Q. I just recently became Catholic and I’m still struggling with the Church’s teachings on Mary. I respect her, but I don’t feel the need to ask her for prayers if I can just ask God directly. Do you have any suggestions on how I can have a relationship with Mary?

Yes, I do! Being a convert myself I can relate to your situation. First I would ask you to spend some time now and then getting in touch with any unexamined attitudes you may have that may be part of your discomfort with Marian devotion. This could be anything from having been cautioned at some point that ‘Catholics worship Mary’ and the like, to some personal emotional discomfort with the very idea of ‘mother’. Or, perhaps at some point you were exposed to some exaggerated or misguided teaching, preaching or devotions to Mary and learned your discomfort from this experience.

You mentioned not feeling “the need to ask her for prayers if I can just ask God directly”. Certainly there is nothing in a healthy Marian devotion that would discourage us from approaching God directly. But the question itself makes me wonder if one of those unexamined attitudes I mentioned might be a tendency to see Mary and God as being in some kind of opposition or even competition. You surely know this idea would be completely contrary to the Church’s understanding of Mary’s role in Salvation history – but attitudes and prejudices can be very irrational things – well hidden and deeply buried they can remain a part of us in spite of the soundest catechesis!

Along similar lines I would encourage you to gradually include some Marian themes in your spiritual reading. Make a point of reading a variety of authors, however. When you really don’t like the feel of a particular author don’t be afraid to close the book and pick up another. No one has a ‘monopoly’ on Mary, and we all have our own path to follow. Give yourself the time and freedom to find yours. Relationship can take time after all.

Finally, though, and this is far more important than anything else I could say – is there a particular problem, worry, a heartache even – that you are carrying? I can understand where you might not be comfortable with this suggestion, but I am going to make it anyway. Entrust this burden, whatever it is, to Mary. Invite her to deal with it as she sees fit. Ask her “to show herself a mother” – and not only a mother, but your mother. I make this recommendation to you from the testimony of others, yes, but from my own experience as well.

If you will do this, I think ‘relationship’ may not take much time at all.