Earlier this week I took my one-year old on a walk. We live just a short drive away from Notre Dame and so we often pack the stroller in the car and go on a little adventure at Mary’s University. One thing I love about walking there is how often we “run into” Mary.

Case in point: on Tuesday we were taking a walk around one of the lakes and I noticed, for the first time, a statue of Mary in a little clearing not far off the path. Deciding to turn our power-walk into a little pilgrimage, I stopped and pulled Lucy out of the stroller and we made our way up the small incline, approaching the statue from behind. As we circled around the statue, and Lucy caught sight of Mary’s outstretched hands, her face lit up with a huge grin and she started wiggling out of my arms, desperate to get down and run to Mary. All she wanted was to give her a kiss.

Later on we stopped at the Grotto, kneeling near the statue of Bernadette looking up to Mary. Lucy couldn’t contain her excitement, pointing up at the Blessed Mother, folding her hands and praying with her sweet baby babbles. Still later we made our way up the hill to the basilica and spent time in the church looking for Jesus and His Mommy. And at the end, making our way back to the car, waving to Mary atop the golden dome.

It was intended to be a short walk, but it turned into a pilgrimage. And in spite of all the hushing and wrangling and chasing after that was involved, it was one of the best hours of prayer I’ve had in a long time.

From the beginning, making our home into a little church has always been our goal. Even before we brought Lucy home, my husband and I we were making plans for how we would teach our her to pray and how to love God. What we didn’t expect was that, more often than not, she would be the teacher.

When we are in a rush to get through dinner and forget our mealtime prayer, Lucy sits in her high chair, making the sign of the cross (really, just tapping her shoulder over and over, but it counts, right?) and folding her hands, reminding us to give thanks. When we forget to sing our hymn to Mary at the end of the night, she lays in her crib singing to herself. When we are distracted during Mass she calls our attention to the altar by waving at Jesus in the Eucharist. And when we’ve forgotten just how real our love for Jesus and Mary ought to be, she is there begging to offer them a kiss.

She is one. She doesn’t know yet the story of our Salvation; she’s never heard of the Marian doctrines or discussed at length Mary as mediatrix and co-redemptrix. She doesn’t know the feasts, the apparitions, and the prayers. But she doesn’t have to. She knows that Mary is special and that we love her. So she shows it.

Before Lucy, I couldn’t tell you the last time I kissed Mary’s cheek, or reached out to touch her hand. I didn’t always notice her statues. I didn’t always carry a rosary with me, nor did I mark the passing of each day with Marian devotions. But now I do. And my love for Mary is flourishing and deepening, and with it, greater love for her Son.

How have your children deepened your devotion? And how are you growing in child-like love for Jesus and Mary this month?

Copyright 2014, Megan Swaim