Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Our Lady of Boquen

This statue is a replica of the image of Our Lady of Boquen which I had  placed in a church where I was pastor for eleven years. Boquen is a 12th century monastery in France. Originally a Cistercian foundation, it eventually became a kind of monastic experiment open to single and married men and women and even their families: a gospel-school of faith, prayer and the common life. Presently it is a monastery of the Sisters of Bethlehem, who share the charisms (spiritual gifts) of the Carthusians - a hermit order following the rule of St. Bruno. The monastery's original medieval statue can still be found in the monastic church at Boquen. She is sometimes called, Our Lady of the White Woods.

When visiting Lourdes some years ago I discovered the 3/4 life-sized statue in the religious goods store operated by the Bethlehem Community. I felt at once that it would be a lovely way to share the Lourdes experience with the parish community, and so we had the image shipped back to the United States.

The statue is  lovely in its deep human expression: the holy Mother smiles admiringly at her Son, she plays with his bare foot and holds him on her hip as mothers do. The baby is dozing and confidently resting his arm over his mother's heart while sitting comfortably on her throne-hand. Thomas Merton wrote that one of the happy effects of the Second Vatican Council is that we started to see images again of Mary as Child-Bearing Mother. While she is Lady of Grace with open arms and hands as in the image on the Miraculous Medal, she is all the more, with the Holy Spirit, God's agent of the Incarnation - God become one of us in Jesus Christ.

But we must remember that Mary's story with the Infant Jesus is a terrifying story: she is pregnant though not yet living with Joseph as husband, she is full-term and traveling to Bethlehem on a donkey, she suffers the insecurity of not knowing where the child will be born, they live in poverty, Herod wants the Child gone, they flee as refugees to Egypt. Clearly, in the newborn Christ, heaven stands in solidarity with women and children who suffer terribly all around the world. 

It isn't easy being a woman. For a short time there was a particularly silly TV show called The Swan in which homely or "unattractive" women completely  re-made themselves  to be acceptably beautiful. They lost enormous amounts of weight, they exercised themselves into new body-types, they had surgeries to "fix" their faces, they changed their hair and wardrobes. And then at  the end, after all the months of reconstruction and reconfiguration, the winner of the most dramatic renaissance was announced. But there was only one winner. The message being to the others, "You still come up short," "You still don't quite cut it."

But that's only part of it, isn't it? Women, and especially women with children, face untold indignities and struggles just because they're women. The Boquen Mother of God is standing. She's on her feet. She's bright and joyful - though the life she led with the child on her hip was by no means an easy one. The poem-prayer announces and invokes that Lady.

Bright Mother of the newly conceived,
Playful Mother of children frightened in war,
Smiling Mother of children without hope,
Joy-Bearing Mother in our sorrow and loss,

pray for us!
pray with us!

Pleased Mother for our small steps into compassionate love,
Golden-Boy's Mother of women in darkness,
Strong Mother of children who are failing,
Willing Mother glad in the adoption of  little ones,

pray for us!
pray with us!

Trusting Mother of women confounded in pregnancy,
Faithful Mother of the fearful,
Happy Mother who softens human hearts to mercy,
God-reliant Mother of children who scavenge garbage mountains,

pray for us!
pray with us!

Generous Mother of women and children who have nothing,
Heart-awake Mother of women un-supported,
Dignified Mother of women who feel shame,
Beauteous Mother of women snared in sex trade,

pray for us!
pray with us!

Life-Containing Mother of women who desire maternity,
Sorrow-Sharing Mother of women who have lost a child,
White Woods Mother of  children used in pornography,
New Monastic Mother of those without family or community,

pray for us!
pray with us!

Admiring Mother of children who are handicapped,
Supportive Mother of women who live with violent men,
Bethlehem Mother of missing children,
Our Mother bright patch of blue sky,

pray for us!
pray with us!

A new Lady of Boquen with a baby on her hip. No child day care.  This holy child breaths dust and traffic toxins.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this prayer and for acknowledging the plight of women. Today's world is no different from the struggles of long ago times. Modern technology speeds up the pace of life and the demands on women are greater than ever before. The added pressure of working full time in addition to all the traditional roles of a mother and wife are at times daunting and overwhelming. I will keep in mind this prayer for mothers as I go about my busy life,