Mary was just Jesus’s mom, and the only saint I knew much about was ol’ Pinching Patrick.
And now, I live in a nation which in which 70% of the people identify as Catholic. Whether it be the name of a street, or the person counting out change, odds are, it’s Maria.
I don’t think a lot of the Spanish necessarily attend church, but the traditions remain. There are songs about Baby Jesus in nightclubs. Kids have the option to take catechism in public school. Holy Week is a city-funded extravaganza, complete with floats, music, and food. Even a bottle of Moscatel (a local, sweet form of wine) honors the patron saint of our city.
I don’t know enough about Catholicism to recover from it, nor convert to it. I’m happy with my mellow little form of faith (take care of people, show up, be humble, and remember that God’s bigger than all this nonsense).
But yet—I’m haunted by images of Mary.
They are everywhere. By doorways. In roundabouts. And yes, in cathedrals.
In Seville, we visited the cathedral around three in the afternoon. It was light-filled, with a slight, chilled hush.
And I saw an image of Mary in which she gazed at her newborn with such warmth. Such incredible adoration. Filled with grace, with hope, with wonder.
And I know that look. I’ve had that look, that incredible devotion bursting from my pores. The miracle of a baby, of new humanity. Light and forever in flesh.
And it’s how I know God feels about me. That’s the God I choose to see–the one who looks at a baby with wonder. The one who hold us so very tenderly, and hears the soft flutter of our heart.
So never mind that I don’t believe that Mary is divine. Never mind that I haven’t found my church home here.
If a picture can inspire me in my artless blunders, and bring a bit of comfort? Well, that might be enough for today. And tomorrow. After all, I will see her again.
I seek the images of Mary. Because while I don’t understand her, she understands me.