ColumnConscious life, hear me roar.
I was brought up Catholic by two parents born and raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The seaside city is still dotted with my French Canadian relatives who must still believe that religious statues bleed and cry when we sin and masturbate.
If you go today to the Sacred Heart cemetery there, you will see plots marked with the DuFault, D’Avignon, Kerouac and Lauzon names marking territory where once both sides of the family flourished, but now, the cemetery is the most populated place to find us.
A main focal point as you drive through the city on I-195 is St. Anthony’s church, a soot covered, neglected cathedral you might see the likes of in Europe, (but taken care of). This is the place where my mother went to school her whole life and where as a child, I would sit at Sunday French mass en route to my memere and pepere’s house. I was very religious at that time and would be dizzied from the thick incense and stained glass windows, the chants in French and the organ player’s sonorous bass that would rattle my ribs. God was for sure watching. I was freaking scared.
“Seigneur, écoute notre prière,” over and over we would chant in hopes that the lord would of course hear the communal prayers of desperation, of desires to have better jobs, of hopes that this wasn’t all there was, and that life everlasting was a much better place than the shithole we were all festering in, albeit laced with some really great smelling Frankincense.
As I grew older and sinned a lot more, confessions dictated lots of Hail Marys. There on my knees, staring up at Jesus on the cross, I would recite the prayer, 5, 10, 20 times, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the lord is with thee…” as if some fictitious woman would suddenly descend from the heavens and save me from stealing, swearing and masturbating like a one armed bandit.
I slept with rosaries on my bed post to ward off devils, vampires and my older brother’s friends who tried to make out with me in the middle of the night when everyone was asleep. I prayed to The Virgin to uphold all the truths I was trying so hard to manage as a good, upstanding young woman and still nothing.
It wasn’t until I was about 18 that I realized, in life, WE are the Hail Mary and the Our Father and the Glory Be that will save us from the bad choices we make and the world we choose to create for ourselves. Thanks to the atheist friends who baptized me that 18th summer talking incessantly about life and freedom as we beat on drums and sang in wooded cathedrals.
A good friend mentioned in conversation the other day “this might be the Hail Mary we need.”
I laughed pretty hard when he said it and though I knew what it meant, I still looked it up for a proper definition:
“A Hail Mary pass or Hail Mary route in American football refers to any very long forward pass made in desperation with only a small chance of success, especially at or near the end of a half.”
For this referenced Hail Mary, there are no Woolworth’s rainbow headbands or Wet & Wild neon polishes to steal anymore. I swear like a truck driver still and those friends of my older brother? I would kick their balding, overweight asses the minute they puckered up. This Hail Mary, oh this one just might be calling on all things holy to help.
But one has to wonder where all the incense is, where the weathered relative’s faces are chanting like monks beside me, hoping and wishing, praying that pass will be the touchdown, that the Virgin Mary will open her statue eyes and say “You’ve done it. See, prayer works.”
Sometimes, it’s just the facts. It’s all about timing and money and how much you’ve got in you to weather a moral, ethical and physical hellstorm.
C.S. Lewis was quoted as saying: “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”
Sometimes I feel like that Mary statue, my arms open as I wait at the end of the field trying to scream with my mouth set in stone.
Between the Lines is a weekly column by EcoSalon’s Editor-in-Chief on navigating the sometimes-sharp, sometimes-blurred lines of conscious life and culture between city and country, between inner worlds and outer.