Every year when were young, my siblings, my parents, and I would stop in Loreto as we were traveling from Legnano to Molise to visit my grandmother. Usually they were brief stops, a half an hour inside the Holy House, in which we would first pray together, then individually in silence. Sometimes we were tired, sometimes angry, sometimes more composed, but it became natural for me to stand in front of Her however I was, sensing that She understood. Passing the minutes in silence in such a holy place made me accustomed to searching my heart for my most true desires and expressing them in front of Her, certain that she was listening. In elementary school, our teachers taught us hymns and prayers dedicated to our Lady. Those hymns and prayers remained among the first things I ever learned. Forever imprinted in my memory, they were destined to accompany me and to reemerge from my heart in my everyday life.
I also remember a small decision I made after visiting Bruges, Belgium with my family while I was in middle school. I was struck by the Virgin’s face in one of Michaelangelo’s stunningly beautiful sculptures we saw there. I bought an image of her face and placed it near my bed. From that moment on it would be the last image on which I would rest my gaze at night, before turning off the light and falling asleep. The rosary — I don’t even remember who taught me how to pray it — had also become an important prayer during my high school years. I grew in the habit of carrying it around with me in my pocket wherever I went. Certainly I had seen my mother pray the rosary; I had seen it in her hand before going to bed in the evenings. Throughout my life I have had the grace of feeling a closeness to Our Lady as one feels toward her Mother. At first I lived this closeness to Our Lady instinctively, without much reflection. Over the years, however, as I began to discover my vocation, I became more and more conscious of this closeness to Our Lady. And today more and more this consciousness is becoming gratitude.
Today I live my relationship with Mary first and foremost through surrendering myself completely. In the morning, in the daily decisions what must be made. In the evening, through looking back on my day. In those moments I experience strong feelings for which I need to pray or give thanks. In those moments in which my thoughts are not clear, but I nonetheless need to entrust them to someone just as I am, I place them before Her as open questions. Often I entrust to her the most precious relationships that I have. I always perceive that these acts of entrusting my prayers to Our Lady do not fall on deaf ears, but are instead heard.
Our Lady’s image in certain places is a great help to me. I have always greatly needed presence, concreteness, and corporality in my relationships. Therefore we have chosen both to hang certain icons inside our house, as well as to place a beautiful white statue in our courtyard, which help me look at her for guidance and talk to her. We have decided to maintain in our house only those images in front of which we pray. In addition there are certain places, such as the Holy House of Loreto, where I keep coming back to rest, or Częstochowa in Poland, where I have had the grace of spending a few days two different times. I went once 12 years ago to pray in earnest for my vocation, and again three years ago in gratitude for having received a response that would imply a great story, one which then had just begun. Entrusting all of myself to Our Lady is the main way for me to live my being her daughter. Often I pray the rosary only to tell her, “I am your daughter, I belong to you, look after me, take care of me. I need you.”
Our Lady is a mother to me also because she explains to me the mysteries of Jesus’s life. When I pray the rosary with this question in mind — help me to enter a little more in these events, help me to understand more, help me to get to know him better! — it often happens that I make small discoveries. Every so often I discover certain mysteries to become suddenly tied with specific moments of my life, which allows them to take on a new clarity. She helps me to slowly enter into her son’s life and into what he might have lived. Through the Marian antiphons that accompany our liturgy of the hours I also learn a lot. They describe Mary’s feelings and her awareness in the various moments of Jesus’s life: Regina caeli, laetare, quia quem meruisti portare resurrexit sicut dixit! (Queen of Heaven, rejoice, the Son whom you merited to bear has risen, as He said!)
Most of all I like to look at Mary’s example in her silence and in her charity, in her concerns, and in her worries for all men, as Péguy describes. In her capacity to prepare for Jesus’s coming in the human heart: how many times I have seen men and women without faith willingly accept just a thread of a relationship with Her! I am struck by her having intervened in our own history. In these 10 years of the Missionaries of St. Charles, she has left multiple signs of her acting, signs which I try to keep present in my memory. These signs have emerged repeatedly in the history of the world as well, through her apparitions, the messages she has given, the consecrations made to which she has listened and protected cities and continents from attacks and from war. This has given me certainty that we must listen to her to accurately read the signs of these times in which we are living.
I am grateful to be her daughter. The relationship she is presently giving me to life with her generates my spontaneous desire to sing to Her, as we do in our house many times a day; to honor her on her feast days and days dedicated to her memory; to live choosing that which I know would please her. Continuously placing myself before Her has rekindled in me time and time again the desire for the greatest things.
In the picture: the pilgrimage to Loreto from Macerata is organized by Communion and Liberation every June (photo courtesy of Giovanazzi).