Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jim Hates Mary?

My swell pal, Cricket, is one of the most decidedly Catholic people I know.

(There should be some way of rendering that word with both a small and a large "c" simultaneously, since he is an adherent of the religion as well as one of the most well-rounded and universal of my friends. I'm somewhat surprised his photo doesn't appear with the dictionary definitions. However, I digress.)

(I'm disappointed that my photo doesn't appear with digress. However, etc.)

Anyway, Cricket will sometimes write marvelous small expository essays concerning his faith. One of them, which you can find HERE - and which I'd recommend reading, if you wish to get the most from what follows at this address - concerns that peculiarly Catholic ritual, praying The Rosary.

Reading Cricket's piece will give you the soul of doing so, but here are the mechanics. The Rosary (which is both the name of the beads closely associated with Catholicism, and of the prayer sequence associated with the beads) consists of a repeated sequence of The Lord's Prayer (the "Our Father") followed by ten renditions of the Hail Mary (it's not just a desperation pass in football, folks) and then a "Glory Be to the Father" (which surely has a proper name, but that's what we called it in our neighborhood.) Each of these repetitions is known as a 'decade'. After each decade, the Mysteries (events in the lives of Jesus Christ and his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary) are recalled and meditated upon (or, in public group prayer, perhaps expounded upon a bit by the prayer leader, most often a priest.)

As much of a Catholic as I was (and still am, in many ways) the rosary was never something that did it for me. I understand all that Cricket says concerning it, of course, and it's not that reflection holds no gift for me - for instance, I especially enjoy the peace and connection with God one can acquire via walking a labyrinth - but The Rosary tends to put me in a mood that I think is less worthy of God's audience, not more. I find myself wishing for it to end. Perhaps I need to learn patience.

Well, all of that preamble leads to this: I have a couple of interesting little stories concerning Mary and they may lend a clue concerning the final disposition of my soul. When all is said and done, God will decide where I'm headed, but, in the meantime, you can offer your thoughts on the matter, if you wish.

(The order in which these two tales occurred may be of some small import if you wish to pursue the thought that one had an effect on the other. However, I truly can't recall which happened first. We'll pretend that they happened in the order given here, but feel free to switch them around as you desire.)

MY WIFE and I were attending Catholic mass one Sunday, and the priest was delivering a homily concerning the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. He elaborated upon what he felt was his own special connection to Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. He then asked for those who felt that they, too, had a special connection, to stand up and acknowledge that connection before both God and the assembly.

After a few uncomfortable seconds, one brave parishioner rose to his feet. As is often the case in such situations, this led to others becoming a bit more courageous. Another person stood. Then another. Then a couple more. Then MY WIFE stood (who, it should be mentioned, has a middle name that could be translated 'Mary', so she has that connection, and whom I have truly witnessed praying fervent devotions to Mary - for instance, she had a special crown of roses made, for our wedding ceremony, which she personally placed upon the head of the statue of Mary, prior to the ceremony proper - so she wasn't just being a total sheep.) Finally, when all was said and done, every person in the congregation had risen to his or her feet, except one.


I don't know what those people standing may have thought of me (if, indeed, they noticed me sitting) but I knew that I didn't have some sort of extraordinary connection or devotion to Mary that warranted me proclaiming it in public, and I felt I would have been a hypocrite and a liar to say, by the action of standing, that I did. So, I stayed seated. I like to think that my honesty in the situation was commendable. MY WIFE, on the other hand, loves to tell the story whenever Mary's name comes up in conversation, and she always starts it by saying, "Jim hates Mary. One time, in church..." I usually let her finish amusing herself (and, depending upon the religious convictions of those present, either shocking or delighting the listeners) before I set about defending what I believe was my wholly defensible inaction.

The other story concerns a vision of Mary. Or, in my case, not.

