It seems people in foreign countries revere Mary more than we Americans do. Is that true, in your experience? If so, why do you think it is so?

My own life hasn’t involved nearly as much foreign travel as I’d like, so I can’t speak from extensive firsthand experience. But I have talked to lots of different women about Mary over the last several years, and it’s safe to say that there are indeed countries where Mary is a far more visible presence than she is in much of the U.S.

Why is this the case? It’s hard to know for sure, but here are a few theories. First of all, some countries are homes to Marian apparition sites (Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal or Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, to name two), or to places of Marian pilgrimage (such as Czestochowa in Poland). It makes sense that those places would have an impact on the religious practices and devotions of the culture. It’s also possible that cultural attitudes towards women in general, or mothers in particular, could be a factor in the way that people regard Mary. A woman from Guatemala once told me that Latin-American women are seen as the strength and focus of the family, so to her it was natural to accord Mary the same respect.

And when we’re comparing the U.S. to other countries, let’s not forget that Catholicism has never been the dominant religion here as it is in many other places. That in itself could account for Mary’s “low profile” here relative to other countries.