Susan thought her Catholic friends had drunk the proverbial “Kool-Aid.” A staunch evangelical Christian, she was offended and angry after attending my sister-in-law Hedy’s Medjugorje Rosary group and witnessing what she considered to be “blasphemous” prayers being said to Mary. As Hedy continued to host Rosary groups, Susan felt obliged by conscience to end their friendship, convinced that Hedy was not only in idolatry, but was leading others astray through her devotion to Mary.
Susan and Hedy had become friends several years earlier through their children, as each had several kids attending the same school in the small coast town of Pass Christian, Mississippi. The two families had grown very close—even taking family vacations together. But their friendship hit a breaking point when Susan and Hedy both became more fervent in their respective faiths, causing Susan to take a stand against Hedy’s perceived “idolatry” that left the friends and their families estranged for five years.
Eventually, Susan hit a personal faith crisis wherein she recognized that she could “talk the talk” of Christianity, but was unable to “walk the walk” toward the personal holiness she desired. After seriously reflecting upon the people that she knew who truly “walked the walk” as Christians, Susan came to the humbling conclusion that it was the Catholic women she had encountered along the way who had unequivocally treated her with kindness, patience, love and mercy. Though she still questioned their theology, she simply could not deny the fruit their lives bore.
“How could their lives be so full of the fruits of the Holy Spirit,” she asked herself, “when their faith is so theologically compromised?” That question led her to a massive interior dilemma about the authenticity of the Catholic faith, which she felt simultaneously drawn to and terrified by. After much prayer and wrestling with God, Susan made a decision not to be led by fear. She returned to the Catholic Church, which she had made a brief foray through a few years earlier when she was confirmed Catholic upon her marriage into a large, Catholic family. (Susan was baptized Episcopal and raised as “nothing,” and her husband had ultimately followed her into Protestantism.)
Susan began to attend Mass and pray the Rosary, while going to the people she had accused of “idolatry” to apologize to them. Surprising even herself, she developed a great love for the Catholic faith, spending the next few years making beautiful handmade Rosaries “in reparation for my blasphemies against the Blessed Mother,” as she tells it.
Fast forward to 2014, when Susan called to ask me where she could buy copies of my book, Miracle Man (which happens to be very Marian, by the way. I, too, had wrestled with Hedy about her devotion to Mary at the same time as Susan—a story I tell in detail in the book. Let’s just say Hedy and the Blessed Mother won.) After meeting me on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans to buy six copies of Miracle Man, Susan gave the book to her anti-Catholic sister Elizabeth. None of us could have guessed what would happen next.
Elizabeth’s first reaction was severe annoyance at the book’s Catholic overtones and references to Mary, which she found offensive and irritating. But she pressed on to the finish, wanting to know how the story ends. By the time she closed the book, Elizabeth was weeping profusely, and she couldn’t stop crying. She went to bed perplexed, wondering why she had been so profoundly affected by the story.
During the night, she dreamt about “the most beautiful Lady” she had ever seen, who was surrounded by light and filled with a depth of love that Elizabeth had never before encountered. Elizabeth began to follow her, recognizing the Lady as the Blessed Mother. When she awoke, it was clear to her for the first time in her life why Catholics love Our Lady so much, and why she is placed in such high esteem. That story to be continued.
I can happily say that I have indeed drunk deeply of Mary, and oh, how sweet it’s been. She has led me into the heart of the fruit of her womb, Jesus. And He has led me into the heart of the fruit of His sacrifice on the Cross, the Eucharist. Food and drink like I’ve never tasted; the Bread of Angels, the Cup of Eternal Life. I’ll drink that cool, sweet aid any day.