Mary’s love and presence are so intrinsic to the Incarnation! Our Mother shows herself to us in many different ways: she’s the Queen of Heaven, she’s a simple maiden; she’s the Virgin of Guadeloupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, the Star of the Sea… wherever we are in our journey, wherever we happen to be when we need her, she is exactly where we are.
We light candles, we pray, we read books about her, we think about her, but none of those things engage all the senses. Like the ways Mary encounters us on our journey, the ways we encounter her in our day-to-day lives change.
One such encounter surprised me. Last year, I gave one of our coloring books—Veruschka Guerra’s beautiful Our Lady’s Garden—to my dear friend Margo as a Christmas gift. She is something of an artist herself, my friend, and so I thought the book would fit well with her interests. I was, of course, thinking about the form rather than the substance!
“What I found extraordinary,” Margo said to me, “was how each prayer fit so simply and so perfectly with what I was thinking and feeling as I colored the accompanying page.”
Those prayers are not unfamiliar: in fact, they’re the world's most beloved and famous Marian devotions. They include Hail Mary; Hail, Queen of Heaven; Immaculate Heart of Mary consecration; Queen of Peace; Mary, Star of the Sea; Regina Coeli; and the Most Holy Virgin invocation. So why were these traditional prayers, familiar as they were, awakening something different in Margo?
It has to be the act of coloring that made the difference. I’ve found that it takes a lot of focus to say a traditional prayer with meaning and feeling: the words are so ingrained in my mind that it is easy to rattle them off by rote. What Margo was noticing was combining the words with the act of coloring a beautiful image of Mary gave them fresh, new life.
“And then there’s the garden,” said Margo. “So much beauty, and of course we’re accustomed to associating flowers with Mary.” I looked back at the book, and she was right: there are images of flowers, birds, butterflies, leaves, fish; the warmth of the rising sun's rays; the peace of a descending dove; the smile of welcome Our Lady extends to everyone.
Accompanying the images are texts taken from Our Lady's apparitions in Fatima, Lourdes, Guadalupe, Banneux, Pontmain, Paris, and Akita. Did those contribute to Margo’s experience?
“I think so, yes,” she answered. “It gives a context to the art, so—I know this sounds odd—that it’s not art at all, but something bigger than that. Something that encompasses the world and Mary’s love for it.” She paused. “It opened up a sacred space in which I didn’t have to think, or form arguments, or make explanations. All she was asking was for me to be there.”
The picture used for the book’s cover is perhaps my favorite, and it was the first one Margo colored. “It shimmers,” she said. “Look: each star, each flower explodes with light and life and color! It all revolves around her, and yet she has this expression of utter peace, complete trust and tranquility. I go back to that image again and again.”
Special days honoring Mary have been part of Catholic tradition since the end of the first century, with frescos of Mary both with and without Christ in the Roman catacombs. Since that time, devotion to Mary has grown to include holy days we customarily observe during the liturgical year.
The Marian feasts in August give us glimpses into Mary’s life and her role as Mother of God and mediator of graces. And there are so many!
- August 2: Our Lady of the Angels
- August 5: Our Lady of the Snows
- August 13: Our Lady Refuge of Sinners
- August 15: The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- August 22: Queenship of Mary
There are many ways to commemorate Mary’s feasts—from attending Mass to making a holy hour or just saying an extra Rosary. Why not consider adding this very special coloring book to that list?
by Jeannette de Beauvoir