Milton Hospital, in Milton, Massachusetts, is only a few minutes drive from our former home in Dorchester, a neighborhood of Boston. In 2003, we were visiting old friends in the area, so we decided to stop by the hospital to check out what was supposedly a miracle. There had been a sighting of The Virgin Mary at the hospital.

[At the linked site, scroll down slightly to entry #2.]

Actually, Mary herself had not been seen walking the corridors or anything, Rather, her image had appeared in one of the second-floor windows. Or so folks said, anyway, and we decided that, if it had, it would be truly fascinating to see.

(The photo at the top of this piece shows the window in question.)

I am open to the miraculous. I truly do believe that anything is possible with God. If you accept the concept of God, how could you believe otherwise? And I was truly hoping that the viewing of the window would show me something so startlingly clear and convincing that it would leave no doubt in my mind. I truly believed it could be, and I truly wanted it to be.

While MY WIFE and I stood there looking at the window, others would arrive and give out an audible gasp. A few fell on their knees and prayed. MY WIFE, for her part, saw the image. Me? For the life of me, I didn't see anything even remotely resembling Mary, or any representation of a being, celestial or otherwise. Zip, nada, zero, not a thing.

MY WIFE suggested that perhaps the sun was obscuring my sight, and that I shade my eyes. I did so. Still nothing. She then pointed at various sections of the window and explained what she saw. At that point, I could imagine something perhaps vaguely Madonna-like, but it was just that - imagination.

I believe in God. I haven't even a shred of doubt concerning God's existence. And I believe in Jesus Christ. He is my Lord and my savior. I am not a religious skeptic. I would have been extremely pleased to have seen the vision, but I did not. I was the only one in the crowd on that day who did not. As a matter of fact, I look at the photo above, no doubt taken and framed to show the vision to best effect, and I see something that one might, with vivid imagination, take to be a poor rendering of a Madonna statue of the type seen in some yards, but it is still as blurry and indistinct, to my eyes, as it was that first time I saw it. Had I not been told it was supposed to be Mary, I certainly never would have looked at it and reported to anyone else that I had been witness to a miracle.

So, do you see it? How do you feel about it? And what do you think my experiences, as related here, say about me? I'd like to think they say something good, but I have to think everybody else in attendance at both places (with the possible exception of MY WIFE) would believe otherwise.

Soon, with more better stuff.


Shrinky said...

I don't see it, either. We're both probably going to burn in hell.

Sueann said...

Well I see a Madonnaesque figure in the window. Does that count? Ha! I think not.
I too have no special connection with Mary. And I don't feel that you hate are just being honest. Which I am sure, half the congregation was not!
There is a sighting right now, going on outside Bosnia to some young girls. Mary is appearing to them. Many people have gone to pray and to catch a glimpse of this sighting.
Who knows...maybe...maybe not.
Guess I tend to be a skeptic.

Cricket said...

I don't see Mary in the window either, much as I would like to. Do you ever watch Arthur? I am reminded a bit of Buster's potato chip that looks like Nixon.

I won't deny those who do their fun, though.

Neither will I condemn your honesty.

All of us have access to God, but each has a different access. Our great chance lies precisely in our unlikeness. God's all-inclusiveness manifests itself in the infinite multiplicity of the ways that lead to him, each of which is open to one person.

- Martin Buber, as quoted in The Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

Well, there's something, but it isn't readily apparent what.

BTW - as a kid I always thought they were called deckits, as in "How many deckits did you say?"

I sure wish I'd heard it right to begin with.

Cricket said...

P.S. - Did you ever see the Peanuts strip where Charlie Brown and Linus are lying down looking at the clouds?

C.B. asks Linus what he sees. Linus says: "I think I see the stoning of Stephen... yes, I can just make out the Apostle Paul standing to one side. What do you see Charlie Brown?"

"I was going to say a ducky and a horsie, but I changed my mind."

Michelle H. said...

I don't see it either. I could imagine seeing it, after awhile, by looking at a Madonna statue and perhaps superimposing it to make out the outline in the window. But I suppose that wouldn't be the same as just seeing it right out.

