My friend’s professor made the comment once that we are like ostriches in our spiritual and religious journeys – it may look like we zig zag off the path a little, and don’t have things figured out – but we are journeying. I have always liked the ostrich because it is big and seems like it can do anything, but cannot fly. When I was in first grade, I drew a picture of me as a saint. It was what I wanted to be when I grew up. I mention being in harmony with “Mary and Jesus and God.” In my childhood, it wasn’t Little Red Riding Hood that I wanted to hang out with for life, it was the Virgin Mary. She had the sparkles and glitter. The Virgin Mary – she brought it, like the most popular girl in school.
As I got older, I began to wonder about her life. I wondered what it was like to be dedicated to the temple at such a young age. I learned that I was stained from birth with sin and Mary was unstained. But I wondered if Mary made unstained mistakes. Did she love this, this Joseph? What did people in the city say when she got pregnant out of wedlock? Does it mean that I am bad if I am stained? Does it mean that everyone must be virgins?
I remember writing a long diatribe against Mary when my religious ed teacher said that the highest calling of all women is to be mothers, I questioned why Mary was a good role model. My teacher read it and wrote “Lilith” on a note card. But Mary, Mary, no matter how stained you were, you must have felt labor pains? Every woman undergoing labor feels pains, this would make you a woman, Mary. This would make you the friend I’ve wanted, not just the popular chick with the newest clothes.
And I’ve been trying, like one of my priests says, to re-invent my faith from the perspective of my age. Just because Mary is conceived without sin doesn’t mean that people who have sin (what I believe about original sin is another post) are bad people. And atonement can be powerful, to dig deep, to ask for help, to know you’re wrong. I took another look at virginity. Virginity can be a kind of sweetness or state of mind in union with God. And labor pains.
Although I have always had issue with Joseph. Didn’t think he loved her, that he married her out of necessity and kicked out early. She had a love, somewhere, someone she sang love songs to. It wasn’t Joseph. So I always imagined Mary as a single mother. Until earlier this month when a friend told me that actually, Mary, if she didn’t have Joseph, would have been surrounded by aunts and parents. Lots of family to help raise Jesus. And I bet those family members were all saints, unnamed, unmarked.
(but I am willing to support your belief of Joseph and I love his happy death).