Some people have a natural gravitas. We’re drawn to them, sometimes beyond our power to control. In the 1998 film, There’sJust Something About Mary, Ted, played by Ben Stiller was pursuing his high school crush, Mary; a woman he thought he was in love with, but later came to realize that he was just fixated on her. It turns out several people who came in contact with Mary throughout the movie shared Ted’s infatuation with her, and this love train of infatuation formed the basis for the plot of the movie.
The Mary of the movie was beautiful on the outside, and kind-spirited on the inside. She wasn’t exactly an oasis of moral virtue but she was a very nice person. Men were infatuated with her because of her exterior beauty, which predicated their affection for her inner goodness. If they had focused first on her inner goodness, which was present, but not exactly overflowing, they may not have become infatuated with her at all.
I’m “infatuated” with a woman, too. I don’t know what she looked like on the outside, but I’m all about the beauty she has on the inside, and it’s that inner goodness that has driven countless men—and women—to hopeless devotion to her for 2000 years. There’s just something about Mary, the ever virgin Mother of God!
I have a pretty close relationship to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I didn’t always. I was always a practicing Catholic, but I didn’t give much thought to the Blessed Mother. She wasn’t completely absent, but she wasn’t very present in my devotion. Into my 20s I encountered more and more Catholics who had a pretty strong devotion to Our Lady. I remember one guy who wore a t-shirt with the image of Our Lady of Fatima. Talk about love! You know you’re all about the Blessed Mother when you’re wearing a shirt like that. Fashion statement? Oh man…no! But it was a statement of a kind, and one that I couldn’t understand
I didn’t understand it. I knew Our Lady was great and everything, but you didn’t usually see a level of devotion like this in people in their 20s. That level of devotion usually only resides in Little Old Lady Land. It was the grandmas and grandpas of the Church with Blessed Mother shirts, Blessed Mother pins, blessed-mother-this and blessed-mother-that. They have all the merchandise of every apparition and every Marian title. Their collection would put an Elvis fanatic to shame. Wanna do a Shrine-off? You don’t stand a chance against a Mary fanatic!
So I couldn’t grasp how these younger people were so on fire for Our Lady. What was I missing? I brought this up with my spiritual director and, to make a long story short, that started the long road’s journey to where I am in my devotion to the Blessed Mother today. It’s a devotion that is deep, fervent, mysterious, and joyful.
What is it about Mary?
Our Lady is perfect in virtue—in all virtues. She is what God designed humanity to be. She is the perfect human creature, truly human, and fully alive. She is perfectly humble. Perfectly holy. In human terms she seems to embody everything that is small. But in reality she embodies total holy greatness and power, because she is so “small”. She’s the most amazing creature that God has ever made, and when we grow in our understanding of her, we see how absolutely, unbelievably incredible God is. Because we see a glimmer of his nature and character in the person of Mary. No wonder God chose her to carry his Son! No one else was worthy, and no one else would have even been capable of bearing Our Lord.
The more we develop our relationship with the Blessed Mother, the more we understand her. What little there is written of her in scripture becomes like a volumes-long biography, or character profile. What the saints wrote of her goes from being intellectual, to being a loud and clear heralding of the truth and reality of the Holy Virgin, and therefor of God Himself.
For myself, I don’t wear an Our Lady of Fatima t-shirt, but these days I understand the devotion of those who do. Because I share the devotion now. So I try to emulate her virtues. I try to become who she is, every day. Because that’s how I will most become like Christ.
When I think about it as just an ordinary person, and not as a Catholic with a spiritual life, I don’t know why I love the Blessed Mother so much. I mean, I could tell you “I love her because she reflects the Trinity perfectly, because she’s so perfect in virtue” and so on. But that answer is almost cryptic. I don’t know why those things make me love her so much, but I know that they do. Deep in my heart I know why, but can’t verbalize it with words. And now I understand why someone might wear an Our Lady of Fatima t-shirt. And I hope you guys all strive to discover the reason, as I have. It’s true…there’s just something about Mary.