It’s the month of Mary here. You wouldn’t know it. Her chapels aren’t open. No one sings. On my walk through the streets I look for signs that maybe in these unusual times, the old ways have come back. I look for sidewalk shrines, for flowers and a statuette tucked in a niche somewhere; a candle lit in a crack in the wall. So far I find nothing. It can’t be that there’s really nothing though. A goddess doesn’t just disappear like that. Not one like this who’s hidden in plain sight for centuries.
May is the month of Mary maybe because it is the most glorious month of the year in this country. It starts with wisteria, irises, buttercups, columbine, calla lilies, white and yellow asphodel; it unfolds into elderflower, wild orchids, red valerian, and jasmine; it ruptures into roses (the roses!), peonies, and poppies....
Mystical rose, tower of David, tower of ivory, House of gold.
It is said that Mary is called on as an intermediate: if you want to speak to a woman’s son, the best way may be to go through his mother first. Is Jesus available? Is this a good time? Can you put in a word for me? Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
I suspect similarly, that if one would like to speak to a god, but had the opportunity to speak with his mother instead, it would certainly make more sense to do so. Who could possibly be more powerful than she? Catholics and other Christians, please forgive my blasphemy. I just remember as a child, feeling that something was deeply wrong in the Christian teachings I received. I was seven years old when I first remember sensing that I was either being lied to or that there was some terrible flaw in the doctrine. Frequent subsequent theological arguments with my father did nothing to shake my suspicions (or change his mind… it did not occur to me then that pitting my 10 or 12 or 16, 17, 18 years of personal sensitivity against a millennium of belief would prove to be unproductive). At 19, on my first visit to the Basilica di San Pietro in Rome, standing in the cool of the marble and gold, I suddenly and inexplicably could barely breathe and was overwhelmed by tears. I was not overcome by the Holy Spirit, but by horror and grief. I’d spent too much time in the woods by then to find awe in the arms of a bloodied cathedral.
Unable to call myself either Catholic or Christian, it is therefore strange to me that a feeling of some deep and ancient truth rises up inside me when I consider this figure. She is familiar to me, as close as a sister. It’s as if I remember who she was before they covered her head and named her Mary.
Virgin [one-in-herself] most powerful, morning star, queen of angels.
In her smaller chapels and shrines here that are mostly light-filled and airy, I have a different feeling than I might in another church. In this month of May women usually meet here in these spaces every night after dinner. They bring fresh flowers. They pray, interspersing the rosary with songs. Between the words, between the appeals for tenderness, comfort, for protection or prayers; between talk of her child and his father, lies something unspoken, something pregnant and powerful. (It isn’t her son we’ve been waiting for.)
I added this blog as a way to share some thoughts and experiences around the impact of Covid-19 on my life here in Southern Italy. These posts have been a near-daily practice during this time and are largely unedited, most having been first posted on Facebook. They are of course in order with the most recent entry on the first page. I invite you to explore previous posts or even start from the beginning.