Evidence of Conviction

“If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
As Christians, our lives are supposed to be our witness.  In the Gospel of John (13:35), Jesus said to His disciples: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  And this was true of the early Christians, according to Tertullian: “Look . . . how they love one another . . . and how they are ready to die for each other.”
I would like to think that my life gives some indication of my beliefs:  my kids go to Catholic schools, we attend Mass regularly and are active in our church, and of course Facebook and blogging have given me a public platform to witness to my beliefs.
But I also used to take comfort in the many visible, outward manifestations of Catholicism with which we adorned our home.  We didn’t just head out to the Catholic knickknack store one day and come back with a bunch of decorations; no, our collection was meaningful and gathered over several years.  Almost every room in our home bore evidence of our family’s religious convictions, daily reminders of what we believe to be the real purpose of our lives.
For some reason last year I went around and photographed several of my pictures and now I am so grateful that I did. 
This is a portrait of the Blessed Virgin as a child.  It had a companion which I did not photograph of the Child Jesus.
Obviously, this is the Madonna and Child.
And here’s the Holy Family.  I purchased all of these, at different, times, from my dear friend Antoinette Fritz, the proprietor of Myrtle’s Mess in South Knoxville.

When I was a little girl, we lived across the street from two brothers from Lebanon, Hafez and Joseph (Youssef, really).  Hafez and been in the U.S. for awhile, but his brother, who was a college student, was newly arrived and didn’t speak English very well.  We becamse friends with them, and you cannot imagine how incredibly exotic this was in Knoxville in the 1970s.  The above picture was originally a gift to my mother from Joseph.
This was the Polish Madonna that once hung in my laundry room.  It was my blogging friend Dwija‘s tweet about this picture yesterday that inspired today’s blog post.
Finally, my Kitchen Madonna.  I loved this visual reminder that Mary was a homemaker, too.
I also miss our crucifix, and the marriage cross that we received as a wedding gift that hung above our bed, and the statue of St. Patrick that I won in the Irish Basket at the St. Joseph Fall Festival, and the small print of the T.Chandler painting of our church, and the multitudes of crosses and rosaries, and more.  I know that what’s in our hearts is most important, but these outward manifestations are important to Catholics, and my house feels bare and soulless without them.

Essence de Mai

Doesn’t that sound like a good name for a perfume?  Too bad God doesn’t put the ones he designs into bottles.  This one is available only in May, usually in the early morning or late evening hours.  The air is cool and the smell outdoors is like nothing else.  I just can’t get enough of it.

The abundance of flowers makes this month perfect for the many May processions honoring Our Blessed Mother that take place.  The irises and some of the peonies in the photos above come from my grandmother’s garden, which we used to raid each year for our May Crowning flowers.

May is the month of the Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mother of the Son of God

'Tis the Month of Our Mother

My son and his 8th grade classmates at the 2009 May Crowning

Sitting outside this evening, I smelled the honeysuckle and looked over at our garden statue of the Blessed Mother and suddenly found myself launching into “‘Tis the Month of Our Mother.” (I frequently burst into song at the least provocation and have an extensive all-occasion repertoire, which drives my children crazy.)

I cherish the memory of the May Crownings at the St. Joseph School of my childhood.  EVERYONE brought flowers, in vases, in coffee cans, in coke bottles.  We didn’t have anything blooming in our yard in May, so we always left a little early that morning to make a stop at my grandmother’s yard, leaving with handfuls of multi-colored iris wrapped in wet paper towels and aluminum foil.
The year I was in the 8th grade, our class had the privilege of arranging the flowers around the statue.  There was a veritable sea of every kind of spring flower you could think of arrayed around her in a semi-circle for several feet.  It was beautiful.
Things have changed a bit–don’t they always?  Nowadays, many of the kids bring bouquets from Kroger instead of handfuls of homegrown blooms.  And adults with an eye for design arrange a few tasteful bouquets around Mary.  You can see in the picture above how pretty it looks, but to me it doesn’t compare to the mismatched bounty of the past.
The songs haven’t changed, though.  I remember Sister Janice and Sister Georgeanna coaching us on all the hymns to the Blessed Mother in preparation for the May Procession.  “Salve, Salve, SALVE REGINA!” we would crescendo.  And they still begin with my all-time favorite, which I was also singing in the backyard this evening: “Bring flowers of the fairest, bring flowers of the rarest .”
I think some time this month we are going to pick some buttercups and honeysuckle and whatever else I can find blooming in our yard at this time of year.  We will fill some pretty bottles we have with water and use them for vases we can place around our statue.  We will make a crown of flowers (I’m not at all crafty, so that will be the hard part!) and Lorelei can place them on the Blessed Virgin’s head while we sing.

Lorelei and William with our church’s statue of Mary on his First Communion day