Hail and hardy Mary, Mother of God,
and Queen of Heaven!

As a child I prayed to you at our classroom May Altar where you stood in glossy plaster,
robed in white with a soft, blue gilt-edged cape, girded and crowned in gold.

Elegant, ethereal, and somehow distant,
you were surrounded by fresh flowers carried to school by loving children.

Our display was slightly gaudy, but heartfelt.

I prayed to you, too, at the Cathedral
of the Immaculate Conception
, where you stood high above the altar in the uppermost niche,
gilded, and adorned - distant and heavenly,
with a halo of tiny electric light bulbs.

Each May at Saint Mary College in Kansas
you were accompanied in procession across
the rolling greensward of the campus
by three hundred solemn students
in lacey or satiny pastel gowns, bearing
on their shoulders long grand garlands woven of greenery, and gemmed with fresh spring flowers.

(The photo is from a much earlier Daisy Chain,
at Vassar, but the idea is the same.

The sentiments of the hymns that were sung
are still resonant today:

Bring flowers of the fairest
Bring flowers of the rarest
From garden and woodland
And hillside and vale
Our full hearts are swelling
Our glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest
Rose of the May.

O Mary! We crown thee with blossoms today
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May
O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May.

  The teen-aged Bernadette Soubirous reported that
in your apparitions to her
at Lourdes, France in 1858, you wore "a lovely white dress with a bright belt,
and a pale yellow rose
on one of your feet
matching the color
of the rosary beads which you carried."

When I lived at home, my family prayed
the rosary nightly to you, in a darkened bedroom sanctuary: my father and mother,
my two brothers and I, all on bended knees, reverencing you, Mother of God in our hushed familial confidence.

Theologians of differing sects argue over your rightful place and legacy:
your virginity after Christ's birth,
your role in the divine plan
and your rightful place in the court
of heaven.

In view of the controversy over your proper role, Mary, a wise wag once remarked to me:

"Mary, that simple humble, virtuous
young woman, must be the most embarrassed soul in heaven to have caused such grandiose theological commotion and contentious consternation.

A jokey bon mot, but with a kernel of wisdom.

It made me rethink of you not just
as the remote Queen of Heaven
but as the simple virgin of unique purity
who became the Mother of Jesus, and to whom we can speak in reverent familiarity.

Now, in my maturity, suddenly, you have come to me not as a plaster figure in a remote niche, not as you came to Bernadette, ethereal in gossamer white with a yellow rose, but in a whole new and surprisingly alive and clear spiritual light.



I feel that you have come suddenly, Mary,
very close to me, vibrant and immediate,
not standing pale and distant, like a queen garbed in courtly robes and gold, but rather as a precious mother, near and living,
hale and hearty, robust, practical, decisive, warm and eminently approachable.

I see you as a confident woman given
to Semitic humor, joyous laughter
and rich outgoing love, feeding and bathing your beloved Child, happy with a mystery
which you cannot wholly comprehend,
but completely, trusting in the Word of God.

I see you as an assured Jewish woman
with sun-burnished copper skin, black hair,
and a bright, flashing, understanding smile.

I see you as a real woman, alive, confident,
with penetrating eyes which cannot
be deceived. I see you as a warm gentle mother, who hears with care the prayers
I make to you, and I know that you carry them directly to God, Who once you carried
as the infant Jesus in your arms.

I feel you close to me, Mary, and human,
reassuring, calming, motherly soft
but strong, humble but self-assured.

I know you as the Mother of God!

I feel your benevolence.
I feel your confidence.
I feel your closeness.
I feel your guidance.
I feel your concern.
I feel your wisdom.
I feel your verve.
I feel your love.

I want to know you better now!
I want please you more and more!
I want you to be accepted as your loving son.

I want to understand more deeply
the Mystery of Godhead and humanity
miraculously joined for all eternity
in you our mother.

I want to be your child,
to hear your voice in my head,
to follow the maternal advice
and the salvation hope which you give to me.

Please guide me, accept me and protect me,
Holy Mary, Maris Stella, Virgin Mother
and Queen of the Crescent Moon and Stars.

Please hear my pleas, and carry my prayers
to the ear of your Divine Son,
Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

thank you, Mary, my mother.



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