By Fr. Timothy Ploch, SDB
St. Paul says, “when I was a child I spoke like a child” (1 Cor. 13:11). Well, when I was a child, I built like a child. Yes, I was a builder. I used to build Nativity scenes from abandoned crates my father would bring home from the farm. And in May I would build a shrine to Our Blessed Mother Mary from the same old crates.
I say I built like a child. Those Nativity scenes and Mary shrines were simple, showing no promise of a blossoming carpenter, the Nativity scenes painted brown and the shrines blue. My mother always placed them on the mantelpiece for all to see. They were my attempt to show my love for Mary, under the title “Help of Christians,” of course. My mother was raised by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, after all.
“When I became a man,” St. Paul continues, “I gave up childish ways.” Well, I no longer build shrines to Mary, and I´m not sure if doing that wasn’t more childlike than childish. As a grown man, I want a childlike devotion to Mary. I want to see myself as the beloved disciple at the foot of the cross to whom Jesus says, “there is your mother.” And I want to, like the beloved disciple, take Her into my home. Not like a wooden shrine on the mantelpiece, but as a loving mother, a mother to go, to talk over things with.
In practice, it means imitating Her in real-time, especially Her faith, Her hope, and Her love. She believed, and the Word of God took flesh in Her womb. She hoped against all hope, and Her risen Son removed the sword that pierced Her heart. She loved, she visited Elizabeth to accompany Her, she cared about the embarrassing problem of the Cana newlyweds, and so Jesus began his ministry among us.
My devotion to Mary, while remaining childlike in affection, needs to mature into practical imitation. I need to strengthen my faith when God asks me to accept what I had not planned for, like Mary did at the Annunciation. I need to deepen my hope when so much worries me and I don´t quite understand, like Mary had to do so often. I need to spread my love to all around me, like Mary did in Cana and in the upper room.
I think that´s the best shrine I can build to Our Lady.