St. Mary and the mystery of the people friendly lentThe church through its decision making and teaching brings out a policy which its members should adhere to. The following of these written and un-written rules is important for one to be accepted amongst the church hierarchy and those associated with it. One of the rules among many to be followed in some cases is the lent and fasts during various times and for various reasons. This becomes a requirement which has to be completed, as otherwise the concerned person will be held accountable by the church.
Among the various lents and fasts that the church requires and asks for are also the ‘nothing official about it’ L&F’s. The eight days lent ending in the celebration of the birthday of St. Mary is perhaps the best example of this. Even though it is not an official lent of the church, people in Kerala and elsewhere find a sense of achievement and attachment in going through the lent. When otherwise people will fast to fulfil their requirements to the church, in this case the fasting is out of one’s own free will.
In an age of Anna Hazare, Jayalalitha, Mamata, Sonia, Katrina, Aishwarya, et all, there is this one woman who time and again manages to make people cry, mend, fast and transform. When we attach ourselves to people who are strong, powerful, educated, and glamorous here is a woman who is none of these in one glance and yet commands the respect and the adherence of millions of people. It may be true that women in the church identify more with St. Mary but that does not mean that men are far away.
Would Mary get so much attention by virtue of being the mother of Jesus? There must be something else which is much more than being the selected womb. Her life in a way suggests the anti thesis of what is right and correct. She was born to her parents in their old age, she starting serving the church in a tender young age, she was betrothed to Joseph who was much older than her, she became pregnant before she was married and had any relationship with Joseph, she saw the future with an older cousin Elizabeth, and she identified the special Jesus at the wedding in Cana. Truly, whatever she did, she did different.
When was the last time we ever followed someone as different as this? Or is it that we don’t know that Mary is so different and radical because she has been dressed up by the church? In the midst of the official, the dressed up, and the hierarchical there lies somewhere the non-official, free and people friendly Mary who the people have accepted as their saint and for whom they are willing to starve and mend their ways. Somewhere lying hidden in the need for personal gains is also the concern for the unseen and the unheard. This is the true people’s St. Mary, offering something new every year.
Fr. Jerry Kurian