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by Christina Honchell

“The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe”

I fell in love with her in the 1980s, when I became a Roman Catholic. Ours was a great passion at first; I couldn’t get enough of her. My home was filled with her images, much to the astonishment, and occasional consternation, of my husband and family. She was the embodiment of my newly restored faith, she was beautiful and colorful, she was exotic and political. She was my 500-year old girlfriend.

And then she was my fearless leader. Just as she was carried as a battle flag by Fr. Miguel Hidalgo in the 1810 Mexican War of Independence, and again by Emeliano Zapata in 1910 in the Mexican Revolution, I carried her into my own battles, personal and political. She was fierce, she was fearless. She was my 500-year old general.

As we’ve downsized our household through the years, fewer and fewer of her images made the cut. Maybe because more and more she is a commercial hit, culturally ubiquitous with a hipster sheen. Because I couldn’t bear to part with any of her images permanently, they wandered into a new home in my office.

I’ve written at length about the season that I’m in with my mother, who has dementia, and for whom I am primary caregiver. I am grateful that my mother is still in my life, and I am grieving the loss of her mothering. It’s huge and it’s hard. So this year, Guadalupe is my 500-year old mother. I ask her to take me under her beautiful mantle and make me feel safe and protected. To dry my tears. To hear my hurts. To heal my aloneness. To offer me comfort and peace. I had never resonated with “mother Mary” and yet here I am, asking for a new kind of mothering.

I have a new favorite Christmas song, which I heard for the first time this past week. It’s from Aimee Mann’s record, One More Drifter in the Snow; the song is Calling on Mary:

Calling on Mary is voluntary
Unless you’re alone like me….

When I was young, I couldn’t see…
All that my true love gave to me…

She offered sight to the blind
But I’m not the miracle kind….

And I’m not generally the miracle kind. But the story of my girlfriend/general/mother is a miraculous one, and this Christmas I am drawn to her with a need and a passion like never before. Blessings to all on this, her feast day. May you experience the miraculous in your life this day and this Advent season.


Some of the images of the Virgen of Guadalupe in my office, clockwise from the upper left:
fabric, prison ink on wood, tin, silver, clay.

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