Ecce Nostra Feminia

The Bright Maidens‘ Topic 9: Mary, Our Guide

“Ecce Nostra Feminia” by Julie Robison
“Simple Things” by Trista at Not a Minx, a Moron, or a Parasite
“Mary’s vapor rub” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

Last night, Dad and I went to the grocery store after work, to pick up vegetables, bread, cheese and a few more gallons of milk. We were in the bakery section, and Dad was looking at the bread called “Ecce Panis.”

“Do you know what ‘ecce’ means in Latin, Dad?” I asked.

“What is that,” he replied, humoring me.

“‘Ecce’ means ‘look’ in Latin, so ‘ecce panis’ is ‘look, bread!’ The word for bread looks like it is in the nominative case, but really it’s the vocative, which is supported by ‘ecce,'” I rambled on to him.

“I think it also can be translated as ‘behold,'” said Dad. “As in, ‘behold- bread!'”

I liked that translation, but more because I began thinking about Mary, the Theokokos, the Mother of God.

Behold, Our Lady! Loving and sanguine, I always imagine Mary half-smiling at Jesus at the wedding in Cana, when he told her his time has not yet come, and she, gentle mother, flicking her wrist and saying to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Just as Jesus is our Savior, wholly part of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, who will come back to earth to judge the living and the dead, Mary is our mother, and de facto, our liaison to God. Her earthly comings are always with the purpose and intent to bear messages from Jesus. She is a reminder of our need for the spiritual, through her vibrancy and consistent persuasion for us to follow her Son, who is the way, the truth and the life. Mary always points towards Jesus, which makes her our own guide in this life, if we are to play the role of Dante.

Marina Warner wrote, in her 1976 book Alone of All Her Sex, “Whether we regard the Virgin Mary as the most sublime and beautiful image in man’s struggle towards the good and the pure, or the most pitiable production of ignorance and superstition, she represents a central theme in the history of Western attitudes to women. She is one of the few females to have attained the status of myth– a myth that for nearly two thousand years has coursed through our culture, as spirited and often as imperceptible as an underground stream.”

So good!

I have been reading Judith Dupre’s Full of Grace: Encountering Mary in Faith, Art, and Life and give it cannot be more highly recommended. Dupre offers 59 meditations, equal to the number of beads on a rosary. She writes, “This text is a three-part invention: narrative, visual narrative, and marginalia. In the main text, I offer short essays, sometimes personal, sometimes theological or historical, on Mary’s place in our everyday lives. The imagery and captions form a ‘book within a book’ that traces Mary’s influence on Western art. The selections from history, poetry, and prose in the margins offer additional insights into Mary and are formatted after the midrash commentary on the text of the Hebrew Bible, which is used also but to a lesser extent in the New Testament and the Qur’an.”

One of the most beautiful elements this book has truly brought to light for myself is Mary’s ability to penetrate the hearts of many religious traditions. Charlene Spretnak says in Missing Mary that, “Mary saves us from denying the kinship among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: All three live in her spiritual presence.”

Though I wrote in my last Mary post that many Protestants reject Mary so as to reject the temptation to idolatry, the very idea that one would idolize such a woman is apt evidence of her power. Dupre writes,

In a 1952 essay, Archbishop Fulton Sheen opined that Mary chose to appear in the sleepy backwater of Fatima, Portugal, in 1917 as a “pledge and sign of hope to the Moslem people.” Despite the evangelical nature of Sheen’s opinion at the time is was made, the idea of reconciliation through Mary is worth considering anew. Muhammad, who has tirelessly warned Muslims not to deify him, embodied his faith, virtue, and surrender to God so wholeheartedly that he forged in his own person a living link between heaven and earth. Like Mary, his will was only to do God’s will. At a time when the need to reconcile differing culture traditions has never been more urgent, there has probably been no symbol or concept in Christendom that can mediate and build bridges with more success and amplitude than Mary.

It should not be surprising then that Catholics so whole-heartedly take on a devotion to Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother in Heaven. I’ve always been amused by the viewpoint taken in True Devotion to Mary, when St. Louis De Montfort states that the Devil fears Mary more than all angels and men, and in a sense more than God Himself, because it is mortifying to be overcome by such a small woman.

Mary cannot forgive sins, but she teaches us how to live without them, as she did. She guides souls to God by teaching them how to love, and anyone who loves God cannot be taken by the Devil, even if they will be tempted by him. Even Jesus was tempted by the Devil, so, in many ways, our trials are compliments. And Mary is there to help.

