The first time I remember praying the rosary as an adult was for a silly, vain intention. My wedding was approaching & I had my heart set on a beautiful, sunny day. My mother has always been close to the Blessed Virgin Mary & had given me a little fold-up card with the prayers and mysteries on it. She told me to pray with an intention and make it something big. That way, if God saw fit to deliver, I would know that my prayers were aided by the devotion.
I had only been back in the Church a couple of years at that point. Even though I hadn’t come to terms with Marian theology completely I decided to give the prayer a try. I was hesitant at best & terrified at worst. The other churches I went to taught that the Mother of Christ was no more special than anyone else in the Bible. That she was just a vessel, just an ordinary human woman who God had used to become man.
Her role in salvation history was down played & her place in daily life was non-existent. In fact, most of the feminine aspects of Christianity were repressed; Most especially Mary and the Church as Mother. There seemed to be no purpose for womankind apart from aiding men on their missions for God. It never felt quite right but, sadly I found comfort in this dethroning of the feminine genius.
For me, it was so much easier to seek Jesus. He was entirely unlike me in sinlessness, perfect love, even gender. But Mary was a woman too & the antithesis of the still broken parts of my own femininity. She changed the world through humility, patience & obedience. I was a prodigal daughter more akin to ruffling feathers & opening my big mouth without thinking first.
At the time I was working in a medical office & liked to break up the day by walking the trails around the building during lunch. One afternoon, I pulled my sweatshirt on & waved goodbye to my coworkers like I usually did. I reached for my keys in my pocket, but found something else: the rosary card.
I made my way outside and leaned against the cold, brick building with a puff of visible breath. I stared at the card, bending to the gentle push inside my soul. Before I took a step I prayed a little act of contrition. My heart still had some steep walls up. I was worried to offend my beloved Jesus by looking to someone else. I couldn’t imagine turning my attention away from him as if he wasn’t enough.
Yet, as I walked & read the mysteries I was relieved to find that the were all about Him. I said that first Hail Mary with hesitation but every lunch break that followed I walked & prayed. Soon I began looking forward to my midday strolls. That time in my life was so busy. I was engaged, working, going to school and raising my daughter. I had a lot of plates spinning & the assurance of the meditation was a respite of all the uncertainties I faced. With my heart beating, prayer flowing and breathing rhythmic, I worked out all my doubt. With Mary by my side and Jesus leading us both, I walked confidently toward my future.
It snowed into the Spring that year but, on our wedding day, April 18th, it was a perfect, sunny 70 degrees. The cantor sang Ave Maria.
What I learned about Mary was that she never led me away from her Son only closer to him than I ever thought possible (John 2:5), that Jesus meant what he said when he gave her to us at the foot of his cross (John 19:26) & that her humanity did not discount her but was used in a singular way to carry out an unrepeatable mission that was undeniably feminine (Luke 1:38).
I don’t regret the years that I spent just me and Jesus but I couldn’t grieve what I didn’t realize was missing. The rejection of spiritual Motherhood left me without the guidance I could have used as a young believer. It divorced me from the sibling-like intercession of the Saints. It made turning back to the Church as Mother a process of its own. I knew she was there to dole out discipline like any good Mama must at times, but also found that this home of our souls also nurtures, aids and hold space for people just as God created femininity to do.
When I stopped avoiding the feminine parts of my own divinity I grew empowered and found a greater peace with my identity as a daughter & woman of God. I began to see my worth & dignity in a whole new way. I wasn’t just some after thought, or default of man. No. I was a woman. Set aside, created for a purpose only I could fulfill.
As years have gone on, I’ve learned & grown so much. My rosary prayers are no longer vain & silly but confident & powerful. It’s where I go to recenter, find comfort & gather strength. I know now that Mary’s stark contrast to me was never meant for shame. She stands out because God, in his goodness and mercy, set her apart for us. He gave us the gift of a perfect Mother. A sinless woman. A new Eve. She’s the Mother of our King, Undoer of our Knots, Our Mystical Rose & My missing puzzle piece.