If you’ve ever struggled in your relationship with Mary, you’re not alone.
There have been many times when my peers would pour over their love for Mary, “Mama” Mary, and I simply could not relate. There may be many reasons for this, beginning with having brokenness in my relationships with my mother and grandmother at times.
Thankfully, I’ve realized that the virgin who bore the Savior of the world is God’s perfect human creature and without sin. Thus, she is incapable of hurting me in any way and it’s at least worth trying to trust her as my mother.
It wasn’t until about six years ago where I started to notice Mary’s special presence in my life (she was clearly ever-present before that, but I was clueless to it!).
I began to have recurring dreams where I experienced being pregnant and giving birth. In the last of these dreams, I also felt an absolute freedom and peace, which was then followed by a mysterious vision. I came to a scene with a woman (who I believed was Mary) near a body of water and a big rock. Seconds after beholding this scene, the woman’s eyes opened, and they were a bright, bold blue. When they opened, and I looked into them, I felt pierced, terrified, in awe. I immediately awoke. And I knew something was up.
I was going through some despair during this time in my life. I was so busy, had a deep restlessness, and eventually came to a point where I believed God was trying to get my attention. After seeking spiritual counsel where I shared my struggles and the dreams, I was offered wisdom that hit the nail on its head: “It sounds like God is trying to give birth to new life in you, but you are resisting it, trying to stop it.”
When I heard this idea, I knew it had to be true. I was wrestling with something, and it was deep within me. To cope with this wrestling, I tried to distract myself by being extra busy. I volunteered in youth ministry, volunteered for my church’s evangelization committee, served as a leader on a diocesan-wide pastoral council, danced salsa many nights a week, all the while maintaining a full-time job. No wonder I was a big hot mess!
The wrestling I was experiencing deep within me had to be God rocking the boat of my soul. Things were disordered, and He was shaking me up to get my attention—it was time for some hard change.
A few years prior, I began to meet with a couple involved in a prayer healing ministry at church. After a few challenging sessions of facing some of my personal demons, I fled the scene (lol). I knew that this was work I needed, but I wasn’t ready at that time. Fast forward to the new stormy sea I found myself in, and I knew I needed to open up some of those closed doors again.
I made a deal with the Lord. I said, “Okay, God. If you want me to go back to healing prayer, you have to show me. Show me how, when, and with whom.” And I gave God a deadline – literally! On my Microsoft Outlook Calendar!
I assumed that if God did show me, I might go back to that original married couple for prayer because I liked them and believed God could use them to help me. So, I created a calendar deadline, deciding that if by this date God didn’t show me that I was supposed to go back to that couple for healing prayer, I was going to drop the idea.
And then, this happened.
I was at work on one weekday in March of 2014. I noticed that I received an invitation for a new connection on LinkedIn. The invitation came from the wife of the couple I thought I might go back to healing prayer for. Later in the afternoon at work, I looked at my daily calendar. Lo and behold, that day was the deadline I’d given God to show me if I needed to go back to receive healing prayer and whom I should do it with!
God showed up. And with a big dose of humor. Not only did He answer my prayer in the exact way I needed Him to – He answered it on the very day of the deadline I’d given Him – and He allowed me to clearly see it and make the connection!
God is so funny and so GOOD.
Why am I sharing this little story since we’re talking about Mary? Well, it was my belief that Mary appeared in my dream boldly and terrifyingly that made me think God was calling me to something – so Mary must have a big deal to do with it.
Between these events and now, I have prayed with this Godsend of a married couple many times, and God has used them in miraculous ways to help me open myself up to that new heart He wants to give me.
Since that last dream in 2014, I’d often wondered if that vision of Mary could have been Our Lady of Lourdes. The woman wore a mantle, had piercing, blue eyes, was in or over a body of water, and near a big rock (if you don’t know a lot about Our Lady of Lourdes, here is a place to learn the basics).
Mantle, blue eyes, water, rock – that sounds a lot like a grotto, a spring of water, and a lady dressed in white with blue eyes, doesn’t it? Maybe like the “lady” that appeared in Lourdes, France, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.