Anonymous said...

This is some good food for thought. I am not Catholic, but consider myself a religious person.

But sometimes my feelings and faith don't sync. Doesn't mean I stop believing, but it always stuns me... a little bit.

But I guess that's better than being a blind sheep.

And... I don't see Mary either.

Elaine Denning said...

I actually think it looks lke a dog - perhaps an alsation, but one with a long nose nevertheless - peeking out from behind a curtain.

But that's just me.

Karen said...

I don't see Mary in the window. It looks like a wave crashing to me. I grew up in the Catholic church and have one item of my maternal grandmother's... a small Virgin Mary vase. I've never had a particular closeness to Mary, but apparently my grandmother did. I'd have to think that many of the people standing in the church that day just did it because everyone else did. Well, everyone else but one, that is ;) To thine own self be true.

Thumbelina said...

I don't see the image in the window (it is just a blur to me) and I wouldn't have stood up in the church either - I don't feel the "special connection". But I don't think it means I "hate" Mary, only that I don't feel the connection or see the image!

I commend your honesty and integrity friend, and not being a hypocrite! I am not suggesting the rest of the people (including YOUR good WIFE) are hypocrites, as I do not know what they saw/believe. If they felt a connection with Mary and see an image, it would have been hypocritical of them NOT to stand or declare what they see.

But for you, you didn't and you said so. I don't and I say so. I reckon that makes us all honest, not separated into those who love or hate Mary. ;0)

Just mho with respect (since you asked for it.)

WORD VERI is "dessist". Seriously! Love the Charlie Brown from Cricket. Totally agree.

Suldog said...

Just to be absolutely clear about things here, I hope nobody got the impression that I actually 'hate' Mary. I most certainly do not. That's just the humorous twist MY WIFE puts on the story when she tells it, and I thought (with the question mark; very important) that it made a cute title for this.

Jeni said...

Well, let me begin my comment by saying my Mom had a cousin, Birger, who took great pride in being able to find resemblances between family members to each other and even extending that to people, past and current to his time as he at one time declared that my Great Aunt Esther looked like Martin Luther, the Great Reformer. And my kids, as well as a few cousins and such, think I have this "gift" too and can see these things. Okay -I am generally pretty good at seeing how this kid of mine looks like this parent/sibling/aunt-uncle-cousin -whatever and I often see that in other families I know too -those things that look like so-and-so, ya know. So, I tried to apply that so-called talent or ability I think I have in looking at the vision in the window. Sadly Jim, I don't see any vision of Mary, the Madonna or even of the latest Madonna, the singer either. Maybe my abilities don't work on religious things -like cousin Birger's seemed to do, huh?

Sandy Kessler said...

We carry over from childhood don't we??waiting fro rosary to end etc

Craig said...


You provoke all manner of things in me with this, Sully; I'm not at all sure I can scrape them into a coherent pile, but I'll give it a shot.

I am Catholic; I'm a convert, from back in my college days. I've always appreciated my Protestant upbringing, and my conversion was never any kind of 'repudiation' of where I'd been before.

That said, for many years, I just didn't 'get' the whole Mary thing, and I ignored it as much as I could. If I'd been sitting next to you in church that day, there'd have been at least two of us sitting on our asses. . .

Over the years, I've come to a greater understanding and appreciation of 'Marian' devotion than I started out with (you know there was something major goin' on, if God chose her, of all women, to bear His son). But I don't know if, even now, I'd say that I have any kind of 'special devotion' to the Blessed Mother. I only pray the Rosary 'socially', if I'm with a group of other folks who are praying it; as far as my own devotions go, I much prefer the Liturgy of the Hours (aka The Holy Office). I might still be sitting next to you. . .

