As part of formation, I read some material about Mary.
Francis was strongly devoted to Mary. He chose her as the Patroness and Advocate of the Franciscan Order.
To be honest, Mary was always a stumbling block for me. I accepted that she was the Mother of Jesus. I had no problem believing in the Virgin Birth, nor in honoring her for her willingness to sacrifice and to be the Blessed Mother of Jesus.
But I always had questions about the idea of her perpetual virginity. Why could she and Joseph not have had children after Jesus was born? What was wrong with accepting that Mary and Joseph could have sex?
I was also not a big fan of Marian apparitions. They struck me as like what I saw at Charismatic prayer meetings: Spiritually inspired, but often linked to a certain kind of emotionalism that was alien to my Scotch/Irish nature.
Then there were the doctrines of her Immaculate Conception - why could she not be just like us? - and the Assumption. I could accept that she was assumed into heaven; it had happened before. But to make it an infallible teaching? It didn't seem to me to be necessary. And a pig-headed part of me did not like being TOLD I had to believe something.
My doubts about Mary were among the reasons I strayed from the Church.
Even when I returned, I accepted the Marian teachings largely as a matter of faith: Good and holy people who are far wiser than I accepted these teachings, therefore I accepted them. I even grew to love the Rosary and some of the Marian prayers.
But a part of me never warmed up to the teachings.
It's still an area where I need to grow.
St. Francis, pray for me.
Mary, pray for me.
Paxc et bonum