Our Lady of the Lost and Found

By Julianne Stanz | For The Compass | August 12, 2020

My phone rang on a Sunday afternoon, it was my husband calling. “Wait until you see who I’m bringing home,” my husband excitedly told me. “Not another cat I hope, because we already have two,” I replied. He chuckled. “Oh no, you’re going to love this, just wait and see,” he said. And with that, he hung up the phone.

So it was with great curiosity that I met Wayne in our driveway as he pulled the car in. The first thing I noticed was my husband’s smile — he was grinning from ear to ear and the second thing was that the passenger side was completely obscured by a large statue. When he turned it around to face me, I could see that it was a statue of the Blessed Mother, specifically of the Immaculate Heart of Mary! I was stunned. Just the week before, we had talked about trying to find a good quality statue of Mary to place in our garden grotto. My husband, who was dropping off some old junk at the local dump, found a precious treasure. Our prayers had been answered.

“I just couldn’t leave her there, I HAD to bring her home,” Wayne said. He explained that someone had deliberately set this statue of Mary on top of the wall over the dump, hoping for it to be seen. A considerable feat, since the statue weighs close to 100 pounds. We speculated as to why she had been discarded, as it was clear that someone wanted her to be clearly seen and find a new home. My daughter, Ava, upon seeing the statute of Mary declared that she “needed some new makeup,” which made us all smile. She was worn, she was dusty but she was ours.

Later that day, I posted a note on my Facebook page with a picture of the statute and many people commented on how significant the Blessed Mother has been in their journey of faith. Some of my friends who indicated that they were not practicing their faith shared that they still felt a special closeness to the Blessed Mother. A friend of mine named Amanda indicated that she was also looking for a clay/terracotta Blessed Mother, but “perhaps I’m not looking in the right places,” she noted.

That evening, as I was praying over the day, I thought about Amanda’s comment and how profound it was, all the more so because this statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was found in the most un-immaculate of places — a dump. There’s a lesson here for all of us. How many of us look for God, Jesus, Mary and faith “in all the right places” and end up disappointed? What about looking in what are considered to be the “wrong places?”

Instead, Mary reveals to us that we ought to reconsider what we think — even as trash in our search for faith. It is the poor, marginalized, forgotten, lonely and brokenhearted that are precious to God, and Mary reminds us of this. She appears to simple people in areas that are often considered lowly and “dumped” by society. Fatima in Portugal, Lourdes in France, Kibeho in Rwanda and Knock in Ireland are some of the wayward places that Our Lady has appeared. All this she does to lead us to her son, Jesus Christ. “Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did,” St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast day is Aug. 14, reminds us.

With a mother’s love, Mary is especially close to us in our pain and our suffering because she too knows suffering — the turmoil of societal upheaval, the sadness of watching people reject her beloved son and the unspeakable pain of losing a child. I, too, share this pain with the Blessed Mother — the grief of losing a child — and she has given me strength, determination and courage to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. As a mother, Mary knows our heart and offers her loving consolation and solace to everyone, especially when life “dumps” upon us.

While I still find it sad that this beautiful statute of Our Lady was discarded and left in a dump, it surely was part of God’s plan that she found a home with our family, who welcomed her dusty, worn and yet serene presence, into our home. We have chosen to clean her but not to overly make her up, to remind us that in the places of life where humanity is discarded, Mary stands as mother to us all. Welcome home, Blessed Mother. You fit right into our family, makeup or no makeup. Thank you for finding a way to gift all of us with your Immaculate Heart.

Stanz is director of parish life and evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay and author of “Start with Jesus: How Everyday Disciples Will Renew the Church” (Loyola Press).

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