Under the Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This image of the Blessed Mother, from Portraits of Saints, can be found here.

Under Her Protection

I have a fascination with all things Mary. I am seriously fascinated by her strength.

That’s right – her strength.

If one were to catalogue every piece of art in which the Blessed Virgin appears, my hunch is that words like meek, humble, compliant, pious, and passive would dominate the text. This is understandable, given the fact that she has been venerated for centuries for being a most willing cooperator in salvation history.

The problem does not lie in her artistic or theological rendering, though. Her strength actually pours out of her – in any “pious” piece of art or theological text in which one finds her.  The problem lies in how we think about these words. 

They are often defined as weak.

Given this issue, it worth discussing our understanding of strength.


I have been in therapy and 12 Step recovery for many years and at some point on my journey, I finally understood the idea central to all 12 Step groups: The idea of surrender. Admitting defeat. Understanding I could not do this thing called life, without surrendering my will.

Instead of attempting to control people, places, and things, my recovery would lie in my surrender of these things.  And in that surrender, I found a strength I had not ever experienced before.  It was the ultimate paradox.  To be humble, compliant, and passive takes an enormous amount of strength!  It is a lesson I continue to learn again and again.

It’s no wonder I found the Catholic faith after being involved with 12 Step recovery. Catholicism is all about surrender. It is embodied in every Catholic Church in the form of a crucifix. The representation of the crucifixion is, at its heart, the most perfect incarnation of surrender.


And while this supreme sacrifice of Jesus cannot be overshadowed by anything else, it is impossible to forget who was at the foot of the cross.

While highly stylized, this image represents a maternal surrender that I cannot fathom. The strength it takes to surrender this way is also unimaginable. But I pray for it. I ask Mary to give it to me.

This image of the Madonna and Child seems to represent all of Mary’s concern. As though she might know, on some level, the strength she will need to endure what will be asked of her.

Because the Blessed Virgin Mother is Fully Human

This fact is what gives me the confidence to surrender to Mary’s protection. She is fully human. Not divine. After Christ, Mary’s ability to relate to our struggles is unparalleled. Any pain we experience in life has already been experienced by Mary – so there is no area of our life that she will not understand.


Prayer to Mary

Perhaps you’re feeling like you could use a little assistance with surrender right now.

If you desire a devotion to Mary, but do not have one, the following prayer is perfect for beginners. It can also be a nice addition or change if you already have a devotion.

It is simple and straightforward and it will certainly bring you under the protection of Mary.  It is my belief that you need not be Catholic to pray it!  All that is needed is the desire to pray it (this is true for any Catholic prayer, for that matter).

Pray it whenever you feel the need to surrender.


This prayer, can be found at Kendra Tierney’s website, Printable Prayers, or by clicking here.

Further Reading

You can read up on the Church Councils with regard to Mary here.

You can read up on the difference between adoration of Jesus and veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary here.


This image of the Blessed Mother, from Portraits of Saints, can be found here.

Leave a Reply

I would love to hear your thoughts on the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Do you have a devotion to her?  What do you think about her strength-as-surrender model? Perhaps you want to develop a devotion to her.  All thoughtful comments are welcome. Please ask any questions you have and I will do my best to answer them. AMDG.

The Polar Bear Club


It’s that time of year, folks. Endless summer nights, visits to the beach, summer BBQ parties, and… my annual withdrawal into any dark, mentholated cavern. Because…


No, no. Let me re-phrase that. I am not a fan of the word *hate*.


Hmm. That didn’t work.

So let me tell you all the reasons WHY I detest this purgatory-like season THAT EVERYONE ELSE LOVES.


Well, this is just a theory but I am definitely built for cold weather. I have a strong aversion to the sun. I cannot function or think in high humidity. My skin is porcelain white. My hair is dark, almost black. Most people mistake me for a vegetarian. (Somehow, pale skin = vegetarian. But I am a proud carnivore. I live almost exclusively on chicken, bacon, and carbs). With the right coat and scarf, I can stand fairly cold temperatures.

I am convinced my ancestors are living it up in the arctic tundra.

And while I am more like Anna, personality wise…

… Elsa is definitely my Spirit Animal.  She gets me.


I say this all the time but I did bit a research, and it turns out, Banshees are not known for sweating a lot. Urban Dictionary has some very cool intel on Banshees and you can look them up here, in case, you too, have made stuff up about Banshees.

