Far from calling her "blessed," most generations of Protestants pass to their judgment without calling her at all.

This is not just a "Protestant problem." Too many Catholics have abandoned their rich heritage of Marian devotions. They've been cowed by the polemics of fundamentalists, shamed by the snickering of dissenting theologians, or made sheepish by well-meaning but misguided ecumenical sensitivities. They're happy to have a mom who prays for them, prepares their meals and keeps their home; they just wish she'd stay safely out of sight when others are around who "just wouldn't understand."

I, too, have been guilty of this filial neglect--not only with my earthly mother, but also with my mother in Jesus Christ.. The path of my conversion led me from juvenile delinquency to Presbyterian ministry. All along the way, I had my anti-Marian moments.

My earliest encounter with Marian devotion came when my Grandma Hahn died. She'd been the only Catholic on either side of my family, a quiet, humble, and holy soul. Since I was the only "religious" one in the family, my father gave me her religious articles when she died. I looked at them with horror. I held her rosary in my hands and ripped it apart, saying, "God, set her free from the chains of Catholicism that have bound her." I meant it, too. I saw the rosary and the Virgin Mary as obstacles that came between Grandma and Jesus Christ.

Even as I slowly approached the Catholic faith--drawn inexorably by the truth of one doctrine after another--I could not make myself accept the Church's Marian teaching.

The proof of her maternity would only come for me when I made the decision to let myself be her son. Despite all the powerful scruples of my Protestant training--remember, just a few years before, I had torn apart my Grandma's beads--I took up the rosary one day and began to pray.

I prayed for a very personal, seemingly impossible intention. On the next day, I took up the beads again, and the next day and the next. Months passed before I realized that my intention, the seemingly impossible situation, had been reversed since the day I first prayed the rosary. My petition had been granted.

From that moment, I knew my mother. From that moment, I believe, I truly knew my home in the covenant family of God: Yes, Christ was my brother. Yes, he'd taught me to pray, "Our Father." Now, in my heart, I accepted his command to behold my mother.