Charlene Rack shares the “baby steps” on her journey to embracing the Blessed Mother and praying a daily Rosary.
My transition to embrace the full richness of the Catholic faith has been a slow and arduous one (and I’m still working on it!). The atmosphere of the Catholic Church in the mid-80s, at the time of my conversion, was a little … relaxed, shall we say? There was a Sister of Charity at the church we attended, and I asked her about devotion to Mary and the praying of the Rosary. This was a concept that I was struggling with, thanks to growing up with an anti-Catholic pastor at my childhood church, who preached often on the “strange and non-Biblical” habits of Catholics.
“Oh,” said the Sister, regarding my concern, “Don’t worry about that! We Catholics have spent way too much time focusing on Mary and the saints, as opposed to the Bible, and social justice. We’re backing away from that Marian focus now.”
Yes, I came into the Church when the pendulum swing was on its highest point in the “over-reactive” direction. The Blessed Mother, the saints, the time-honored prayers of the faithful … in our particular environment, we barely heard about these facets of the faith. My thoughts on that at the time were (sadly enough), “Wow, this makes my conversion so much easier. I can just ignore all that extra stuff.”
My husband, who was raised Catholic but poorly catechized, fell in step with me. Don’t get me wrong: we were very involved in the Church, giving it our all. We both attended a “Christ Renews His Parish” retreat shortly after my conversion. We were at Mass every Sunday, often more than once. My husband played music in guitar groups at four different churches, and I was a regular reader at three of them. We were growing stronger in our faith, but by and large, we were not led out into the vast depths of Catholic teaching, which were teeming with a diversity of faith traditions that I couldn’t see.
In my Baptist Church, we never once discussed Genesis 4:15, regarding “the woman” and “the serpent,” and I didn’t have enough understanding to ask about it. It took a Catholic Bible study to open my eyes to this passage, and the meaning of it. It doesn’t get any more Biblical than that!
I also had never heard about Queen Esther being a “type” of Mary. I always loved the story of Queen Esther, but I only learned this about her quite recently, in St. Alphonsis Liguori’s book, The Glories of Mary (a rich and illuminating book that I highly recommend!).
In that same book, I also learned about the reference in Luke 2:7, where “she gave birth to her firstborn Son.” I had been taught, as a child, that Mary had other children, but now I know that Jesus is called her firstborn because, as Abbot St. William says, “Mary, in bringing forth Jesus …, brought forth many unto salvation.” As she bore the bitter sorrow of her Son suffering and dying on the cross, “she became the Spiritual Mother of all who are members of the one Head, Jesus Christ.” (The Glories of Mary)
In my own faith journey, the scales began to fall from my eyes when we had our first child. I had spread my wings, read more about Catholic theology, and slowly my personal pendulum swing moved closer to middle ground. By the time our third daughter joined us, my husband and I were more than ready to explore that deeper faith life, taking advantage of all that Catholic Tradition has to offer. We were spending more time with friends who regularly prayed the Rosary, and that impacted our faith. It’s been a long, slow process, getting to where we are today, but I’ve always said that God was gentle with me, allowing me to grow by “baby steps,” because He knew that I travel best that way!
Over the past thirty-six years, our faith and understanding have widened to encompass the expanse of Church teaching, especially those concerning Mary. If you walk in our front door, the first thing you’ll notice is our Marian home shrine. My husband and I are finally (after many years of “fits and starts), committed to praying a daily Rosary together (and reaping grace-filled benefits!).
I’ve come to understand the beauty, sacrifice, compassion, and unassuming power of Our Blessed Mother. We are so blessed to call her Mother, while Jesus Christ, her Firstborn, is our brother, and each one of us may confidently cry out (in the words of St. Anselm) “O happy confidence! O safe refuge! How firm should be our confidence, since our salvation depends on the judgment of a good Brother and a tender Mother!” Who wouldn’t proffer an ardent love for a Mother like that?!
Look for a new Rosary Story each day throughout October, and use the hashtag #myrosarystory to share yours on social media!
Copyright 2020 Charlene Rack
Image copyright 2020 Charlene Rack
About the Author
Charlene Rack grew up in the "heartland," moved south to Cincinnati, married a Catholic man, converted to Catholicism, and had three children. Along the way, she's planned many mission trips, youth groups, and pilgrimages to the March for life for teens and young adults - all carried out with her goofy sense of humor and her enthusiastic sense of adventure. Read her blog at Grandma’s Coffee Soup.