Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Daddy, Why Do We Pray to Mary?...
As we finish, my six-year-old daughter turns to me and asks, “Daddy, why do we pray to Mary?”
A bit surprised, I asked, “What do you mean?”
She says, “I mean, why do we pray to Mary and not just to Jesus?” If she only knew this has been a source of great discord among Christians for at least 500 years, although the divide has started narrowing in recent years.
At this point, I noticed my ten-year-old daughter was leaning over the top bunk bed looking intently at me and my four-year-old son, who probably was oblivious to the question, was also looking up at me from his trundle bed (They all sleep in the same room). I had a captive audience.
Fine, as Wayne and Garth would say, “Game On!” This is what I get paid for as a Christian Father (figuratively speaking); to pass the faith to my children.
“Well baby,” I start cautiously, “we ask Mary to pray for us. As you know, Mary is very special to God. God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit..." (as the words came out of my mouth, I thought, “Oh, great, the Holy Trinity is complicated enough for adults to understand and you’re trying to explain it to a six-year-old!”)
After a brief pause, I said, “God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus. So, she is very special to Him. We pray to Mary, asking her to pray for us because she is very close to Jesus.”
Then I remembered something I once heard that might make more sense to her, “It’s like Mommy and you. If Mommy asks you for a favor, would you do it?”
She nodded yes.
“Well, since Mary is Jesus’ mom, we ask her to ask Jesus for a favor for us.”
She smiled and pulled her covers up, as if to say, “I’ve heard enough, thank you very much.”
Although, there is more to it than my simple explanation, it seemed to do the trick.
I turned off the lights, wished them good night and told them I loved them. For me, bedtime is probably the most intimate time that I spend with my kids (although, in all honesty, there are many nights that I am just going through the motions, trying to get through it as quickly as possible, to get back to a game or a show on TV).
That night, however, I was more focused, and fortunately so.
As I went to bed, I couldn’t help but think about our short exchange. And, the more I thought about it, the more amazing it seemed to me.
Here is a six-year-old questioning an element of her faith? Mind you, she’s only in First Grade and couldn’t have learned much more than basic catechesis at school. It’s not until Second Grade, where she will be preparing for her First Holy Communion that her instruction on the faith intensifies (although two weeks into the school year, it wouldn’t make much of a difference).
Moreover, I suspect, from my own experience as a kid and as a father to three small children, that most kids, especially that young, take their faith at face value, as something handed down to them by their parents. It’s true because their parents say it’s true and it’s not until later in life that they start asking questions.
Even if I am making a mountain out of a molehill, at the least, I think the question shows curiosity and that is the spark that ignited my own faith journey over five years ago.
After becoming a father, which, for all intent and purposes, coincided with the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, I started searching for the meaning of life and started yearning for a better understanding of my faith.
A spiritual retreat put the wheels in motion and brought me closer to God, but it wasn’t until my faith was challenged by a good friend, that I really began to grow.
The challenge peaked my curiosity to know and understand what the Church was all about, and I have been studying, learning and growing in my faith ever since (and a lifetime will never be long enough!).
While, I doubt my daughter’s innocent question about praying to Mary is going to prompt her to pick up the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church any time soon, it does give me reason for hope.
If we don’t question what and why we believe what we believe, as my daughter did, and search out the Truth, which despite the confusion in the culture, most of us know is just One (as U2 would say), then, to barrow from a G.K. Chesterton quote, we run the risk of believing in anything…