My point is this: I SWEAT LIKE A MOFO. I am not exaggerating. And mostly around my hairline, neck, and well – everywhere.  When I meet someone who actually ENJOYS warm weather, I ask if they sweat. They generally say Yes, of course!  But when I ask them to describe their sweating, they describe what I can only call “the Grace Kelly Art of Perspiring”.

My friend Alexis was made in this mold.  It is a testament to her awesomeness that we are still actually friends.  In this pic, she is celebrating that it was 82 degrees.  Yes, that is too warm for me.  If you have been paying attention, you would not have asked me such an offensive question.

IMG_3509 2


I like the way I look in the fall, winter, and spring – but in the high humidity of summer, my face just melts off. I have curly hair, too, so all my hard work to cultivate my classic curls is a waste of time. No matter what precautions I take, I end up looking electrocuted. I do altar my routine in the summer but it is only out of necessity.

Have I mentioned my extreme vanity and ego-centric ways? No? My morning hair and make-up routine even influences my morning prayer which you can read about here.

And for the record, this is my favorite picture of me and my husband on a *crisp* and *cool* day in Munich, Germany.  He is not only the most awesome husband, but he is also my WEATHER TWIN! (Explanation below).

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Because the world rejoices with the surge in temperature, I tend to feel like the odd-man out. They wax poetic about the warm-up and I begin to scowl. I am highly extroverted so I love eating lunch with my colleagues.  The fact that everyone wants to sit outside and eat lunch in the hell of the high humidity – and I literally cannot join them – means that I am the only one sitting inside in the AC.  Which makes it harder for me to connect.


Weather Twins

A Weather Twin is exactly what it sounds like – someone who would rather walk through Central Park during a winter snow storm than, say, sweat their balls off at a summer BBQ. We commiserate in the summer and rejoice as the temperatures plummet.

The Polar Bear Club

Not a club that you can simply join, per se. It’s more like an automatic enrollment if you have any kind of reaction to heat and humidity. I currently have two colleagues at work that are in the Polar Bear Club: Scott and Nicole. And it is glorious.

We text about it all the time – it REALLY helps to have people who understand.

Lest anyone freak out over the fact that we were freaking out over 74 degrees, the concept of “dew point” will be explained further down.


I realize that *most* of my readers truly love the summer. And while I have a lot of friends who feel the way I do (we tend to form an instant bond), I try to accept the fact that most people will not understand this part of me. A few years ago, I came across information about Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder. Most everyone is aware of Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder but Summer SAD is often under the radar. Dr. Norman Rosenthal, who first came up with the Winter SAD Diagnosis, eventually figured out that some people experience symptoms of depression in the summer – but it was related to humidity levels, excessive sweating, too much sunlight, and isolation. You can read up on it here and here.

Upon learning that this was a real thing and I was not alone, I began to pay more attention to my needs. I don’t actually need medication for my Summer SAD, but I definitely implement behavioral modifications to my lifestyle. It involves lots of air conditioning.


This was a crucial turning point in my meteorological education; watching the weather report one day, I heard the meteorologist say something like: “That will be a really nice dew point for you New York City, because even though the temperature will be high, that low dew point will make it feel much more comfortable.”  I could not believe my ears!  And yes, I did some research and it was a revelation.

I always check the humidity.  But that never gives a good indication as to how ectoplasmic the day might be; one day could be 85 degrees with 60% humidity and feel okay, and the next day could be the exact same temperature and humidity but be slimy and gross.  And that’s because it’s all about the dew point.  Essentially, the dew point gives you the “stickiness” factor.  I am now a dew point girl.  Anything 60 and above is really uncomfortable. If it is above 62, I have to stay indoors.

Disgust, from Inside Out, is my other spirit animal.  Thanks Disney.  You really get me.

There is an excellent Wikipedia explanation on dew point and its relationship to human comfort.  You can read up on it here.


If you are not my Weather Twin, it can be very difficult to understand. For you, there might be no such thing as “too much sunlight.” But take note that it is real and some people around you might be susceptible to summer depression. If you notice your friends or kids being listless in the summer, consider the fact that they might be affected by heat, humidity, and too much sunlight.  If you have a friend who declines outdoor activities during the warmer months on a regular basis, they’re probably dealing with Summer SAD.  Please send them this post!


