One of the things which the present Pope, the Pope Emeritus and his predecessor had in common  was their devotion to The Blessed Virgin. In the case of the Blessed John Paul that was almost natural. The Poles have a long record of Marian devotion. In Pope Benedict’s case it was perhaps to do with his Bavarian heritage. They both wrote with love about Our Lady, and in that they were just the latest in a long line which includes St Cyril of Alexandria, Luther, and the Blessed John Henry Newman. That’s an impressive set of names, and not one of them could be written off as a sentimental lightweight. Yet, so often, people seem to think that devotion to Our Lady is somehow a sign of lack of theological rigour, when the opposite is the case.

There is something in the psyche of some Protestants which makes them unable to understand Marian veneration. However much you explain that we are not worshipping St. Mary and that no, we don’t think she is a goddess, or divine, or equal to God, some Protestant somewhere will insist on the opposite. He will show you a picture of someone kneeling in front of a statue and say it proves people worship St Mary. He will have no idea what is in the mind of the person, or answer to the question of why kneeling involves worship when, if I kneel to the Queen no one says I am worshipping her; he will insist – because he came to that conclusion before he had any evidence, and will insist on reading all evidence in the light of his views.

It would be more sensible, surely to hush a moment and get the brain in gear before opening the mouth. Who made you the judge of what is in the hearts of others? I remember going on a school trip to France when I was 10, and a friend giggling when she saw the way two Frenchmen greeted each other by kissing. She was convinced they were gay, and came back to school telling people that all Frenchmen were gay, and when asked to support her opinion, she said she knew it was so because she’d seen them kissing and hugging each other. Instead of realising her ignorance and doing something to remedy it, she preferred to advertise it. Why do some Protestants behave like ten year old girls?

When I pray my Rosary it directs me to the Bible. I think about the Annunciation, the visitation by the Blessed Virgin to her cousin Elizabeth, the nativity, the presentation in the Temple and the finding of Jesus in the Temple. As I finger my beads I meditate on these events in the life of Jesus. I come to Our Lord on this occasion via His beloved mother. Far from her separating me from Him, she helps me by encouraging me to follow her on her journey through His life.

Sometimes people say that the Church is too male-dominated. Well, not in any church where the Blessed Virgin is venerated. For many women she is an antidote to the focus on men, and I think very often it is the more patriarchal Protestants who have the greatest difficulty with this woman who cannot be put into a box and ignored. Well, boys, the Angel said all generations would call her blessed, so get with the angelic programme. You never know, you might find you have nothing to lose but your fear.