The Virgin Mary, or, Awkward Conversations After Mass

Last night, besides New Year’s Eve, was also the vigil of Mary, Mother of God. Mass was over, as was our rousing piano-accompanied recessional of “Hail, Holy Queen Enthroned Above.” I was dropping my missal in the rack, preparing to give myself a glancing blow with the holy water and depart via the side door.

An elderly woman stopped me. She is the one who invariably sits three or four rows ahead of me–while Catholics no longer rent pews, it seems we surely do own them–and who always insists on a bear hug, even though I barely know her name and she thinks mine is Jeff.

“Can I ask you a question?” she said. “Maybe you know and maybe you don’t.” I said shoot.

Seeing as it was a feast of Mary, and seeing also as she’d only been Catholic for a year and maybe didn’t know these things, and further seeing as how the church teaches Mary is a perpetual virgin–correct? Yes, I nodded, that’s the official teaching–she wanted to know why Jesus has siblings.

Her face was very intent and very concerned.

Continue reading