faithfamilyI didn’t grow up with a devotion to the Blessed Virgin. I have observed others lighting candles at her altar in church. How can I, as a mother, help my family to get to know Mary?

No one knows you like your mother does. No one knows Jesus like Mary does. Would you give your mother to someone else? Would you offer the most fundamental and unconditional human love you have ever experienced to others? Jesus, while giving up his life for us, also gave us his mother, when from the cross, he told the apostle John, “Behold your mother.” (Jn 19:27) From that moment on Mary became our affectionate mother, interested in our salvation, and always directing us to her Son.

We honor Mary because she was the first and most perfect of Christ’s disciples. Mary is the supreme example of the undivided heart. In answering the angel Gabriel’s message with an unconditional “Yes!” she made a fundamental choice for God and lived her life without wavering from that decision. At the center of the group of apostles at Pentecost, Mary is the Mother of the Church, the Body of her Son on earth. She is always guiding and praying for her children.

Many images and titles have been given to Mary in the 2,000-plus years of our Catholic tradition: Morning Star, Queen of Peace, Mystical Rose, Star of the Sea, Mary of the New Millennium, etc. She is loved around the world as Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Czestochowa, etc.

After you research these images and manifestations, your family will gravitate toward your favorites. A good place to find out about Mary is the Marian Library and International Research Institute at the University of Dayton ( Books, art work, hymns and even films can help your children to envision Mary’s maternal love. Perhaps you can purchase a painting or statue of Mary for your home.

Begin teaching your children the Hail Mary prayer and then move on to teach them how to say the rosary and to recite the mysteries appropriate to different days of the week. The rosary is a “hands-on” prayer because as we pray, we finger the beads. It is a time-tested way of meditating on the life of Jesus through the eyes of his mother. She remembers the sad times, the joyful times, and the times that gloriously revealed his true nature. Pope John Paul II “refreshed” the rosary prayer by adding the “mysteries of light” or “luminous mysteries” which help us to meditate on five very significant events in Jesus’ public ministry.

Mary is honored on many feasts throughout the liturgical year. These feasts give you an opportunity to share events from Mary’s life with your children. The month of May is a special Marian month; perhaps your parish will have a May crowning. May 31 is the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth when they were both with child.

This is a wonderful opportunity to share the stories of your pregnancies with your children, and to tell them about women friends and family who were important mentors for you. Read the Scripture passage (Luke 1: 39-56) and make a visit to the church of St. Mary’s Visitation in Elm Grove. Drive to the back of the complex and you will view a strikingly beautiful statue of the two pregnant cousins sharing a moment of deep connection as John and Jesus “leap” in their mothers’ wombs.

A visit to a Marian shrine would be an interesting family outing this month. Beautiful shrines in our area include: the Archdiocesan Marian Shrine (141 N. 68th St., Milwaukee), Schoenstatt Shrine (W284 N404 Cherry Lane, Waukesha) and Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe (613 S. 4th St., Milwaukee).

Mary loves you and your family with the same abundant, unconditional, all-encompassing care with which she loves her Son. He has asked her to watch over you and guide you, directing you always to himself and to his Father’s kingdom. Turn to Mary with your family: she is waiting to shower all of you with many blessings as she has been made “blessed among women.”

(Christ is a consultant in ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The married mother of four young adult children, she gives talks and workshops, leads retreats and is a spiritual director. Christ self-publishes materials for parishes and is the author of “Journeying with Mark,” “Journeying with Luke” and “Journeying with Matthew.” Published by Paulist Press, the books are intended to be used by families in the car on the way to Mass.)