When you see the image below you may think that I’m a devout Catholic, and maybe even the type to pray to the Holy Mother. It’s not really true. While I remember reciting Hail Mary frequently as a child, I don’t go to church and do not consider myself a practicing Catholic today.
I’m drawn to the qualities represented by Mary for many reasons. She is a symbol of Strength. Grace. Commitment. Compassion. Love. I’m not so much into perpetual virginity, but Mary reminds me of those qualities that I admire and attempt to practice in my daily life.
Most Protestants claim that Mary bore children other than Jesus, and this is probably true. She is discussed in almost every piece of significant religious literature and there are many perspectives on her life and her role related to Jesus. But her history is not as compelling to me as the spirit that she embodies, and perhaps more notably, in the Guadalupe candle that I light most evenings.
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is recognized as a symbol of all Catholic Mexicans. The Guadalupe candle is placed at altars and gravesites on Día de los Muertos and other religious holidays, as well as on any other day. It is a common symbol for Catholic Mexicans and can be purchased for a few pesos or a dollar in most Mexican grocery stores or small tiendas.
Every year, 25,000 costumed and colorful runners take turns passing a lighted torch among them as they travel to honor the Virgin de Guadalupe in a three thousand mile relay from Mexico City to New York City. This event is called the Antorcha Guadalupana – the Torch of Guadalupe – and involves millions more spectators along the roads who cheer on the faithful runners. Amazing.
The flame of the Guadalupana shines unsteadily, casts soft shadows, and illuminates a corner of our living room. It lends its light to a photograph of my sister, whom I lost to an accident over six years ago. A few weeks after Liz’s memorial service, I began lighting the Guadalupana every night. It reminded me of loss, and usually made me cry. It reminded me of pain, and usually made me angry. It reminded me of absence, and always made feel alone.
These days, the prismatic image of Mary and her candlelight remind me to just be. It reminds me that I don’t have to know everything and that there isn’t a reason for everything. And that as incredibly frustrating as this is, that that’s ok, too.
The glow of candlelight symbolizes the slowing down of the day, as dusk falls upon our home, and I turn down the blinds and get cozy with my family. We come out of the drizzle and the chill to warm our hearts and bodies with good food and good stories. Today the Guadalupana warms the room instead of cooling it. It brings a sense of peace rather than pain. In its gentle and familiar place in the room, it reminds me to just be.
This post was written in response to a prompt by Just.Be.Enough (http://www.justbeenough.com/).