We All Need a “Mother”

Mary, the Blessed Virgin

Mary, the Blessed Virgin

Last night, I attended my RCIA class (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults).  If you have a quarrel with religion or spirituality (my preferred word) or Christianity, don’t be deterred.  I have been what might be called apostate (religious, not political) most of my life:

a·pos·tate
əˈpäsˌtāt,-tit/
noun
noun: apostate; plural noun: apostates
  1. 1.
    a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle.
    synonyms: dissenter, defector, deserter, traitor, backslider, turncoat; More

    archaic heretic;
    rare recusant, recreant, tergiversator
    “after 50 years as an apostate, he returned to the faith”
    antonyms: follower
adjective
adjective: apostate
  1. 1.
    abandoning a religious or political belief or principle.

It’s very hard to grow up in a cultural milieu that is Christian fundamentalist identifying as a lesbian and then later transitioning from female to male.  Being gay seems to be the one sin that is obsessed upon, unforgivable, and it’s hard to hear from the pulpit that you are damned for eternal hellfire.

I did not embrace spirituality until I was in my 40’s, and it was Buddhism that spoke to me.  One night, I was looking out a window, and noticed the moon and the stars as if for the first time, and realized that there had to be “more” than my work-a-day existence.

The Universe

By sheer coincidence, I was browsing the bookshelves at the now-closed Borders bookstore on “L” and 18th streets in northwest Washington, DC.

Borders Bookstore, now closed, 18th and L Streets, Washington, DC.

Borders Bookstore, now closed, 18th and L Streets, Washington, DC.

I was not perusing the aisles on religion — I was looking at books on history, current events, politics, and science.  But someone had misplaced a book by Pema Chödrön in the wrong spot and I picked it up in curiosity.

Pema Chodron - The Places That Scare You - A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

Pema Chödrön’s best-seller, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

I thumbed through the book, but left it where I found it.  It stuck in my mind, and later I returned to the bookstore and came home with a stack of books on Buddhism.  Thus began my love affair with the dharma, the teachings of the Buddha.

Most strains of Buddhism do not postulate or deny the existence of God.  There is the famous Parable of the Poisoned Arrow, this one offered by Thich Nhat Hahn from Zen 101:

The Buddha always told his disciples not to waste their time and energy in metaphysical speculation. Whenever he was asked a metaphysical question, he remained silent. Instead, he directed his disciples toward practical efforts. Questioned one day about the problem of the infinity of the world, the Buddha said, “Whether the world is finite or infinite, limited or unlimited, the problem of your liberation remains the same.” Another time he said, “Suppose a man is struck by a poisoned arrow and the doctor wishes to take out the arrow immediately. Suppose the man does not want the arrow removed until he knows who shot it, his age, his parents, and why he shot it. What would happen? If he were to wait until all these questions have been answered, the man might die first.” Life is so short. It must not be spent in endless metaphysical speculation that does not bring us any closer to the truth.

Buddhism, from my perspective, is less a religion than a guide for how to live a compassionate life.  But we are not offered a God or a Higher Power to love and protect us — though we are not precluded from adopting our own notions (or those of any other religions).

Then after my close and personal encounter with a psychopath (see The Early Days — How I Was Ensnared by My Psychopath), I had to acknowledge that evil in this world does exist, at least in the form of people who do harm by choice, by deception, and by exploitation.

Through a series of events I would describe as synchronicity, but actually may have been the Spirit working on me, I began to reconsider the idea of one God, a personal God, and Christianity.

syn·chro·nic·i·ty
ˌsiNGkrəˈnisədē/
noun
noun: synchronicity
1.  the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.
“such synchronicity is quite staggering”

So I have begun attending an intentional Eucharist community of Catholics that welcomes and embraces GLBT people, and through that, I have begun taking RCIA classes.  This has been a blessing for me — and also very painful.  I am triggered by my memories of how I was treated as a teenager who self-identified as a lesbian but would later transition from female to male.  I was triggered by metaphysical quagmires that defy logic.  I question everything, and there is a lot to question in Christian theology.

Last night’s lesson was on the Blessed Virgin, Mother Mary.  We were told by Father Mark that Catholic dogma demands these beliefs about Mary, the mother of Jesus:

  • immaculate conception
  • God-bearer
  • perpetual virginity
  • assumption into heaven

(Don’t quote me; I’m hardly an expert.)  All of these notions raged against my logic and reasoning.  It was like going back to my adolescent struggles with Christianity.  Well, you know what?  I have seen just enough and had just enough weird and inexplicable experiences (synchronicity?) that no one would believe if I poured them out, and so I thought I ought to at least reserve judgement.

On the way home from class, I had a discussion with T, the woman from my church who is providing me with transportation to the RCIA classes.  She reminded me that Jesus is not about dogma, he’s about Love.  I had a similar conversation once back at home with my Catholic friend, L, who explained a little more of the ideas behind the dogma.

Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  From the Bible Gateway.

