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A place in the heart for the Blessed Mother

I am not exactly sure how it happened, but it dawned on me a few months ago that our family does not have an image of Mary hanging up in our house. We have saint statues, a crucifix and multiple crosses, but no image of the Blessed Mother. When my wife asked what I would like for Christmas, the glaring absence came to mind and became my request.
While I thought it was a simple ask, it soon became a more complicated task. An image of Mary in our house required further information. Once it was determined that artwork would be preferable to a statue, the next determination was which image would grace our home.
We are blessed with a bountiful number of titles and images of Mary. There are the traditional images, like Our Lady of Guadalupe, which hangs in the hallway of our education offices. There are more modern images, like “Visitation” by local artist Stephanie Morris, which can be found in the Marian Center at St. Ignatius Parish in Mobile. There are unique images, like one I saw recently of the Blessed Mother consoling Eve by Sr. Grace Remington, OCSO; there are several moving details in this crayon and pencil drawing, but one of my favorites is that Mary is stepping on the head of the serpent, which is wrapped around Eve’s feet.
Those that know me well know that I am often reticent to make decisions when presented with numerous options. So when presented with these further questions to specify which image of Mary, I could not make up my mind and told my wife that I trusted her judgment and decision.
Thankfully, Advent and Christmas bring many opportunities to contemplate our Blessed Mother, her role in salvation history and our relationship with her. Beyond the carols and the nativity sets, we have an opportunity to stop and reflect that an unwed, young woman was asked to be the mother of her savior … and she said yes.
Pope Francis, in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Christus Vivit,” writes, “In the heart of the Church, Mary shines forth. She is the supreme model for a youthful Church that seeks to follow Christ with enthusiasm and docility. While still very young, she accepted the message of the angel, yet she was not afraid to ask questions. With open heart and soul, she replied, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.’ ” (CV 43)
As Catholics, we do not worship Mary, despite the beliefs of many non-Catholics as to what we as Catholics believe. We honor and revere her, and we know that this is a major distinction.
It was never a question of if we should add an image of Mary to our house, but which image and which title would become the addition. Why? She is our mother, too. Her “yes,” her fiat, changed the course of our lives, and when passing on the deposit of faith, we look to Mary as the example and model of what it means to say “yes” to God and to follow her son, Jesus Christ. It is important to have a picture of your mother in your home.
Especially during these seasons of Advent and Christmas, we look to Mary as our model of holiness, of what it means to wait for a savior, and of preparing our hearts for Jesus to enter into our lives. While young people look to celebrities or social media personalities, the Holy Father encourages us to look to Mary: “She took the risk, and for this reason, she is strong, she is an ‘influencer’, the ‘influencer’ of God. Her ‘yes’ and her desire to serve were stronger than any doubts or difficulties.” (CV 44)
Our mother is revered across cultures and races. A great blessing for me each year is to bring our young people and their adult chaperones to Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life, and an important part of our pilgrimage is time to visit and to pray in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This church belongs to all of us that are Catholic and American, as it is the largest Catholic Church in the United States. In the Basilica, there are dozens of smaller chapels, all dedicated to different titles of Mary. Whether your family ancestry is African, English, Italian, French, Polish or Hispanic, there is a title for Mary and a chapel in the Basilica for that title.
As we journey toward Bethlehem this Advent and Christmas seasons, we walk with the Blessed Mother. We look to Mary as the model of youthful enthusiasm, going “with haste” to her family member in need and sacrificing her time to prepare for her own pregnancy. We look to Mary as a light to our efforts to protect human dignity at all stages, especially unexpected pregnancies. We look to Mary when we feel alone, isolated, or left out in the cold.
Just as Mary held the newborn King of Kings, she held Jesus after His body was removed from the crucifix on Calvary. Mary is with us in the good times and the bad, and she points us to her son that is also with us in our joys and sorrows. We are encouraged to hold Jesus close to our hearts – in the joy of new life at the nativity, and in the sorrow of His passion and death.
At the end of the day, it will not matter much which title or image of Mary will be hung in our home. More importantly, the Blessed Mother has a special place in the home of my heart and our family. We love our Mother, whether her picture is framed or not.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
— Adam Ganucheau is the Director of the Office of Youth Ministry for the Archdiocese of Mobile. He may be emailed at aganucheau@mobarch.org
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