The first part of my journey through the wilderness of my non-belief (a scary and desolate place, truth be told) took me straight to a book by Sue Monk Kidd, titled “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter.” I’d seen the title years before, and it rose to the top of my consciousness now. It touched a nerve that had been nagging me for many years: Christianity’s eradication of the feminine in its belief system and its disdain of the feminine in modern practice. It seemed that Monk Kidd and I walked parallel journeys: first, disbelief of our obedient acceptance of it, then anger with the male-domination, marginalization and minimization of women, then finally realization that we’d have to hack our own path through the conflicting stories, and what we knew in our hearts to be true. I felt stung and betrayed by the Church, even more so than usual (I was always a pretty clear-eyed skeptic about the Church’s leadership and their motives.) At this same time, I was also reading a book by Jean Shinoda Bolen, titled Goddesses in Older Women. Through Bolen’s book I was introduced to many goddesses from many cultures. I came to the conclusion that the Goddess exists in many forms in our feminine consciousness – we only need to re-acquaint ourselves with her and invite her in. Hmmm…this sounded very promising….especially when Bolen acknowledged the Virgin Mary as the embodiment of the Goddess in Christianity.
When I was last a practicing Catholic, the Virgin Mary stood beside Jesus in my pantheon. I got that from my own mom, I think – she had a strong devotion to Mary, and I guess she instilled that in me. “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom…” – not just lyrics, but very real for me. The first prayer on my lips was always a Hail Mary – the Lord’s Prayer came after. I felt her hand on my shoulder many a time when my world looked darkest. I (quite literally) felt her hand over mine as I laid my head on my dad’s deathbed, crying angry and frustrated tears. Mary was not “just” the Mother of God in my life – she was his equal. I never bought the virgin birth thing – too many parallel stories in other mythologies to be true. But somewhere in my soul-heart, I knew that she was much more than Jesus’ mother. She was the reason for his ministry. She (and Joseph, to be fair) raised Him to put others before Himself, to care deeply about the welfare of those who had not. And, if we believe scripture, was it not His mother who urged Jesus forward, to fulfill his destiny at the wedding in Cana? So really – where would Jesus be without His mother? But the early Church Councils downplayed all of that, hoping that by formally declaring that Mary was “Blessed,” it would be enough. However, they discounted the power of Mary’s voice. Even at the whisper that they allowed her. She was my truth.
My soul knew all along that my truth lay in that hazy, misty place where the Goddess is clothed in a blue tunic with a white robe and veil, and is known simply as Mary – whether or not the Magisterium approves.
And I really, really missed Catholicism. I found I could not accept the lack of proof of God’s existence as proof of His non-existence (that’s a topic for another day.) So, after three years, I accepted what I’d always known – that I am a Cafeteria Catholic, I do not agree with or support everything that the Church teaches, but it is such a deep connection to the divine that I cannot live without it. I go to Mass now and listen to the words spoken as they have been for centuries, and it is immensely comforting. I take the lessons on living a good life as they were intended by Jesus, one of the few men on earth who got it right. And the Church-acceptable manifestation of the Goddess is right there with me, in her beautiful robes, a serene smile on her face. (However, we really must talk about that crushing-of-the-serpent thing.)
Mother, I’m home.