Friday, December 31, 2021

Crazy For My Mommas

Yes I am.  I am a Momma’s boy and I wear that title proudly.

I’m not just saying that as a warm sentiment.  My Momma Laura died with that terrible forgetting disease, dementia.  Loving someone through that dark valley is no small thing and it took our whole family to do it well. 

We called her GG (Great Grandma) towards the end because granddaughter number one lived with us at the time and she especially loved her.  In fact when that same granddaughter comes to visit Papa we sometimes walk the few blocks up the street to visit GG’s grave together and we sing to her and blow her kisses and if the weather is right, leave her some snow angels.

Momma Laura adopted me as an infant and raised me as her own.  She was like that, taking in people in need like my biological mom and myself and helping them.  

Speaking of my biological Momma, last December 14th I was finally able to visit her grave.  It meant a lot to me to stand there in the brisk Idaho afternoon air and sing to her and blow her kisses.  My sweet sister Rondi came out and put her coat over my shoulders when she saw I was going to be a while.  Closure is good, and I am thankful my sister helped me find it.

Though I never met my Momma Jeanie, I love her in some crazy way and very much look forward to meeting her some day.  I swear I sense her looking down on me when I’m at Church sometimes.  I'm told that she loved Jesus too.  I was even given a picture of her at her confirmation because as a Sicilian Catholic girl that is just what one did I suppose.  Maybe she had to learn the Rosary in Latin too, just like I'm learning it now in a song that Pastor Jim has led us in at the end of daily Mass this whole season of Advent. 

Anyway, I like to think she smiles to see me worshipping with my mostly Mexican Catholic brothers and sisters at Our Lady of Sorrows, just around the corner from my house.  It comforts my soul to think someone loves me and prays for me up there.

Our Lady of Sorrows is just up the street from the Our Lady of Guadeloupe Parish.  Every December 12 we march from one Mexican Parish to another on a chilly evening with a police escort and lots of loud drumming, singing and praying.  Neighbors poke their heads out and wish us well, I mean almost everyone loves a parade, don’t they!?!

Why do we do this?  

Because we are crazy for our Momma.

Most folks go through life dimly aware that Mexicans love the Mother of God to some strange extremes.  Just go to a Mexican store or flea market, and you’ll find all kinds of candles, trinkets and apparel with Her image on it.  You’ll see the image of Our Lady of Guadeloupe plastered on trucks, tattooed on men’s bodies, flying on flags, and most people just shrug it off as some kind of crazy idol worship.  Well, any devout Catholic would clear that notion up right away, but nobody usually asks one of those.

Since I’ve chosen to worship with my Mexican brothers and sisters these past couple years, I decided to try to understand why they are so crazy for their Momma and this image of her in particular.  It turns out there is a very good reason.

In 1531, the popular religion of the indigenous people near Mexico City was certainly not Roman Catholic. No, it was a death cult that sacrificed humans by tearing their hearts out of their chests to appease their cruel god.  By the year 1551,  nine million of those people had converted to the Christian Way and it all had to do with this miraculous image that appeared on a peasant’s overcoat.  I’m not making this up.

My professor, Dr. Christopher West, explains how this happened in a short video which was shot this month when he took some of his students on pilgrimage to visit the place where it happened and view the original miraculous image.

I couldn’t go on that pilgrimage, but I am blessed to be leaving in two days to attend a class taught by Dr. West in person at a retreat center near Philadelphia.  The name of the class is “Theology of the Body and the Marian Mystery” and in it we will take a week long deep dive into the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus, the God-man, born of this woman whom I believe is the most powerful woman in the universe.

Why do I believe she is so powerful?

Because her Son is crazy about His Momma and loves her so much he’d do just about anything she asks.  And since he is God Almighty, I mean… just sayin’…

As Christians (literally “little Christs”) we are adopted into that supernatural family circle.  Jesus is my brother and that makes His Momma my Momma too.

And I am just as crazy about THIS adopted Momma whom I’ve not yet met as I am about my other two Mommas.

I have to admit it took years to come to this point because I had a lot of anti-Mary baggage to work through.  My upbringing as a Baptist boy was instrumental there, but I don’t begrudge them.

If this writing reveals anything, it is that so often I don’t even know WHAT I don’t know.  I stumble through life ignorant and only vaguely aware of the most profound things.  I judge others without even knowing the reasons why they are the way they are.  At least I judged Catholic and Orthodox Christians for their seemingly insane obsession with Mary the Mother of God.

Well, people can change.  I did.

I’m crazy for all three of my Mommas today.  Fifteen years ago I couldn’t say that.

I love my Momma Mary so much I made this gift for her.  It is a famous Byzantine Hymn to Our Lady.  I put it over a slide show of some favorite images I have of her.

In a way, this is for all the Mommas I love, including the Mother of my children and the Mommas of my grand children.  They remind me of Momma Mary's goodness almost every single day.  For that I am truly grateful.

Totus Tuus.

Here are the lyrics in English:

"O Pure Virgin"

O pure and virgin Lady,

O spotless Theotokos: 

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O Virgin Queen and Mother

O dewy fleece most sacred:

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O height transcending heaven above

O beam of light most radiant:

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O joy of chaste and virgin maids

surpassing all the angels:

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O brilliant light of heaven above

most clear and most radiant:

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Commanding chief of heaven above

O holiest of holies

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O ever-virgin Mary

O Mistress of creation:

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O Bride all-pure and spotless

O Lady all-holy:

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O holy Mary, Bride and Queen

O cause of our rejoicing

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O Maiden Queen most hon'rable

O Mother most holy

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

More precious than the cherubim

more glorious than the seraphim:

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Surpassing principalities

dominions, thrones and powers:

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!


Rejoice, song of the cherubim

Rejoice, hymn of the angels:

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Rejoice, ode of the seraphim

and joy of the archangels:

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Rejoice, o peace; Rejoice, o joy

and haven of salvation: 

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O bridal chamber of the Word

unfading, fragrant blossom:

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Rejoice, delight of paradise

Rejoice, life everlasting: 

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Rejoice, o holy tree of life

and fount of immortality:

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

I supplicate thee, Lady,

I humbly call upon thee:

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O queen of all, I beg thee

To grant me Thy favor:

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O spotless and most honored Maid,

O Lady all holy:

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

I call upon thee fervently, 

Thou temple most holy:

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O thou my help, deliver me

From harm and all adversity:

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

And by thy prayers show me to be

An heir of immortality:

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

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