My mom wasn’t the greatest, but I have forgiven her her bad choices.  We all need a caring and nurturing mother figure, and so I will dispense with the dogma as I contemplate its meaning for me, and until then, I will view the Blessed Virgin Mary as the mother who has watched over me thus far.

The Hail Mary:

Hail Mary,
Full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.  Amen.

If the Beatles can sing this song, so can you:

The world is full of doubts, opposites, paradoxes and metaphysical speculation.  The spiritual journey is to blend them into a Whole:

Rainbow Tao

You may say I’m a dreamer, like John Lennon, but I hope I’m not the only one.  The lyrics might be “apostate” at first glance, but as with opposites and metaphysical quandaries, I believe this song is also an expression of the Greatest Commandment of Jesus:

May these random ponderings give you fearlessness in difficult times….

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About DogDharma

Dog Dharma is written by a human who loves dogs and who believes dogs have attained enlightenment. The human behind Dog Dharma came from humble origins, has faced many trials, enjoyed many adventures, and taken a path less traveled. He claims no special privilege or expertise, and remains humble. Dog Dharma‘s author has learned a few things along the way, and has much yet to learn. He has been told by many people that he has a talent for writing, and aspires to write a book, but is a little too lazy and disorganized, so his blog will suffice for now. He opens a window into his life in the hope that some of his words may be of comfort, some may be a beacon or warning, and perhaps he will connect with like-minded souls. Everything shared comes from a place of openness and honesty, but with no claim that he possesses the Truth. People and places mentioned should be taken as pseudonyms. In many cases, details may be an amalgamation of actual events disguised to protect the “innocent.” Nothing written is to be taken as actual fact, but as the author of Dharma Dog‘s limited understanding. From the mouths of the Beatles: In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make
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8 Responses to We All Need a “Mother”

  1. maggyann says:

    Such a good point you have made here (well the Buddha makes). Don’t sweat the big stuff. It is like driving along the motorway listening to the radio telling you of horrific traffic jams ahead, lane closures and all sorts so you end up in a right old two and sixpence when really all you have to concentrate on is the few cars in your immediate vicinity and let the traffic jams sort themselves out way before you even reach them.
    I am not into religion at all but Fred and I do talk about things like this. Well I question and he helps me out with leading questions in return plus on occasion some downright, honest to goodness answers. He’s quite a chap is Fred.
    Religion was never in his plan but he allowed it to take root because he realised it was the only way the majority of people could comprehend the vastness of the all.
    Fred is not, never has been and has no intention of becoming RELIGIOUS. He just is and wishes we could all just accept the reality that he IS in the same way as we accept the reality of each other.
    Anyway here’s my twopennethworth for what it is worth (what with inflation probably a farthing or less these days…:) )
    Immaculate conception – is really only what it says – it is a clean conception, nothing ‘dirty’ or base about it. People have made sex, intercourse and conception part of a naughtiness, a dirty thrilling experience, a getting the end away type of activity rather than holding onto the actuality of the cleanliness, beauty and magic of sex, souls uniting, physical flesh delighting and conception being a gift – an immaculate and clean gift. When it comes down to Mary and Jesus and all that I think we have to remember the bible et al is not something God wrote, it is a version of the story told in simple words for simple people who had lost for whatever reason the original plot, the inner knowledge of what is and isn’t so.
    God Bearer – well aren’t we all? Inside each of us there resides a Fred, or George, or Hamish or whomever – the God of our individual soul, our God, our personal God, our little part of the whole God, a fragment just for each of us of the totality of the all and every mother who gives birth bears a ‘God’ as well as and with a child.
    Perpetual virginity – well virginity is purity isn’t it so surely it is possible to be perpetually virginal, perpetually pure? I don’t think it comes down to an intact or otherwise hymen. The bible / religion and all that stuff is not about the physical is it? Virginity is purity and purity is virginal from the soul’s point of view. You can be shagged rigid and still be pure in your soul.
    Assumption into heaven – well yes of course. We are all going there, just as we are all coming back here, I think we can safely ‘assume’ we will be in heaven before the next century begins (and probably have come back again too…)
    There I have once again emptied my brain so now have some space to think of something else. I do hope you don’t mind me rambling on like a demented whatsit now and then :). Now where did I leave the paint tin lid???……………….

    Liked by 1 person

    • DogDharma says:

      Maggie, I just adore the way you think and express yourself. You are no-nonsense, poetic, and funny to boot — and you make me smile. Thank you for expressing your thoughts, which pretty much match mine, and I hope there have been no more feline paw prints on your blue carpet! THANK YOU!

