At the Church of the Holy Family, four women take places at the altar together.
It is called the Church of the Holy Family, and this is most evident at Christmas. The pews are jammed with families—some broken, some evolving, some dearly remembered. At the top of the center aisle, Mary and Joseph are up to their knees in poinsettias with just a small parting of the red sea for the babe between them. His small arms are lifted, his hands open. His parents are bent in adoration.
Four women appear next to the altar: two from the pews, two from scripture.
The mother of all mourns with those who have lost their children.
On the Friday after Good Friday, when we should have been celebrating the Easter season, I received an email from one of my graduate students asking for my prayers. His son had died of a drug overdose.
Joshua had struggled with addiction for a decade. He had been hospitalized half a dozen times and was in rehab repeatedly, but nothing stopped the disease of addiction from claiming this once healthy and hopeful 26-year-old.
Joshua’s fight was now over, but a father and mother had lost their son, a sister her brother. Jay, Amy, and Abigail were grief-stricken.
‘Now and at the hour of our death’ we turn to the Mother of God.
Coming in from the bright sunlight, a woman kneels before an altar in the dimness of the church; she has lit a small candle, and with many other small candles the light is reflected off glinting fabrics and jewels adorning the statue of the Mother of God. Crowned, lifted up, peaceful of gaze, she holds the Child on her lap, yet he is less noticeable. It is the great Mother to whom prayers are addressed, by women living in cultures-and a church-that gives little respect and less power to women. What does she think, the woman who lights the candle and prays to Mary?