Europe Day 8: Mother Mary, the Holy Water, and Blessings on the Riverbank
Monday, October 2
(We decided to spend most of the day hanging out along the banks of the river, enjoying the sunshine and warmth and, for me, grounding myself with some meditation. I wanted to understand why I was here in Lourdes... Why was I called to this place? What was my connection here? What was I looking for and what would I find?
These were questions that weighed on my heart as I fought an internal battle. I wasn't religious, even though I had an early foundation in Christianity and Catholicism, and over the course of my life, I've become aware that my beliefs span the many religions I'd been introduced to: my childhood best friend was Jewish, and I discovered Buddhism and Hinduism along my own spiritual journey. So what was I doing here on this site renowned for its religious connection?
I wanted to spend some time with myself to connect with God--to understand this connection here--so we found a secluded spot further up the river from the grotto and spread a blanket on the dewy ground. I took out my journal and my headphones and began to write. The following is the direct experience I had in written channeling and meditation...)
As the church bells ring noon, I put in my headphones, scroll to Spotify, and hit play. The first notes of the Ave Maria lightly filter through the speakers, sparking memories of my childhood. I'm a little girl, sitting on the floor of my bedroom, cutting out quotes from a magazine and talking to angels. I'm eight years old and in the church choir, mouthing the words to the Ave Maria because I'm too shy to use my voice and sing. I'm eleven years old and crying as I listen to my mom's Beatles CD for the first time, immediately pushing repeat on Let It Be and crying again, the words touching some part of my soul I'm too young to understand. If I were to look up, there would be a little card with the Hail Mary taped to my mirror. I'm fifteen years old and laying on my bed, Christmas lights threaded through its posts and the Ave Maria from Celine Dion's new Christmas CD--this very track--playing lightly as I fall asleep.
When I was thirteen years old, almost immediately after I was confirmed, I stopped going to church. Church felt more draining than uplifting, and there was always that inner connection, an inner call. Still, over the years of my youth, I struggled with my faith. If I didn't believe in church, what did I believe? Then, when I was in the 9th grade, I read a quote from Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man. He wrote, "My country is the world, and my religion is to do good." With this, I began to find my way home on a personal, spiritual journey that would span a lifetime.
I think as we make our way along this ascension journey, this is what it's about--transcending all that is external to find our internal truth. We're discovering our soul's connection to Source and ourselves, realizing that what's outside of us is, and always has been, within.
Sitting on the banks of the river in the sunshine, on this ancient and sacred land, I feel the Divine Mother rising from the Earth, its energy wrapping around me in nurturing embrace.
I haven't been able to understand why I'm here--here in a place where so many flock religiously when I feel no affinity towards religion. It's almost a battle for understanding between my mind and heart. But when I let go, my soul stretches back through Time--to before the church. A time when love just was. When kindness and compassion and faith were simple. It's here I feel connected to Mother Mary. It's here I've always been connected to her.
She shows me open hands, a serene and kind smile upon her face, love glistening in compassionate eyes. I need no affiliation. All are welcomed here to her.
I understand this is partly why I'm here--like a piece of a puzzle slowly falling into place. It's why I cried the first night of the Torchlight Procession, why I cried outside the basilica and not in. I'm letting go of all I think I have to be--what was written for lifetimes--and allowing myself to go beyond either/or, one thing or another, and simply be connected without thought or form or definition.
She smiles and nods and hands me a pink rose. I can feel the smooth petals beneath my fingertips as they fall from the stem and sprinkle into my hand. More rose petals fall from the sky, touching my skin in kiss and caress.
"I am here," she says. "I am always here. The Mother of mothers, a light divine. I am the same light that shines within you. I help that light now grow brighter, that light that has been denied for centuries."
In my mind's eye, I see myself stepping into the river. She's holding my hand and guiding me, but I walk effortlessly across the rocks. This is a baptism, I realize. Not of the church, but a rebirth within the self, and the Holy Mother herself is guiding it. The profound symbolism is not lost on me.
I rise from the water, and she stands before me, cradling my head with her hands, as an affectionate mother to a child.
'Dear one," she speaks. "The world gave birth to you, and now you help to give birth to the world. You are a special gift to this lifetime and future generations. Do not sacrifice yourself. Do not deny yourself. You are love itself. In these holy waters--for all water is holy if you decree it so--you give birth to the sacred within. In the womb of your being, you create life as you are life. Just as the river runs, so do you become an everlasting force of Divine will. You are one with God as the earth is to the sky."
She touches my hands, rotates them so they are open, palms upturned. Then she places water within them, a single pink rose head on top. The water filters through my fingers, but the rose remains. She closes my hands around it, and I feel--rather than see--it disappear from my hands and anchor into my heart.
She smiles gently, warmly, with so much love in her expression, I want to cry. She knows this overwhelm and nods compassionately as we embrace.
"She is Mother," I think to myself.
"As are you," she reminds me.
She guides me back to the banks of the river and places a kiss on my forehead. As she leaves, a flurry of white butterflies surround me before fluttering up into the sky.
The ceremony is complete.