phases regarding their relationship with Mary. These phases are not always perfect—the relationship is not always perfect.
It is made “new” through the very intercession of Holy Mary. It is sustained by sincerity to develop a true devotion to Our Lady who is within us. She is within us because the Triune God lives in us. Where Jesus is, Mary is present too. Mary is within me — I walk with Mary in me.
Mary, mother of love, sorrow and mercy, pray for us.
Colleen Constable writes from Pretoria.
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