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 rather petite and somewhat 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.
“Please give me a little time to think about it,” I said to 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 my mother’s and father’s side, but there are some family members who are now 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.
And then the irony of the situation hit me full force. Surely Mary herself might have fretted over other people’s reactions when an angel announced that she would become a mother. And 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 went out and found the perfect rose bushes for her little shine. There are two called Don Juan, which produce roses in a deep shade of blood red; two that are perfectly white; and one named Jacob’s Robe that has flowers with sumptuous splashes of yellow and orange.
My husband then installed the statue in the yard and began the arduous task of digging the deep holes for the rose bushes. While he was working, two little girls from the neighborhood stopped by to watch. “That’s Mary!” one exclaimed happily, while the smaller girl looked wide-eyed with wonder at the beautiful lady serenely holding court over the front yard.
Now each morning when I open the shades, Big Mary is the first thing I see. 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 expected.
And I no longer worry about anyone thinking Catholics love Mary too much. After all, as St. Maximilian Kolbe put it, “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.
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