As a child for me, hers was the image of God.
We had pictures and statues of her in my childhood home and they gifted me comfort.
One summer while on our school break, our Italian babysitter took my brother and I to her Catholic church every single weekday. Her son was an altar boy.
There were grand stained glass windows, high ceilings reverberating the booming sounds of Latin litanies.
Pained and crucified martyr, larger than life, hanging over the gilded altar.
Listless whispered prayers and shaking hands with strangers.
It felt like such discipline to sit on those wooden benches for so long.
But in the back, all the way over by the big heavy wooden doors, was a huge, beautiful statue.
They called her Madonna.
To me she was the most beautiful, benevolent kind image on display there. She had an unconditionally loving, welcoming gesture.
She was a place for me to focus my eyes and be calmed.
Adorned with flowers, a font of holy water at her feet.
At home, my mom told me stories of Our lady Lourdes and the miraculous waters of healing, and of Our Lady of Fatima appearing to children in Portugal. After reading Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye story, around 11 or 12 years old, I was convinced she was like a guardian, and had a protective quality.
I learned the rosary, prayed the Mary mantra, and contemplated the flaming heart.
I secretly anointed myself from the water at her feet in that church. No one could see me unceremoniously dip my fingers in, then touch my brow and heart. No one saw me wipe my wet fingertips on my brother’s tshirt so he would be blessed too, as the crowd funneled us all out to the parking lot.
Later in my teens discovering a number of books on the Black Madonna…was utterly fascinating, and lead me to a continuous path….to ancient Goddesses from many cultures with similar qualities, stories, and symbols.
A Blessing from the Mother…
In a book written in 2011 called “Untie the Strong Woman” by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes– a collection of devotions and more stories of the Blessed Mother. I picked up a copy for my mom as a gift without hesitation, based on the cover art and the author’s previous work. Mom read her new book lightning fast and gave it back to me to read.
Inside I learned that in 1531, there lived an Aztec Indian man whose given name was “Cuauhtlatoatzin”. It means ‘one who sees and speaks like the eagle’.
These are the words spoken to him by Our Lady, in Mexico
500 years before he was renamed St. Juan Diego. May you be blessed by them.
“Have you Forgotten?
I am your Mother
You are not alone.
You are under my Protection.
Anything you need,
Do not Worry about anything.
Am I not here-
I who am your mother?
Have you forgotten?
I love you,
and you are under my protection”