Iglesia Santa María Reina, Ponce
When I was a young child growing up on the southern shores of Puerto Rico, I attended a Catholic school named Academia Santa María in the developing industrial town of Ponce. Although I lived in Ponce for only a couple of years, I have fond memories of that time, especially as the period when I was first introduced to devotional prayers in an academic setting. It was at Santa María that I first said a rosary with my classmates.
I remember vividly how hard it was for me as a kindergartner to sit through Mass every week and how I became a member of the school club called las Bernarditas, named after St. Bernadette of Lourdes. Since my full name (or as I call it, my real name) is María de Lourdes—in English, Mary of Lourdes—I was especially taken by the fact that so many “big” girls wanted to be in this club. I was impressed that these older girls found it important to ask Mary for her protection and intercession on behalf of each of us as “women.” I still have, in a keepsake box, the small ribbon and medal of St. Bernadette that I received upon entering the club.
As I’ve grown older, Mary has remained an intimate part of my life. I can’t pinpoint exactly when or how my devotion to Mary started. I just remember her always been there. It simply seemed natural to talk to Mary as my mother when it appeared that no one else could possibly understand how I felt.
I love images of Mary pregnant with Jesus!
She was the topic of some of my first “poems” as a child, the kind of poems written by flashlight in a notebook kept hidden underneath the bed. Years later, when I became a mother myself, I instinctively turned to Mary with my fears, hopes, and dreamsfor my own children.
When someone draws attention to the excessive commercialization of Mother’s Day in the U.S., I like to point out that in the Catholic tradition, this feast to honor our earthly mother appropriately takes place in the month of May, which for centuries has been dedicated as the month to honor and remember our heavenly mother, Mary.
Whether you’re a mother or not, may Mother Mary surround you with her loving arms today and remind you in a very personal way that you are God’s beloved child!