Mommy’s Baby, Daddy’s Maybe
Who knew pregnancy was such a confusing issue? Well, probably the folks that came up with the slogan “Mommy’s baby, Daddy’s maybe.” Even an immaculate pregnancy is confusing and that’s before the date issues pop up making the Immaculate Conception one of the most misunderstood concepts even by practicing Catholics.
Part of the reason is the image called the Immaculate Conception features a visibly pregnant Mary standing atop of a snake with an apple in his mouth. Seen in most every local church the Spanish liked this image as it represented, to them, Mary over the Garden of Eden. To the indigenous, it represented Mary over the highest native deity, the feathered serpent. To me, this statue represents my Catholic grade school, The Holy Name of Jesus, as her image was to the left of every chalkboard (Chalkboard? That dates me more than going to school with dinosaurs.)
However, despite all this, it’s not Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus that is the Immaculate Conception. It is Mary’s conception with her mother, Ana, the basis of the cloister life nuns living at the Temple of the Immaculate Conception (behind Starbucks). The Sisters of the Immaculate Conception still maintain a small cloister of active nuns that began in the mid 1700’s under the direction of a then heiress that chose to start the order here. (Next door, in what was once the cloistered convent for the nuns is Bellas Artes where art and culture thrive today ironically named for SMA’s famous atheist and former mayor.)
Today the nuns make money from selling their booze (dry), cookies (drier) and tamales (stunningly moist). Plus they make clothing for the saint statues in town that suffer from wear and tear when believers grasp the clothing during prayer. In the past they raised white poodles but discontinued the practice releasing a flood of white poodles into the SMA street dog population whose curly, white fur is still seen on many a descendant’s canine coat.
Sidebar: Mary of the Immaculate Conception is the patron of the United States and the name for what later became known as the Mississippi River.
The nuns celebrate Ana’s conception of Mary during the feast of the Immaculate Conception every December 8th with tremendous fanfare. Naturally, that makes Mary’s birthday nine months later, September 8th. Her birthday is celebrated in the chapel on Plaza Civica to Our Lady of Good Health. The Image of Baby Mary represents Mary’s help with all issues having to do with babies (birth, pregnancy, conception, and alike).
Most are familiar with devotion to the Baby Jesus at Christmas but fewer know about devotion to the Baby Mary. Devotion to “little Mary” is strong here in San Miguel, and Mexico as a whole.
On January 6, 1840, the Feast of the Three Kings, Sister Magdalena knelt before a nativity scene in her convent in Mexico City, contemplating the Christ Child in the manger. She then had a thought: if we honor Jesus’ infancy, why not that of his Mother?
Suddenly, a lovely infant girl appeared before her, dressed like a tiny princess and reclining in thin air! Sister Magdalena immediately knew that this beautiful child was the Virgin Mary, appearing to her in the form of a baby.
Baby Mary told her “I will grant great graces to whoever honors me in my infancy”.
Sister Magdalena asked a local sculptor to fashion a statue of the Baby Mary. Once she received the image she began to spread the devotion that originally started in 1245.
Many locals experience miracles through the intercession of Baby Mary, particularly in regards to children and pregnancy. Her image is venerated at the church of Our Lady of Health (next to the Oratorio) for 9 days leading to September eighth with a different version of Baby Mary resting in the church nightly. Baby Mary is honored again on the eighth of every month.
On the eighth of September a procession is held with a wide array of Infant Mary statues displayed, often in remarkable hand-made clothing. The procession ends at the church where a mass is celebrated and there is a birthday party with music, entertainment and food.
The snag in Baby Mary’s birthday is she shares the date with Virgin of Loreto’s whose home is lovingly recreated in the church next store, the Oratorio. So on September 8th, the street of Loreto is closed with mechanical rides in honor of the namesake virgin competing with Baby Mary’s birthday party next door.
Birthday dates, conception issues, and alike can all add to the confusion of the local culture of faith. All I can say is “Welcome to my world!”