In my childhood home, there was an icon of Mary whose eyes seemed to follow me in whatever direction I went as I passed by it. My grandmother jokingly said that Mary was always watching me, so I had better be good.
In Catholic grade school, it was emphasized that Mary was perfect in every way because she was conceived without sin. I would look at her statue at school, beautifully dressed in white and blue, and think to myself, “Someone that perfect could never understand me.” So as I grew up and entered adulthood, I explored my relationship with Jesus. He was someone who understood loss, pain, joy, and anger. Jesus could understand me with all my faults and failings. But Mary? Not her.
A Friend Who Trusted Mary. Marriage and parenting brought new challenges and needs into my life. My husband was in the Navy and out to sea for months at a time. Meanwhile, our two young sons had medical issues, and our newborn daughter was born with digestion problems. She wanted to eat food like her brothers, but at a year and a half, she could still only consume breast milk. I was at the end of my rope when I ran into Joseph, a family friend, at our local Boy Scout office one day.
Joseph wanted to know why I looked so tired. I told him what was exhausting me, and he assured me that he would pray for me. The next time I was at the office, my sons ran to him as usual because he always had treats for them. But that day he also had something for me: a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I knew it was a reminder to ask for Mary’s prayers, but the image didn’t have any greater significance than that for me.
Joseph explained that my daughter would be okay because he had placed her in Our Lady’s care. Sure enough, a year later, my daughter had responded to treatment. I really didn’t think it was due to Mary’s intercession, but I did remember to thank Jesus, her Son.
Mary Has Felt It Too. Fast-forward eight years. I still had the picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe hanging in our home. By then I had read a bit about the interesting story behind the image. Meanwhile, my daughter, now in grade school, had developed a swelling on her foot that we thought was a basketball injury. When it didn’t respond to treatment, we were sent to a surgeon, who scheduled surgery for the affected tendon.
When the doctor finished operating, he came to speak to us. It was not what we had expected to hear: our daughter had a rare form of cancer, one that had spread from her foot to the lymph nodes in her groin. Suddenly our world came to a stop; we were shocked! Then he delivered more bad news: the treatment was harsh and the prognosis poor. Our whole family was devastated.
The treatments began almost immediately. One day, after watching my daughter go through another painful procedure, I went into the restroom. I burst into tears, feeling helpless and alone. Unexpectedly, the image of Mary holding her dead son, Jesus, came into my head. “Yes,” I sobbed. “You, Mary, understand what I am feeling. I don’t know what to do. Please help my daughter.” The tears continued to flow, but within a few minutes, I began to feel a presence of love. Yes, Mother Mary knew exactly what I was feeling. She had felt that way too.
A Message from Our Lady. A few days later, a close friend and coworker of mine from the small Catholic parish where I worked came to visit us in the hospital. She had just returned from a trip to Mexico City. While there she had visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She said she had something to give us and placed a medal of Our Lady of Guadalupe in my hand. She had a story to tell me that went with it.
While visiting the basilica, my friend had wandered downstairs to the small chapel beneath the main cathedral. The chapel was built in the place where Juan Diego saw the apparitions of Our Lady. She knelt to pray and noticed a basket of medals. At the same time, she sensed in her mind and heart that she should bring one to our daughter with a special message. My friend was a little nervous about relaying the message, for fear I would think her crazy. Our Lady had told her to give the medal to our daughter to wear always—and to remind me that she had always been caring for her.
I was hearing from a second person that my daughter was in Our Lady’s care. I looked at my friend and believed the message Mother Mary had given her. Later I placed the medal around my daughter’s neck. She has worn one ever since.
Cured and Carried Through. Our daughter miraculously survived, even though many of her friends in treatment did not. She has suffered other health and emotional issues as a result of the treatment, but Mary has faithfully carried her through them all. My daughter is now a pediatric nurse practitioner with a deep personal devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
My husband and I continue to address Our Lady as “Mother Mary” in our daily prayers. She has become a point of connection with other Catholics. When fellow parishioners see the medal of Our Lady that I wear around my neck, they open up to me about their struggles and ask for our prayers. I have seen firsthand that Mary can relate to every kind of difficulty and worry, especially the concerns of families, which she herself suffered. Mary is truly “our” mother—a mother for everyone—who cares about us more than we could ever know.
Eileen Morgan lives in Oak Harbor, Washington.