A partially true story

A relatively short walk from our apartment is the Cerro San Cristobal, a mountainside park with a wide variety of attractions. Upon approaching the park a queue has formed at the funicular entrance. The funicular travels up the mountain side stopping first at the zoo entrance and then at the Santuario Immaculada Concepcion.

At the top of the stairs a giant statue of the Virgin Mary appears to gaze out on the Ciudad Santiago. As far as Catholic iconography goes, I think I would prefer to live in a city that was overseen by the Mother Goddess than one under the watchful eye of a Redeemer.

Last year we spent a week in the Portuguese city of Viana do Castelo. We were fortunate to have arrived on the first day of a Medieval Fair in celebration of the City’s seven hundred and somethingth anniversary. It was in that city, having taken a funicular to the hill top Santuario de Santa Lucia that I came to understand the difference between competing sects of Catholicism: one focuses on Mary, Divine Mother who gives birth to the world and suffers silently as what she has created passes from existence;, the other focuses on the Son, the redeemer who suffers the burden of sin and through suffering creates the possibility of salvation.

Mary looks down to her admirers, saying to them “you are the ones I created and that I adore. You will always be ones who I love and accept.” The crucified Christ turns his face away, as to say, “do not tell them that, Mother, for if it is true then I have suffered and died in vain. Here are the words I want to be said: I have suffered as you will suffer, and through that suffering you will be purged. And if you repent, you will be saved, and if you do not you will be consumed by fire.”

I ask myself, do I need forgiveness? I am a flawed creature as are all of us flawed creatures. All of us become who and what we are, some better than others, but is falling short something to be forgiven, or something to be accepted? I prefer the message of acceptance over the notion of forgiveness.

In Santiago, standing at the feet of Mary, I see a small area containing racks of melted candles and a wall of offerings left by the faithful. Some ask for relief from life’s burdens and others offer enduring gratitude for a promise fulfilled. I sense the voices crying in unison “please hear my prayer.”

I approach the wall, sensing the reverence of the space. I hear and American voice: “What is this?” A response: “Some knick knacks.” I turn to the men and say “they are offerings.” “Pagan Rubbish” is the reply. I wonder why someone would even care to enter such a space with such an attitude.

I try to accept the men who seem to know their truth well enough. I return to the wall, thinking of the powerful emotions that bring people to this place, to make whatever pact they do for the attention of their devine mother. I feel the hope, the sadness, In a previous time I would be among them, asking for relief from pain. Perhaps, if I was not so proud I’d ask for it now. “Please heal my knee.” I puzzled over the relationship of pride to acceptance.

I hobbled down the stairs, and there were a lot of them, still feeling the emotion of the visit to the Santuario. I did not connect that experience with the realization a few hours later that the pain in my knee was completely gone.

Some graffiti Paula reported from a restroom shortly afterward: “The world is what it is and not what some son of a bitch named Einstein says it is.” Now that is some cynicism I can get behind.


2 thoughts on “A partially true story

  1. Zita February 16, 2019 / 1:09 pm

    Hello Charlie,
    Thank you for a very profound sharing. It brought a lot of feelings up and me and a lot of thoughts and emotions that I will be processing for a while. I Lean toward the belief in the divine earth mother and her loving acceptance rather than any organized religion
    Full of harsh judgments that try to induce guilt. I truly believe each of us does the very best we can in the moment, and in the next moment we may be able to do better or not. But in our heart of hearts we
    Just want to be loved and excepted


    • aworthwhileillusion February 18, 2019 / 6:31 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Zita. We teach children that someone is always watching. It could be God or Santa, and the watcher knows…..
      Perhaps it is important that children know the rules of the society and internalizing a judge is probably important. Unfortunately we also teach that all of our errors and failings will be revealed, and the other shoe will fall with us being caught underneath like a lowly bug. Jordan Peterson says that the word “sin” derives from the archery term meaning “to miss the mark.” If that is the case, then falling short is not a moral failure but an opportunity to correct one’s aim and shoot again. And we can always shoot again.


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