Virgin-Haunted World

One of the most frequent accusations of “idolatry” I heard as a child was leveled at Roman Catholic devotion to the virgin Mary.  Lessons learned during childhood are difficult to displace, especially when they concern your eternal destination.  I overcame this particular objection, a bit, during my sojourn among the Episcopalians, but I have to confess I never felt right praying to Mary.  In my Protestant-steeped mind, there were two classes of entities involved: gods (of which, properly, there was only one) and human beings.  Only the former received prayers.  The rest of us simply had to contend with non-supernatural powers and do the best we could.  Still, I met many believers devoted to Mary, and honestly, some accounts of Marian apparitions are pretty impressive.

A local source for inexpensive advertising in our area is essentially a weekly set of want ads.  For a small fee you can advertise just about anything you want to buy or have to sell.  Spiritual or physical.  A few weeks ago, someone ran a magnanimous piece on a prayer to the virgin never known to fail.  The words of the prayer were printed, along with the instructions, for nothing is quite as simple as “ask and you shall receive.”  The prayer must be recited thrice, and thanksgiving publicly proclaimed.  A number of questions occurred to me, regarding not only this, but all prayers for divine action.  One is the rather simple query of how you can know if a prayer has never failed.  I suspect this is known by faith alone.

There are any number of things most of us would like to change about our lives, and the larger issue of prayer is the daisy-chaining of causality.  One change causes another, causes another, and often that for which we pray will impact another person in a negative way.  This is the classic “contradictory prayer” conundrum—one person prays for sunny skies while another prays for rain.  Neither is evil, both have their reasons, perhaps equally important.  (The weekday is a workday for many, and that’s non-negotiable in a capitalist society, so I suspect prayers for sunny skies tend to be weekend prayers, but still…)  The prayer never known to fail is either a rock or a hard place.  It’s that certitude that does it.  I don’t begrudge anyone a prayer that works.  Faith alone can test the results.  And although we could use a little less rain around here, we could all benefit from a little more faith, I suspect.  And for that there’s no fee.

2 thoughts on “Virgin-Haunted World

  1. Jeremiah Andrews

    Hey Steve,
    It has been said, and I believe, that if you cannot get through to Jesus, directly, then you use the back door prayers … Prayers to Mary. Really, if you want anything of substance done, you must always rely on the women to do the spiritual heavy lifting. Because they will get the job done.

    I’ve always had a devotion to Mary, for the whole of my life, including the Litany of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

    Many years ago, when I was a teen ager, the priests from Medjugorje came to Miami, to do several talks on the apparitions of the Virgin Mary. I happened to receive a rosary, purported to have been placed on a table in the church, and had been touched and blessed by Mary herself, during a visit to the little church. I kept that sacred rosary on me for years and years, until I gave it to my step sister on the day her first son was born.

    The recitation of the rosary, the tactile beads in your hands, knowing where you are at any time during your prayer time, is like the Labyrinth. It is also a sober prayer tool for many in the program. Because if you pray the rosary, there are no distractions, because you are sunk in the litany and recitation of the prayers through the beads.

    For Catholics world wide, and especially in Latin countries, the many iterations of Mary are plainly visible and part of the religious/cultural makeup of many, many communities worldwide. Mary is the comforter of those in distress and pain. Yes, we pray to Jesus, but Mary, in the Catholic Religious world, is a far heavier player, when it comes to prayer. I know, by my faith life, that when I invoke the Virgin Mary, results happen. I know this because I can attest to its validity and spiritual dividends.

    Pope Francis when relegated to his penitential journey away from Argentina, when he was tossed out of the Jesuit religious community, came upon the “Mary, Untier of Knots” tradition. She became of beacon for him, in his loneliness. He had a card he had brought home with him, because he prayed to her, that he be delivered from his penitential sojourn.

    He brought that card home with him, and when he got back to Argentina, he found a poor painter, who painted her visage on the wall of the church in that town, that millions of people venerate to this very day. Pope Francis said his prayers to Mary, Untier of Knots saved his ministry, and set him up for success, which he surely has had. I believe that he needs more of her help these days, though.

    For every country and religious community, there is a specific iteration of Mary, in every Eastern European/ European country as well. Many people believe in the power of their prayers when said to the Virgin Mary.

    I had a Virgin of Guadalupe experience, once in my life, and on that day, the smell of roses was so vividly there, I could not believe it. For hours after that vision took place, you could smell roses and roses for days, in my apartment and in the hallway outside my front door. (incidentally, there were no flowers anywhere, in the building at any time, then nor in the future). That one off vision of Mary was beautiful. One that I hold dear to my heart.

    Mary might be a conundrum to Protestant sensibilities, but she is real to many of us in other religious worlds. Never discount prayers to the women of God. Because if you really need it, they WILL provide it. Because of intercessory prayers, by the women, to God himself. They know where to find Him, when we cannot. I can attest to the faithfully safely.



    • Thanks, Jeremy. For the record, I don’t doubt the efficacy of Marian devotion. It’s something I never experienced firsthand before joining the Episcopal Church. I read quite a bit about Marian apparitions, and I find the subject fascinating.

      What struck me about the ad was its location. I’d never encountered such spiritual advice in a “want ads” section, at least not that I could recall. Odd juxtapositions intrigue me. I don’t discount Marian devotion, I just wonder about it.

      Thanks for the comment!


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