Our Lady and Me by Fr Michael Fitzgerald

Our Lady’s Day, the 8th of December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was a very special day for me growing up.  As a little boy, my own mother made a special dinner on this day.  This is my abiding memory.

The Rosary beads were never far from my mother. She loved Our Lady and I picked it up. I was blessed with a very affectionate and loving mother, there was a very strong bond between us. We recited the Rosary as a family. My mother always recited the Litany, but that was it, no more trimmings. Thank God! The Sacred Heart of Jesus picture, with lighted red lamp, took a prominent
place in our kitchen, along with John F and Jacqueline Kennedy, and Pope John, 23rd. There were also holy pictures in all the bed rooms.  I remember four of us boys sleeping in one room, there were nine of us children and my mother would tiptoe in late at night and sprinkle holy water on us. she had a lot of devotion to the holy water.

Growing up spiritually, Our Lady was the big feature for me, the Father, the Son and the  Holy Spirit had not yet arrived.  But looking back over many years now, I can see how Our Lady led me to experience and understand the Holy Trinity.   St. Therese, the little flower, once said “there is
no jealousy between Jesus and Mary” and that has been my experience. 

We had a Dominican priest in the seminary, who spoke about Our Lady with tears.  He  used often say never be afraid of giving too much devotion to Our Lady. He used to say nobody loved Mary more then God Himself. If you really love  your mother, would you tolerate her being insulted?   Fr Casey used to say we do not offend God by loving Mary but we honour Him who created her. That always made sense to me.

De Montforte’s teaching on consecration to Mary makes easy sense to me.  The Mother of Jesus is always pointing and drawing us to God. I love the story of Our Lady’s apparition at Guadalupe, in Mexico. When she appears to the fifty year old widower, Juan Diego, after she tells him she loves him, she asks him to go the Bishop and tell him she wanted a chapel built on the site.  At Knock she appeared at the Altar gable end of the church. Did she not say in her great prayer the Magnificat, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…..”.

Because of my childhood experiences, its natural for me to follow the apparitions of our Lady. Visiting Marian Apparition Sites has helped me enormously.  I recall one such pilgrimage in September 1985. I was finding resistance to preaching on the importance of prayer and I was wondering was I on the right track?  While back then the majority went to Mass in Ireland,
prayer was declining.  After my pilgrimage that September 1985 I felt affirmed about preaching the importance of prayer. The community fervour in prayer that I experienced  that September rid
me of all apologies and uncertainty about preaching too much about prayer. As a young priest back in 1985 I felt a wall of resistance to promoting more heartfelt prayer.  I also recall witnessing a priest
kneeling in front of the Blessed Sacrament and leading the people in adoration. It was an unforgettable experience. It was my first experience of that kind of fervent community prayer. It left a deep impact on me.

May the Immaculate Mary, conceived without sin, stay close to us all and bring us closer to Her beloved son Jesus.