Category Archives: Images of Mary

Our Lady of the vulnerable times

Our Lady of Guadalupe shine in Healdsburg, California

Our Lady of Guadalupe shine in Healdsburg, California

I think many of us are feeling vulnerable these days.  Tragic world events shake us; political fighting unsettles us; wild winter weather keeps us on edge.  On a personal note, recent changes in my own workplace have left me and many of my colleagues feeling disempowered.  Being vulnerable takes a lot out of you.

But tomorrow is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and that makes me happy.  Just like her son, she’s a champion of the vulnerable.  She singled out the little guy, Juan Diego, and encouraged him.  She appeared not to the wealthy and powerful but to a representative of the disenfranchised and vulnerable, reminding him of his own innate dignity.

I love that about her.

Here in California, you see many images of Our Lady of Guadalupe: on truck decals, T-shirts, sides of buildings.  The fact that she is so ubiquitous just underscores her availability.  You don’t need a ticket or a background check or a sponsor to approach her.  She’s always there and ready to listen, any time life is roughing you up a bit and you need a little comfort.

Years ago, walking with my husband after dinner at a restaurant in a nearby city, I remember passing a Catholic church.  There was a shrine to Our Lady of G. in the parking lot, and in the dusk a young man was standing there.  He was alone, and silent, just pausing in front of her shrine.  It was clear that he was praying.  I was touched by it, this moment where vulnerable human need sought strong  maternal love.  If my own experiences are anything to go by, I suspect he left that shrine feeling heard.

I think this is why Our  Lady of Guadalupe is so special.  I think it’s why her image is fixed in our memories, just as surely it is on Juan Diego’s tilma.  She keeps on bringing us roses in winter, affirmation in the bleakest times.   And that’s worth celebrating, tomorrow and always.

This screams out for a caption, doesn’t it?

The statue of Madonna and child on my mantel has some company these days.  (They’re the cake toppers from the boys’ birthday party, and they even light up!).

Somehow, this is the perfect snapshot of my life as a mom: the spiritual and the Star Wars, side by side.



Mary in the hall, with flowers

Everything in the vase came from our own yard.  That’s a very nice feeling, somehow.

Where are you finding beauty today?


Mary of the week: I need an Our Lady of Efficient Grading

We’re in the final throes of the school year here, and holy cow, I’m ready for vacation.  Stick a fork in me.   I’m done.

But then again, I’m not done, because I still have papers to grade.    With the exception of eight weeks in summer, I always have papers to grade.   Always.  The psychic toll this takes on a person simply cannot be denied.

So I really need a Mary called Our Lady of Efficient Grading.  I could use her prayers right about now, as I wearily polish off the final stacks.

Or I could use an Our Lady of Packing, because I’m doing that too: packing up the contents of my classroom and department office desk for a move to a new building.   I am unearthing fascinating things, like papers from students I taught in 1998.  That would make them … how old now … thirty?   Dang.   I’ve been doing this a long time.

But since I can’t find any icons of Our Lady of End-of-the-School-Year Pursuits, I’ll just share this image instead.  It is a soothing and lovely image for any week, especially a frazzled, moving-at-lightning-speed week like this one.  May it bring you peace, too.



Song of the Angels by William-Adolphe Bougureau

Mary of the week: Star of the Sea

It’s a week until the end of the semester, which means my life is pretty darn hectic right about now.   I currently have grading piles that rival my laundry piles (and believe me, that is really saying something).  So today’s post will be a re-run of a post that I first wrote in — can it be? — 2009.   Enjoy!

Stella MAris

I’m picky about beaches. I’m not really a fan of the sunny, Baywatch, surf-n-sand ones. My ideal beach is foggy, windswept, dramatic: the kind we have here in Northern California, for instance. There’s something so evocative and romantic about strolling along the sand on a gray day, shoulders hunched inside my coat, few other people around to intrude upon my thoughts.

Those thoughts always turn to the immensity of the ocean. It’s impossible to look at that horizon and NOT feel humbled. It’s a good kind of humbled, though. It makes me realize that there is so much out there in the world, beyond my own perspective. Looking at the huge sweep of ocean, I can’t help but think of the courage of people who brave those waters and literally sail into the unknown.

Maybe this is why I love the title Stella Maris — Star of the Sea. It’s an old name for Mary, one that emphasizes her role as guide. For centuries, the stars have helped sailors find their way through the treacherous ocean waters. Mary plays a similar role for us landlubbers. When you’re lost in the choppy churning waters of any kind of problem, try thinking about how she navigated the stormy seas of her own life.  There’ a power in pondering her example, and in asking for her prayers.  She can get you back on the right course. She can keep you from drowning.

And I truly believe that Mary, like all moms, wants us to grow beyond ourselves. She wants us to explore the world and especially our own potential — but she wants us to do it safely. As we sail beyond our comfort zones she’s always there, watching us, cheering us on, and hoping we’ll look up whenever we feel lost at sea.

Holy Card from my own collection (isn’t it a beauty?)