ON MARY: ANSWERING AN INVITATION

May Alter: Honoring Mary so alive in all of our hearts!

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

At the very beginning of the beautiful month of May I received an invitation I couldn’t refuse. A friend invited personal reflections on Mary, the Mother of Jesus, during this traditional month of celebration, reflection and special devotion to her.

Being raised in another faith tradition didn’t stop me from celebrating the month of May in a special way. Growing up in an ethnic neighborhood in Chicago was an entre for me to do so. Ours was one of two Protestant families on the block and all but one of my grade school friends were Catholics. Each year the month of May would come and the preparations for May altars began. I’m sure little girls all over the world make sure their bedrooms are extra neat and their dressers cleared off for the special little altar that will be a temporary home for Mary.

Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Sr. Suzanne

“Several times during the month my Catholic friends (and the other Presbyterian girl) and I would stand in front of my dresser and sing Immaculate Mary and during those years I learned the Hail Mary by heart.  What was missing, of course, was a statue or depiction of Mary. But that didn’t seem to matter to my friends. Mary was somehow present in our gathering as little women.”

My bedroom was no exception. My mother had the best flowers of all the mom’s in the neighborhood so, of course, we would have the May altar in my bedroom.  Great- Grandma’s hand-crocheted doilies were carefully arranged on top of the dresser and the special vases that I had purchased with my allowance came out of the bottom drawer for the occasion. I helped Mom choose some particularly gorgeous blossoms and arranged the little nosegays just so….

Several times during the month my Catholic friends (and the other Presbyterian girl) and I would stand in front of my dresser and sing Immaculate Mary and during those years I learned the Hail Mary by heart.  What was missing, of course, was a statue or depiction of Mary. But that didn’t seem to matter to my friends. Mary was somehow present in our gathering as little women.

Years later, while taking instructions to become Catholic, I had the opportunity to ask my priest-catechist ‘any question’ I might have about the faith. A somewhat lengthy discussion on praying ‘to’ (my word) Mary and the Saints followed. This wise man asked me if I ever asked my deceased Grandmother or other relatives for help with a particular situation in my life. Of course I did! (not only asked; but I counted on them!)

I still have my May altar. There will be a flower or two. They will never be as lovely as my mother’s and I might hum a few lines of Immaculate Mary. And I still have the sense of being united with my friends and others, honoring, not a statue or picture but the Mary who is so alive in all of our hearts and the memories of my now deceased Mom, Grandma and Great-Grandmother who are always present in my spirit.

May: A Month Celebrating Mary!

Our Lady of Guadalupe by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS

"Our Lady of Guadalupe" by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

It’s May, friends! A month during the liturgical year when Catholics devote time to our Blessed Mother. I’m pausing today to think about the various ways I do this, and considering ways that I might grow in my prayer and devotion to Mary. Perhaps some of this will resonate with you?

I started my day driving across town in traffic that had me honking — within four blocks of my St. Paul residence – after being cut off in my lane, en route to the Monastery. Immediately, I heard: “Time to pray.” Without much thought, I began a decade of Hail Mary’s that brought a calm to my angered spirit. I found myself smiling, eased up on the gas pedal, and released my grip on the wheel as the words, “Full of grace, the Lord is with thee” went through my mind and heart.

As a pre-teen and adolescent growing up in northeast Nebraska, Mary made few appearances in my prayer life. It was at my friend Jeanne Pfiefer’s house, however, that the rosary became part of my spiritual consciousness. Following meal times at Bud and Alice’s house, where their combined brood numbered ten, we were invited to clear dishes and then return to the table, where our litany of Hail Mary’s began. I remember being 14 and thinking, “Huh. This doesn’t happen at my house.” Jeanne seemed a little pink in the face the first time I was invited to join in the prayer, (an apologetic or self-conscious peer?); but I reveled in the experience. I loved sitting at the table with the Pfiefer-Ramaekers clan and being included in this holy ritual that seemed to anchor their family. It was an “out of the ordinary” thing for me, and I marveled at how Bud and Alice lead their choir of children in this manner.

It would be 16 years later before those rosary experiences would come home to me again and inspire my faith life and thinking in a new way. At the untimely death of Jeanne’s parents, I heard her older brother bring up this rosary ritual during the eulogy of Bud and Alice.

Oldest living son Terry Pfiefer recalled the story, asking his step-father why he and his mother insisted on this after-dinner prayer each night. “Why do we pray to Mary?” he asked.

Bud responded, “Well, think of when you want something really badly. Do you come to me first, or go ask your mom?”

Terry laughed, “Right.”

Bud continued, “It’s not that much different in my mind with God. When we want something in prayer, or really need help, we can go to our mother, Mary, and ask her to intercede on our behalf.”

That explanation has stayed with me ever since.

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  • I wonder, what Marion prayers are part of your faith life?
  • How does the rosary inspire or inform your spiritual routines?
  • Who else likes to pray the rosary in traffic or while they are in tense spots?
  • I wonder if the Vis Sisters might list  all the Mary-directed prayers that are part of their office?

During this month of May, I am striving to tune in and engage Mary more in my heart and mind. Will you join me in this intentional manner of prayer?

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Resource Links:

How to pray the rosary

Marian Prayers (EWTN)