My Refuge

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We’re all sinners. That’s one of those euphemism we sometimes use when what we really mean is: I am a sinner. I sin. I sin every day. I struggle with particular sins that seem to have a lasting hold on me. Maybe you know what I mean. Whenever I examine my conscience as I prepare for confession, I find myself struggling with the same, familiar, unwelcome stumbling blocks. About a year ago (yes, it took me that long), I decided enough was enough.

Most of my readers know that I was raised in the Baptist faith and entered the Catholic Church while I was in college. Like many protestants, I had to learn a lot about Mary and her role in God’s plan for our salvation. I love how Catholics have so many titles for Mary. She’s the Queen of Heaven, the Mother of Mercy, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, The Immaculate, and Star of the Sea, among many others. The title that draws me in these days is “Refuge of Sinners.” I’m a sinner of need of refuge, surely. So I asked Mary to be that refuge, to let me hide my troublesome, habitual sins within her immaculate heart. I begged her to take my desire and my will and to conform it to her Son’s will for my life. It took me so many years to run to Mary for help.

Was this because I didn’t grow up in the Church? Would I have more easily embraced Mary if I’d met her in my childhood? As a Baptist, we only talked about Mary at Christmas and then only in a limited and supporting role. Otherwise, she didn’t seem to have any part in our lives. Coming to know her as an adult has been a bit of a process for me. And she has never given up on me—her slow, stumbling child.

Mary is “full of grace” (Luke 1:28). Her role is to bear Grace to us, just as she bore Jesus under her heart. Understanding the bounty of her love and her motherly desire to lead her children to Jesus finally became clearer to me And I don’t think this was so much because I didn’t grow up knowing her, as it was due to my protestant understanding of grace and salvation. As a Baptist, this was completely and utterly personal. Once you’d accepted Christ as your savior and been baptized, it was all between you and The Lord. If you later struggled with sin (as we all do) it was because you’d lost your way (backslider!) and would need to examine whether or not you’d truly been saved. There was no sacramental confession, no absolution, no penance. It was such a completely personal and internal process that I could find neither my way in nor my way through it. My sins were “covered” by Christ’s victory, but how could I grow in grace so that sin had less and less of a hold on me? Where was my refuge?

The Sacraments of the Catholic Church have been my roadmap and my source of grace. This is why Christ gave them to us–to fill us with His love and draw us to His heart. And Mary has become my refuge. The sins I’ve struggled with for so long, I’ve given over to her. That was last summer. Have I become sinless now? Hardly. But I will say this: The Blessed Virgin mothers me and holds me so close to her heart that my old sins, those terrible and persistent ones, can’t seem to find me anymore. When I feel the least temptation, I cry out to the Virgin. I know many Saints who recommend Mary as our refuge. She’s held that title since the 8th century, after all. But it’s taken me most of my life to come to know her and accept her help.

God gave us a Church to teach us about Jesus and to lead us to salvation. Nowhere in Scripture does He tell us to find our own way or to figure things out on our own. The Apostles, the Saints and God’s own Blessed Mother are our family of faith. When we fail to embrace this family, we overlook a great gift that The Lord has offered to us. He loved the disciples with all His heart and He gave them His Body and Blood at the Last Supper. He chose Mary to be His mother; chose her arms to shelter and raise Him to manhood; and gave her to us as our Mother as He hung on the Cross. To all my protestant brothers and sisters, I pray you’ll come to know your heavenly mother, too. Just ask her Son to introduce you.

“Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Mother too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”
—St. Maximilian Kolbe
(1894 – 1941)

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dave Baldner
    Aug 06, 2014 @ 12:58:55

    Oh, the Protesting “I’m saved!” victory in Jesus, my Saviour for-ever, and now I am happy all the day philosophy.

    How much, to be sure, they miss out on; and how much I also missed out on, as a subscriber to their point of view. And how much I am still missing out on, by not taking refuge in the Holy Virgin, Mary the mother of our Lord!

    Thank you, Judy, for sharing your story. You’ll never know how many people’s lives you touch by doing so. I wanted to let you know about just one.

    Blessed be God forever!

    Reply

  2. Clara Eason
    Aug 09, 2014 @ 01:44:21

    Thank you Judy!

    Reply

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