by Paulette Curran.
Several months ago, I read in a secular magazine—I can’t remember which one—an article making the point that some Protestants are discovering the Mother of God. I always take any article about Christianity in the secular media with not just a proverbial grain of salt, but a whole barrel full, but this article started me thinking and remembering.
My memories took me back to Madonna House Roanoke. Roanoke, Virginia, in the American South, is the only place I have ever lived where Protestants are the overwhelming majority.
During the short time I was stationed there, I belonged to a non-denominational women’s prayer group, and there I met a Quaker, a convert from the Methodist Church. Her husband, though still middle-aged, had Alzheimer’s, and her suffering resulting from this had led her closer to God.
We became friends, and she would occasionally come and talk with me, mainly about her spiritual life.
One day as I was listening to her, it came to me that what she was experiencing was described in The Reed of God, a book by Caryll Houselander which connects our waiting for God with Advent and with Our Lady’s pregnancy.
Should I tell her about that book, I wondered. For we in Madonna House teach mainly by our lives. Respecting the beliefs of others, we are careful not to push ours on them.
I decided to take the leap.
"There’s a beautiful book that is about what you are talking about," I told her, "but I hesitate to recommend it to you because it is about the Mother of God."
"What’s the name of it?" she asked.
I told her.
"Do you have it here?"
"Yes. It’s in our library."
"Can I borrow it?"
That evening she phoned, annoyed at me.
"You Catholics!" she said with some vehemence. "Mary has got to be the best kept secret! Why did you hesitate to tell me about that book? Why did you hesitate to tell me about Mary? She’s wonderful! Why don’t you Catholics tell us about her?"
My second memory occurred when I was transferred from Roanoke to Combermere. I had just begun my journey back on the bus, and I was still in the American South, where one rarely runs into a Catholic.
The bus was making a short rest stop, and I was waiting to re-board. A woman from the same bus approached me and asked, "Are you a Catholic?" She had obviously noticed my Madonna House cross.
"Yes," I said. "Are you?"
"No," she answered, "I’m a Baptist, but I say the rosary every night."
We were about to step on the bus, so I didn’t have time to respond. But when I got on, I saw that the seat next to her was empty.
Asking her if she minded if I joined her, I sat down and asked, "How does it happen that a Baptist says the rosary every night?"
"I’m a nurse," she said, "and I got very close to a patient who was Catholic and who was dying. Just before she died, she gave me her rosary.
"At first it only meant something to me because it had been hers and she had given it to me, but after a while I got to wondering about what I had. So I asked someone else I know who’s Catholic. She told me about it and showed me how to use it.
"I tried it, and I liked it, and so I started saying it. I especially like saying it in bed at night. Now I say it every night."
Now, years later, as that article and these memories sit in my heart, I am thinking that my friend in Roanoke was right. Why should such a wonderful treasure, such a source of love, strength and consolation, be known and loved by Catholics alone? The Mother of God is the mother of every person on the face of the earth.
What a wonderful thing that she is reaching out to her Protestant children in silence, hiddenness, and tender love!
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