Excerpted from the book: "Untie the Strong Woman: Blessed Mother's Immaculate Love for the Wild Soul."
Dear Brave Souls:
Listen, my young ones, you have written me saying you feel called as mystics. Some of you have had several visions of the Blessed Mother or just one little one (which can be enough to last a lifetime), or you have rightfully swooned in some other way for La Nuestra Señora, Our Lady, in one of her many forms.
And now you've written to me because you have heard we endeavor as a group of social justice activists to walk as contemplatives in, but not of, the world.
You wish to know what to call the experiences you have been having. The old-fashioned words are appearances and apparitions. But I offer to you and advise you to call them by simpler words. They are visits, as from a great and beloved sister-mother, who comes because of long-standing love and familiarity with you. She comes through the door without knocking in order to deliver some sweet or strong dulces or carnes, sweet bread or meaty nourishments, to you.
I have heard you state seriously that you have no access to rocky caves where you can take up immediate residence in order to pursue your love of her in a solitary way. M'hijas y m'hijos, daughters and sons, understand that wherever is your bed, that is the right cave for you. Your own cellar, your own table, your own street corner, your own bicycle, your own alley -- these are all the right rocky caves. It is true that some people teach that mystics live in out-of-the-way places, but many, many across the world live exactly as you do -- in the most hidden way of all -- as very extraordinary souls living inside very ordinary circumstances.
This is right and proper, for although it is lovely to think of retiring from the universe -- perhaps to a faraway place of great beauty and serenity where the outer world hardly ever intrudes, Our Lady grows her strongest roses in the earthy ground where she is most needed -- amongst horns honking, ambulances careening, children crying out alternatively in joy and in pain, all the people groaning and dancing and making love, the completetrochimochi, every which way, of humanity whose singings, sounds, works and actions are part of the exact basis for the harmonious cacophony -- the music of the cosmos.
Some say that sudden knowledge of mystical matters is accomplished only in complete quietude, or that Creator, in one of God's many forms, appears only in orderly ways that are beauteous and picturesque, or that the mystical appears only in completely silent ways. All are true. Except for the "only" part.
For instance, the great mystic Jakob Boehme saw a sunbeam glint on the edge of a pewter plate, and some say he was transported into a lifelong religious ecstasy. Madre Castillo entered a convent to guard her visions and ecstatic poetry. Others developed under what many might call "privileged conditions." But the best visionaries, m'hijos y m'hijas, grow where they are seeded. Exactly. No matter in humble or elevated ground.
You ask, since your visits from her were not calm or decorous like those at Fatima or Lourdes, or even episodic like those of our dear relative now often known in history only by his colonized name, Don Diego, are your experiences somehow wrong?
No. No, my hearts, they are not wrong. They are completely righteous. I assure you most definitively that the Beloved One comes in complete calmness to some. But, in my experience, more often, she appears in times that are not calm and in clouds of dust that are not particularly picturesque. She comes skidding to a sudden stop in dark cars on even darker gravel roads. She stands in the midst of broken glass at curbs. She walks in every street, stands at every street corner, even those where it seems that, as my grandmother Querida used to say, "Maybe even God Herself ought be cautious."
To be a contemplative and follower of Holy Mother, I believe, for you she will appear in myriad ways. She will appear to you as much in the midst of noise, upheaval and times when we feel the sky is falling as when there is peace all around, at least in one's own little universe -- for she is often most present whenever there is most need for order, strength, endurance, a new idea, fierceness, hope and vitality.
Now, you write that all around you seems often in complete mayhem, and this causes you great sadness. I would agree completely. Our own sorrows seem heavy enough, even when lifted by certain long-term joys. But watching others hurt is the breaker of most any heart. Yet, She is clearly with you, for the kinds of lives we have led would lead many to become thick with cynicism and biting -- and yet, we are still here with our hearts still unruined.
This is a very good sign.
Too, I would like to say to you that there is great power in the broken heart. Unlike many aspects of psyche that might close or hide when hurt, the heart broken open stays open.
Though painful for certain, the heart broken open can be a blessing beyond compare. It not only allows you to see others, it allows you to constantly see her.
Just recently, one more time, my heart broke again. How many times must a heart break in a single lifetime? When I ask this question, I always receive this answer: "A thousand times a thousand, for anything worth having, or safekeeping."
...when I was nineteen, I heard this from her: "Do you love me, my sister?"
I answered, "Yes, my Dear One, I love you."
"How much do you love me?"
"With all my heart, my Beloved."
"Will you then visit me in prison?"
I was afraid to go to the prison at age nineteen. But I went on my very first visit to prison in Michigan City, as I would go on pilgrimage in the ensuing years to many other prisons, those made by government, and to those many, many soul prisons, human-made and to my own imprisonments, as well, some by choice, some by hard twists of fate.
I promised then as a late teenager that if I kept hearing her call, I would try to keep going where sent. As you can see, I am a fool for her completely. I am still going. This time it was the immigration jail, other years it has been pilgrimages several times a year to other places -- the locked institution for boys aged 18 to 21, the locked institutions for girls and boys aged 12 to 18, the men's penitentiary, the women's federal prison, the city and county jails, the state prisons and sometimes ministering to patients at city hospitals brought in chains for a needed surgery.
It goes on, as it always has.
Do you love me?
Yes, I love you.
Will you then come visit me in the home for unwed mothers?
I would -- and there the next sword was run through my heart.
Do you love me?
Yes, I love you.
Will you help run a shelter for battered women? Will you lick the wounds of the wounded?
Yes, another sword.
Do you love me?
Yes, I love you dearly.
Will you walk with me through Skid Row with alcohol swabs, and wipe hands and feet teeming with bacteria, the cuts and hurts of the men and women who can hardly be told apart? Will you do that for me?
Yes. A big sword.
Do you love me?
With all that I am.
Will you stand in the cold of a Chicago night in the dead of winter dressing a stranger's wound as the old man tells you his life's tale with the worst breath you could ever imagine?
Yes, this I can do.
Do you love me? Do you love me?
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
So, m'hijas y m'hijos, now I am at the close of this letter to you. You have asked me the way to continue and to deepen your devotion to her. I have this great feeling in my bones that you already know the way and just need a tiny little reminder. She comes in untidy ways mostly, often in very big and very bold form rather than demure.
You will recognize her on sight,
for She is a woman
who looks just like you
and all that you love.
Coda: Mi Guadalupe is a
Girl Gang Leader in Heaven
Mi Guadalupe is a girl gang leader in Heaven.
She is unlike the pale blue serene woman.
She is serene, yes, like a great ocean is serene.
She is obedient, yes, like the sunrise
is obedient to the horizon line.
She is sweet, yes,
Like a huge forest of sweet maple trees.
She has a great heart, vast holiness,
and like any girl gang leader ought,
Her lap is big enough
to hold every last one of us.
can hold us,
All . . .
And with Such Immaculate Love.
(as my grandmother would say),
and a little woman."