My Homegirl Mary and Other Assumptions

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by Pearl Maria Barros

I’ve never owned a “Mary’s My Homegirl” t-shirt, though I have seen them. About five years ago one my fashion-savvy cousins informed me that “the Virgin Mary is coming back and she’s coming back big!” Noting my confused expression, she elaborated by saying that Marian images would soon start gracing clothing, jewelry, purses, and a variety of other items. And her words have proven true. The Virgin Mary has come back big—-in fact, the “Mary’s My Homegirl” t-shirt is still available for a mere $12.99 purchase fee (plus shipping and handling – no grace there).

Needless to say, this emergence of Marian images within popular culture can be seen as a potential blessing as well as a potential problem. Whenever I see someone wearing a t-shirt or a bracelet with an image of Mary on it I tend to wonder what inspires this person to wear it. Does wearing this image bring her/him a comforting sense of being connected to Mary? Does it help her/him share her/his faith with others without having to vocalize it? What is she/he trying to convey?

There are a lot of assumptions that can be made in such situations—-some people might perceive the wearing of Marian images as a blasphemous mockery of the Mother of God and either enjoy this mockery or be deeply offended by it. Others might perceive the wearing of Marian images as a way of trying to bring one’s sacred faith into one’s everyday so-called secular life. Indeed, one could question why wearing a “Mary’s My Homegirl” t-shirt is any different from wearing a Miraculous medal around one’s neck. Could these t-shirts, bracelets, and purses with Mary’s face on them be considered contemporary sacramentals comparable to the rosaries our grandmothers carried with them in their pockets? To be honest, I’m not sure exactly how to answer this question. I only know that throughout my life as a Catholic woman I have come to see Mary as a woman of faith and wisdom who freely and courageously responded to the call of God within her heart. Such a woman, I daresay, would probably never have imagined that she would be the center of so much religious devotion. Still, I think she is happy to know that there are those who consider her to be their “homegirl.” On the Feast of the Assumption this year, I plan to take some time to consider the ways that Mary is my homegirl – how she has strengthened me in body and spirit through her example of being ever-open to a God of infinite grace.

Pearl Maria Barros is one of the contributors to From the Pews in the Back. She is currently a doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School.

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