Don’t Leave Her on the Dresser: How to Form a True Devotion to Our Lady

Find out how to avoid the niche syndrome by making Our Lady an integral part of your life.
by Carolyn Hawkesworth, Consecrat | Source: Mater Ecclesiae College

A few weeks ago I listened to a mom tell this story: 

A good friend gave me a statue of Mary. At first I put her on my bedroom dresser.  But after awhile I realized I didn’t get to see much of her up there, so I brought her down to where the whole family could see her; the place where it all happens...  Everything changed with Mary in my kitchen. One day, soon after putting her statue by my kitchen sink, I was losing my patience with no one listening to me, so I turned around and looked at Mary and prayed. From behind me I could hear my kids: “What’s Mommy doing?” “I think she’s talking to the Mary statue…” I turned around and they were all smiling at me, “Do you feel better now Mommy?” “Yes, I do! Now go clean up your toys and take a bath!” Mary brought calm to my home.

Hearing this story I wondered, “Is Mary really part of my life?”  Sometimes we can keep her at a distance; I call this the “Niche Syndrome,” and it has two main symptoms.

The first and main symptom is to assign Mary one place in our life - the niche in the Church wall. We admire her, but we just walk by. We don’t know how to relate to her - she seems so perfect, so stiff, so lifeless, more like a statue than a living person. But Mary is a person full of life. Just think of the Gospel passages about her: the Annunciation shows her purity and her maturity… she was innocent but not naïve. And think of her courage - would you be prepared to accept God’s will at the risk of being stoned?

Mary was totally human! She lived an ordinary life. There must have been times she burnt the dinner, had to be patient with an annoying person, or just wanted to sit down and cry. She was born without sin, but she wasn’t incapable of sin (think of Eve). Mary fought to keep her soul pure. That is why she gives us hope; she won the battle we’re trying to fight. So go to her; she wants to help!

The second symptom is to get stuck on the statue in the niche; to get caught up in the devotionals and forget the heart of the devotion. Statues, images, medals, prayers, novenas and rosaries are all rich traditions of our faith when we use them to draw Our Lady into our heart, into our homes, and into our families. How will we know if we are? By how much we are imitating Our Lady in our daily life. It’s easy to pray the decade of the Wedding of Cana – but it’s another thing to imitate Our Lady’s selflessness by going out of our way to meet someone’s need.

So how can we bring her down out of the niche and into our daily lives?
• Put an image of Our Lady where you need the most help – your kitchen, TV lounge or even at your computer.
• Try out the family rosary; you could begin with just one decade every week or every night.
• Put aside the music for a bit on your next family car trip and entrust your journey to her protection.
• Never walk past an image or statue of Our Lady without telling her at least “hello!”
• At Mass, catch the moments her name is mentioned, and sincerely ask for her help.

A true devotion to Mary is building a relationship with someone who loves you as only a perfect mom can. She wants to be a part of your life. You don’t need to fly to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, or to Lourdes or Fatima to meet Our Lady. You can meet her right at your kitchen sink.

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