Mostly, tho, your story provokes anger in me at Father's little bit of public demagoguery - let's back people into a corner, and put them in the position of having to resist 'social pressure', of having to pointedly deny (or at least seem to deny) their love for the Blessed Mother. I hate those little contrived 'proofs' of Catholic bona fides - "prove to the rest of us that you're 'Catholic enough'".

Of course, it ain't just Catholics who pull stuff like that; it is, alas, all-too-human. . .

Land of shimp said...

I do indeed see something. It looks like one of the main muppet-villains from The Dark Crystal as a matter of fact.

I know I've mentioned before that I'm an agnostic, Jim. I don't know anything for certain when it comes to a higher power. That said, I firmly believe that religion is a man-made construct. There may be validity to the concept of a unifying, universal presence. I certainly never try and talk anyone out of their faith.

However, I studied both comparative religions, and women's studies. A formidable combination when it comes to religion.

So with tremendous respect to all believers, and in no way saying that I am right about this for anyone but me: The Virgin Mary rather irks me. There is a very long, wordy argument to be made that most major religions were about the subjugation of the populace, and of women in particular. The name of the blessed virgin will always enter into that.

In Anglican church we were told that Mary was indeed a virgin, then she gave birth, and proceeded to have essentially a normal marriage to Joseph. It was only years later that I found out that in Catholicism, Mary is a perpetual virgin.

Please insert every long argument you've ever heard about keeping women repressed through the "taint of sin" blah blah blah, "it says something about your character if you've engaged as pre-marital sex as a woman, and the number of your sexual partners has a direct relationship to your 'purity'.

I don't begrudge anyone an attachment to Mary, or any church, but let's just say that allowing any man to define my worth, lack thereof, or to have the power to tell me what I should do with my own sexuality is ...let's just say, "unlikely in the extreme". :-)

Many people find a source of comfort in religion, an anchor in life, a path to God.

Me, I see a muppet. Sorry Jim, I truly mean no disrespect to anyone of faith. I wish I had faith in God, but I will never regret deciding religion and I needed to part company, permanently, early on.

See you in hell, Shrinky :-)

Suldog said...

I wish I had the time to give detailed responses to all of your extremely interesting and decidedly thought-out comments, but I don't at the moment. I do feel the overwhelming need to acknowledge them, though. Thank you, very much!

Please, feel free to debate amongst yourselves, if you wish. I will not consider it a hijacking of my comments section. In fact, I'd find it entertaining!

Again, thank you.

Brian Miller said...

i check my pancakes every morning...don't see her there either....drat.

Hilary said...

Well dang.. I DO see her. And I'm Jewish. What does that say?

Really I do see it but it's subtle.. vague.. and featureless.

oy! ;)

Daryl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suldog said...

Hilary - Well, SHE was Jewish...

Daryl said...

Had to remove that to fix the wrong spelling of entails ..

Looks like someone was washing the window and the phone rang ...

Maybe it was Mary calling.

I know, I am sure to burn in hell but then I am a Jew and have issues with my own religion ...

but I will say this, your (should that be YOUR) religion has always fascinated me .. the Rosary and all it involves (cop out here I wasnt sure how the right way to spell it was/is) is a good example on one hand, on the other I see the rosary as an awesome necklace except for the body ..

Chris said...

I see a penguin eating an ice cream sandwich.

Don't know how to interpret that, exactly.

Buck said...

I like to think that my honesty in the situation was commendable.

I think so. I'll add the usual caveat... i.e., "for what THAT'S worth"... and it ain't worth much, because MY picture can be found next to "reprobate" in certain dictionaries.

As for the image, I write it up to mystical experiences, in general. There's no explaining the mystic, there's no sense in trying. It's one of those "you do or you don't" sorta things. There's no value judgment in that, either.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

Fantastic topic, Jim, just what everybody needs after two days of softball.
That said, I might as well put in my few cents worth:
I'm a lifelong Catholic, though I don't necessarily participate except on the occasion of a baptism, wedding or, more often, funeral. So I guess you can say I lapsed. God and I have an understanding. I no longer ask for anything but an understanding of his will (and I sure don't ask other people). If I want a special favor I will ask his mom... yeah, Mary, if she'll put in a good word.
My paternal grandfather was a devout baseball fan. He was even more devout about weekly mass, first Fridays and holy days. I'm fairly certain that some of it rubbed off.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

BTW - I got nothin' when I looked at the pic. Maybe it has something to do with expectations?

