The Mother Mary, my Papa and me

I have remarked upon this before, in a blog. That my friend, John, is fond of teasing me. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic, he likes to say.

When I was little, my grandparents had a glow-in-the-dark figure of the Mother Mary. I was prone to closing myself in cupboards a great deal of the time. A secret dark space where I could hide from the world and gather my thoughts.  Often when my mother had angered me, or another family member laughed at a clumsy stumbling or some such of mine. Sensitive child, I was. But I often took Mary with me, to watch her glow.

To this day, regardless of my relationship with higher powers that may or may not be… Regardless of my disappointment with the branding, the capitalist machine that powers so many so-called spiritual sanctuaries, places of worship and prayer…  In spite of, to my mind, the misappropriation of the teachings of a rebel messiah… The Mother Mary, by way of a glow-in-the-dark figure, resides by my bedside table.

She is many things in my heart. But some are between me and Her. I will say this though, She has always connected me deeply to my beloved grandfather, my papa. To this day, I am resistant to the trivialising of Rosaries as fashion accessories or such things. My papa taught me how to use a Rosary. And it was a quiet practice of prayer and meditation. Of personal reflection.

We broke down once on the way to Cape Town, my grandparents and my mother and I, and the car for reasons unfathomable would simply not start. Papa took five minutes to step away and whisper into the ear of his Mother Mary. And the car started moments after. Make of this what you will. There is something about my grandfather and his quiet relationship with the forces of the universe.

So today, perhaps a pause for reflection, whether you are a lapsed Catholic like me, an atheist, a devout Christian, a Rabbi… Okay, this is starting to sound like the beginning of a bad joke…

I made a new penpal thanks to the first piece I ever wrote on my grandfather, 80 Years and still the love of my life! The penpal, Allan Konya, was the bowler while my grandfather the captain, batsman and wicketkeeper back in the day as youths attending Christian Brothers College in Pretoria. Allan had contacted me via my blog and we’ve been thick as thieves, even over distant seas, ever since.

But he sent me a gift for my grandfather. An old CBC half-term newsletter/magazine in mint condition. Staying at my grandparents for the week, my grandfather has taken to reading this newsletter every morning and afternoon. I think he likes to read the Sports Round-up where he’s mentioned as an ‘outstanding’ wicketkeeper…. Cricketers and their egos! Or perhaps he enjoys the Bugle and Pipe Band News. Who knows?

But I found it comforting that in this newsletter, all the way from 1952, was  featured my grandfather’s second favourite person of the female persuasion (after my grandmother of course!), in a reflection piece entitled, The Month of May – My Love for Mary. I will share its words with you, if you are so inclined.

St. Alphonse Rodriguez was a modest porter of the Jesuit College at Majorca, but a soul of unflinching generosity towards God. 

He was noted for his tender, childlike devotion to the Blessed Virgin. One day the Madonna appeared to him and told him how much she loved him. Alphonse, not at all disconcerted, answered: ‘O good Blessed Virgin, if you loved me as much as I love you!’

The holy porter, who, considering his duty, would have been able to satisfy curiosity, made a contract with his eyes, promising to guard them always in strict modesty, that he might be better able to contemplate Mary in heaven.The purer his glance would be upon earth, he thought, and not without reason, the greater and clearer would be his vision of the Immaculate Virgin in heaven.

Do I love Mary with a tenderness just as touching, but above all, with a love just as effective as his?

O my Mother, I come to you to tell you, again and again, how much I love you; but above all I wish to show that I begin to imitate your virtues, as completely as possible. And among all your virtues, I like the good St Alphonse Rodriguez, choose especially modesty of the eyes. Help me in my resolution and my efforts.

Rev. R. Plus, S.J

Take what you will of this. Reflect as you wish. Your interpretation is your own. I know what I have taken. And I know the eyes with which I  wish to see the world, in part thanks to my papa, a man so close to the Mother Mary.



Feature image: the famed Italian Chapel on Orkney Island

Featured above: Comfort, sculpted by Italian artist Maria Gamundi

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