I LOVE the four seasons.  I moved to NYC from LA in 1999 – not only because NYC is my favorite place on earth – but because it has four seasons.  I love being able to wear a cute top, jeans, and strappy sandals, without a jacket.  It’s just that I am more comfortable, overall, in the cooler weather.

And I don’t “like being cold” – something of which my reptilian friends often accuse me.  It’s just that with the right cold-weather clothes, I am super comfortable.  But I do get cold.  It’s just easier for me to warm up than my lizard-friends.

In case my lizard friends are feeling unloved:


I would love to hear your thoughts!  Please scroll back to THE TOP OF THIS PAGE and hit the “leave a reply” button.  Are there any Weather Twins out there?  Or might you be married to one?  Perhaps this post explains why your kids are listless in the summer.  Again, please scroll to the top, and click the “leave a reply” button.  I look forward to hearing from you!


How To: Morning Prayer

The Problem

One problem I have when I want to cultivate a good habit is that I get super-excited and make things way too complicated. I draw up a spectacularly elaborate plan that is doomed to fail – I only say that last part BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT ALWAYS HAPPENS.

After all of these spectacular fails, I have (finally) been able to carve out a pretty sweet morning prayer routine. What this means in the real-real is that I (mostly) stick to this routine on a (mostly) regular basis. Except for weekends. That’s my next challenge. Maybe I’ll do a different prayer on the weekends… I’ll get back to you on that one. But case in point: It was a peaceful Saturday morning when I was thinking about writing this post about how great I am at my morning prayer routine and how I could offer y’all sage advice.  Checking Pinterest and searching for some whimsical prints to illustrate my blog musings, I realized I had not yet said my morning prayers. 🤦🏻‍♀️

So, of course, I said them real quick so I could get back to what I really wanted to do: write this post. 😂

Okay, so I will definitely be coming up with a weekend morning prayer routine – I’ll keep ya’ posted on my progress.🕵🏻‍♀️

Practical Considerations

Depending on your season and station in life, you will need to cultivate a morning prayer routine that works for you.

You might be a stay-at-home-Mom with little ones underfoot and a foggy memory of what praying actually looks like🤔.  Or you could a high-powered attorney who works early and stays late, who can barely make it through the Our Father without nodding off 😴. You may have four young kids and work outside the home🤯. Or perhaps you are retired, all the kids are adults, and you spend your days knitting beautiful crafts for your grandchildren and walking in your garden.🌸.

The point is that everyone’s prayer routine will look different – even if we fall into the same category – because everyone has different temperaments and different needs.

I am a high-school teacher who works like crazy during the school year 🤬 with a blessed respite in the summers😎. My husband and I are currently a “Waiting Family” for adoption – and so we are “child-free” for the moment. (Side Note: That’s the new way to say “child-less” which can be a tough term for those who are dealing with fertility issues and/or wanted children but never had them. But I digress).  More on the adoption front in a future post.

As a teacher, I wake up earlier than the common horde and because my vanity requires at least an hour for hair and make up, I need prayers that are meaningful and short. Emphasis on short.  But they have to be meaningful!  I have tried some beautiful prayers, full of meaning for me… but I had to get my hair and face started or I’d be late for Homeroom.

If this sounds like you, try to find a meaningful, short prayer that you say between the time you wake up and before you get to work.

The Details

Here is my current routine which can help you get started. Take what you like and leave the rest.

💠Coffee: God’s Gift for Morning Prayer

Priorities! I truly find God in my coffee. Hot, Iced, Cold-Brew, Espresso – you name it, I love it.  Just the scent of a coffee house fills my heart and stirs my soul.  A well-meaning friend suggested I give up coffee for Lent one year… and I was like: Why would I give up God for Lent…?🙊

💠Find a short prayer you like.  The Roman Catholic Tradition has an embarrassment of riches in terms of prayers.  You need not even be Catholic to use a Catholic prayer.  Or you can make up your own.  For my work-a-day readers struggling to cultivate this habit, I strongly suggest the prayer be short. Short. Short. Short. ✅

💠Mostly: I say my morning prayers right after I watch a little morning news (Morning Joe) and eat my cereal (Special K Chocolate Almond) before I step in front of the mirror for hair and make-up.