Craig said...

As far as it goes, I see a mushroom. Or maybe a nuclear cloud (oh, hey - that would be a mushroom too, wouldn't it?)

So - a mushroom it is. . .

Now, I like mushrooms on my pizza, and my steaks. I never tried the 'psychedelic' kind (altho I'm tempted to invoke them in an 'explanatory' sense of what people see in hospital windows). . .

Are they sure it's Mary in the window? What if it's Eleanor Roosevelt? Or the Queen? Clara Barton, maybe?

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Sorry, Jim...don't see it...but I think you've got the essentials down, and that's all that matters!!! Hugs!!! Janine

Eddie Bluelights said...

Hi Jim, back to read your very interesting post.
I do not see her clearly - but maybe there is just an outline of her to me with not a lot of detail.
However, I am convinced we all will see her one day, along with the God Head.
I am not a Catholic but my wife is so I do attend mass every week and although I cannot take communion I go for a blessing every week. In addition to that I am a 'born again Christian' and gave my heart to The Lord 25 years ago.

Ananda girl said...

I could not see her when it was as it appears here, but when I enlarged it, I could indeed see how someone could see Mary in the image.

However, let me say this. We see what God wants us to see. If you had needed to see it, you would have.
Ta dah!

Angela Christensen said...

Ah HA! I knew there was a reason you encouraged me in my SPE thread (Sister Patricia Eileen, my beloved voice teacher). Couple of thoughts: it's hard to imagine you actually hating anyone. Even your comments about softball and Coach Asshat left some hatred factor to be desired. And as one of your other fans pointed out, if you'd needed to see it, you would have. I'm so glad I found time to read this evening; good one, Suldog.

Jewels said...

Once I had a potatoe that looked like my dead dog. That's as close as I've ever gotten to a spiritual sighting.

Jewels said...

Once I had a potatoe that looked like my dead dog. That's as close as I've ever gotten to a spiritual sighting.

Unknown said...

WRT not standing when everyone else in the place was standing: my guess is that many (most?) of those there felt they had a connection to Mary because they felt they were supposed to feel a connection to Mary, and not because of any real connection. Of all of them, you were the only one honest enough to tell the truth.

I think the image in the window looks like a summer squash. (And it does.)

Both of these stories, I think, show how desperate we are for spiritual fulfillment, to be part of something bigger than ourselves. (And to use this need as an excuse to associate President Bush with divinity, as the "Revelation 13" page you linked to does, that's revolting.)


Anonymous said...

Oh Shoot! First sport and now another subject I am not qualified to talk it will be politics.

Love Cricket's PS.

#1Nana said...

I just signed up to follow. I was going to wait because it looks like you'll hit 200 pretty soon. I liked the idea of being number 200...just in case a prize was involved!
As a former Catholic I felt right at home with your descriptions. At my confirmation the bishop asked everyone to stand who vowed not to drink until they were of age. I was the only one still sitting. Thanks for the inspiration. I think I need to write about this one.

Matt Conlon said...

I remember all that hubub when it happened. I didn't see it then, though I think I was looking more at the markings on the window, rather than the areas of the window where there were none... I see the shape now. I'm not impressed.

I just deleted my long winded philosophy, and elected to instead just say simply, after growing up Catholic, I'm really not religious, although I am spiritual. If I was forced to label myself with a religion, I'd go with Catholic, but with agnostic tendencies... If the big day comes, and it turns out the Catholics were right, I wouldn't be shocked. I wouldn't be shocked to find out there's nothing at all either, but that's just because if there is nothing, I won't be finding out anything.

