Sunday, June 14, 2009


Hail Mary, full of Grace

I was discussing theology with a friend today who was raised in a Protestant tradition and she asked me the question I have heard many Protestants ask:

"Why do you pray to Mary?"

I gave an answer that involved the idea of praying to a feminine energy, and that Catholics often pray to different saints, etc, etc, but it didn't seem to fully express why still, even though I do not consider myself Catholic, I love to gaze upon statues of Mary, and I still find comfort in uttering the most sacred words of the Hail Mary.

The Lord is with you...

To me, Mary is a Mother. The ultimate symbol of a Mother, and there is something about the love a mother has for her child, the bond between them, that feels so holy. And yet, in many religious traditions, this is not really mentioned or seen. For whatever reason that I cannot figure out, the religions of the world are patriarchal, and have done their fair share in aiding in the oppression of women.

Blessed are you among women...

And yet, here is this one aspect of a major world tradition that doesn't just recognize the importance of a mother, but basically worships it. Because this is something I struggled with becoming a mother -- that as a woman, you can't really be out in the world like a man, affecting things in the same way. And yet, by raising the next generation, you are influencing things immensely. There would have been no Ghandi without his mother, and no Ghandi Jr's without his wife raising his 4 children while he gave himself to India.

And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus...

There would have been no Buddha, or Mohammed, or Moses,

Or Jesus. Mary brought him into this world physically, and then raised him, guiding him on his path to his destiny. Her life is intimately woven with his, just as every mother's is intimately woven with her child's life forever.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners

So, speaking only for me, I guess what I find so comforting about gazing upon a statue of Mary is that I can see there the spiritual truth of what it means to be a Mother, the transformation that occurs in our very souls when we hold these divine beings in our arms for the first time.

Arms outstretched as if to invite anyone suffering into them, with serene eyes and a compassionate face, beautiful in its simple smooth features, I feel my soul being reflected back to me. And just as Mary's arms are forever frozen this way, I know too my arms and my heart will never close to my own children.

Now and at the hour of our death

I have known no other love so devoted, so overwhelming, so pure as I have experienced loving Noelle. And if Jesus taught that a sign of spiritual enlightenment is unfettered love, then for me, becoming a Mother is where it starts. And as I open my heart more and more to this love, I feel my heart opening to others that are not my children, a growing compassion for suffering. All I have to do is imagine that they are someone's child.

Mary symbolizes this to me.

There just has to be a place for that.


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