Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Madonna della Strada

The image shown here is of the recently restored image of Our Lady of the Way. In Italian, Madonna della Strada. The 13th-14th century fresco (a wall painting done on damp plaster) was originally painted on the wall of Saint Mary of the Way in Rome, the church of  the  Jesuit priests, given to Saint Ignatius by Pope Paul III in 1540.

The old church was replaced by the Church of the Gesu (Gesu is Jesus in Italian) and the preserved image was moved there in 1575 to a side chapel where Jesuits pronounced their vows. Madonna della Strada reminds Jesuits of their origins and their great devotion to Mary. With the image restored in 2006,  according to experts it can be seen now as it was when Ignatius and his first companions knew it.

Here is a prayer we might pray as we gaze, perhaps especially when waking up - even before checking emails or texts, or taking the first phone call:

Sweet Mary,
our heavenly Mother,
guide our steps
on the often wild and rugged
way of life,
and when life arrives
at its end,
be for us
the door of heaven,
and show us the fruit
of your womb, Jesus.

Of course the words the way  don't refer to roads and sidewalks, but our life-way: the way of our growing up, the way of our joys and sorrows, the way of our successes and failures, the way of the challenges we need to step up to, the way that leads through the things that are tedious, fearsome, irksome. The way refers to my life as spouse, parent, student, sibling, the way of being friend, neighbor, colleague, the way of being God's dear child on this planet today - along with the billions of others. It is the way of struggling each day to be human, with the unique self God has created me to be and by which I glorify God.

Even though the edges of the fresco are irregular, we're fortunate that the Virgin's right hand has been saved. We notice that it is an open hand. We don't need to come before God holding onto anything that we think will win favor with God: no stories of good deeds done, no accomplishments or records of religious obligations met. We come before God, just as we are: anxious, little, broken, confounded, weary, tempest-tossed, - indeed - bankrupt, however that word might apply to each of us.

There is a very fine article online about the marvelous restoration of the Madonna della Strada image:  Restored image of the Madonna della Strada.

1 comment:

  1. Just so beautiful to read this. Thank you.