Behold, Mary! Full of grace, help us also to be filled with grace, to say “yes” to God, and to accept our trials. Let us never forget that Mary was not spared from the worst kind of suffering, be it scorn from neighbors or watching her son unjustly put to death. Still she stands benevolent, the Queen of Heaven, with her hand outstretched. As the Rev. Patrick Ward said in a 2008 homily, “When Mary says, ‘Let is be with me according to your word,’ what she is really saying is, ‘Lead me on, Lord. You have more in store for me than I can possibly imagine.'” Behold Mary, joyfully and lovingly guiding us souls to God.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgins of virgins, my Mother! To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O mother of the Word incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer me.
–The Memorare prayer, attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Mary’s vapor rub

Mary, Our Guide
“Mary’s vapor rub” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

The “Bright Maidens” were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.

I picture Mary in heaven cleaning up toys, dislodging tiny G.I. Joes from the toughening pad of her foot, slowly acquiring a nursing/psych/spiritual guide degree, with stretch marks to match her under eye circles, like mothers around the world. If I could pick anyone to give me vapor rub for my soul, it would be her.

The world is the toy room, bruises, scrapes, and boo-boos show up on her children’s souls, and her children around the world cry to her at night, stirring her awake.

Her soul magnifies the Lord for centuries so that He can reach more people who notice her motherly influence on their lives.  She is our mother, our comforter, and God’s message deliverer.

The house in which I grew up loved her everyday. I knew the Hail Mary prayer as well as the Our Father, we had several pictures, rosaries, and one statue of her in the “fancy room.” My parents needed her guidance in their lives, so they were happy to invite her into their homes.

When I was young, we went on a trip to Emmitsburg, MD, a small town where people said they saw Mary. I remember aiming the film camera at every corner of the house and grounds where she had allegedly appeared, praying that she might appear in the photo after development.

(I don’t own the rights)

I don’t know if that sighting has been made “official” by the Vatican, but the faith of my childhood was overwhelmed by the beauty of the possibility that I might see this woman I had called Mother throughout my life.

Shortly after that trip, when I was in fourth grade, I woke up one morning with a white pain in my right hip. I rolled off the bed, onto the floor and quickly learned I couldn’t stand up because of the pain.

It was as if I had not awoken and I was in a dream wherein I could try with all of my dream-like strength, but the body to which I was tethered could not move.

Fear overwhelmed me and heaving tears came down my face as I crawled into the bustle of the hallway where I knew my parents would notice their first born daughter, scared and in pain.

With their help, thanks be to the Lord, I could stand and walk with the pain still searing in my hip. Doctors did tests, people prayed, I repeated my own name during the prayers for intercessions at Mass, and I watched my parents whisper with worry.

They thought it was Rheumatoid Arthritis and that I would be in a wheelchair by the age of sixteen.

The morning that we were to get the test results from the doctor, my mom rushed in my room with damp cheeks and an encouraged voice and clasped around my neck her mother’s Mary metal on a silver chain. She said Mary came to her in a dream and told her it would be good news from the doctor and not to be afraid.

For the first time in days, her head was actively floating above water. Mary, whether it was her or just the comfort that my mom knew she could find in her image, provided my mother with peace of mind. She rubbed the vapor jelly on her soul, reminding her that she was not alone.

(I don’t own the rights)

The renewing dream was correct and the doctors concluded that I had contracted streptococcus in my hip joint. I needed some antibiotics and a few weeks for the pain to subside.

I doubt I knew how serious that episode could have been; I was excited to miss school for that appointment.

Mary provided my mother with the magnifying reminder that anxiety is the opposite of grace. The episode awoke the faith in my parents and my sisters and I grew and learned from it.

The comfort and wisdom that Mary used to assure Jesus that it was time for his first miracle guides us today. Because we know she lived life as a mother, she lost like a mother, and Jesus declared her our mother while on the cross, she leads us to a path to Him when we need it.

Bright Maidens: Simple Things

This is the ninth blog post in a series from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!  

This is the second week we’ve opened our topics to others!  
Please check out our Facebook page for links to those participating.
 Week Eight: Mary, Our Guide
Simple Things
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine came out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?  My hour has not yet come.   His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”   
– John 2:1-11

Wedding Feast at Cana

Have you ever been to an event where the food and drinks ran out?  It’s an instant mood-killer.  Even if everyone is having a great time, the party begins to die down, and guests quickly pack up and leave.   Imagine how much more embarrassing this situation would be at a wedding!  Thankfully at the wedding at Cana, Mary spots the hosts’ difficulties and brings the problem up with Jesus.   “They have no wine,” she says simply.
This short sentence changes the course of the wedding.  Mary, on behalf of the couple, asks for Jesus’ help.  What does this mean for Christians?  Like Mary, when we’re aware of situations that would cause difficulties and the lessening of joy for others, we must bring the matters to Jesus’ attention.   
At this point in Jesus’ life, he had never worked a miracle.  What makes Mary certain that Jesus will and can do something for the wedding party?  She is an example of faith for us, especially in this moment.  “By her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to his Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church’s model of faith and charity.” (CC967)  

And yet Jesus’ response is almost a refusal of his mother’s request – “My hour hast not yet come.”     

