I was an evangelical Christian first, a convert to Catholicism later in life. Mary was a point of contention, for years, in my soul. But if I am honest, I will admit that I had both an odd fascination with her, as well as fear.
I feared the Mary of admonition: “be more Mary-like. Check the length of your skirt hem.”
I feared the Mary of clanging cymbals, screeching about yoga pants and leggings.
I feared the Mary who is idolized for her virginity – yet is also the ideal of motherhood.
This idealized Mary is every bit as unattainable as the Proverbs 31 woman. She is not inspiring. How could she be? She is the epitome of the Church Lady.
My fascination was with the Mary of the scriptures, which I had not bothered to consider in my evangelical days.
This Mary is poor.
This Mary unites her will to God’s at the angel’s request. It is a request, not an order. This makes her assent all the more lovely.
This Mary sang a song about the beaten down of the world.
This Mary endures the scorn of others for being pregnant when she is not supposed to be.
She knows what slut shaming is.
This Mary held mysteries in her heart while enduring humiliation when her fiancee almost sent her away.
This Mary knows what it is like to travel in late pregnancy. She knows what it is like to birth a child in a cave.
This Mary knows what it is like to be a refugee in a foreign land, trying to escape a brutal leader intent upon killing innocents.
This Mary is with the disciples during Jesus’ time of ministry. She is there, in the upper room, after her son’s death.
She is present, not hidden away.
This Mary is unafraid to stand at the foot of the cross, when just about everyone else has fled.
This Mary is a hero. She is a warrior, who nevertheless takes even the smallest concerns seriously, as we know from the wedding at Cana.
This Mary is the first Christian. She is close and understandable. She is not a Mary who has been dogma-ized beyond recognition.
She is the Mary who endured pain, sorrow, humiliation, loss of a child, but was preserved from sin. She was sheltered from distortion of Christianity. She was not burdened with the kind of toxic religion that so often accompanies our very human Church.
She was spared from this so that she could remain a pilgrim without the sickness.
So that she could be there for us.
This Mary isn’t a virgin because virginity is more holy. She is a virgin because she is the archetype Jesus addressed her as – Woman. This Mary remained both a virgin and a mother, because God knew all women would need one of our own.
She is the visible unity of all women: single, married, divorced, widowed, abandoned.
She is peculiarly what we need in our time, when, hurting over judgment, women often turn on each other, draw battle lines, and shame our sisters. We feel the need to justify our choices by judging the choices of others. Mary has no such need. She is Everywoman.
May is the Month of Mary – and it’s a good month for confronting the things that divide us from other women. Through our devotion to Mary, may we all find comfort, a hero, a mentor, a warrior, and the courage to hold the hand of our sisters, even when we are different.
Mother of seven, Eve M. Alexandra sometimes gets to write between loads of laundry. She lives among the cornfields.