Sometimes, the virtues cross into areas that make some people feel uncomfortable. One of the things that I’ve encountered from a lot of my Protestant friends is the idea that Marian devotion isn’t something that’s scripturally sanctioned, and so, it’s a kind of heresy.
I get it. I was walking my dog today and thinking about it, and yes! I understand why a lot of people who aren’t Catholics find Marian devotion sort of odd, lumped in with a lot of other things that some people find odd about Catholicism.
Rather than get into why we practice these devotions, I want to take the time in the blog post this week to explain what I’ve gotten out of these devotions, what these practices do to help strengthen my faith, and why I want to continue to do them. More importantly, why Marian devotion is even more important for those of us who are members of the gender and sexually diverse community.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, although not officially sanctioned, is the manifestation of Our Lady whom I believe to be the most empathic to our community, and here’s why. As an advocate, She appeared in a way that millions of people could relate to culturally in ways that people who were not members of the culture couldn’t see. For one, the image was produced in a way that was culturally interpreted as a codex: namely, the entire image is presented so that images on the cloak, positions of Our Lady’s feet in dancing posture, even the reflections in the eyes which under examination show reflections as in a room, as in how human eyes would appear if photographed, all are presented in such a way that individuals and elders familiar with reading indigenous texts.
A manifestation of the divine presented itself in a way that, up until then, had always manifested itself in a western style.
In other words: Divinity presented through the lens of diversity.
The rosary is something that I try and pray every day; the focus of verbal prayer combined with the movement of beads through my hand, the focus of the mind on images from the life of Christ, and intentions of the people I’m praying for. During the day, I recite the “Ave Maria” repeatedly in my mind over and over. When I was in the midst of the hardest depression, I would reach out in prayer to try and find solace. As I grew stronger and overcame a lot of my depression, I’ve found that from time to time my brain tries to get back into that imbalanced way of thinking. The Ave Maria has been a strong way of focusing my mind away from those kinds of thoughts that bring me into depression and anxiety. It doesn’t always stop the depression or the anxious feelings, but it does help to keep my head above water.
But more importantly, from a Franciscan perspective, Marian devotion helps us to connect with a kind of love that, on earth, I believe is the closest love to Divine Love; namely, the love of a mother for her children.
As Queer people, we have often encountered that love through a lens that is human, limited, a lens that encourages rigidness and conformity. Rather than recognize the beauty, the gift of diversity that is present in each of us, many through fear have attempted to force conformity, rigidity. Our society has forced this kind of conformity in ways that have supressed and injured people and cultures in ways that we can’t begin to fathom.
The love of the Blessed Mother is a model for us to work towards–the love that looks past the dirt, the muck, the poop and pee, the tears, the anger, the temper tantrums, and just loves us for who we are, for what we are, regardless of how others might see us. Its a call to emulate that love, as hard as that is, viewing each person as someone who at once could be a mother, or a child.
The Marian Devotion, the true devotion, is practicing the teaching of Love in all our lives, even when we are angry, even when we are frustrated, even and especially when we are confronted by truths that may seem hurtful, may seem directed towards us, but may also be challenges to see individuals in ways that deepen not only our love for others, but for self, for Mary, for Jesus, and for God.
Hail Holy Queen, mother of mercy,
Hail our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
To thee do we lift up our sighs, mournful and sorrowful in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us.
And after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb,
O clement, o loving, o sweet virgin Mary:
Pray for us, oh holy mother of God, that we may become
worthy of the promises of Christ.