Written by Patrick O’Hearn, December 1st, 2023 | The Landing, Issue 4
As a four-year-old boy, I remember one of my first encounters with my mortality and with my Heavenly Mother. My mom received dreaded news that her dear friend had aggressive breast cancer and her friend’s days were numbered. Each night my mom and I would light a candle in front of our 16” Marian Statue and we would say a decade of the Rosary for my mom’s friend. Sadly, my mom’s friend passed away, never getting to meet her grandchildren. She was needed more in Heaven than on earth. But God’s ways are not our ways.
It was in those moments before the flickering candle and the glow of Mary’s face that I knew I was a Mamma’s Boy for life. After all, my mother’s name is Maureen, which means, “Little Mary.” I am also the youngest of three boys, so there is a special bond between my own mother. It is she who has led me to my Heavenly Mother, which I consider one of the greatest blessings of my life. Yes, every earthly mother is called to imitate and reflect the tenderness and love of Our Lady.
Boys tend to gravitate to their fathers as they get older and perhaps therefore St. Joseph. While I did have a decent relationship with my father (today it is really strong), I was closer to my mother. My father worked many hours, even on the weekends. And so, I did not receive the quality time that I longed for. Instead, my mother and I became even closer. She was and still is the kindest and most sacrificial woman I know. She gave me glimpses into Mary’s Immaculate Heart. When we would drive to visit our relatives in Ohio (I grew up in Illinois, though my parents were both from Ohio), my mom and I would pray the Rosary together. I wish I was more devout as a child. My family never did pray the Rosary together, except for on our road trips. Unfortunately, athletics and academics seemed to interfere.
One thing my parents did to instill my love for God and Our Lady was visit various Marian Shrines. I recall visiting my first Marian Shrine: The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois. As a child, I experienced so much peace. When I spent my summers in college working for the National Parks Service in Ohio, I would frequently visit my favorite Midwest Shrine: Sorrowful Mother Shrine. Through these “little pilgrimages,” Our Lady was drawing me to her Son and guiding me on my vocational journey. In college, I began praying the Rosary daily, which I still do to this day. There was a few days when I failed to pray my Rosary and I was assaulted like never before by the devil.
Back to the Sorrowful Shrine. Of all the titles of Our Lady, it is the title of “Our Lady of Sorrows” that is my favorite. There is something about Mary’s sorrows that draw me into the depths of her love. I even bought a statue with Mary’s heart pierced by Seven Swords. Outside of the Rosary, praying “Seven Hail Marys” daily is my favorite Marian Devotion. One of the promises of praying Seven Hail Marys is that Our Lady said she will protect us at every instant of our lives. I believe this promise wholeheartedly!
In honor of Our Lady, I have a new children’s book coming out this February with Sophia Press called, Our Lady of Sorrows: Devotion to Mary’s Seven Sorrows for Children. It is my desire to spread devotion to Mary’s Sorrowful Heart as I have done with another children’s book that I wrote on Our Lady of Champion called Go and Fear Nothing. As an author, I want to “repay” Our Lady for all that she has done for me by spreading devotion to her and to her Son. But more importantly as a father, I want to instill Marian devotion into my children just as my mother did with me.
St. Maximilian Kolbe’s mother, who I write about extensively in my book, Parents of the Saints: The Hidden Heroes Behind Our Favorite Saints, was once asked the secret to raising such a holy child. She said, “I felt my inadequacy and begged the Mother of God to substitute for me.”
Would that God make a Mamma’s boy and a Mamma’s girl out of our children. Would that Mary substitute for our weaknesses and help us love Jesus with her Immaculate and Sorrowful heart!
About the Author, Patrick O’Hearn
Patrick O’Hearn is a devout Catholic, husband, and father. He is an author, literary consultant, speaker, and a freelance editor, previously serving as TAN Books’ acquisitions editor for two years.
He grew up in the Midwest and spent close to three years in a Benedictine Monastery before discerning the call to marriage. He graduated with a master’s in education from Franciscan University of Steubenville and a bachelor’s in marketing from St. Ambrose University.