'My Interaction with Mary'

By Fr. Victor Incardona, MIC

My religious life began in my mid-40s, when I entered the Order of Friars Minor in 1990. This followed more than 30 years as an educator at various level of teaching and administration. It was after working among Native Americans and the poor that I decided to act on my lifelong desire for a religious vocation.

Franciscan spirituality attracted me, and my time with them was one of spiritual exploration and discovery. Then the Marians came along. I always had an attraction to Mary, which I picked up from my mother. My mom was a Hasidic Jew who converted to Catholicism at the age of 22 in the early 1940s. She was the only woman I ever knew who had a rosary with beads made from the Star of David.

Mom had a strong devotion to Mary, who for her represented strength and determination, as well as a model on how to be a good mother for my brother and me. I saw a Jewish gentleness and a calm openness in Our Lady, one that I instinctively recognized and welcomed. Growing up, my devotion to Mary was intense but private. You know how kids are. They like to keep thing like that to themselves, especially boys.

Mary offered her presence, and I spent a lot of time with her in interior prayer and by saying the Rosary. Now as a Marian priest, that relationship to the Blessed Mother is still very much personal, one that I share with my brothers [in the Marians of the Immaculate Conception]. Mary's always there for me, and that's refreshing.

I talk to Mary her as I would my own mother, as least a couple times a day and sometimes more. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, if the need comes up, I talk to her. I love doing this, and fortunately, I'm one of those guys who can pray anywhere, no matter what distractions are out there or what's going on.

Besides conversational and personal, my interaction with Mary is also dimensional. By "dimensional," I mean her many qualities of love. She's kind, patient, and quick to forgive. When a problem pops up, I go to Mary first. It's like relating to your parents. What kid doesn't like to run to mom first?

I have a special love for Our Lady of Guadalupe. For one thing, she's pregnant with Jesus, which reminds me of the Immaculate Conception. She also radiates incredible beauty and love, a simple elegance. This image strikes such spiritual chord in me. Our Lady of Guadalupe's feast day is Dec. 12, four days after the feast of the Immaculate Conception. I go all out to celebrate Dec. 12, big time!

Of course, I also pray formally to Mary. Sharing the religious life with your brothers in community is so complementary to my own spirituality. It provides me with a spiritual roundedness that I don't think I'd have otherwise. This, in turn, helps me be a better priest.

To me, Mary is also a channel to rather than of The Divine Mercy. She sees you as you are and accepts that with a mother's unconditional love. That's how I grow. Growing in faith, I've found, is a slow process. In fact, the slower it is, the better. Faith unfolds a little at a time. As we go on, it moves and improves. As time goes by, it becomes better, purer. Believe me, Mary is the perfect partner in this growth process.

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