Have Faith: Hocus-pocus or faith?

Sometimes there is comfort in believing.

Statue of Mary at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse, N.Y. — Mark Klenz

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary lately, as in the mother of Jesus. Maybe because Christmas is looming. Over the years I’ve heard things like “Other Christian traditions don’t hold Mary in as high regard as Catholics do” or “Why does the church put Mary so high on a pedestal?” I think some of that might be based on the idea that people of any faith shouldn’t regard Mary above Jesus or God, and that wouldn’t be correct. So many rules, edicts, and proclamations to think about.

When I think of Mary, I don’t think about where she is in the heavenly hierarchy, I just think of her as a divine Mother, the mother of Jesus but also a mother that the rest of us can learn from and love.

There is so much to study regarding the Bible, Quran, Torah, and other holy books. They share similarities and definite differences, and think of the millions, likely billions over the centuries, of people who made studying those writings a life’s work.

We’re very good at arguing about which ideas are true or which concepts are best in those books, of course ready to express our own reasons for believing the book that we believe according to the value we place on our personal religious faith. Depending upon which holy book you reference, Mary is the Queen of Heaven or an ordinary Jewish mother living centuries ago in Jerusalem. Most holy books regard her as an exceptional person, whether she happens to be the mother of a prophet who had other children besides Jesus or the Blessed Mother spared from sin and chosen by God to bear Jesus, eventually taken up to heaven body and soul to be with her Son. Oh, I know that last bit sounds pretty crazy. But, if you’re a Christian and, though I don’t know it as fact, other traditions might agree with me that with God, absolutely anything is possible. Look at all He’s done and then that chaste and pure version of Mary giving birth to God’s only begotten son doesn’t seem so far fetched. Moses parted the sea. Jesus healed the lame. Muhammad had the gift of prophecy. I don’t believe in unicorns but I do believe in miracles. Like I said before, so much to study.

Anyway, back to Mary. She is also the one who has “appeared” to humans over the years, usually with divine messages from her son. I can’t help but think that she’s sort of the workhorse up in heaven, the one who gets things done. The one God sends most often to do His work on earth. Women do tend to get things done.

The photo with this column is one from the Diocese of Syracuse, taken by an old friend. I used to go to this life-size statue of Mary almost every day when I worked nearby. I just loved to be close to it. That bronze statue is probably the thing I miss most about living in Syracuse. I know, it’s just a likeness. Even Pope Francis brought up a few years ago that we ought to venerate the living Mary in the Gospels, the one who believed in God “always and everywhere,” not statues to go to when we need a favor. I have to disagree with him a little on this point.

That statue of Mary, sitting with her arms open, represented her willingness to listen, the gift of her love for me and for the rest of her children on earth. That statue more than any other makes me feel close to Mary, makes me feel like she’s my mother too. Someone I can go to for advice and for gratitude. I was known within a small circle of friends as someone who could go to Mary for them, laying their prayers into those open hands. I went all the time with different questions or petitions, and I kept going back because I would almost always feel some kind of clarity or some kind of resolution. I know, hocus-pocus. And I realize worshipping statues probably isn’t going to get me very far following any religion’s book of dos and don’ts.

All I know is that going to that statue of Mary brought me solace when I was hurting, joy when I needed it, and an undeniable feeling of love and gratitude, even though it was just a statue. I miss those feelings and I try often to experience them in the here and now. Sometimes I’m still successful.

If you have a topic, idea, or news for Have Faith, send it to connie@mvtimes.com.