CNS PHOTO | PAUL HARING
A mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe decorates a side altar in the Church of Santa Maria della Famiglia at the headquarters of the office governing Vatican City State Dec. 15.
As a candidate in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), I was fascinated by the Catholic veneration of the Virgin Mary.
As a happy recipient of a beautiful coloured rosary while in RCIA, I also received a booklet with the rosary explaining How to Pray the Rosary (Our Sunday Visitor, 2007). The Hail Marys and Hail, Holy Queen help one meditate upon the Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I have been a Protestant for all of my 67 years until now, unversed in Catholic understanding of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There's a wealth of information in the Catholic Church, which I've only recently begun to appreciate, Marian theology being a part of it.
The 16-year-old Jewish virgin whose soul "magnified the Lord" upon learning she was to become the mother of the Saviour is an inspiration to follow the humble path of service and obedience to the Lord and his messengers.
Many visitations by Mary have been claimed in fairly recent times. Irish Catholics are devoted to Mary, particularly focused on the shrine at Knock, where the Virgin Mary appeared in 1879.
There's the Virgin of Guadalupe whose vision appeared to a humble peasant in 1531 in a desert near Mexico City.
Mariology appears to be a religion of the people more than the formal theology of the Catholic Church.
It has been challenged particularly by feminists who view the theology of the Virgin Mary as a "construct of the patriarchal mindset which limits equal opportunity for women . . . to other Christian views that see Mariology as a distraction from Christ, to modern psychological interpretations of Mary as the equivalent of mythical goddesses ranging from Diana to Kwan Yin" (Wikipedia).
I'm ready to embrace the concept of Mary as the mother of us all, in some cases the kind of mother we never had in human form, and an ideal who gives us reason to hope and love unconditionally.
God gives us freedom and freedom to choose. I chose pride for most of my life; was raised to value pride, independence and frontiersmanship.
The image of the Virgin Mary is a counterpoint to these early qualities. Mary might be seen as the first feminist, defying custom to follow a vision and inward knowledge of a role only a woman could play, her faithful consort and husband Joseph a masculine foil to Mary's faith and role in history.