This post is part of a series on spiritual disciplines called Merely Beloved. We are in the season of Advent and Corein offers us a lovely reflection on Mary and her life of discipleship. Corein has an incredibly fascinating spiritual history and tradition, and is inspiring in the way she is seeking to be faithful. For more information about this series, click here.
I climb onto my mother’s bed and “sit,” my legs crossed in sitting position but my torso bent sideways and my head resting on a pillow, exhibiting the kind of flexibility reserved only for pre-teens and gymnasts. I hope that this half sitting/half laying position will convince my mother that I am in fact praying and fully engaged in the task at hand.
I press my thumb to my finger to help me count the number of prayers we are required to recite. I miss my rosary beads that go unused during Advent, the ten beads equaling one decade of the rosary are insufficient during Advent when nightly prayers are increased to fifteen. Sitting upright (my mother not fooled by my earlier “sitting” position) we begin our prayers, “Hail and blessed be the hour and the moment in which the Son of God was born to the most pure virgin Mary at midnight in Bethlehem in piercing cold…”
My mind drifts between wake and sleep as the prayers continue, random thoughts jump into my mind, “Was it piercing cold in Bethlehem, how do we know?” “Why does my brother get to watch TV while I pray?” I jolt myself back to our task – bored, half asleep, I still know this is important because the intentions that my mother and I place in our prayers that evening and throughout the season might produce a miracle, you never know.
This prayer, and its recitation fifteen times nightly throughout Advent, is the prayer of my family, of my mother, of my grandmother, it is our prayer. And every Advent the miraculous stories are retold, about the relationship that was mended, the illness healed, the addiction overcome, all because of our intention, our dutiful prayer, our commitment to Our Lady. And this was not a task for just anyone but for grandmothers, mothers and daughters.
Like many Catholics, my childhood was filled with piety and Marian devotion. My Irish-German Catholic heritage expressed in the Mexican-Navajo culture of my birth filled our home with the life of Mary and her Son. Above the kitchen sink was a jar of dirt from when Our Lady appeared in the desert and healed the crippled, rosaries pasted with pictures of Our Lady of Guadalupe and her roses hung from pictures, a nativity scene with baby Jesus securely resting in a Navajo cradleboard decorated our coffee table year round.
Today, my spiritual practices and Catholic faith may, in some ways, be unrecognizable to the grandmothers who carried it to me, who filled our home with the stories of mingled traditions, myths, and miracles all pointing to the life of Mary. Yet, as Advent begins again, I crawl into my bed, press my thumb to my finger and begin counting my fifteen prayers holding closely the prayers and stories of my family and my faith, carried through the generations by women who wrapped their lives in the life of Mary.
As an adult, during the Advent season, I find myself filled with profound thanks for the devotion that was so casually and naturally a part of my daily life because in that devotion, that commitment, and all the retelling of stories I discovered a young woman who formed my discipleship. A young woman, who carried scandal in her womb yet pressed her pregnant belly to her cousin’s and sang out for joy as their babes leapt. A young woman, who had no place in society outside of marriage, yet dared to speak words of truth to the powerful and mighty of the world. A young woman whose voice would go unheard by many, yet who dared to say yes to God over and over again, showing the world what life-giving, death-enduring discipleship entails. A young woman, who went largely unnoticed as she did what women have been doing from the beginning of time, bearing life into the world.
As we prepare for Christ’s coming, Mary stands as both an enduring conviction and an unbreakable bond between every daughter, mother and grandmother walking this broken earth. The prayers, myths and traditions we carry call us into life, into the life-giving, life-breaking, life-resurrecting work of discipleship. Mary stands with us, journeys with us, as one daughter among many, and asks, “Will we sing out in joy, will we speak truth to the powers that oppress, will we courageously, continuously utter the word, ‘Yes,’ in this life of discipleship?”
Hail and blessed be the hour and the moment in which the Son of God was born to the most pure virgin Mary at midnight in Bethlehem in piercing cold…
Corein Brown is a deacon at Spirit of Hope Catholic Community in the Twin Cities and is navigating the complicated and blessed road of honoring the faith of her grandmothers and pursuing her vocation. She is thankful for her adopted Minnesotan family who puts up with her constant longing for northern New Mexico and the women there who fill the air not only with prayers but with the smell of fry bread, posole, and tamales in the Advent season.