A few weeks ago, I attempted to make an appointment for an intake session with a therapist. My co-pay would be zero, I’ve never availed myself of such help, and especially after this past year of COVID, wildfires, political unrest, I thought—Why not?
I had to speak to three people first, repeatedly assuring them I did not own a gun, did not intend to harm myself or anyone else, and did not have suicidal ideation. Each employee was civil and also without an iota of warmth, humanity, vitality or sense of humor.
Finally I got to the person who would directly connect me with the available therapist. We went through the same questions again. And then the person on the other end asked, “Do you identify as female?”
My being screeched to a halt. The very question was absurd, an affront. The sky is blue. I don’t identify the sky as blue. I live in a world in which the sky is blue. The essence of a created thing is not in my hands. I don’t change facts; I don’t have the power. I don’t bend reality to my will. I’m not God.
Do I IDENTIFY as female? I have a female name, voice, affect, and body. I have the chromosomes, heart, and psyche of a woman. If ever there were a loaded question, “Do you identify as female?” must be in the first tier. I almost screamed, “I AM female. I’m a woman. I’m 100 percent a woman.”
Male and female are not only biological facts but archetypes, hard-wired deep into the human brain, body, and consciousness. Would anyone want Christ, nailed to the Cross, to be a woman? Would anyone want the Virgin of Guadalupe, appearing to the peasant Juan Diego on four occasions in the mountains of Tepeyac near Mexico City in 1531, to be a man?
No—for the Empress of the Americas, we need a woman. Not to round out an affirmative action quota, but because Our Lady is Queen of Heaven and Earth. Because the Blessed Virgin fulfills our desperate hunger for the unconditional, guiding-light love of a mother: a breast upon which to rest, a comforting word, a restraining hand. Mary is the one who sees through to our souls, to whom we can come with our troubles, who forever stands with us—steadfast, “pondering these things in her heart”—at the foot of the Cross.
Besides, what would life be without an occasional tilma-full of winter roses? Without courtly love? Without poetry?
What woman on earth would not want to stand in solidarity with Our Lady of Guadalupe, with her mysterious eyes, her star-studded turquoise mantle, her background circlet of golden rays from the sun?
Who can fail to be moved by the fact that the world’s most cutting-edge scientists have failed to “decode” the miracle that occurred on Tepeyac Hill? The tilma—the cloak of Juan Diego’s upon which the image of Our Lady mysteriously imprinted—for example, was apparently woven from agave fibers. “All the cloths similar to the Tilma that have been placed in the salty and humid environment around the Basilica have lasted no more than ten years,” notes researcher and physicist Dr. Aldofo Orozco. That the fabric of the cloak has not deteriorated in almost 500 years “is completely beyond any scientific explanation.”
Fittingly, in Juan Diego’s vision, the Virgin was heavy with child. She is the symbol of fecundity, long-suffering, beauty, compassion. Woman: protectress of the poor, sanctuary for the downtrodden, holy seat of new life. “Blessed art though among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”
No accident that Our Lady’s Feast day comes on December 12, a mere two weeks before Christmas. The Cathedral is hosting a novena, its usual procession and Mass, and more. If you’re not willing or able to leave home, here’s another possibility.
The Latino Theater Company of the Los Angeles Theater Center will stream an archival video of La Virgen de Guadalupe, Dios Inantzin: their signature holiday pageant, which has taken place annually since 2002 at our Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
Opera singer Suzanna Guzman plays the part of the Virgin. Over 100 actors, singers, indigenous Aztec dancers, singers and seniors from the community round out the cast.
The pageant has been adapted for the stage by Evelina Fernández from the mid-16th century text The Nican Mopohua. It’s performed in English with Spanish subtitles. It streams at https://www.thelatc.org/lavirgen from Friday, December 11 at 7 p.m. PT / 10 p.m. ET straight though until Sunday, Dec. 20 at 11:59 p.m. PT. And it’s free.
“¿No estoy yo aquí que soy tu madre?” (“Am I not here, I who am your mother?”), the Virgin is said to have asked Juan Diego.
So deeply have the words gripped the human heart that they are inscribed over the main entrance of the Basilica of Guadalupe, the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world.
Do I identify as female? I am female. One thousand percent.
14 Replies to “THE FEMININE GENIUS OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE”
You are the best. I’m sending you a check to help support your work. Finally a ( female) voice of reason.
Thank you so much, Jane!! Very much appreciate the support–good Lord, what have we come to?…The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light…Blessed Advent to you…
This was my first read of one of your blogs. I finally followed the link in Magnificat where I always enjoy your pieces. Your reaction to “Do you identify as a woman? ” is priceless. You are a voice of reason in a world gone mad. Have a blessed remaining two weeks of advent.
Thank you, Mary! I’m not even a mother, though of course as a woman the capacity to bear new life into the world, with all that entails spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, physically is written not just into my DNA by stamped on my soul. But can you imagine some stalwart, strong, funny, long-suffering woman (the juxtaposition of those last two words is prob redundant) in, say, Kansas, who’s raised five kids and now has 18 grandkids being forced to respond to the inanity, of “Do you identify as female?” Thanks for the support–glad you happened upon the blog–
I’m a playwright and in the past couple of years have run across the question of “gender identity” constantly. I am always being asked to include my “preferred pronouns”. It drove me nuts. It drove me from theatre.
