I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary for several months now and woke up compelled to write about her this Mother’s Day morning. Not growing up Catholic, my relationship with her is distant and my impressions vague. Even so, she intrigues me.
In my fervent evangelical Christian days, leaders were determined to put her in her place; clearly less important than Father and Son, and not to be consulted. Yet Catholics devoted themselves to her with dramatic and sentimental vigor, lighting daily candles, praying to her, crawling on bleeding knees to the shrine of La Virgen de Guadalupe.
It felt a lot like what I observed people around me doing every Mother’s Day. They seemed to enjoy a closeness and connection that I lacked with my mother. I hid my jealousy in cynicism by expressing irritation about a corporate manufactured holiday we were being sold.
When I went to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago I ran into her alot. Every elaborately beautiful cathedral to the humble mountaintop shrines held prime space for her. Quiet and heavy with exhaustion from the miles, we sat face to face, just being together.
That was when I noticed she was sad. Very close by her statue was her son in a state of perpetual torture. Her arms stretched out to hold him, but could never reach. She understood that loving involves a lot of powerlessness. I tried telling her that I felt that way too. She didn’t jump in to solve my problems for me or coach me to focus on the positive. We soaked in the silent beauty of the space; the rows of red glass candles, arch of the ceiling, the respite from effort.
Years passed until she pushed her way back into my consciousness again with the Beatles' Let it Be. I listened on repeat as I drove to my teaching job through the vineyards of Sonoma county. The same energy of making space and holding filled the car and surrounding landscape of grape vines peeking through morning fog.
I decided that I needed a Virgen de Guadalupe candle to light in the morning when I do my daily spiritual writing practice. Every time I went to the grocery store’s Mexican food section all the other saints' candles were there except hers. Finally, a thrift store came through for me, and I brought it home admiring her starry cape and open arms.
Over the next weeks, I would finish meditation time by staring at her form illuminated by a flickering flame and ask what she had to say to me. It felt ridiculous, but my doubts quickly vanished as I felt surges of loving, caring questions and encouragements something like:
“Sweetheart, it’s been a long week. Make sure you get some rest this afternoon!”
“What about that song you’ve been working on, maybe you could practice it on your lunch break? It’s really good.”
“Mothering is hard work, love. Very hard work. You are not alone.”
A few years ago I wrote a poem using the structure of the Hail Mary prayer. This morning, I edited it to express more of the tenderness and connection I now feel after those mornings.
Hail Mary, lion’s mouth fountain, champagne bursting, seven-thirty Thanksgiving evening
full of grace.
The Lord is with you and all mothers loving.
Blessed art thou among women with God’s holy knowing of creation and caring,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus,
Firstborn of righteous rebels and truth tellers -could you possibly be prouder?
Holy Mary, so contrary to properness,
Pure in defiance of expectations,
Mother of God,
Show us how to conceive miracles, feed them
With our blood in the quiet darkness, protect
Them from judgmental eyes as we ride
Whatever humble vehicle carries us to
Deliver our precious gift and place
It shining among the surrounding shit.
Pray for us sinners! Back-stabbing betrayers of beauty,
Takers-for-granted, and servants of status-quo
And in our hour of Death and Disappointment, and