💠Occasionally: I say my prayers on my walk to Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts.  Because I forgot to say them before hair and make-up.  (And for those keeping count: Yes, for my iced coffee which is a completely different drink than my earlier hot coffee).

💠You know yourself best: Some of you will need to say the prayer upon waking, some will need coffee first, some will say it in the car or train on the to way to work… For those working in the home, you might say it while feeding the babes.  In his book, Plan of Life: Habits to Help You Grow Closer to God, Roger J. Landry suggests that morning prayer can be done at any of these times.  Some will do it upon rising, others after a cup of coffee and a shower.  I rejoiced when he said that because I used to think morning prayer MUST BE SAID IMMEDIATELY UPON RISING.  And I didn’t even have a chance to fail at that regimen because it never happened in the first place.  You can find Landry’s book here.  

💠Experiment! And see what sticks.

The Specifics

Here are the prayers I am currently using for my morning prayer (at least on weekdays).

💙The Morning Offering

It’s right there in the name!  There are many versions and you can google it to find the right one for you.  I use this traditional Catholic version.  I have this visual saved on my phone because if something is pretty, I am more likely to use it.

Printable Prayers by Kendra Tierney.  Can be found here.

💙Third Step & Seventh Step Prayers

Full disclosure – I belong to a couple 12 Step Groups. These two prayers currently resonate with me.

💙St Michael Prayer

I always shied away from this prayer in the past – too militant for me.  And I didn’t like thinking about the devil or evil spirits because I felt like it set me up to be suspicious of others.  But, like most things in my Catholic journey, St Michael showed up when I needed him most – when forces beyond my control were causing me serious anxiety.  I was spinning out!  Then I thought: Huh, maybe Saint Michael can fight this one for me… So I went on Pinterest to download an image of him for my phone.  I like the ones that show him as strong and peaceful. At the same time, I came across St Joan of Arc in her battle regalia and downloaded that as well.  I’m super visual so these images helped relieve some anxiety just by looking at them.

A few days later, I had an intense urge to read up on Saint Joan of Arc’s life story.  That’s when I found out that one of the three voices she heard was Saint Michael (cue Twilight Zone music).  Clearly, God was trying to send me some relief!  I found the St Michael prayer and added it to my morning prayer routine. Today, far from turning me off, it offers me peace and protection. 🙏

Printable Prayers by Kendra Tierney. Can be found here.

Strong and Peaceful St Michael Image

St Michael Archangel from the dominion tv series http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3079768/


St Joan of Arc, praying.  In full battle gear.
Fantasy Art so Beautiful it Should be Painted on a Crumbling Old Church


Your Thoughts

What is your current morning prayer routine?  What have you tried in the past that worked or didn’t work?  What struggles are you currently facing?  I would love to hear from you.  Please comment in the section below.

Warmly, Skye

Finding Strength & Peace with the Saints


St. Teresa of Avila praying to St Joseph and Jesus.  A Saint praying… to a Saint.

The Communion of Saints

The Catholic Faith offers so many paths for finding peace when we are anxious, tired, and feeling like we lost our last friend.  One of my absolute favorite ways of finding the strength, courage, and peace I need is to tap into the Communion of Saints.  After the Sacraments, it might be the way I live in communion with God the most.

A little explanation for Catholics and Non-Catholics alike: The Communion of Saints is not a superstitious teaching, in the least.  It is a recognition of the fact that God is in charge of all that is seen and unseen, visible and invisible.  It is the recognition that this material, physical world and the spiritual world are not at odds with each other; in fact they are in communion with each other.

I live in New York City.  When I ride the train to and from work, I often visualize everyone’s Guardian Angel sitting or standing next to them.  The same is true of the Saints – they are always with us, helping us and praying for us.  Because they are no longer living on the earth in their physical bodies, but are pure spirit, they can “travel” to different places on earth.  For instance, St Thérèse of Lisieux can be consoling someone in Paris on the Metro on her way home from work AND consoling some other soul on the train in Manhattan, on his way to the office AT THE SAME TIME.  And she can be with countless others who are praying to her at any given time (she might be the busiest Saint, after The Blessed Virgin Mary).  Because Thérèse is no longer limited to the physical realm, she can be everywhere at once, even for those souls who don’t know of her, but nonetheless desperately need her intercession.

This image from the awesome Portraits of Saints can be found here.

