Our Lady

Our Lady of GuadelupeToday is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  My homage to the virgen is appropriately lit in my house. She radiates light and love.  She sparkles.  She shimmers.  I can even set her lights to blinking mode.*

Interesting.  I’m not a Catholic.  In fact, I’m pretty much a drop-out from any form of organized religion.  And my upbringing was definitely of the thou-shalt-make-unto-thee-any-graven-image variety.  (BTW, I know what this meant to my Dad but it is SO subject to interpretation.)

I digress.

I went to Mexico (Tijuana) for the first time with my mother (that’s another story, too) when I was in my late twenties.  I immediately fell in love with the people, the jewelry and the colorful clothing sold by vendors.  For weeks after my return I dressed my children in brightly embroidered shirts, skirts, fringed jackets, beaded blouses and one purple leather poncho.  For myself I bought silver earrings and a pink woven serape that did nothing for my post-childbirth body.  In Mexico, this wasn’t an issue.

I digress again.

Since I was with my mother, I didn’t look at any graven images, but I was captivated by entire stores filled with religious items and  virgins, crosses, and beaded doodads hanging in shop windows, around necks and across the windshield of every car and taxicab that honked  its way through the jumbled traffic.  These items were made of plastic, pot metal, gold, silver or painted in garish colors.

Somewhere in that era I must have read a fictional (that’s all I read then) account of the appearance of the Our Lady of Guadelupe to Juan Diego.  This appealed to me and my memories of Mexico.

In my many return visits I have seen the permutations of the Madonna as they appear, provide comfort and are worshiped in different areas.  Our Lady de la Soledad in Oaxaca is one of my favorites.  And this year I discovered the Virgen de Quito in Ecuador.

Each of these Virgins holds memories of the devout faith of the followers in their particular corners of Latin America.  I have seen women approaching the statues on their knees in the Cathedrals of largest cities (Oaxaca) and the small villages (Patzcuaro).

I know my parents would turn over in their respective graves to hear me say it, but I don’t believe that these pious believers are worshiping statues any more than the people of Asia worship golden Buddhas.  These icons are reminders of faith.  They are concrete (in the stable (not the baby Jesus stable) sense) and accessible personifications of the fragile bond that we all have with our higher power.  The shrines placed outside the doors and on fences in Mexico depict Our Lady of Guadelupe as a tangible hope and promise of spiritual connection through a woman who lived with sorrow and loss.

As for me, I’m a just a magpie.  I pick up bright things and take them back to my nest.

My faith doesn’t need a personification, but I love these glittering souvenirs of the life I love to live in other countries.  They are reminders that people worship in different ways and that I share a universal reverence for that which is holy.

And so, for this season I remove the boddhisattvas from Korea, China and Japan.  They take their somber and “thoughty” representations to the back of the closet.  They’re used to that sort of life anyway.

For now I am enjoying my glam and glitzy Madonnas.   They have their season to shine (literally).  Well, Soledad is a bit sorrowful…but her job includes absorbing the sorrows of her area.  I put her near a window because she need the light to shine on her.

All of my beautiful women are in their places and I am listening to Roger Whitaker sing,  “Mary, Mamma Mary, we wish you joy…”


*None will ever outshine my Virgin of Guadelupe. One worries a bit about seizures.


  1. ‘These icons are reminders of faith’. I see it like this too.
    I definitely want to read more of your blogs. For now I have to say cheerio and have a good Holiday! Love Uta


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