I seem to recall that prayer simply being called "The Glory Be".

Ericka said...

i am a skeptic in nearly all things, and that window remarkably resembles a window to me.

i was one of the people stuck in traffic when someone decided that seepage through the concrete in an overpass in chicago looked like the virgin mary and people flipped out and basically closed the street. i mean, really? seepage? sigh.

i guess you find things where you need them.

lime said...

well, i'm not Catholic and never have been. i'm a christian by choice who was raised by an atheist and a unitarian. so all that to say, i am not sure i am entirely qualified to comment on the mary thing other than your experience in church. i think it is commendable that you chose to remain seated even if it made you somewhat uncomfortable and those around you uncomfortable. you've got to live with your own conscience and if standing would have made you a hypocrite then sitting was wiser.

the window. i don't see the image myself but i have to admit i don't quite grasp the whole idea of such appearances to begin with. yes, god is able, just not sure what the meaning is supposed to be.

Sandi McBride said...

Sigh....saying the Rosary also made me antsy...specially when it was connected with the Confessional...and always ended with me feeling the need to Mea Culpa all over the place...yes, I'm a good Catholic girl...loving a good Protestant man who reared two boys who wonder at our machinations on getting to any church on time...mea culpa, my friend...mea culpa

Jane said...

I see Mary, but I also see Rita Hayworth (which I think Knucklehead saw as a penguin eating an ice cream sandwich). Definitely Rita Hayworth.

Carolina said...

I saw a cat in a pancake once. And, no... I hadn't mixed the cat in with the flower, eggs and milk.
It's image just appeared. And so did thousands of catloving pilgrims who left catnip and dead mice on the front lawn. Very incovenient. We had to call the police and eat the pancake.

The window needs new double glazing. I can't see anything resembling an image of Mary. Now, I ám an atheist, but if I saw something resembling her image, I would tell you.
And I respect all good people, religious or not.

Unknown said...

I too was raised Catholic (not that this news is a big shock to you since you know I'm Irish & grew up in Boston but I guess I just thought it was important to share the statement) but can not tell you how much I relate to this post. I too would have remained sitting and as for something in the window? It looks like someone spilled etching solution and couldn't wipe it off in time.

There is much about the Catholic faith that I respect and admire but I am one of those people who believes there is a flaw in organizing & categorizing faith so stringently. I always felt it was a living & breathing thing and to encase it inside such a particular definition seems stifling to what could be garnered from the essence of that very faith being in one's life. Anyway, that is just me but for those who believe (feel connected, see, etc) I say right on.

Katney said...

Yeah, the condensation or whatever it is takes on a distinctly madonna-ish shape--but a vision? More a coincidence, I would say. We had Our Lady of Guadalupe in the oxidation on the back of a traffic sign a few years ago. That definitely caused a stir.

Anonymous said...

I can see the outline of the figure of Mary from our Christmas Nativity set.

I think it's kind of neat when people find things like this that "validate" their faith.

Not because I want people to flip out over sightings of Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich, but because I think that it does bring them some source of comfort or validation regarding their faith.

I posted this comment over at Cricket's post:

"A very dear friend of ours recently returned from a trip to The Vatican.

He brought a Rosary for each of our family members from the The Vatican. Each one has beads made from a different colored glass; he selected the colors based on our personalities.

I am a cradle Episcopalian, and yet was truly touched and honored by his gift (as was our entire family). For him to think of us while on a trip that had such great personal meaning to him makes our Rosaries that much more precious.

I actually own several Rosaries; they came to me at different times in my life."

I think that we find our validation where it makes the most sense to us, personally.

And if you find it by walking the Labyrinth (our little Episcopal church has one, cut into the wild grass out behind the church building. It is very peaceful and lovely.) or by praying to a potato chip, or by praying the Rosary, then that is what matters.

And FWIW, I think you *can* find it on a softball field. :)

Thim :)