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"The cornerstone of my faith life" by Allison Gingras (CatholicMom.com) Image credit: Pixabay.com (2013), CC0/PD[/caption] Spiritual reading is the cornerstone of my faith life. Although I considered myself Catholic all my life, there did exist a long time I turned away from the Church. My return came after being invited to a bible study/book club in 2005. Spiritual reading has kept me growing in my faith ever since. You will never find me, without a Catholic non-fiction book either on my nightstand, in my hands, or on my Kindle. We live in a fantastic time of Catholic publishers, providing us with solid, faith-growing, engaging spiritual reading. My latest read, Our Lady of Charity: How a Cuban Devotion to Mary Helped Me Grow in Faith and Love, by Maria Morera Johnson, inspired so many poignant lessons, I had to bless them forward. Here are some I thought you'd be inspired by too: Maria writes of the three men caught in a terrible storm in Cuba that led to the discovery of the Our Lady of Charity statue, "They turned to the Blessed Virgin Mary in their anguish and fear, begging for her intercession." My big takeaway here? Realizing I'm not the only one who gets caught in terrible storms in my life and needs to beg for Mary's intercession. "Perhaps the loveliest characteristic of Our Lady of Charity is that she teaches us about Jesus with her presence." I began praying the Rosary with more consistency after reading that St. John Paul II Refers to the rosary as the School of Mary. As a homeschool mom, I could relate to being taught by a mother. If my end goal is to know Jesus better, there seemed no better teacher than his mother. That lesson, further reinforced, by this statement, Maria shares about devotion to the Blessed Mother. "Mary always points to Jesus. A friend once told me that people with deep Marian devotion are of two types. For some, their love of Jesus Christ opened their eyes to the love of the Blessed Mother. For others, their strong devotion to Mary led them straight to Jesus." To me, it makes no difference how we come to align ourselves with Mary, but that we do. Some may first need to recognize that honoring her takes nothing away from Jesus -- instead, it will always lead us closer to Him. Jesus, as a model of faith, honored His mother; why would we not do the very same? He learned from her as a child; again, why would we not do the same as her children in faith? "To encounter the Blessed Virgin Mary is to encounter Christ, after all." One thing I've discovered since my "reversion": Once you have encountered Jesus, even in the most minute situations, you are never the same again. To continue to seek these encounters, and to do so through the intercession of the one who knew Him best, seems an excellent faith practice. "I could see their pride in their workmanship — not a boastful pride in their skill but rather a sweet humility in giving 100% of their craft to Cachita. What a gift to work with such joy!" This summation of Maria's discussion with the craftsmen constructing the church dedicated to Our Lady of Charity surprised me with its simple lesson of humility. It caused me to take a solid look at my own goals for my work, particularly since I work in ministry. Do I work with joy and with sweet humility as I labor to share the beauty and wonder of the Catholic faith with others? "1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 doesn't mean we are to be praying without stopping in a literal sense, but rather, that we pray throughout our day, making the Lord present to us in each moment." How do I heed Saint Paul's exhortation to pray without ceasing? As I read on in this chapter, Maria mentioned that it's done in small ways. I love that concept. I can pray with my actions, perhaps while doing the dishes, especially without grumbling. Prayer can be calling my mother when my schedule is overflowing. Even at work, prayer can take the form of offering my daily tasks to the Lord. It reminded me of Catholic author Matthew Kelly's story of how he writes a very small JMJ [Jesus, Mary, Joseph] in the corner of his work to remind him that all he does is a prayer and for the glory of God. "If I had a spare 20 minutes in my day, I certainly wasn't going to spend it in prayer. That is precisely why this was the best time to pick up this devotion. Praying the rosary, especially with the guides that are available for us online as we learn to maneuver through the prayers and meditations, is fairly simple." As a woman with AD/HD, sometimes the idea of sustained mental prayer for 20 minutes seems overwhelming. I've even considered praying of the Rosary boring early in my faith journey. However, when I overcome the idea the Rosary will take much of my valuable time, I find those 20 minutes to be the most fruitful and inspired of my entire day — and never, ever boring! "The image of Mary handing Jesus to me is one that I pray with often. Perhaps this scenario comes to mind because of years of seeing images of Our Lady of Charity all around me. She holds a happy Jesus facing me with his arms outstretched, and my maternal sensibilities want to take the infant into the safety of my arms. He's precious. Lovable. Vulnerable. But is there anything more vulnerable than our Savior hanging on the Cross? I cannot receive the Babe in Mary's outstretched left arm, the Incarnation of the Word, without also taking the cross of salvation that she holds in her right hand. She brings us love. Our Lady of Charity, pray for us." That lesson stands all on its own.
Copyright 2019 Allison Gingras