Interview with Debbie Staresinic on Befriending Mary
This interview is the third in our four-part Befriending Mary series for the month of May. Learn more about the series here.
Debbie Staresinic is a Catholic speaker and author. She is a graduate of the Theology of the Body Institute in Philadelphia and serves on the Board of Directors at Ruah Woods in Cincinnati. Debbie has written two Rosary meditations inspired by St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body: On a Mission to Love to help children and families form the daily habit of praying the rosary, and Theology of the Body Rosary Meditations, which focuses on Christ’s love for His Bride the Church.
What's your favorite title for Mary?
Theotokos. I love this title because it tells us about Mary’s identity and purpose. The Greek translation for Theotokos is “Mother of God” or “God-bearer”. Mary is the Mother of God and her purpose is to bring Him to others. Not only did God choose Mary as his Mother, he gave her to us as our Mother, too. Through this, we are invited into the very relationship that Mary had with her Son, to be God-bearers to the rest of the world.
Tell us about your relationship with Mary: When did you start getting to know her? How has she interceded or shown up for you? What's your relationship like with her today?
Growing up Catholic I was intrigued by Mary, but I didn’t really know her. I went to her mostly in times of need. Our relationship began to flourish as I became a mother myself and Mary showed up for me in a number of powerful ways.
I recall one night in particular when Our Lady appeared in a dream offering me consolation over the loss of our child through miscarriage. I recall vividly her tender gaze looking down upon me as she said, “two and two”. We had two girls at the time. I wondered if “two and two” could mean that we would one day be blessed with two boys. Sure enough, it did.
Mary really made her presence known at the delivery of our next child. After hours of labor with no progression, the doctor determined that a cesarean section (c-section) was needed. Both of our daughters’ births had been c-sections. We’d hoped and prayed that this delivery would be different. I was devastated. Trustingly, my husband pulled a rosary from his pocket and together we prayed as we held the beads in our hands over my pregnant tummy. When the doctor came in to begin surgery, he miraculously discovered that I was 10cm and was ready to push. Twenty minutes later, we gave birth to our son.
Over time my relationship with Mary began to move from a self-serving one of need, to a self-giving one of love. The single greatest influence contributing to this transformation was my Consecration to Mary. For those that are new to the idea, Marian Consecration simply means giving Mary permission to complete her motherly task in us, which is to form us into other Christ’s. In other words, she helps us become the saints we’re created to be.
In 2010 I began studying St. Louis de Montfort’s Method of Total Consecration. Nine months later, on the Feast of the Visitation, I consecrated myself to the Blessed Mother and promised to pray a rosary every day. I laugh at myself now looking back at how difficult I thought this would be. What seemed at the time to be a nearly impossible task has become one of my greatest treasures. It is through the daily recitation of the rosary that I’ve come to know Mary and Jesus in a way that I could have never imagined.
Mary is my Mother and cares deeply for me. I think of her upon waking and call upon her throughout the day. I entrust all that I have to her and ask her for the graces needed to fulfill my duties each day. I talk to Mary, sharing my hopes, dreams and concerns with her, seeking her guidance on big and small matters. As St. Louis de Montfort taught, Mary always leads us to Jesus. This is the greatest gift of being in friendship with her.
The Church tells us to look to Mary for encouragement to become all that God has made us to be. What aspect of Mary's humanity (or one of her virtues) resonates most with you or inspires you?
Mary’s faith inspires me. She trusted and believed in the impossible from the Annunciation to the foot of the Cross. As terrifying as it can be at times to venture into the unfamiliar, Mary’s example gives me hope. When I find myself shrinking from what God is calling me to do, my gentle Mother intercedes. Mary helps me replace my insecurities, fears of failing and resistance to suffering, with trust. She offers me the grace to say “yes” and the opportunity to experience first-hand the transforming power of God.
Mary has been a popular subject for artists for centuries. What's your favorite image of her?
The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898
The Annunciation helps me to think about Mary as a real person. I imagine her as a young girl, being visited by an angel and being asked to be the Mother of God. How is this possible? Am I capable? What will others think? Without knowing the details, Mary opened herself up and said “yes”. This becomes my model for how to respond to God’s plan for my life.
St. John Paul the Great's Theology of the Body invites men and women to discover God's plan for our lives. How does Mary help illuminate this truth through the mysteries of the rosary?
The rosary and Theology of the Body (TOB) were two of St. John Paul II’s favorite topics. In his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, JPII wrote about the anthropological significance of the rosary. He said, “Each mystery of the rosary, carefully meditated, sheds light on the mystery of man.” The rosary contains important stories about Jesus and Mary’s lives. Reflecting on these events helps us to understand our meaning and purpose in life. Jesus took on flesh to reveal the dignity of the human person, the unity of body and soul, our call to self-gift, our vocation to love, and our destiny in Heaven. These basic truths of our faith, woven throughout the mysteries of the rosary, are also foundational themes of JPII’s TOB.
What would you recommend to women looking to start or deepen their friendship with the Blessed Mother?
As with any friendship, spending time with the Blessed Mother will deepen friendship with her. The rosary is a wonderful way to connect with Mary. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to take up the practice of the daily rosary. You’ll find that it brings you great peace.
If you’re new to praying the rosary you may want to start with one decade a day. If you find your mind wandering, don’t stop. There are lots of beautiful rosary guides with visual images to help you stay focused. There are also rosary apps that you can download and listen to while driving or walking.
Another way to get to know the Blessed Mother is to read about her. We have the blessing today of many great books about Mary. Additionally, you may consider displaying beautiful images of the Blessed Mother throughout your home, wearing a Marian medal on a chain around your neck as a reminder of her throughout the day, celebrating Marian feast days with your family. In general, treat the Blessed Mother like the real person that she is.
Above all, if you haven’t already, please consider consecrating yourself to Mary. 33 Days to Morning Glory, by Fr. Michael Gaitley, is a simple and effective method of Marian Consecration. I highly recommend it.
Marian Consecration will fortify your friendship with the Blessed Mother. The more you know Mary, the better able she is to bring you to Jesus. The more you know Jesus, the better able you are to bring Him to others. In short, Marian Consecration will help you to be the God-bearer you are meant to be. As we know from St. Catherine of Sienna, when we are what we are meant to be, we will set the world on fire. Let’s do this!