Again, these were ideas I toyed with now and then. It wasn’t until one day last year that someone posted the most beautiful picture of Mary in my Facebook news feed that I felt more confident I knew who this woman was.
In this image, Mary was clothed in a white mantle, with a blue sash, and beautiful blue eyes. She was hovering over the sea. I googled Our Lady of Lourdes, and it was a close depiction of her. At that moment, I knew that the woman in my news feed was the same woman I’d seen in my dreams.
When I made this connection, I was struggling in life, professionally and personally. I needed help and divine intervention.
It’s true that Heaven always knows what we need and how to give it.
After I made the connection with Our Lady of Lourdes years before, I wondered if I needed to reach out to her more since I was struggling so much at that time. I didn’t know what to do about work and had other big, personal decisions to make.
I started to ask Our Lady of Lourdes to help me. I had decided to quit my job but didn’t quite know what I would do after. A few weeks later, on a Saturday morning, I was in deep prayer. Telling God that I surrender my life to Him. I was praying to Our Lady of Lourdes, asking whether I should make a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France. I kept repeating prayers, heartfully, again and again, “Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for me. Mary, show me the way. Our Lady of Lourdes, please show me if I should go to Lourdes. Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for me. Lourdes, Lourdes, Lourdes. Pray for Me.”
Then, this happened.
Right smack in the middle of this prayer, my phone rang. It was my mom. This is the conversation that followed:
She said, “I just have one word for you. Lourdes…You should go to Lourdes.”
I sat still for a moment and then responded, “What did you say?”
“Why don’t you go to Lourdes?” was her response.
I was dumbfounded. I had never shared with my mom that I believed the Mary in my dreams to be Our Lady of Lourdes.
She was at home, watching a TV live stream of an event happening across the world at the grotto in Lourdes, France. Of the many religious pilgrimages my mom has gone on, Lourdes has always been her favorite, and she always wanted me to go.
Here was my very clear nudge. I knew that Heaven had intervened through this non-coincidence, and I needed to pay attention.
It was time to start packing for Lourdes.
Remember, though, that I was still not in one of those “head over heels” in love with Mary spots. I believed Mary was calling me and very present in my life, but I still struggled with feeling as though she was a real mother to me.
She would change all of that, of course.
A few weeks later, I had booked my ticket. The tumultuous year that I had been experiencing was taking a shift. I quit my job, had an immediate trip to Lourdes planned for right after, and upon my return, would then embark on a 30-day Ignatian silent retreat in the hills of Colorado.
I was so excited for the adventure and all it would hold for me.
It wasn’t until some weeks later that I realized the significance of important dates coming up for me. This is what my traveling and journeying schedule looked like from August – October:
August 13, Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners – depart for Paris, France
August 15, Feast of the Assumption of Mary – first Day in Lourdes, France
August 22nd, Celebration of the Queenship Mary – return to the U.S.
September 12th, Celebration of the Most Holy Name of Mary – depart for Colorado to begin my retreat
October 13th, Anniversary of the Miracle of Fatima – last day of my retreat
When I reflected on these dates, I knew that Mary was with me and had been leading me. I knew that she was participating in my journey, nudging and helping me along the way.
Lourdes was a wonderful place that held beautiful moments. I was drawn to the grotto, and I never wanted to leave. Mary’s presence there felt strong, loving, and protective. I realized she had brought me there so that I would open my heart more to her, and that that in opening up my heart more fully to hear, I would open it up more fully to her Son.
I’ve dwelled again and again on how, despite my lack of fervent devotion to Mary in the past, Mary has always been devoted to me. As Catholics, we believe that Mary is the Mediatrix of all grace, that grace ultimately comes from God, but that God allows Mary to distribute all that grace.
So – the countless blessings in my life, the goodness, all of which I’m grateful for – this mother that I am now growing in relationship with is the person who laid it at my feet! This is why Mary amazes me. I’m amazed by her love for me, her devotion, and her tireless efforts to lead me on a path that leads closer towards her Son and His will for my life. I am so grateful to call her mother.
Thank you, Mary, for being a faithful, beautiful mother who never gives up on me.