by Nicole Maile Santos
After a full day of traveling, all I wanted was to draw close to Jesus during our daily holy hour. Walking into the Adoration chapel, I was struck by the beauty of the life-sized golden monstrance of Our Lady. As our Poland pilgrimage group entered reverently into our pews, Sr. Maris Stella asked us a question to reflect on. “Who is Mary to you?”
Sitting before the Blessed Sacrament 7,000 miles from home, I was deeply convicted by the harsh reality that I could not provide a true answer to that question. Who really was Mary to me? In many ways I could talk about Mary, but I was unable to picture who she was in relation to me. The best way to describe my heart in that hour was one scrambling to find a way to affirm a person you do not know personally. I felt restless and empty, just drawing a blank.
Growing up I felt some sort of disconnect with Mary. She seemed so perfect, so calm, so put together – qualities I found that I lacked in myself. It almost felt as though I would be too much for Our Lady to handle.
Then I just put my preconceived notions of her aside and let myself gaze upon the beauty of the Blessed Sacrament and how Mary was the monstrance. There were rays of light surrounding her and lilies adorned at her feet. But the most beautiful part was that Jesus was exposed in the very location of where her heart would be.
Then it all clicked – it is Jesus!
Mary is the key to drawing closer to Jesus. Her life was devoted to loving her Son. Her entire heart is for Jesus. She desires nothing more than for us to be the same way, to love Jesus with our whole heart. She is the perfect model for us, as she was the one who birthed Him into life, raised Him as a child, and walked with Him through his death. Who better to show us how to wholeheartedly love Jesus than His mother?
I sunk deep into my pew and recognized the mother shaped hole in my heart. I longed to be close to Mary. It was that moment where I felt as though Jesus entrusted me to His mom as he did to his beloved disciple as He hung upon the cross (John 19:26-27). I could hear Him say “Nicole, behold your mother.” For years I’ve prayed decades upon decades of rosaries, sang Marian hymns, and in fact – my own Parish is named in honor of Mary herself. Yet somehow I failed to see her as my own mother.
That hour my heart cried out a prayer I’ve never said before, “Mary be a mother to me.” I wrote in my journal:
“Now I realize. Mary is incredibly essential. To love Jesus is to love and embrace His mother, the one who embraced Jesus first. The way she loves Jesus is the same way she loves us. May I, too, embrace her totally with the heart of Jesus.”
As Catholics, we honor Mary everyday, but especially during the month of May. I humbly ask that you look deep within your heart and ask yourself, “Who is Mary to me?” For those of us who may feel far away from her, ask her to be a mother to you. Let Mary be your mother and allow her to draw you every closer to her Son.
Nicole Maile Santos is the current leader of Strive, a young adult ministry based at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Pearl City. OLGC Strive and EPIC Ministry have collaborated for events such as community service, social gatherings and most recently a 24-hour Adoration at Paewalani and a Holy Thursday Pilgrimage. Nicole works full-time as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst for Invo Healthcare. She is also recently engaged to her fiancé, Ian Leyco, and they are planning to get married in 2024.