The Latest Apparition Of Mary—Our Front Yard!
Published: May 12, 2011
As my husband hauled her out of the box, I flinched just a bit. She was much larger than I had envisioned.
“Do we really want something that big in the front yard?” I queried nervously.
He brushed her off tenderly while glancing at me with a puzzled expression.
“I thought she’d be just right,” he said.
A little background: We had decided to transform the somewhat sunny spot in our front yard from a tomato patch into what traditionally is called a Mary garden.
It would be a little outdoor shrine dedicated to the Blessed Mother, something to call her to mind whenever we looked outside.
My husband ordered a statute, which I envisioned being about one-and-a-half feet tall and thus rather inconspicuous. But “Big Mary,” as I’ve come to think of her, was quite different from my mental image. In fact, the statue seemed to tower over everything in the living room, even though it was, in reality, only three feet high.
And I’m rather embarrassed to admit this, but the first thought that crossed my mind as I looked at her was: “What will the neighbors think?”
Granted, some of our neighbors have St. Francis statues in their backyards, but they’re quite diminutive and easy to overlook. But Big Mary right out front? Not so much.
“Give me a little time to think about it,” I told my husband, who was eager to install the statue.
As I pondered the question of Big Mary, it wasn’t long before I realized that it wasn’t really the neighbors’ opinions I was fretting about; it was my family’s reactions. You see, we’ve been Catholic for generations back on both my mother’s and father’s side—until a big upheaval occurred when a few family members became Protestants.
And I have a fairly good inkling of what many Protestants think about Mary. They often accuse Catholics of loving her too much—and some even harbor the false notion that we worship her. I could just see my relatives rolling their eyes when they came to visit us.
Fortunately, as I reflected, it wasn’t long before the irony of my dilemma hit me full force.
Surely Mary herself might have fretted over what other people would think when an angel announced that she would become a mother. And obviously in bowing to God’s will, she opened herself up to plenty of criticism from her relatives.
As for me, here I was, being a big coward about something intended to honor her.
Frankly, I was ashamed of myself.
The next day, I gave my husband the go-ahead to install Big Mary in the yard, and he happily went to work.
Meanwhile, I found the perfect rose bushes for her little shrine -- two in a deep shade of blood red called Don Juan; two perfectly white; and one named Jacob’s Robe with sumptuous splashes of yellow and orange.
A few days later, my husband began the arduous task of digging the deep holes for the rose bushes, and two little neighbor girls stopped by to watch.
“That’s Mary!” Isabella exclaimed happily, while Talia, the smaller girl, looked wide-eyed with wonder at the beautiful lady serenely holding court over the front yard.
Since then, others have commented, always favorably, on our little shrine. I was outside tending the roses when an Italian couple, with their tiny granddaughter in a stroller, stopped to admire it.
They told me they were visiting their son who lives nearby because the baby would soon be baptized. When I asked the baby’s name, the lady joyfully replied “Maria”—and we all agreed it was the perfect choice.
Now each morning Big Mary is the first thing I see when I open the shades.
There she stands with arms outstretched, a lovely reminder of the peace that comes from accepting whatever God sends us—even when it turns out to be much larger than we envisioned.
She also reminds me of something so important that St. Maximilian Kolbe said. “You should never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”
Lorraine’s latest books are “The Abbess of Andalusia,” a biography of Flannery O’Connor, and “Death of a Liturgist,” a mystery. Artwork is by Jef Murray, whose works can be seen at www.jefmurray.com. Readers may e-mail the Murrays at email@example.com.