Mary had many who loved her dearly around the world. Below, please find just a few of many testimonials that have poured in since Mary's death.
Whom do you know that you would consider an Amma or an Abba—that is, an animatorof the contemplative life? What qualities do they show that make them this way? Usingthe imagery of this article, is the work that God does through them more indicative of the first wave (descriptive) or the second wave (practice and support)? Or are they beyond these waves, or beyond this imagery?
Mary Mrozowski is someone whom I consider to have been an Amma ofthe third wave of incarnational contemplation. She is the person whom Thomas Keating most credits with helping him with the inspiration and first founding years of Contemplative Outreach. Mrozowski was a businesswoman and divorced mother of two adopted children. She was in her fifties when God brought her to contemplation and the practice of centering prayer. Mrozowski and I lived and worked together for eight years at Chrysalis House, a residential community and centering prayer Retreat Center in New York State. I knew her as a woman of prayer and as a great friend. She was a spiritual mother to many in Contemplative Outreach. She was neither ordained nor formally educated. She never published anything. It was her life-story, her vibrancy and commitment to Christ, that qualified her in her charisma. As someone once said upon meeting her, “I never thought I’d hear God speak with a Brooklyn accent.” Although Mary Mrozowski died in 1993, she personifies for me what an Amma of the third wave might be like.
From “Three Contemplative Waves” by David Frenette, in Spirituality, Contemplation,and Transformation: Writings on Centering Prayer:
Here is an example of how the Active Prayer Sentence works. Mary Mrozowski was a founder of the Contemplative Outreach spiritual network. During the last year of her life, she was noticeably and almost uninterruptedly joyful. That should have been a sign to usthat she was ripening for heaven. She died suddenly while giving spiritual counseling.
The first time I met Mary, she had driven all the way from Long Island to joinour first intensive retreat in Lama, New Mexico. It took her three or four days during which time she said her Active Prayer Sentence nonstop. She continued doing this as daily practice. One day as she was driving down a road near her home on Long Island, she noticed a youngster on a bicycle ahead of her and at the same time a car coming from behind at a fast clip. The driver, in a hurry and wanting to pass, did not see the bicyclist. He kept honking the horn, meaning, “Get out of the way!” She hesitated to move over lest she hit the youngster. Finally, the man accelerated his car and zoomed around her. Rolling down the window he yelled obscenities at her and spat right in her face—barely missing her new spring hat.
Of course, her emotional programs began to go off, followed at once by a set of prerecorded commentaries: “How can someone do such a thing?” “All men are beasts.”Actually, I don’t know just what her commentaries were. In any case, as hurt feelings andangry commentaries began to arise, her Active Prayer Sentence rose up along with them and erased them. Into that space the Holy Spirit rushed, saying, “Forgive the guy!”’ She obeyed and immediately felt as though someone had just given her bouquet of roses. She drove off down the road in a state of spiritual exultation.
From The Better Part: Stages of Contemplative Living by Father Thomas Keating:
From Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening
by Cynthia Bourgeault:
Watching her in those last years was like watching a homegrown saint emergingbefore one’s very eyes, Brooklyn accent and all. She continued giving workshops on the Welcoming Prayer, which drew increasingly large crowds as word got out that Mary had definitely come of age as a spiritual teacher. Her insights and responses were delivered from that place of authentic authority that only emerges out of a lifetime of “walking the walk.”
A huge crowd was gathered for the Contemplative Outreach conference in Denver in October 1993, and Mary’s talk didn’t disappoint. Sparkling and peppery as always, she had the audience on its feet! The enthusiastic crowd pressed in on her as she attempted to leave the speaker’s podium, and she was knocked backward onto a lower platform, hitting her head. She insisted it was nothing, and rapidly picked herself up and continued the workshop. Then she headed home for dinner and an evening with her host, Sister Bernadette Teasdale, before delivering her final talk the next day.
That next morning, as she was sitting in an armchair giving spiritual direction to Sister Bernadette, suddenly a jolt swept through her body and she lost consciousness and slid to the floor. Recovering briefly, she opened her eyes and asked, “What happened?” Then she passed out again. Those were her final words. “Welcome death . . . welcome death . . . welcome death . . .” Not in spoken words but in the gentleness of her acceptance the meaning was eloquently clear. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons . . . nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That gesture of surrender, patterned into every fiber of her being, became the bridge on which she crossed.
From “Remembering Mary” by Anne Mazza, in Contemplative Outreach News, Volume 23, Number 1, December 2007:
Frequently, as I travel around the country, to meetings, and presenting ContemplativeOutreach Programs, a discussion begins among the group about our varied experiences of the Spiritual Journey—sharing of our “roots” in Centering Prayer.
My “roots” story began when I met Mary Mrozowski, one of the founders of Contemplative Outreach, at a Divorced and Separated Catholics meeting in Westbury, Long Island, New York.
Mary was recruiting people to join her Bible Study Group. It caught my interest—so I joined. Gradually, Mary would introduce us to new ideas. First it was “sitting quietly” for a few minutes before reading Scripture, then Centering Prayer. We learned and practiced whatever she taught.
Soon, I was invited to join Mary’s prayer group. Every Sunday night, we gathered in Mary’s living room, prayed, read the “Life of St. Catherine of Sienna” and shared our problems, which were many since we were mostly single parents of teenagers. Many times, I didn’t agree with the solutions that were offered, and I definitely didn’t “get” Catherine of Sienna, so I vowed never to return. But the next Sunday, I found myself in weekend traffic, traveling east on Long Island for “Prayer Group.”
Each week Mary left us with many things to think and pray about. One of which was “to Let Go” of attachments. That was upsetting enough! Then she gave us a “lived experience” by leaving job, family and friends on Long Island and moving to a “Contemplative Live-In Community” in Connecticut, later named Chrysalis House. By this time, there were quite a few Centering Prayer groups on Long Island and Queens, and we all were somewhat stunned at Mary’s leaving. But, inspired by the Holy Spirit, we continued on the “Journey” and our prayer groups grew and multiplied.
Mary’s untimely death, while in Colorado, presenting a “Welcoming Prayer” workshop, was a shock to me and our groups on Long Island. But, her influence in my life has been an important part of my growth along the Spiritual Journey. Her acceptance of God’s will helped me to stop asking “Why?” and “How?” Instead, I’m learning to surrender to God’s action, not only in the Centering Prayer period, but in my life—to simply ask for God’s help without adding instructions.