Hanging About the Graveyard

The coolest thing about the Communion of Saints is that it is the most “grass roots” movement in the Roman Catholic Church and it knows no gender or racial boundaries. In my researching different Saints, I’ve been taught about their background and heritage, which is truly global.

It all began back when the Church was persecuted in the 3rd and 4th Centuries and many of the faithful were being martyred for their belief in Christ.  If they would renounce Christ, they’d live.  So many of them did NOT renounce Christ and were then killed.  Because of their steadfast presence in the face of their own death, other Christians who were worried they might be next, came to pray at the graves of those earlier martyrs, asking for their intercession.  They prayed for courage in the face of their own possible martyrdom, to be steadfast like those who went before them, to not renounce Christ in order to save their lives.  They prayed with confidence that these martyrs were now with Christ in Heaven, and could hear their pleas for help.  They believed they would receive their strength from beyond.  

The point here is that they prayed for their intercession, which is a fancy way of saying “Hey, Thérèse, can you ask Jesus to help me with this issue?”  Of course, we pray directly to Jesus, too.  But sometimes it’s nice to have a friend, a confidante, that will guide us along our journey.  Someone who can inspire us by the way they lived their life.    

Border Children and the Child Martyrs of Tlaxcala

I recently went to St Patrick’s Cathedral to pray a rosary for the Border Children, who have been violently ripped from their parent’s arms along the border of the United States.  I was drawn to the Guadalupe Chapel, which seemed fitting, since she is the Patron Saint of the Americas.   Jen Fulwiler is always promoting her as one of the most powerful intercessors, and I thought YES.  In the Chapel, though, was this beautiful, mystical painting of what looked like three young women, perhaps teens or younger.  At the very least, it seemed appropriate to pray in front of them and ask for their intercession.  EVERYTHING about it felt right.  As I was leaving, I asked a few people about the painting and no one knew anything about these young Saints.  I sent a picture to my friend Cindy, Catholic Extraordinaire and Walking Saint Encyclopedia.  Less than 24 hours later, she came back with her intel.    

Turns out they are three boys!  Cristobal, Antonio, and Juan.  Indigenous Mexicans.  And they are indeed martyrs – from Tlaxcala.  They were killed in the 16th Century because they believed in Christ.  And they were young, about 14 or 15 years old.  Seems to me that these child martyrs are the perfect intercessors for the current crisis on the border.  They were canonized in 2017.  You can read more about them here.

Image: The Child Martyrs of Tlaxcala – Painting in Guadalupe Chapel, St Patrick’s Cathedral, NYC

I am asking for Our Lady’s intercession as well.  And St. Juan Diego’s, too.

This image from the awesome Portraits of Saints can be found here

Pray for us, O Most Holy Mother of God.

That we made be made worthy of the promises of Christ. 


Peace, Skye 

Gotta have more saints? Check out this post by one of my favorite bloggers: 

Kendra @ Catholic All Year

Empaths Need A Sanctuary

As an Emotional & Physical Empath, I absorb much energy from those with whom I come into contact. At work, on the train, in a store – anywhere there are people, actually. Even spaces emit their own particular energy. If I am not careful, I can absorb too much negative energy and either become emotionally distraught (with anxiety or depression) or physically ill (with a migraine). The more people in a given location, the more susceptible I am to catching negative energies.

I absorb positive energy, too. This is why, when people with positive vibes enter the room, I always light up on the inside – and you likely see it on my face. These are my “sanctuary people” and they are integral to my well-being. Conversely, when someone with negative energy enters the room, I must be very careful about my proximity to them; I now have learned to remove myself altogether, if necessary. The more I learn about my empathic nature, the more I need to remove myself physically from these people.

This is why I call my home “my sanctuary.” It’s where I can detox and regroup. I can relax and gather my energy and recharge.

When thinking of a name for my blog, “Catholic Sanctuary” resonated with me; I have found my Catholic faith to be my sanctuary in and out of my home. I’ve been able to learn prayers that help feed my soul and warn off negative energies (St Michael’s Prayer has been invaluable in this way). The saints also help me immensely in this endeavor – St Joan of Arc has been a huge inspiration for courage and strength when I’m fighting off negative energies.

I pray that what I write here will help you as well, and provide a sanctuary for your soul. AMDG.

Peace, Skye

Prayer available at Printable Prayers by Kendra Tierney.

You can find her amazing blog here: Kendra @ Catholic All Year