At a young age I developed a fear of death. I don’t know what it was that caused me to fixate on this. It wasn’t the death of a relative or family friend. Not that I recall, anyway. I would often find myself lying in bed at night thinking about what happens to a person in death. My imagination ran wild during my bouts with insomnia at a young age. Often my mind would zero in on a feeling of complete and utter emptiness or nothingness. For a young girl, this was incredibly scary.
Even though I grew up Catholic and I believed in God (or had some elementary understanding in a belief in God), I still questioned whether what I was taught was actually true. Years later this gave me some comfort. That probably sounds contradictory, for why should I find comfort in my earlier doubts and questions? Because it tells me that I have always been seeking Truth. This is what our Catholic faith teaches us.
Man tends by nature toward the truth. He is obligated to honor and bear witness to it: “It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons … are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth.” (CCC 2467)
As I was drawn back to the Catholic Church as an adult I discovered that I knew very little about the beauty of the Catholic faith. I had so much to learn! In particular, I discovered the Blessed Mother.
It’s weird, because I had chosen Mary as my confirmation name when I was in the 8th grade. Somehow, though, I never really learned much about her. My interest was piqued when I started learning about Marian apparitions. From there I began reading and trying to understand more about the various church teachings on Mary (the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, etc.). A whole new aspect of the Catholic faith came to life for me and I felt a connection to this blessed woman (Luke 1:48) that helped to strengthen my faith in her Son, God, and the one true Church.
The Assumption, in particular, had a profound effect on me. The insomnia I experienced as a child continued into my adulthood, but to a lesser degree. Those thoughts I had of death and the emptiness/nothingness that weighed heavily on me still crept into my nighttime thoughts. I had taught myself to focus on something repetitive to help calm my mind and get myself to sleep. Often counting was what helped. But as my faith grew I found myself reciting the Hail Mary instead. This simple prayer brought a peace to my soul that I had not experienced before. Instead of simply calming my brain, I was being comforted in my whole body and soul. Soon that fear of death began to dissipate to the point where I stopped thinking about it completely.
It happened gradually and I did not make the connection for a long time. Recently, as I was contemplating the Assumption of Mary in anticipation of this post, I had a light bulb moment. Mary brings me comfort when I struggle with my fears because she is a sign of hope in our belief of the resurrection of the dead. As the Catechism tell us:
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians. (from CCC 966)
The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son’s Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of his Body. (CCC 974)
What wonderful comfort to know that God has given Mary to us as our Mother to bring us comfort in our time of need. In my time of need, I pray for peace in the dark, still night and my Blessed Mother in heaven brings me hope of a life to come. With her help, I can defeat the demons that sometimes plague my thoughts in those quiet hours.
Today, not only do I know that my faith is rooted in Truth, but that desire to seek Truth also comforts my soul. As I said in the beginning, asking those questions then may have raised doubts, but in the long run, they proved to be the key to learning and accepting the One, True Church that was founded by Jesus Christ Himself.
As I anticipate the celebration of the Feast of the Assumption tomorrow I will once again be reminded that through Christ we have been given the gift of everlasting life. Mary, our Blessed Mother, is our symbol of hope. God assumed her to be with Him in heaven and through her we can anticipate our own resurrection one day.
What an incredible feast day it is!
Top image source: morguefile