What does Mary do then?  She instructs the servants, “Do whatever he tells you,” and vacates the area, trusting that Jesus will aid the wedding party.  As Bl. Pope John Paul II explained, “Mary’s request: “Do whatever he tells you”, keeps its ever timely value for Christians of every age and is destined to renew its marvellous effect in everyone’s life. It is an exhortation to trust without hesitation, especially when one does not understand the meaning or benefit of what Christ asks (Bl. Pope John Paul II, General Audience of Wednesday, 26 February 1997).”
Sometimes I look at Mary and think, “I could never be anything like you.”  Examining her place at the wedding feast of Cana makes me think differently.  Can’t I find small ways every day to emulate her example?  I can let someone go ahead of me in line.  Give spare change to the beggar down the street.  Pray for harried-looking mothers as they shepherd their kids from event to event.  Trust that Jesus is guiding my friends and family.  Unload the dishwasher before my mom asks me to.  Little, simple things, just like Mary’s statement, “They have no wine” can change the course of day for others when we take them to Jesus.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. 
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. 

Is Blogger Back?

Blogger deleted my last post and I’ve been pouting about it. I’ll re-post the poem soon, and tomorrow is another Bright Maidens post day: “Mary, Our Guide.” Please join us!

Here’s a TIC post I wrote a while back: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

Here’s a bit of my weekend; while my college was sending off the new graduates, I was enjoying the scenery:

Sick today, but I expect a full recovery by tomorrow. If not, then I can’t babysit my baby cousins, Thing 1 and Thing 2! Please pray for another cousin, who badly broke his collarbone this past weekend.

Loving on this song — “Rumour Has It” by Adele:

She, she ain’t real. She ain’t gonna be able to love you like I will. She is a stranger – you and I got history, or don’t you remember? Oh Adele. So much soul.

Happy Monday!

"Why Mary?" Recap!

“Why Mary?” Recap!


Thank you to all who joined the Bright Maidens in writing about Mary last week!  May is the month of Mary, Our Mother, so we wanted to celebrate her role in our lives and in our faith.

Trista: “A Life Spent Loving and Looking to God

Julie: “Hail Mary

Elizabeth: “Take Her to Your Home

Here are all of the “Why Mary?” posts for May 3, 2011, in the order they were posted:

  • Brit at A Desert Crossroad – “Mary, Mary

  • Michael at Churchman Kirk – “Momma Mary and Birthday Parties

  • Ciska at This journey that’s called life – “Why Mary

  • Stacy at Accepting Abundance – “Why Mary?

  • Mary at A Simple Twist of Faith – “Why Mary? An Invitation from the Bright Maidens

  • Bryan at Calling All Witnesses – “The Knot That Has Been Undone”

  • Christine at “Feminism: the Catholic F Word” – “Of Snakes, Field Mice, Spiders and Mary”

  • Liesl at The Spiritual Workout – “Why Mary?

  • Marc Cardaronella – “Tokyo, Australian Faith-Healers and Ricardo Montalban | My Conversion Story

  • Andrea at “The Luckiest” – “Mary’s Hands

  • Emily at Day in the Life – “Mary, Mother of God, Pray for Us

  • Sister Lisa at nunspeak – “Three Reasons for Mary and

  • Michelle at Catholic Unveiled – “‘Do whatever He tells you’

  • Nancy at Shower of Flowers – “Why Mary ~ {Model of grace in our daily race}”

  • Bill at Fighting Words – “Mary: Keeping it Real”

  • Anonymous at The Prosey Pirate – “Concerning Mary

We hope you will join us in writing again! 

Hail, Mary!

Topic 8: “Why Mary?”

“Hail, Mary!” by Julie Robison
“Take Her Into Your Home” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
“A Life Spent Loving and Looking to God” by Trista at Not a Minx

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

This past February, I visited a good Protestant friend in Georgia, and attended their service with her family on Sunday. I enjoyed myself, but I was struck by one part of the pastor’s sermon that I have not yet been able to shake. The pastor was discussing Jesus realizing he was the Son of God and his awesome responsibility on this Earth– “How did that happen?” he mused aloud, before declaring it a mystery of God.

Uh, no, I thought to myself. I couldn’t believe that this pastor missed a perfect opportunity to strengthen the importance of the family. God the Father had his beloved son born into a family for a specific reason – to show God’s love through a specific community of individuals, and to be properly formed by faithful Jews, so that he would come into fullness and fulfill the law. Jesus was raised in a family, supported by a family, and shaped by a family. He was given divine wisdom and knowledge by God the Father, of course, but his human nature had many, many people on earth too to help him– St. Anne and St. Joachim, his mother’s parents; St. John the Baptist, his cousin; St. Joseph, his surrogate father; and lastly, his mother Mary.

