A Story of Faith and Family: How Mary Became My Constant Companion

Blog Series: The Book of Rachel
Each month, I will be featuring articles written by my 16-year-old niece, Rachel, who will be sharing her personal reflections on living as Catholic teen in today's world. 



A picture of Rachel as a young girl with her Mom, Grandmother and Great-Grandmother, Mary.

Growing up in a Catholic family, my faith life has always been a seamless part of my life.  A strong emphasis on the Catholic faith was woven throughout my childhood, but Mary has specifically played an active role in my life. Even when I find myself  drifting away from the faith, from a busy life or unfocused mind, I constantly recognize her presence in my life, calling me back. As you’ll see, time and time again, Mary has appeared within me. 

As I mentioned, faith has been an integral part of family life. For me, this was further strengthened by the presence of my great grandma, Mary (who I called Gram). Gram’s life was centered around faith, something she passed on to her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Her love of God and family was obvious through her lively and loving manner.

My great grandma Mary was the first tether between Mary, the Blessed Mother, and me. 

When I was nine, my beloved Gram passed away. She had always been a part of my life, and her death was difficult. While members of my family were grieving, I didn’t feel sad. Of course, I missed my great grandmother. But I had a calm knowledge that I would see her again. When my mom asked me about it, all I could say was that I would see her again, someday in heaven.

Fast forward five years, I was attending a public high school and taking religious education classes at my parish. At the end of the semester, my class had a retreat that ended with one-on-one prayer sessions. I was paired up with one of the women who led my small group. As we were praying, she offered a prayer for me to stay connected to my faith in a public school. I told her about my great grandmother and how I had always felt connected to Mary through her. She grabbed my hands and began praying a Hail Mary, dedicating it to me. 

At that moment, I burst into tears. I don’t know what came over me, but I felt the closest to God than ever before. It was like my grandmother was right there, praying for me along with my group leader. 

I left the retreat feeling unstoppable. I truly felt reconnected to my faith, once again through our Mother Mary and my great grandmother, Mary. Both always with me, guiding me and supporting me in ways I could not explain but could always feel.

During my junior year, I underwent the process of confirmation. Before the sacrament, I took classes at my parish to prepare for the next steps of my faith. At the end of the course, my class went on a retreat, which included optional reconciliation. I felt called to the confessional. It seemed like a piece that I needed in order to fully embrace the new chapter that I was entering.

Once I had confessed my sins and asked for penance, the priest who was with me offered me advice. He gave me guidance on my struggles and began discussing Mary. I hadn’t mentioned my connection to the Blessed Mother, so the priest had no basis to pull her into the prayer. But still, there Mary was, reappearing in my life. The priest told me to devote my life to Mary. I sat on the other side of the confessional, in awe. 

“When you’re struggling, pray to Mary. When you’re thankful, pray to Mary. Ask her for her chastity, her divinity. She will guide you. She already has.” This is what the priest told me. I can still hear his calming voice, echoing the faith threads that had sewn my adolescence together. He forgave my sins and gave me a decade of the rosary as my penance. I left the sacrament sobbing. Never in my life had Mary been so near, so present. 

My life is a testament to the works of Mary. All that I do is dedicated to her. She has been the guiding light in my life, always providing me with grace and resilience.  She was present in my great grandmother not only in name, but also in her example of faith and family.  As I chart my course forward in life, these lessons will continue to act as guideposts on my journey.  In this I find peace in whatever my future holds. Gram’s got me. Mary’s got me. God’s got me. I’ve got this.


A picture of Rachel as a baby with her great-grandmother, Mary.



About Rachel
Rachel is the niece of Katie Ratliff, founder of Lily & Lamb. Rachel grew up Catholic in the suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she attended Catholic grade school. This fall, Rachel will  be a senior in high school. She is an avid reader, loves spending time with friends, going to concerts and staying active. What she says about her Catholic faith: "It's been able to grow up with me. The older I get, the deeper my faith and beliefs grow."



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