When Thomas Hogan was growing up in Newport, New Hampshire, his family prayed the Rosary together every night. But then came “a stretch when I was not practicing my faith, and it was the Rosary that was the biggest thing I wanted to get away from,” he said. He didn’t know why he avoided it, yet during that same time in high school, he made his Marian consecration “kind of begrudgingly” because his godmother asked him to. He knew it would make her and his mother, Catherine, happy. “My mom told me after I made it, ‘You may not have taken your consecration seriously, but Our Lady did.’”
Two years later, in the living room, Hogan accidently knocked over his mother’s statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. “When I picked up the broken statue,” he remembers distinctly, “I heard a voice very clearly in my heart say, ‘This is what you’re doing to me by running away.’ That was a very powerful and eye-opening moment for me. My mom looked at me and said, ‘I told you Our Lady took you seriously.’”
That wake-up call prompted Hogan to renew his praying of the Rosary and return to the faith — and like many other Catholics, it helped him discover the deep riches found in the Church’s Marian devotions.
Today, the 21-year-old is part of the Marian Missionaries of Divine Mercy started by Marian Father Michael Gaitley and has completed his first year at Northeast Catholic College in Warner, New Hampshire, where he continues to spread Marian devotion.
Today, he says, he doesn’t know what “I would do in my life without the Blessed Mother.”
In the Detroit area, Patty Breen remembers how her mother always prayed the Memorare while driving the children to school, but not until after college did “Our Lady become a real person to me,” she said.
Then this past Lent changed her life, after deciding to make praying the Rosary daily her Lenten penance. Breen continues to pray the daily Rosary — and the Memorare, too.
“It’s becoming more a pattern for me to pray the Rosary,” she explained. “There’s peace and comfort in it.” In turning to Mary, she’s learned to “let go and give over things that I was worried about or not in control of. For me, it’s something really powerful.”
Father Donald Calloway of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception and author of several books on Mary, understands well why and how Marian devotion changes lives: “Because she’s our spiritual mother, she wants all of us to resemble her firstborn Son. We are supposed to be her spiritual children. She really brings a person to a deeper intimacy with Jesus because of her incredible knowledge of him. The more Marian a person is, the more they’re going to be in love with Jesus.”
Our Lady does that in many ways, but the centuries-old tried-and-true way is though her Rosary. In nearly every approved Marian apparition, Our Lady has consistently asked the faithful to pray the Rosary.
“The Rosary is a very concrete way of spending time with Mary every day and drawing closer to Christ,” said Father Calloway. “It’s going to change your life, and that’s what Mary wants.”
As a cradle Catholic child with a strong personality, Jeannie Ewing had the impression Mary was “a lofty, distant, figure … hard to understand and relate to.” She was taught Our Lady “was always this meek figure, quiet because she was so humble,” she recalled. “At that point I really struggled how to understand she was my spiritual mother.”
Fast-forward to married life with husband Ben. Of their four children, the middle child, Sarah, was born with a rare condition that has required several surgeries.
And Mary guides the family through every challenge.
As Jeannie shared, “I was really struggling to find my way as a mother. I felt everything completely turned upside down in my life. Everything I thought I knew about God and life was gone. I was in a dark place. But when I found my way to Mary, subtlety and gradually coming into her arms, I found I could talk to her like I talk to my earthly mother. I pleaded with her, cried to her. ... That was the turning point in my relationship with the Blessed Mother that has grown over the past five years.”
After moving to northern Indiana, the family enthroned the united hearts of Jesus and Mary in their new home. “I started to talk to our Blessed Mother and meditate on the Sorrowful Mysteries and the Seven Sorrows and her life more deeply,” Jeannie said. The Memorare and other Marian prayers have also become Ewing household staples.
Next, Jeannie started asking Mary to help her to better understand her role as a wife “and how can I be my husband’s partner and encourage him in leading our home spiritually.”
At night she and Ben pray together, too. “The Blessed Mother’s presence in our home and family has kept us together and turning to Jesus in times of desperation,” Jeannie admits. The Blessed Mother has brought “so much healing and peace to our relationship and helped heal my relationship with my earthly mother.”
And Jeannine said the “fruits of this devotion to the Blessed Mother” are also evident in how she and Ben collaborated on the book Parenting With the Beatitudes: Eight Holy Habits for Daily Living (TAN Books), incorporating the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph with each beatitude.
Enstrusted to Our Lady
Mary has been a mainstay for Ryan and Marianna Williams, too. Ryan proposed to Marianna at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in the Diocese of Rockville Center, New York, when he was academic dean there; they married at the altar of the Immaculate Conception in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome; they consecrated themselves to Our Lady early in their marriage; and their first of four children was born on Our Lady’s birthday.
Last year, when Ryan was laid off, Marianna prayed for Mary to intercede as Ryan sought a new endeavor “which would bring him light.” Mary surely did.
The family is now heading to Ontario, Canada’s Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College, where Ryan has been named the school’s new president. It’s a big move from Texas, but they are confident in Mary’s care, says Marianna: “She gives us that confidence when we start to be a little nervous and anxious. She gives me confidence and peace.”
“We trust in our Blessed Mother,” she added. “We give her our joys, sufferings, every decision — everything. We want to do what Our Lord wants us to do.”
Ryan emphasized: “The closer we come to her, the readier we are to say Yes,” even though we do “not understand how it’s going to work out,” he said. “She’s helped us through struggles. Every time we resolve a problem it’s because we placed it in her hands. It’s a beautiful family experience, the more we focus on devotion in our family to her. Friendship and devotion to her has no downside. When you speak with her, she will speak with her Son. We can’t image our life without having devoted ourselves to her.”
Added Ryan, “There’s no way to go wrong with her.”
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.