As Mother’s Day is this Sunday, I think it apt to remind Christendom that the fourth commandment – to honor one’s parents – does not only apply to one’s birth parents, but those parent-like figures who have helped shape and raise you, and perhaps continue to do so.

Mary, the mother of God, is such a figure. When Jesus was dying on the cross, he turned to John, his beloved disciple, and said, “Here is your mother.” From then on, John took Mary into his home and took care of her.

Are we not too called to have Mary in our home? To venerate her as we extol our own mothers, giving her praise for raising us and caring for us? Should we not keep pictures and statues of her around, as a tangible reminder to strive towards her chosen holiness? Should we not ask Mary to pray for us, as we ask our own mothers on earth to do? And more so, since she is bodily in Heaven with her Son Jesus Christ, is it not fitting to have her intercede on our behalf?

It is true—we can go directly to Jesus. We Catholics should, and we do. But Per Jesum ad Mariam: to Jesus through Mary. When you want to get to know a guy better, you go and meet his mother. Is it so different with Christ our Lord? He made his mother the Queen of Heaven – surely he wishes for us to show her due respect and reverence!

I have been told by my goodly Protestant friends that they avoid Mary because they do not wish to turn her into an idol and make her more god-like. I agree—Mary should never be idolized, nor would she want that. Mary says in Luke 1:38, “I am the Lord’s servant.” At the wedding in Cana, she tells the servers ( and all of us too!) to “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).

Saint Maximilian Kolbe instructs us to “Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.” This Mother’s Day, I will be giving thanks for my mother, who gave me life, and thanks to Mary the mother of God, whose resounding “yes” to the angel continues to echo throughout salvation history, and who gave life to Christ Jesus, the Word incarnate and Savior of the world.

As the angel said to Mary in Luke 1:30, “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God.” I earnestly desire more Christians to be open to the graces Mary gives us, to joyfully learn about and from her, so that we all can learn more about and from her Son. After all, if God favors her, shouldn’t we?

And so, we pray: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Take Her Into Your Home

Why Mary?
“Take Her Into Your Home” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

The “Bright Maidens” were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

Those weird Catholics and their pagan ways, worshiping Jesus’ mom.

We’ve been accused of worshiping Mary on more than one occasion. You know what? Accuse me, brothers and sisters, if that’s the easiest argument you can make against the Church.

But I am sorry you have not seen the beauty in regarding Mary as your mother. She’ll love you from her place in the Communion of Saints.

John the gospel-writer was my least favorite of the four when I was growing up because of what I interpreted to be arrogance. “The Beloved” bugged me by seemingly hoisting himself above the rest. It didn’t help his case when I realized I was standing for ten minute long gospel readings during the John calendar years.

However, this year I realized what beautiful contributions John’s gospel made to our faith, including a strong explanation of love for Mother Mary.

On the Cross

(I don’t own the rights)

Jesus was suffocating.

Hanging on a cross, with a body that has been brutally beaten and drained of blood after scourging, makes one’s muscles collapse. He had to push up on his feet, just to reach for breath with his arms stretched wide and pinned to the wood with nails.

Imagine having to adjust yourself against the nails driven into your feet and hands, just to breathe.

Any words He spoke were spoken with purpose and many of them were to fulfill the Scriptures, as the gospel-writers address. One of the lengthiest speeches He gave from His place on the cross, He made to John and his mother, Mary, at His feet.

“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” –John 19:26-27

John referred to himself as “the disciple,” instead of “the beloved,” in this instance. He humbled himself in this moment of Jesus’ pained speech.

Those who stand at Jesus’ feet, looking up at the suffering Lord and looking to His resurrection are disciples. We are at His mercy and He has bestowed the grace of this sacrifice on us. Jesus was talking to all of us.

Mary gave birth to our Savior, she deserves deep respect and reverence. Jesus said so. 

Is it because she’s a woman?

The confusion about why we revere Mary as we do is understandable. Jesus said He is the way and we emphatically agree.

God didn’t exclude women from His plan. In fact, they were female hearts that Jesus trusted with the first revelations of his divinity and his resurrection.

Martha and Mary are iconic characters that teach us how to be followers of Christ. The woman at the well was the first to hear Jesus explicitly call Himself the Messiah. The woman who touched Jesus’ cloak had an overwhelming faith that actually drained Jesus of energy. Mary Magdalene’s conversion led to her discovery at the tomb. The angel revealed to Mary Magdalene that He has risen!

We need the examples of the disciples to build the Church. We need to learn from those whom Jesus taught directly and why He chose who He chose. We need to listen to His words and the traditions He passed onto his disciples instead of redefining them as we see fit.

And in accordance with His words, we need to revere Our Mother.