immaculate conception

immaculate conception

December 8th is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is also the one year anniversary of this blog.

I didn`t devote that first post to this major feast in the Church calendar. This surprises me, now. Perhaps my mind was too wrapped around the idea of beginning a blog. I was worried about taking those first, tentative steps into the writing world. I wanted to share my own thoughts and experiences within the Catholic Church; a faith tradition and community that will always be part of my being. I wanted to ponder our blessings and our challenges. I wanted to nudge a dialogue in a time of ever-increasing debate.  And, I wanted the dialogue to be catholic, with a small c, welcoming all into the conversation.

The Immaculate Conception can be a dense, difficult concept to understand. It is often mistaken as the immaculate conception of Jesus. But, it refers to the belief that Mary, herself, was conceived without the stain of original sin. The Mary Page at the University of Dayton is a rich resource on this and other aspects of Mariology.

The beauty of Mary in our Catholic tradition is that she is multi-faceted and multi-faced. Her purity is but one aspect. And, it is not an aspect that speaks to many women of today. Perhaps it is because Mary was held up as an impossible model of womanhood. Perhaps it is because of the misogynistic view held by the church and society for so many centuries; a view that saw all women as daughters of Eve – the sinner and temptress. Perhaps it is because virginity was idealized and spiritualized while sexual love and union was relegated to the sinful physicality of the world.

Today, many look to the Mary of scriptures for their model and guide. Here they will find…

  • A pondering and praying woman.
  • A woman so grounded in her faith that she was able to give her whole-hearted YES to the seemingly impossible.
  • A woman who knew the importance of visitations.
  • A woman who railed against injustice in her powerful Magnificat.
  • A woman who knew the reality of homelessness and the uncertainty of being a refugee on the run.
  • A woman who knew the love of a good man.
  • A woman who knew the stresses of motherhood, not always understanding or knowing God’s specific plan for her child.
  • A woman who knew that wine was needed not only for a celebration, but to prevent the humiliation of a newly married couple.
  • A woman who stood by her son through his brutal execution.
  • A woman who prayed and remained present in that upper room in those dark hours before the coming of the Spirit.

The childhood image of Mary, meek and mild, no longer speaks to me. But this strong woman of Scripture does. She is a model and guide, a promise and a hope.

day 1- mary

New Year’s Day is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and the World Day of Prayer for Peace. It’s a good way to begin the secular year. Each year gives us new reasons for peace keeping resolutions and peaceful solutions to the hatred, violence, and divisions that continue to plague our world. One week ago we celebrated the coming of the Prince of Peace. Today, we pray that peace will be a reality.

Trying to condense the many dimensions of Mary into a small blog post is impossible. Her numerous titles are portrayed in a diversity of images.  I was raised with the statues of Mary, meek and mild. Dressed in virginal white and draped with a blue veil, head tilted demurely, hands posed prayerfully; she epitomized the humble and obedient handmaiden. She was promoted as the model for all women.

Recent Mariology has looked more closely into the Mary of scripture. This Mary is a woman of her time – a faithful and faith filled Jewish woman. She prayed and pondered. Responding to the call to bear God’s son, she became the first disciple. She traveled a difficult journey to be present to Elizabeth in her time of birthing. She denounced the injustices and inequalities of her world in that most powerful of social justice prayers, the Magnificat. She struggled to understand the incomprehensible, while trusting in the will of God. She recognized the need of a young married couple in Cana, and nudged those around her to look to her son to help respond to their need. She suffered, yet remained standing at the foot of the cross while her son hung dying the death of a common criminal. She gathered in prayer with his friends and disciples in those fearful days before Pentecost and was there when the Holy Spirit filled all who were present.

This is not a woman, meek and mild. This is a woman who seeks justice and equality. This is a woman who is present to the person and to the moment, who sees a need and responds. This is a woman who realizes the depth of mystery in her life, and places her trust in God. It is not a blind trust, but a faith grounded in prayer and pondering.  And, it is in the prayer and pondering that she develops a heart that is open to the working of the Holy Spirit – a God of surprises.

This Mary is not exclusively for women. This Mary is for all who seek to respond to God’s call in the here and now.