Where Am I in Relation to Mary?

Mary Atop the Dome

Yahweh will always guide you, will satisfy your needs in the scorched land; He will give strength to your bones and you will be like a watered garden, like a flowing spring whose waters never run dry.
~ Isaiah 58:11

The Lord is my constant guide and companion. He walks with me everywhere I go and leads me toward Him in everything that I do. He does this though many channels; through friends and relatives, through beautiful scenery, and through the examples set by His prophets and disciples in biblical times. However, I have a special connection with one of his many Guiding Lights, which I share with all of Our Lady’s Ladies.

The University of Notre Dame is a place of God’s work. It is easy to see Isaiah’s words fulfilled on that beautiful campus in South Bend. The scorched land is that of ignorance, not just of book knowledge, but of our connection with our God, and at Our Lady’s University, God fills us with both. He provides us with the highest caliber of teacher, both for our minds and for our souls. And indeed, we are like a watered garden. The student body and the alumni of Notre Dame a varied like the flowers of a garden, but all bloom brilliantly around God’s Earth, bringing with us both our textbook learning and our deep connection with the Lord.

I left my topic a bit, didn’t I? I was talking about my special connection with one of God’s many guides, given to us as examples of the path to Him and as catalysts to our good decisions and right actions. Well, I got to know her at Notre Dame too. She watched over me for four years, leading me always in the right direction, just as she watches, mother-like, over every student, faculty, and staff member on that blessed campus.

Mary, the mother of God, and gracious guide for all Notre Dame students, and all Catholics, stands atop the gold-plated dome in the center of campus. She stands above the grounds, watching her children go about their days. She stands as a reminder and guide to everyone there of God’s love and intention for their lives.

As a student, I all too often forgot what a miracle it was to be pursuing my undergraduate degree at such a prestigious and blessed university, under Our Lady’s watchful eye. I was busy with the minutiae of my life, going to classes, rehearsals, and even Masses with my eyes blinded to the holy place in which I was fortunate enough to live and work. I saw God in those around me, and in my time of worship, but missed His permeating presence, because I grew used to it. Now, when I return to campus and feel the strength with which He is present, and see Our Lady looking down on me and those around me, I want to shake students walking by, pull their chins up and say, “I know there are a lot of beautiful trees on this campus, I know you have classes and homework and friends, but take a second and look at the forest! God is here, guiding, feeding, and nurturing you!”

However, despite my bull-headed ignorance to His guidance, God still loved and lead me. He reached out to me in ways I didn’t even realize until much later. One of the greatest ways in which He guided me, and many other students at Notre Dame, was through Our Lady’s shining golden example.

As I said before, Mary stands at the top of the golden dome, in the middle of campus, shining brightly in sun, during the 3 months a year there’s sun (mostly when no one’s around), and just a brightly in the grey (probably due to the spotlights the University keeps on her year-round, but I prefer to think it has more to do with her being a beacon of love). She stands, with her arms outstretched, resolutely facing South.

This was an incredibly important fact to me when I learned it. Mary faces South.

At this point, it is important for you to know a couple of things about me. Specifically that I have no sense of direction at all. I walk into a store in the mall and, walking back out, have no idea which direction I was travelling prior to entering. Take me out into the street, turn me around a couple of times, and don’t be surprised if I’m looking for help reorienting my mental map. I can’t take shortcuts unless someone teaches them to me; the minute I take a turn on to a road I don’t know, I have no idea where the areas I do know are anymore.

I think you are starting to realize why this one piece of information was of such import when I learned it. Mary faces South. Always. Like a compass rose in the middle of the campus that made up my little world.

And so, I was constantly glancing up to her and asking myself, “Where am I in relation to Mary?” I laid out my mental map based on her and used her daily to help me find my way around campus. I did all of this without even realizing what I was really asking myself.

“Where am I in relation to Mary?”

Mary, the mother of God and shining example of right living. Where was I in relation to her? Was I following her example in my everyday decisions? Not always, she rarely crossed my mind while I was making those decisions. But she did cross my mind, frequently, when those decisions meant travel. And as I glanced up to her to determine where I was and where I needed to go, she smiled directly South and I would have a moment to think about her, and who she was, and how she lived. It didn’t always affect my decision, but it brought the example of a life that points to God into my mind.

Now, without Mary guide me around town, I feel very lucky to have my husband, who has a phenomenal sense of direction. But I miss her, looking down at me, and I realize that I still need to ask myself that question now and again.

“Where am I in relation to Mary?”

I need to take that time, every so often, so ask myself if I am making decisions guided by her example. God calls to me through her to a right life and I do everything I can to heed His call.

Are you following the examples God has provided? Where are you in relation to Mary?

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