You bet they are! I should know. I married one and I’m raising three. And when I say Mama’s boys, I mean Mama Mary’s boys. Ateneans value Marian symbols of devotion like the rosary in the pocket, the October medal and the school song.
Back in Padre Faura Ateneans sang, “Hail Ateneo, Hail.” Then when they moved to Loyola Heights, that’s when they started singing A Song For Mary written by Fr. James Reuter, S.J., “…Mary for you, for your white and blue…” So you see the school color wasn’t really because blue is the color for boys, but because of a lady who’s always portrayed in the color blue (what psychologists say to be the color of obedience and calm) and that’s no other than Mama Mary.
Last week at the start of October, the month of the Holy Rosary, and to usher the Year of Faith which starts on October 11, 2012, a Marian Exhibit was held at the Ateneo High School. Personally, I’m not a big fan of statues. As a little girl seeing a huge statue of a saint in the dark or in an old house gave me the heebie geebies. But I do realize that as humans and physical beings, we need to see and relate to tangible objects to help us understand and process things, including prayer. I was lucky to be given a tour by Mr. Vincent Galileo Loiz, the moderator of second year section M and the head of this exhibit. As we walked to look at the 67 Mama Mary statues, we had an interesting discussion on Marian devotion, miracles, scams, Marian sculptors and wardrobe makers. My viewing of the exhibit was made a lot richer by our lively conversation.
Mr. Loiz is more than just a Marian devotee himself as he believes that he was conceived with the help of his mother’s own Marian devotion. He narrated that his parents were having a hard time having a baby, counting years of married life without their own bundle of joy. His mother decided to pray a novena to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Wednesday was her devotion day. Shortly after this, their much awaited baby was conceived and born four years after their wedding.
Hearing this story growing up, Mr. Loiz developed his own devotion to Mary. He was a member of the Legion of Mary in Bocaue, Bulacan. He continues his devotion now as a teacher in Christian Life Education (CLE) who owns a handful of the 67 statues in the exhibit.
I asked him about other religions’ criticism on the fervent devotion of Catholics to Mama Mary. I, myself, sometimes wonder why I haven’t outgrown my little girl prayer that goes, “Oh Mary my mother, so gentle and kind with heart full of love I kneel at your feet…” And this continues to be part of our nightly family prayer together with my boys. Of course, we start off by thanking God directly for all His blessings but Mama Mary still takes a big role in our prayers. I asked Mr. Loiz, “Are we giving Mary undue importance that she’s upstaging God?”
Mr. Loiz gave his answer by quoting Saint Maximillan Kolbe (a Polish Franciscan friar and Marian devotee who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the Nazi German concentration camp), “Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”I had to pause for a few seconds to digest that beautiful quote. Wow! That is so true. We can never outlove Jesus in this department. I always cite the wedding at Cana to tell moms how powerful we are over our sons and how they would always try to please us. Remember when Mary told Jesus that the party was running out of wine? Jesus first said that His hour has not yet come but He just couldn’t say no to His mother that He ended up turning the water into wine, the best served in the party.
Another important insight I got during my visit to this Marian Exhibit was that loving Mary, reciting the Holy Rosary, saying novena to her and all the other acts of Marian devotion also put God in the center. No hailing of Mary is possible without exalting how God sent His Son Jesus to save us. Maybe it’s just a human thing to ask for meditation. Maybe even if we know we can go direct, we feel happy and safe asking others to pray for us. And who is the biggest “other” we can request to pray for us? That’s no other than Mama Mary, the mother of God. Maybe we identify with Her because she’s human and of course our society is very matriarchal. We love and glorify our mothers. We run to them for help, guidance and even just a shoulder to cry on. And we do this by praying to Mama Mary. We say the rosary, repeating the Hail Mary prayer 53 times not because she and God need to hear it that many times but because verbal (or even mental) repetition of the prayer is like chanting a mantra that helps ourselves get into a meditative or prayerful mood.
Mr. Loiz said, “God may choose to use objects as channels of His grace and miracles do happen.” We talked about the other miracles that happened to him and other people who prayed to some of the Marian images in the exhibit. I found one statue interesting. It’s called Mary the Untier of Knots. When I asked why the title, he said, “I’d rather say it in Filipino because it sounds more eloquent in the vernacular, “Ang buhol na nilikha ng kasalanan ni Eva ay kinalag ng pagiging masunurin ni Maria.” (The knot created by Eve’s sin is untied by Mary’s obedience). And he’s right, it sounds more profound in the vernacular.
Mr. Loiz narrated how on the day he was about to bring the statue of Mary the Untier of Knots to its first exhibit he experienced excruciating pain as his appendix was about to burst. He prayed hard to the lady and he was successfully operated on and somehow the statue was still brought to its destination even with his emergency hospitalization. Another sick person was prayed for by his mother and somehow the solution to his medical problem had something to do with tying or untying a vessel which eventually healed the man.
We also talked about some popular Marian apparitions like the Fatima, petals in Lipa, Batangas and even that of Judiel from Agoo (which later on was declared by the church as Constat de Non Supernaturalitate or clearly evident to be not supernatural, after being mired by scandals on money, the use of pig’s blood for the statue’s tears of blood and the seer’s transsexualism).
According to Mr. Loiz the church follows some guidelines in declaring whether a phenomenon is Constat de Supernaturalitate (clearly evident to be supernatural). It should reflect a gospel message. It doesn’t negate what Jesus had said. It brings people closer to God.
When I asked him how the devotion to Mama Mary among Ateneans affects the boys’ formation, he narrated the story of a student who selflessly helped out during the Ondoy tragedy. He said that an Atenean who grew up in the tradition of devotion to Mary should not just have his rosary in his pocket and his October medal while he sings, “Mary for you…” but should be able to translate all these in the way he helps others. For he thinks that Mary, who during her own difficult and controversial pregnancy went out of her way to visit Elizabeth to check on her, is the ultimate man for others!
Ateneans or not, Catholics or not, if being Mama Mary’s boys will make them men for others, then no mother would mind raising a Mama’s boy!