Today the town of Fatima Portugal hosted Pope Francis for the canonization of two children, and the 100th anniversary of the beginning apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Having grown up Baptist, Marian devotion was probably the aspect of the Catholic faith I wrestled with the most. I understood the difference between devotion and worship. I understood that devotion to Mary, is supposed to deepen our relationship with Jesus. I had read the theory, but deep down inside I just didn't get it.
As far back as I can remember Jesus and I were always close. I could always talk with him. What else did I need?
It wasn't until the death of my own mother that I finally understood. It was when that relationship was ripped away that I realized its uniqueness. No, she had not been the one to give birth to me, but she was still my mother in every other sense of the word. And there is no substitute.
God made us male and female. Now more that ever we understand that this is more than an anatomical difference. And so, paternity and maternity are two distinct but complimentary realities. We need both in our lives.
It was shortly after my mother's death, that a friend in Rome pointed out to me that I had been ordained on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. I would mull that over for a couple a years before I finally made the pilgrimage.
There are some who will try and argue that Jesus teaching us to call God "Father" is mere cultural convention. The same people will argue that when God became incarnate it was as a man because he needed to fit in. It seems to me that there is more going than we can fully comprehend. When we call God "Father" there is a true paternity there.
Jesus understood God as his father and Mary as his mother. If all Christians can agree that we are to imitators of Christ, then how can we say that we are not supposed to imitate this.
At Fatima, I took a leap of faith. I stopped trying to find the fully rational explanation and embraced it. I had long ago embraced God as my father, and Jesus as my brother, there I embraced Mary as my mother.
We need the whole family. That I simple truth.