Showing posts with label Virgin Mary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Virgin Mary. Show all posts

Friday, December 25, 2015


A favorite passage from one of my favorite books is the quote below from Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte, two young Englishmen, meet at Oxford in the period between the two world wars. Charles is not a believer, and Sebastian is from an aristocratic Roman Catholic family. After they've been friends for a while, Sebastian brings up the subject of his faith and Catholicism. What follows is the dialogue between the two:
Sebastian: "Oh dear, it’s very difficult being a Catholic!"

Charles: "Does it make much difference to you?"

Sebastian: "Of course. All the time."

Charles: "Well, I can’t say I’ve noticed it. Are you struggling against temptation? You don’t seem much more virtuous than me."

Sebastian: "I’m very, very much wickeder," said Sebastian indignantly."

Charles: "… I suppose they try to make you believe an awful lot of nonsense?”

Sebastian: “Is it nonsense? I wish it were. It sometimes sounds terribly sensible to me."

Charles: “But my dear Sebastian, you can’t seriously believe it all."

Sebastian: "Can’t I?"

Charles: "I mean about Christmas and the star and the three kings and the ox and the ass."

Sebastian: "Oh yes. I believe that. It’s a lovely idea."

Charles: "But you can’t believe things because they’re a lovely idea."

Sebastian: "But I do. That’s how I believe."
I love the passage, because Sebastian's way is how I believe, too.  The entire Christmas story, including the virgin birth, is a lovely idea that points to God's choice to take on human form to become one with us in the person of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate.  Whether the precise details of the story are literally true, that Jesus, Son of God, was born of a young, unwed virgin in a humble stable, laid in a manger, and later visited by angels and shepherds, I choose to believe it, all of it. 

A number of my fellow Christians tell me that though they believe Jesus is God Incarnate, they simply cannot believe in the virgin birth, because such a thing is impossible.  To me, Mary's virginity is simply one of the details of the larger story of God become man in Jesus.  If I believe what seems to me in human terms even more impossible, that God became incarnate and dwelt among humans 2000 years ago and is still alive and with us today, why would I have difficulty believing in the virgin birth?

The picture shows the nativity set my mother made in her ceramics class some years ago.  I didn't put the figures on display this year, because I didn't want Scarlett the Cat to go near them.  Maybe next year.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


How long the grotto in honor of Our Lady has been in place on the bank of Bayou Lafourche in Thibodaux, I have no idea, but, only the other day, when I picked my grandson up from day camp, did I first take note.  The grotto is on the main road through town, which makes it quite visible, and I wonder how I could have missed seeing it for however long it's been there.

The grotto stands next to a peaceful scene of Bayou Lafourche, which is a tributary of the Mississippi River. 

The opening to the left of the statue of Mary curves through to the side of the grotto, to what purpose I can't say.

The top photo shows the corner of the bench where visitors can sit and pray, or meditate, or simply rest a while.

Now that I've discovered the structure, I'd like to know something about when it was constructed and by whom.  I Googled, but I found nothing. 

The photo to the right shows the side opening of the grotto.  As you see from the green moss or lichen (or whatever) growing on the stones, the structure has been there a while.

To the right of the grotto is a paved area large enough to park two cars.  The entire concept is well-planned and well-constructed.  Now that I've discovered the grotto, I want to know more.


Our Lady stands
In the small grotto
Built by unknown hands
On the bank of the bayou
And prays in peaceful repose

(June Butler - 7/17/2013)

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Eleusa Theotokos with scenes from the life of Mary, 18th century

My friend Ann sent me a link to the wonderful sermon about Mary that Ian McAlister will preach this coming Sunday.  Below is an excerpt.
While Mary was one of the original Jewish Christians, she was never a Gentile. It does her no honour, therefore, to take to her Jewishness with a bottle of White King Bleach. Don’t think we haven’t done that, believe me. We have.

We’ve turned her Jewish complexion into that of a blond, blue-eyed Caucasian. Not content with disfigurement, we’ve also taken to her spiritual life and made her into a 20th/21st century version of a Christian woman, which she ain’t.

Mary lived in a rural village, Nazareth, whose population consisted largely of peasants and tradies. Married to a local chippie, her life consisted of taking care of her large household. Besides Joseph and Jesus, Scripture tells us there were four brothers: James, Joses, Judas and Simon and some unnamed sisters.

Her days were filled with the hard, unpaid work of women of all ages: the feeding, clothing and nurturing of a growing household. Like other village women of her day, she was, most likely, illiterate.

Times were tough in l’le old Nazareth. This village was part of an occupied state under the heel of imperial Rome. Revolution was in the air. The atmosphere was tense. Violence and poverty prevailed.

To our shame, it’s only in recent days that we’ve even noticed the similarities between Mary's life and the lives of many others. The Flight into Egypt and the death of her son Jesus by execution compares with those who, among other horrors, have had their children and grandchildren disappear or murdered by dictatorial regimes.

Whatever else Mary is, she is a sister of the marginalized women in every oppressive situation. It does her no honour, then, to take her out of her dangerous historical circumstance and transform her into an icon of a peaceful middle-class, western woman dressed in a blue robe.
The sermon is one of the best on the mother of Jesus and offers perhaps the most realistic description of Mary and her life that I've known.  I love the emphasis on Mary's sisterhood with marginalized women.  It makes me somewhat ashamed of my rather flip and superficial question about Mary's perpetual virginity in my earlier post on the Feast of St Mary the Virgin.  How on earth did we get from the accounts in the Gospels to  "an icon of a peaceful middle-class, western woman dressed in a blue robe"?

The icon pictured at the head of the post with Mary and Jesus clothed in finery is hardly realistic, but at least the two are not blond of hair and fair of complexion.

Image from Wikipedia.