For the past 20-some years now, I have been a citizen of “Y’all” land, a world in which my habitual expression of the second person plural, “you guys,” sticks out like a sore Northern accent. “Hey” is the standard greeting here; I usually say “hi.” I once had an entire misadventure with a frustrated gentleman who asked me to get him a “pin” – he finally got what he wanted from a native Virginian who knew that the man was actually requesting what I tend to think of as a “pen.” The preposition “on” is, in this part of the world, a two-syllable endeavor (sounds like “owen”), and the hospitable folks of central Virginia will ask if you wouldn’t like to come over to “err house” rather than “our house.” Neither my children (my son was born here) nor I have succumbed to the charms of the local dialect, although my daughter had a close call in her childhood. I said something to her one day about Moses and his arch-nemesis, Pharaoh. She seemed not to know what I was talking about, and yet I knew that she had recently had a lesson at her Baptist Sunday School on this subject. I asked again, and the light dawned. “Oh!” she responded to her know-nothing parent: “You mean FAY-row!”
Central Virginia is about an hour and a half from the North Carolina border, where the southern accent thickens and congeals. One of my workmates hails from Johnston County, and she was telling us the story of her family, a rather sad tale of a bipolar, alcoholic father and a mother who fought determinedly to keep the family from going under. As my friend’s North Carolina drawl assured us, “Mama wattn’t skeered a’nuthin.”
I remember Karol Wojtyla, Blessed John Paul II, being described in similar terms: he was fearless. He insisted that we take to heart the words “Be not afraid!” – and proceeded to live by those words himself. He took on the Communist regime in his homeland – and it was the communists who backed down. He survived several assassination attempts, and kept coming back for more. He did not shy away from proclaiming to the world the truth of the nuptial meaning of the body, though the world rejected this teaching, or worse, ignored it. He faced his Parkinson’s disease with characteristic resolve, and taught all of us, his spiritual children, how to die with faith, hope and love ablaze in our hearts. What do you suppose the secret to the Pope’s fearlessness could have been?
I think he took after his Mother.
Remember, John Paul II was the “totus tuus” pope – “all yours,” the “yours” meaning Mary’s. Being “full of grace,” there is no room for fear in her heart, as many depictions of her attempt to convey. Some speculate that the first New World Marian apparition was actually called “Our Lady of Coatlaxopeuh” (pronounced something like “Guadalupe”), pointing out that this means in the Aztec language “She who crushes the head of the serpent.” Wow. We have copperheads in central Virginia, and I’m here to tell you, there’s no way I’m attempting to tangle with them. I’m afraid of them.
And she tells us, as she told poor, frightened Juan Diego, not to be afraid, either:
Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more?
Listen at her! as they say around here. Could any words bring more comfort in times of stress? Jesus gave this woman to us as our Mother, the woman who took to heart the angel’s command, “Fear not!” As children of the Father, we are under her shadow and protection. We can rely on our Mother to beat the tar out of whatever’s trying to harm us.
Great day in the morning!
Thus trusting children of Mary, like her son Blessed John Paul II, can live lives remarkable not just for their goodness, but for their heroic virtue. The Virgin trusted God her Savior, and that trust begat courage. Our Mother passes that inheritance of fearlessness down to us.
Mama wattn’t skeered a’nuthin.
Neither should her children be.
On the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Deo omnis gloria!