Marian Moms Share Their Favorite Devotions
How Mothers Teach Their Children — and Themselves — to Turn to Mary
Catholic speaker Leah Darrow takes her children to “say hello to the Blessed Mother” in front of the family’s large picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There, at noon, they offer an Angelus prayer together.
With a 1- and 2-year-old, and expecting another child soon, Darrow sets her phone alarm as a noon notice for the Angelus, which reminds her again to offer her day up to God — a faithful follow-up to her morning prayers. During the Angelus, she is reminded of Mary’s fiat, offering everything in her life to Christ.
“It re-centers me,” Darrow noted. “It helps me honor her and worship Our Lord. The prayer is quick, short and meaningful when you give your whole heart to our Blessed Mother and ask her to ‘Guide me back to your Son.’”
Darrow’s favorite Marian devotions are the Angelus and the Seven Sorrows of Mary.
“There is a very long personal history in my family with a love for the Blessed Mother,” said Darrow (LeahDarrow.com). “I was fortunate enough to be born into a home with the gift of the Catholic faith and devotion to the Blessed Mother.”
She grew up praying the Rosary every night with her parents. They — and all family generations before them — dedicated their marriage to the Blessed Mother; and at every baptism, each child is dedicated to the Blessed Mother, as well.
Darrow also attributes her love for Mary to her own mother’s teaching that we all have another mother who loves us — the Blessed Mother.
Today, “the Rosary is still part of my prayer life,” Darrow explained, “but I also love the opportunity to spend time with the Blessed Mother when I don’t have 30 minutes, so, for me, it’s the Angelus” (EWTN.com/Devotionals/prayers/Angelus.htm).
Describing her “huge love” for St. John Paul, she said that learning how, even as a child, he prayed the Angelus inspired her to do “the simple devotions we have that help me re-center my life so I can give my day back to the Lord and our Blessed Mother and ask for help.”
Darrow likes to end her day with the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which consists of a short reflection followed by a Hail Mary for each sorrow (EWTN.com/library/MARY/DOLORS.htm).
“I’ve always been drawn to that — drawn to Mary’s response, from her initial fiat all the way through to the Passion and Resurrection and how that really affected the Blessed Mother,” she said. “I was always concerned about that even as a little girl, and then growing up. My heart broke for her and all that was going on. Often, we can forget Mary and not have the proper emphasis and compassion toward her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.”
Darrow finds “such strength” in this devotion. “To me, it shows how much she loved. Love and suffering are always tightly connected, as we know from the cross.”
She noted how Mary’s sorrow can be misunderstood. “We forgot how connected her sorrows are to love. She has the deep sorrow because she has such deep love. Mary is the most loving and joyful of all of us.”
Suffering and Joy
The Seven Sorrows of Mary is also the favorite Marian devotion of Kimberly Hahn, author and Catholic apologist.
“In this life, there is suffering and difficulty, and yet Mary went through tremendous suffering without ever stopping trusting God,” Hahn said. “She kept her faith strong. She kept her hope alive. She kept her charity flowing.”
Think of her at the foot of the cross, Hahn added, and her continual choice to unite her heart to her Son, to forgive those who at that moment are crucifying him and mocking him.
Hahn likes the idea that Mary is Our Lady of Sorrows but not Our Lady of Sadness.
In her talks, Hahn — the mother of six and grandmother of 13 — highlights some of the sufferings Mary had, but also her joys. “They are tremendous as well, and great in terms of depth and beauty,” she said of the joys.
“As I contemplate each of these sorrows, it puts me in touch with how she is mothering me, seeing me through challenges,” Hahn explained. For example, one meditates on our Blessed Mother’s sorrow “receiving Christ’s body from the cross, the body she gave birth to, the arms that hugged her, the hands she held,” Hahn said, comparing how much it tugs on a mom’s heart to see a child break a leg or get stitches or go through other painful experiences. “The sorrow is real. There are plenty of people who have lost a child.”
She offered another example: When Simeon gives the marvelous initial prophecy and then the dire warning, “It’s going to pierce her heart,” almost immediately comes the widow Anna with her prophecy. This becomes “another way Mary’s sorrows give a reflection on God’s trustworthiness in that tremendous sadness.”
Hahn also has a devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots and has seen how Mary has a blessed knack for “detangling” problems. “It’s rooted in the idea that Eve tied humanity in knots with her refusal to yield her will to the Lord, but then came Mary’s ‘Yes’ to the will of God and, hence, [her] becoming the untier of knots.”
“What’s so beautiful is, in the picture, you see the angels handing her a ribbon that is all knotted, and what flows out of her hands and into the hands of another angel is an untied ribbon,” Hahn explained. “There are habits and patterns we need broken, relational issues and places where we really need her intercession.”
For her part, blogger Jenny Uebbing of Mama Needs Coffee said, “The Rosary is my favorite, hands down,” she said. “I get how essential it is to a mama’s bag of tricks.”
Sometime during the day, Uebbing tries to say a decade with her kids — three boys and one girl, ranging in age from 8 months to 5. In February 2013, son John Paul got a kiss from Pope Benedict before his final general audience, and last fall in Philadelphia, Luke, the youngest, was kissed by Pope Francis.
Prayer time involves special roles for her children. “We light some candles and have assigned jobs of [candle] extinguisher and Rosary distributer and official scorekeeper, etc., to keep them all engaged.”
She tries to remind them and herself “a few times out loud during the mystery, ‘We’re thinking about Jesus being crowned with thorns because he loves us’ as we’re going through the Hail Marys — so that they’re not just mumbling along and wondering what we’re doing.”
Uebbing sometimes uses a book of sacred art focused on the Rosary to aid their prayer time; she opens to the mystery they’re praying so the children visually connect with the devotion.
“It all sounds a lot more high level than it actually is, in practice,” she pointed out. “I’d say we shoot for 60% compliance and call that a success, for now, with such a big crowd of small children.”
For her part, she finds the Rosary helps root her in the Scriptures and the life of Christ in an almost-automatic way. She can go from “zero” to “thinking about the Resurrection” in the space of a couple of beads.
“I think it’s because it’s such a tangible prayer and a familiar rhythm that stretches across my whole life,” Uebbing explained. When first coming back to the faith in college, “the Rosary was something my roommate and I did together; it was a sort of anchor that pulled me back to my senses.”
Uebbing said that she now feels “more deeply connected with Mary with each passing year of motherhood and marriage.”
“She knows. She has been there already — she has gone before me, and she continues to model for me what this vocation looks like: what it means to suffer for love of a child; what faithful obedience looks like; why the only thing that matters, in the end, is that we’re continually pointing our children back towards Jesus.”
Uebbing finds another major benefit of this time-honored Marian prayer. The Rosary helps her “eternal perspective, maybe especially on days where I can’t give it a deep, meaningful recitation, where all that is possible is an exhausted litany of strung-together cries towards heaven, half asleep and maybe even halfhearted,” she recounted. “The Rosary is like a tether into eternity.”
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.