      Like

  2. luckyotter says:

    I don’t usually post before I’ve read an article, but when I saw you were attending RCIA classes I felt compelled to comment. I’m also attending RCIA classes! I know Catholicism gets a pretty bad rap (some of it deserved LOL) but I have several reasons for choosing this over the 30,000 different protestant denominations. One of my biggest reasons is the Catholic church, unlike many of the evangelical Protestant sects, is not an enemy of science and I was surprised to find out in RCIA that evolution is considered valid (though divinely inspired, which I have always believed anyway). I have a lot of other reasons too. The Catholic church has been very misunderstood. If you’re interested in why I chose the Catholic faith over all others , please read these two blog posts. http://otterlover58.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/so-apparently-god-accepted-my-deal-part-one-of-two/ and http://otterlover58.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/so-apparently-god-accepted-my-deal-part-two-of-two/
    You can read about my entire spiritual journey from this page: http://otterlover58.wordpress.com/about/ (the second group of articles is about my spiritual journey).
    I also have an affinity for Buddhist thought and think reincarnation and karma has a lot of arguments in its favor. Not sure how to reconcile that with Christianity, LOL
    Now I am going to read the rest of your article. 🙂
    Have you ever seen the website WhyImCatholic,com? If you haven’t you should. It’s fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. luckyotter says:

    I just read the rest of your article and I agree with you about needing a Holy Mother. I always loved the idea of Mary. I too find some of the dogma about Mary (assumption into heaven etc) hard to reconcile with logic, but she is just venerated, not actually worshipped. My own mother was a malignant narcissist and about as un-Mary like as it’s possible to be. I need a Mary in my life! So I have no problem whatsoever with honoring Mary and the saints. I also love the idea of transfiguration (the host becoming the body of Christ during the Eucharist) even though I’m not sure I believe it. There is a special uplifted feeling I get during the Catholic Eucharist that I don’t get from the Protestant version of communion, so maybe it’s true. I would like to think it is. I think I made the right choice.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. luckyotter says:

    Reblogged this on Lucky Otter's Haven and commented:
    This article is right in keeping with my own attendance at RCIA (the classes one takes to become Catholic) and what I am learning. As the child of a malignant narcissist mother, Mary is about as unlike my mother as it’s possible to be. I need a ever merciful Mary in my life! I’m also finding that, rather than the dogmatic, intolerant, bloated religion Catholicism has a reputation of being, that’s it’s actually one of the most loving and tolerant of all Christian religions–and possibly the most authentic (being the oldest and apostolic church Jesus actually founded). I’m also taken with this writer’s affinity for Buddhist thought. Buddhism, rather than being a religion, is more of a philosophy. You can believe in one God or not. I don’t think reincarnation and karma are reconcilable with Catholicism, but much of the rest of it is. I’m reblogging this because it puts these things into words much better than I can.

    Liked by 1 person

    • DogDharma says:

      luckyotter, I’ll reply here. I’ve just read your posts about Catholicism, and I couldn’t agree more. We have a lot in common, as my mother was, I believe, a narcissist or a psychopath of some ilk, or just often very “not nice.” It’s been a watershed to find that so much of what I have learned about Catholicism was not what was presented to me. My own ironic synchronicity was that my father (who was very kind and nurturing and who died when I was 5 years old, leaving me an only child to be raised by my “not nice” mother) was Italian Catholic. But my mother was not Catholic, and so I was given tales that my father’s family rejected me after his death because I wasn’t “raised Catholic.”

      Meanwhile, my mother simply neglected to tell me the whole story. I was in my 50’s and doing genealogical research on my mom’s side of the family. To my utter amazement, I discovered that my maternal grandfather (my mom’s dad) had been German Catholic until he married my non-Catholic grandmother! Why did she not tell me this detail? (Her narcissism, I think, and her explanation of why my dad’s side of the family disappeared after my dad’s death).

      In any case, by all rights, I should have been raised Catholic, and it came down from BOTH sides of my family. So when I began to contemplate again the notion of one God, Catholicism seemed the perfect first choice. I certainly wasn’t going to go back to the fundamentalist Christians who preach hellfire and damnation and do not mesh with my progressive views, and who promote intolerance, and practice in-your-face evangelism, and the likes of the Westboro Baptist Church. God blessed me by connecting me with the intentional Eucharist community that meets just a 5 minute walk from my house. They are as much about works as they are about grace (one of my stumbling blocks with Protestantism as well).

      So the Blessed Virgin is the mother I never had, revered and loved, but not worshiped. The Eucharist is the most fantastical mystery I participate in every time.

      I don’t see a great gulf between reincarnation and karma and Catholicism, at least in my view. If heaven and hell are not literal places, but separation from God, then I find it plausible that God would give us more than one chance to learn our hard lessons, and help us find him, using the complicated concept of karma as our teacher.

      Thank you for sharing your wonderful, erudite, and thoughtful articles, and for re-blogging my post! I’m just a neophyte on the journey….

      Liked by 1 person

      • luckyotter says:

        I love the Eucharist, and totally agree with you about the hellfire-and-damnation preaching and the in your face evangelism and literal interpretation of the Bible. Those things are a total turnoff to me. I also hate the way evangelistic christianity has become tied up with Republican politics. And I believe works are as important as grace and I take issue with Protestantism for that. I Most people don’t think of the Catholic church as being progressive but in many ways, it is extremely progressive. Just look at the new Pope! I think you make a good point about reincarnation and karma not being at odds with Catholicism. Your agument makes sense.

        Liked by 1 person

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