There is often much confusion among those who are not Catholic about the role that Mary plays in the lives of those who are Catholic Christians. From the outside, it may appear that many hold Mary in higher esteem than Jesus. While I can’t speak to the private faith of other Catholics, I know that the Church herself calls us to respect Mary for the role that she played in assisting in carrying out God’s plan of salvation and we are to worship God alone.
Many Catholics venerate Mary. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, to venerate means to regard with reverential respect or with admiring deference. We venerate Mary and other saints because of their very close relationship with Jesus. We look to their lives hoping to understand how we too can grow closer to Him and eventually spend eternity with Him in heaven.
If you grew up Catholic, veneration is second nature to you. It is kind of like you have a radar that notices all things Catholic like a crucifix, holy card, etc. Whenever you see a statue of Mary, you are immediately taken back to your childhood. It must be similar to comfort food— the things you love to eat from your childhood because they remind you of your mother or grandmother. This familiar sense of comfort and the feeling of being loved and accepted can wash over you unexpectedly when you spot a rosary in an unusual place. These images can have a secondary effect as well. These reminders can sometimes hit us in such a way that we are called to check our inner monologue and realign it with God’s way of thinking instead of following the path of least resistance which is not always life giving.
Many of my friends share their “Mary sightings” with me. The other day, a friend had a very unique Mary sighting in the checkout line at Publix. She was waiting behind someone with a large order and noticed that the woman in front of her had several tattoos. It took her only a moment to realize that the image on the back of the woman’s calf was Our Lady of Guadalupe (the image of Mary on Juan Diego’s tilma from Mexico). A tattoo may not seem the most likely way to venerate Mary, but I thought it was an unique way to honor her and a creative way for this woman to call attention her faith.
I imagine that the tattoo owner has had many opportunities to talk about her faith as a result of her choice of body art. I am not advocating that anyone get a tattoo (ouch!) but, is there something that you can do that would remind others about Jesus and let them know that you are a safe person with whom to share questions of faith?