Homemade memories of Mary

Memories make the holidays, and the Advent season.

Pat Kasten | The Compass
Mary statues from vintage Nativity sets. The Mary in the foreground is about 50 years old and has a papier-mache/eggshell head.

Last Sunday, Dec. 4, I spoke at a Christmas Tea at First United Presbyterian Church in De Pere, Wis. The tea honored Mother Mary. It was meant to be an experience of learning about Mary through poetry, music and prose. It also explored Mary from various faith perspectives, including Protestant, Islamic and Catholic.  I presented a Catholic perspective of Mary.

Most striking on the tea table – beside the cookies, candy and bars – were  figurines that women had brought from their family Nativity sets.  (I didn’t bring our 1960s’ dime store Mary; the last time I handled that set, I broke the camel.) However, there was a Mary statue of similar vintage there, as well as a music box Nativity egg given by one sister to another, and a hand-carved woodblock Mary.

One of most memorable was a handmade Mary that belonged to Robbie, a minister’s wife. She and her husband had retired to De Pere from Washington state a few years ago. Robbie had made the entire Nativity set herself, as a young mother some 50 years ago. Being low on funds, she used whatever she had around the house:

Joseph was made from a glass pop bottle and carries a pipe cleaner staff.

Mary (shown here on the right) sits on a covered metal bandage box, and has a glass aspirin bottle body and a head made of papier-mache spread over an eggshell. Mary’s face even has make-up, complete with red lipstick. “I tried to think what a 14-year-old girl would want to look like and I thought she would like make-up.” Robbie said.

Looking at those Mary statues — and listening to the presentations of the day — made me think of the various ways each of us reflects upon Mother Mary. What she means to each of us. Who she is for us in our lives?

This Advent, take a little time to reflect on Mary as we all await the coming of Christmas. What images of Mary come to your mind?


About Patricia Kasten

Kasten is the author of “Linking Your Beads, The Rosary’s History, Mysteries and Prayers,” published by Our Sunday Visitor Press.  Her newest book, on sainthood – “Making Sense of Saints. Fascinating Facts about Relics, Patrons, Saint-Making and More“, was published by OSV in Spring 2014.  She is also a puzzle-smith. Her weekly Scripture Search puzzle (see The Compass) and bi-weekly The Cross Word, both based on the Sunday readings, appear in Catholic newspapers and parish bulletins around the country.