Mary in the Ordinary: Our Lady of Combermere

by Sarah Reinhard

Some days, the excitement in my world comes from a fistful of dandelions or from an hour spent digging in the garden. Other days, I’m juggling phone calls while I try to convince my toddler that his breakfast is better to eat than worms.

There are days when I look around and wonder how I would ever explain to myself of twenty years ago that this is where I would end up, covered in crumbs and slightly disheveled.

Looked at from the outside, my life would be seen as boring and monotonous. According the standards of our culture, I should be disappointed with what I have.

Though I do have a job and other paying work, I largely do that work from home. There’s a blessing and a reminder in that: I can’t pretend that my vocation as wife and mother doesn’t come first.

In fostering my devotion to Mary, I had to stop picturing her on a pedestal, surrounded by flowers and pristine in her perfectly ironed clothes.

Although she’s beautiful and she deserves every pedestal and every honor, for me these make her an inaccessible ideal, not someone I can turn to while I’m doing the dishes.

My relationship with Mary happened casually, perhaps as a result of praying Hail Marys now and then throughout the day. I started chatting with her, a bit like my five-year-old does with her invisible friend.

“OK, Mary, help me get this basket of laundry folded and keep me motivated to put it away, too.”

“Oh Mother Mary, I’m going to bed too late, but help me to get the rest I need for tomorrow’s work.”

“Mary, did Jesus get fussy like this at 3 a.m.? Help me!”

Obviously, my conversations with Mary are a far cry from brilliant. Often, except for the structured prayers I try to include in my schedule, they are humdrum.

But I don’t think she minds. I think that, like most mothers and aunts and grandmas, she’s happy to hear from the people she loves. I think she cherishes our bond and smiles that I’m comfortable enough with her to share even the most common concerns in my life.

Meet Our Lady of Combermere, whose statue is located at Madonna House. It’s a title Mary received in a most unremarkable way. It’s a title under which she teaches us to find the holy in the day-to-day.

Her arms are open wide, and you can tell she’s running. She looks delighted that you’ve come, and there’s no denying the joy that radiates from her.

In the very early days, Madonna House consisted of a small house and a few acres of land, all surrounded by woodland. In the 1940s, living in a little homestead such as this required much physical work. The wood for the fire had to be brought in, the bread had to be baked, and in winter, the snow had to be shoveled.

It was natural for Catherine and Eddie and their few helpers to call out to Mary asking her help in these little things. It became second nature.

Maybe it was the wet wood that wouldn’t burn, or the loaves of bread that weren’t rising, or the pump that didn’t work. These and other problems were given to Mary.

They called her “Our Lady of Combermere” because Russians often called Mary by the name of the place where they lived. There was never an apparition of Mary under that title, and it was only later that a statue of her was acquired.

On June 8, 1960, when Bishop William J. Smith officially installed and blessed the statue of Our Lady of Combermere, he said, “We seem to be living in a confused world, one becoming more confused all the time. As the years go by, it seems to me that the solution to the things troubling us will be cared for by Our Lady. She promised to do so, as long as we do our part. So if we listen to her words, in whatever work we do, and dedicate ourselves to her, we will have the opportunity to make recompense to God for the many sins of the world ….”

Our Lady of Combermere has her arms wide open. She is running to us, her children, and she’s wasting no time in caring for our every little concern, including the heaps of laundry, the fussy children, the tense relationship. And the deadline, the stubbed toe, the messy desk.

None of these is too small for her. She runs to us with a smile, happy to be involved in the routine of our lives.

—Adapted with permission from the website, Catholic Exchange.