A More Meaty Mary
I would always hesitate before opening the door to St. Elizabeth’s Infant Hospital because once inside, the rest of the world would cease to exist. Nothing else could compete with the presence I met once I entered. St. E’s, a Catholic Charities organization in San Francisco, was a place of mother’s milk and indigestible pain, a place for the excluded—the controversial population of pregnant teens and teen moms.
An icon of the Virgin Mary was perched on top of the refrigerator in the staff lounge. Her four-foot plastic frame was so light that she teetered every time a child-care counselor or Sister of Charity opened the refrigerator door to retrieve their lunch from inside.
She was the “classic Virgin,” I was told—the Mary most readily found in small enclaves in places of worship, especially in stone grottos on the periphery of church grounds. Her solemnity was expressed in her downcast eyes, her pursed lips, and her white hands pressed tightly beneath her chin in prayer.
It irritated and intrigued me to see Mary so easily jostled. I would shoot a frustrated glance her way every time I caught her teetering back and forth, as if to ask in exasperation, “How did we let you become so ethereal?”
It took approximately three minutes to ascend the stairs that separated the staff lounge from the floor where the teenage clients of St. E’s Parenting Program resided. I walked up those stairs slowly, savoring the silence and the light. Once I stepped onto the linoleum tiles of the third floor, the raw intensity I met with demanded every ounce of me.
The smell in the corridor of the third floor was a potent mix of cocoa butter, baby formula, and disinfectant. The sounds of babies crying and music blaring blended in an unsettling cacophony of too much seriousness too soon, real life interrupting youth.
All the teens etched themselves into my heart, but one in particular struck a match up against it and lit it on fire. She had been raped and then thrown out of her mother’s house for being pregnant. After spending several nights in jail for prostitution, she was sent to St. E’s.
One morning, I was there when she found herself suddenly very vulnerable and afraid, as the reality of the imminent birth finally hit her. She turned to me and on this rare occasion actually looked me in the eyes and said, “I could use some God right about now.”
I started to ask about her religious or spiritual background, but she stopped me with a quick flick of her hand and said, “Find me a more meaty Mary, then we’ll talk.”
My jaw dropped. Her honesty stunned me. I looked at her in awe. The recognition in her quick, sideways glance at me was electric. We both smiled, as if suddenly and if only for that second, we were on the same sacred team.
That was it. She had named it: a more meaty Mary. We needed an embodied Mary. We needed images and stories of the Divine Feminine that affirm the sacredness of the female body, images and stories of a Divine Feminine that can carry the weight of the darkness as well as the light.
How could these teenagers, some as young as 13, be reminded that they are sacred, that their bodies are holy regardless of rape, incest, and prostitution? Would these girls even be in this situation if the female body was revered as holy in the major world religions?
Where had Mary’s body gone?
At that time I didn’t identify with the more traditional religious sense of “being called.” So I won’t tell you I was called to go on the group pilgrimage to the Divine Feminine the summer before entering divinity school. The truth was far more ordinary. It was simply too painful to stay still, to see these teenaged girls who were so uncared for materially and spiritually. And it was especially painful to see that these young girls, with names I will never forget, cared so little about their own bodies. Because I was right there with them: I had no idea how to love my body or even be in it.
There’s a story in an ancient Hindu text, the Mahabharata, about the goddess Kali’s birth. All the male gods have gotten together in a god-like conference call, and they’re freaked out because the world is completely out of balance. The demons, or asuras are running rampant. And the male gods, despite all their efforts, realize that they cannot defeat the demons on their own. Though they had created this imbalance, they could not correct it. So the male gods agree that their only chance of survival is to collectively call for Kali to come into being so she can clean up their mess. They needed the fiercest form of the Divine Feminine to come in savior-style and defeat the demons.
So Kali is born out of the forehead (or the consciousness) of the goddess Durga. (Durga is also a great warrior goddess—just not quite as fierce as the sword-swinging, skull-wearing Kali Ma.) Kali comes barreling out of Durga’s forehead and with a kick-ass sharp sword slays the demons, which represent the false beliefs created by the imbalance between the masculine and the feminine—beliefs like the one that says it’s okay to tolerate rape and violence against women and girls. Kali sweeps in and chops all those false beliefs to bits, and peace is restored because the fierce Divine Feminine has brought the masculine back into balance.
I knew as I witnessed and worked with the teenaged mothers at St. E’s that this is where we were as a world culture. We were at the point in the Mahabharata when the male gods sound a unified cry for the fierce Divine Feminine to rise.
I heard the call.
This excerpt is taken from the book REVEAL, by Meggan Watterson. It is published by Hay House (April 3rd, 2013) and available at all bookstores or online at www.hayhouse.com or http://bit.ly/reveal-book
Meggan Watterson is the author of REVEAL: A Sacred Manual For Getting Spiritually Naked. She is a spiritual mentor, speaker, and scholar of the Divine Feminine and received a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary (Columbia University). Watterson is the founder of REVEAL, an organization that spiritually empowers women to connect to the love within them, reclaim their bodies as sacred, and become agents of change in the world. She facilitates The REDLADIES – a women's spirituality group in New York City where women come together to encourage each other to find, hear, and to follow the voice of their soul. She lives in New York City with her son. Visit www.megganwatterson.com
More articles in WMC FBomb by Category: Feminism, Religion
More articles in WMC FBomb by Tag: Activism and advocacy, High school, News