As I've transitioned from an evangelical Protestant background to the Roman Catholic Church, I've kept my eyes open for similarities and commonalities. There are, of course, the core beliefs that all Christians accept -- what C.S. Lewis once dubbed 'mere Christianity.' But I've noticed something else.
No matter the church, no matter the denomination or the beliefs, there is a single unfailing constant that you can expect to see in any Christian community. There will always be little old ladies, who sit in the back pews of the church and pray constantly. They don't attract a lot of attention, but they're there. I've known quite a few of them, and they are generally as idiosyncratic as the rest of us. But, in addition to being human, they are spiritual giants and living saints, always ready to offer prayers for others in the Church.
There are two reason I'm bringing this up. First, I bring it up because I think these ladies deserve some credit. I wouldn't wonder if the Church isn't as stable and vibrant as it is because of their prayers constantly strengthening the foundation.
The other reason I bring it up is because of the Virgin Mary. It turns out this was a really easy way for me as a Protestant to understand Mary's role in the Catholic Church.
Mary is the ultimate Little Old Lady of God. She's the mother of our Lord, mother to the Church, and she has seen it all. She's always ready with an encouraging word when we come to her in need. She tends to avoid the spotlight or the pulpit, and doesn't seek out attention for herself. When we ask for guidance she invariably points us God-ward. But there she sits, waiting patiently in the back pew, listening and praying. She's kind of awesome that way.
Of course, there are many other reasons why Catholics respect and venerate Mary. But this strikes me as a pretty solid beginning. The Church is built on the prayers of those little old ladies who sit in the back, that inconspicuous legion of unassuming saints. And Mary is first among them.
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