The Divine Mother is My Spiritual Archetype
Having been raised Roman Catholic, the Divine Mother – or the Blessed Mother, as she is known by Catholics – played an important, but not central, role in my religious life. As children, we were taught to pray the rosary which is, mostly, a repetition of a particular prayer to Mary (the Hail Mary) fifty times. People pray five decades of ten prayers each while focusing on an important spiritual event such as the angel appearing to Mary to tell her she would be the mother of Jesus. May was the month of Mary when processions to honor her were held in Catholic schools. All students participated in these. The culmination of these processions was the placing of a crown on a statue of Mary.
While Mary was always acknowledged with reverence as the mother of Jesus, priests did not, and still do not accord her an important role in the Catholic Mass or other religious events in the church. However, Pope Francis has a particular devotion to the Divine Mother and he prays fifteen decades of the rosary (i.e. says the Hail Mary 150 times) each day.
After meditating daily for many years and participating in Rudy’s Wednesday seminar for about two years, I visited Lourdes, in southwestern France, for a week in October 2013. This is where the Divine Mother, “a Lady in white”, appeared for the first of eighteen times to a fourteen-year-old peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous on February 11, 1858. At the ninth apparition, February 25th, Mary instructed Bernadette to dig with her hands in the ground near her. She did so and discovered a spring very close to the surface of the land. On March 1st, the day of the twelfth apparition, a local woman recovered the use of her paralyzed hand after bathing in the spring. At the 13th apparition on March 2nd, Mary asked that a chapel be built at the spring and that people come in procession. Although more and more people began accompanying Bernadette to the spring, the local priests and authorities did not believe her story that “a little lady” was appearing to her. The parish priest told Bernadette to ask the lady her name. At the sixteenth apparition, Mary said in the local patois, ‘Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou” (I am the Immaculate Conception). Bernadette told the priest this, and after he determined that she did not know what the term meant, he believed her and notified the church authorities that she was telling the truth. Lourdes became an important place of healing. Today, there is a huge basilica there, and tens of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world go there each year. As of 2011, 6,784 unexplained healings from the spring have been recorded, with 67 officially recognized as miracles by the Catholic Church.
For my 2013 visit, I went to Lourdes with Patricia Long, a friend in Rudy’s Wednesday seminar, and about a dozen other people from the US and Europe, led by an American woman who is a healer. While there, we visited the basilica, participated in nightly processions, and were “dunked” each day in baths that are fed from the spring at the grotto. We also drank the water and bathed with it in our hotel. We visited the various places in Lourdes where Bernadette and her family lived and where she worked as a shepherdess. Bernadette left Lourdes at the age of twenty-two to become a nun and spent the rest of her life in a convent in Nevers, a town in central France. She died April 16, 1879, after enduring sickness and suffering for many years. Her body, which never disintegrated, rests in the chapel in Nevers where people can see her every day. (A photograph of Bernadette in her glass casket hangs on the wall of the stairway to Rudy and Sharon’s basement of their home.)
The last day of our stay in Lourdes, our group leader gave each of us an appointment time to meditate at the grotto where there is a statue of Mary, the spring still flows, and Mass is celebrated several times a day. My appointment was at 5 pm. I meditated there for about an hour. After about 45 minutes, I heard Mary calling my name several times silently in my head. I had just gone through an extremely painful divorce that I did not want and was very unhappy and despondent. Finally, Mary said, “Carolyn, Carolyn, Carolyn, I want you to come home. There will be a wonderful partner, great service to do, many wonderful friends, and so much love all around.” Her voice was crystal clear. After reflecting on the message for a short time, I realized that Mary was telling me to come back to myself, my true center, to who I really was, independent of my ex-husband, and to live my life from there. It was an enormously important message that has sustained me ever since and has strengthened me in times of sorrow and doubt.
Since that time, Mary has become a very strong presence in my life. In my daily meditation, she appears to me. Sometimes, she comforts me. Sometimes, she gives me guidance. Sometimes, she pushes me to be stronger, to stay on my path of healing, to do the things that will serve me spiritually in my life.
In May 2015, I visited the convent at Nevers and then made a second week-long visit to Lourdes. During that stay, our small group of five meditated one afternoon in a chapel named for Mary’s mother, Saint Anne, located high in the basilica. This was a very powerful meditation that continued to affect me all during the next day. I felt that I was in awareness throughout that day – almost in an altered state. We visited a very beautiful town in the High Pyrenees called Gavarnie. It is where the mountains form what the French call a “cirque”, a huge amphitheater. There are hiking trails beside the Gave river and beautiful fields that were full of wild flowers. All during our visit, as we walked the trails beside the river, I felt the effects of the previous day’s meditation.
Since my second visit to Lourdes, it is clear to me that Mary is my spiritual archetype. She continues to appear to me in daily meditation where she gives me messages of encouragement and direction, and provides me insights into my current life. When I am confused or troubled, I can close my eyes, go quickly into awareness and ask her for an answer to my question. She always gives me one that makes sense for the particular circumstances in which I find myself. Sometimes when I am having a therapy session with Rudy and we are discussing something I should do, he suggests I ask Mary. I do so right then and she always provides insight and encouraging guidance – an affirmation of what I am struggling to do -- or an admonition to stop what I am doing.
I feel deeply blessed to have the Divine Mother as my spiritual archetype. She is always with me, always available to speak to me in a way that enlightens me and supports me in my life’s journey.