As a menopausal woman with no children, I realize, with some regret and sadness that I will not be passing my Motherline forward in an embodied, physical form, so I do not have that ineffable connection that Lowinsky speaks of when she sees her daughters carrying on the lineage that she is passing on from her mother.[i] I also think because we live in a patriarchy, men’s process of differentiation from their mothers separates them even further from what “should be” a natural awe of women’s mysteries.[ii] So how do women, such as me, reconnect with their Motherlines without this physically-shared, embodied link?[iii] If this is a key into the world of Women’s Mysteries, have I missed out on a substantial opportunity?
In the summer of 2008, most of my family spent a week in the city of Quebec to celebrate my brother’s and my 50th birthday, and to spend time together as a family. My parents picked Robin and me up at the airport, and as we drove to the lodge we were staying in, on the outskirts of the city, we passed a beautiful Catholic church, the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. Across the highway from, and along the banks of the Saint Lawrence River, the church captivates me. My Mother says, as we pass, “You’ve been here before, Barbara.” I disagree, telling her I would remember such a magnificent structure. (I am the only one in the family who had been to Quebec before, having travelled there with my high school French teacher and classmates, decades earlier. However, we had stayed completely within the city limits on our trip.)
She insists, and then I recall a story I have heard many times before. When Rick was young, before he was diagnosed with MD, well-meaning neighbors came to this shrine, reputed to have been the site of many miracles – particularly healings of “crippled people” – to collect Holy Water and to pray for a cure. Nothing came of their efforts. I can taste the bitterness in her voice today, and – in my mind and heart – can hear what she’s thinking, “How did they think making a pilgrimage here (to this place where the female is still divine) would affect a cure?”
A few days later, my sister-in-law and I make our pilgrimage to this Basilica. When my Mother declines our invitation, I notice her anti-Mary sentiment. As we walk the grounds before entering, I notice a statue of the Virgin, towering above us. Upon closer inspection, I realize this is unlike any statue of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus I have seen before. She stands on a cloud of blue filled with stars – the firmament – and the child She is holding is dressed in a similar, radiant blue; their gazes meet in adoration. In fact, this is Sainte Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary, holding Her as a girl-child. She is standing on the top of the world: She is Queen of the Universe. I am transfixed by and before Her.
I feel in awe and blessed, in this, the most unlikely of places, to encounter Her, in a guise I had never before encountered. We wander through the indoor spaces, and I see more statues of Her, some even as an older woman, perhaps in Her Crone phase. Here, I do not have to excavate the Queen of the Universe: She soars above us, adoring Her daughter, radiating love and glory to all around. I experience an elation, an expansiveness, an ease which I relish, just recalling it.
Gradually, I pieced together a narrative that helps me to understand my Mother’s disdain for the Virgin Mary, the Divine as Female, and embracement of a faith which allows her her scientific, objective perceptions. The Mother had failed her: the neighbors’ pilgrimage did not bring healing to her brother.In her view, of course it had not. Miracles happened in the “old days,” before our “rational” minds could perceive the “truth.” Had her own mother failed her? Had she been left to fend for herself while her mother tended to her sister’s greater needs?
Check back next week for more ...