I hear you, Patti! I always want to say, how about ‘It.’ Coda: I ended calling “my provider” back and saying for whatever it’s worth, the question as posed disturbed me–and made me realize that the therapist and I would be proceeding from very different ideas of the human person and thus I thought it best to entrust my emotional and mental health elsewhere…Dear God! I’ll just continue to drag myself to the altar…Journalist Andrew Sullivan posted a comment from a trans reader the other day who him (or her–not specified)self observed: “Asking 99 percent of the populace to change its metaphysical understanding of sex and gender to accommodate a very small minority is crazy when there’s no need to do so to ensure trans people are treated with dignity and respect.” To which I say thank you and amen.
My friend whom I call St. Glenn texted this earlier and said I could post it here:
“Loved your piece in Angelus this week. The world of psychology is polluted with strange ideas. “I’m going to recreate myself.” “Its time I started creating my own reality.” “I deserve to be what I want to be, to have what I want.” I was at the shrine to O.L of Guadelupe yesterday. Closed off. But they let me in because I brought flowers. I had an escort who walked me to it. These are sad, strange times. She’s the greatest advocate in heaven for drunks and addicts and whores and transgenders and people in jail and the gutter. Believe me! Loved the piece!
Edward the young security guard who escorted me to the shrine said, as we were leaving, “Isn’t it beautiful? But I liked it better last year when all the food vendors and people selling stuff and the kids and families were here.” I didn’t let my self start crying until I got back to my car.”
Thorugh tears of laughter, joy, and gratitude I say, Thank You for sharing the gifts God gave you in your words.
Mother of nine, grandmother of 34, and great grandother to 8, I am female too. You are a light to faith, hope and love to us all. Read all of your books and have given many to others. May God continue to Bless you.
Margie, bless you and huge thanks for your INSANELY MUNIFICENT gift! Bless you for that abundant family and the blood, sweat and tears it took to mother it into existence and sustain…How beautiful that you have bought and shared my books. An embarrassment of riches from my end…Wishing you and your extended flock a rich and joyous Advent and Christmas season.
You are precious. I never reply because I am intimidated by writers especially with your eloquence. I see I made errors in my reply and am embarrassed but so wanted to tell you of the blessings you shower us with. Thank you again.
I don’t know the answer here…I work with teens who are female while shouting that they are boys and they are in so much pain…it is obvious they are not male, they are fleeing being female. I want to put my arms around them and tell them that their gender, their biology is a gift and within that gift is the freedom to be anything-a mother, not a mother, a wife, not a wife, a lover of pink things, a hater of pink things, stacked, flat, tough, soft…my heart break for them straining against their own selves wanting just not to be who they are. Of course I cannot, I love them and care for them and surrender them to our Beloved trusting in His care.
Totally, Tess! There is no answer…except to do as you do, love as you are loving. I can hardly imagine a worse existential exile than the feeling that you’ve been born into the wrong body…unless it’s being encouraged to believe you’ve been born into the wrong body when you haven’t…It goes without saying that every human being is cherished, invited, included, welcomed, valued, loved…Also that women are utterly unique, with talents, personalities, temperaments, leanings running the glorious gamut…But to take as the BASELINE a disconnect between your body and your psyche–when in fact .6 of 1% of the population (per a quick search) identifies as transgender–simply flies on the face of common sense and really, fairness. This is not just a minor matter of semantics. The implication, when carried to the cultural extreme we’re seeing now, is that NOT to feel a disconnect is abnormal, suspect, the point of view of the oppressor. The other more serious consideration, to my mind, is that “female,” as meant in the “Do you identify as female” question, is a commodity, to be engineered, marketed, bought, sold, taken up, put down. Female in that context is completely divorced from its profoundly sacramental aspect, including but not limited to a woman’s capacity to bring new life into the world, around which a woman’s body, psyche, emotions, heart, spirit and soul are centered, whether or not she ever becomes a biological mother. Never have I heard anyone say “I long to become a woman so that I can patiently endure, nurture, receive, listen, encourage, foster, stand at the foot of the Cross with Mary suffer, as women do, from our longing for relationship”…Never have I heard anyone say “I’d like to become a woman so I can accompany women on their arduous, though splendid, journey, so I can share their load, so I can carry a child in my womb, be torn apart in labor, live in constant tension for the rest of my life, out of love”…People have every right to covet or desire whatever they want–but to want to become “female” on the basis of appearance (I just listened to a podcast where the guy first knew he was really a girl when as a pre-teen he saw the blond in a Breck shampoo commercial) is to become something that can never resemble the actual experience, reality, and consecrated station of womanhood (manhood in that sense is naturally also consecrated). And meanwhile, who is left to comfort, foster, guide your poor lost girls?…Women…of course…like you….That our biology is a gift, a mystery, a responsibility, a calling, a sign, is EXACTLY what I am trying to get across…God bless you, Tess, for your work, your heart, and the fact that you have always been so crazy generous to me…
Thank you for your Guadalupe piece.
My pleasure, Meg…