For those of us who are used to seeing Mary in blue and white, with hands folded in prayer, this might be a curious picture. Here, Mary wears a crown ~ she's the Queen-in-Charge. The ugly, charred figure on the right is a demon: the spoiler, the tempter, the trouble-maker.
Looking more deeply, we see a young girl praying on the left - but that's Mary's right: the safe side. Finding herself under the mantle, the girl's prayer might very well be gratitude for the rescue. Mary's left arm is barred, her sleeve rolled up, and her over-sized hand has got a toddler safely grasped. Perhaps there are lost clues in the faded background beyond the room's window. The window might suggest the contest is an interior one: Look into your own personal inner life.
Perhaps most strange of all, Mary is wielding a weapon: a wooden club. Her son's cross was wood. She is called Madonna del Soccorso, which we might translate: Mother of Perpetual Help. But maybe better, Mother, Intolerant of Evil.
There is a mysterious and beautiful verse in the Song of Songs 6:10.
"Who is she that breaks forth like the dawn, as beautiful as the moon, as bright as the sun, as awesome as an army dressed in battle array?"
Who is she? Some say: a prefiguring of the Church, faith in our hearts or Solomon speaking about his daughter. Others say: She is Venus, Queen Elizabeth or a goddess. Still others say she refers to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Why not?
A New Age institute sent a catalog of their seminar and course offerings. Several were presentations about ancient warrior-goddesses. One course description said, "No humble, servant Mary for us." But billions of people over more than two thousand years have seen the one dressed in battle array, as Mary ~ Defender and Protector. Mary is always Mother in the Gospels and Mothers can be wild in defense of their vulnerable children.
So as we ponder this Mary-of-Might, who refuses to let go, we can gather up the children of the world and from our hearts present them in prayer:
For children in the womb ~ fragile and vulnerable,
for children abandoned,
for children whose parents have failed them,
for children raised for prostitution,
for children living in households of disorder.
For children who are violated,
for children out of school,
for children exposed to adult addiction,
for children caught in divorce,
for children waiting to be rescued from sadness.
For children not touched; not held,
for children wandering,
for children hiding from bombs,
for children whose lives are filled with terror,
for children ignored.
For children of squalor,
for children working in mines, factories and fields,
for children without playmates,
for children left to die,
for children un-consoled.
For children who no longer laugh,
For children unfed,
For children without health care,
For children given no faith,
For children who are orphans.