In an earlier post, I had mentioned that the little altar here in the study has a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which bears a crown. While many Catholics will have some familiarity with such a thing and so will not be at all surprised to read this, there may well be others who wonder about this seemingly odd thing to do. And so, I though it might be useful to write a little more about this, how the statue came to be there and to be crowned in the first place.
For anyone who reads anything of what I write, you may not be surprised to learn that the origin of this practice stems from my teenage years. So much of who and what I am now seems to have been born during a relatively short period in my teenage years, I see.
Having had cancer, my Aunt Margaret had visited Lourdes a number of times. She had gone there in the Centenary Year of 1958 – the appearances of Our Lady to Bernadette Soubirous had occurred between February and July of 1858. She brought back with her a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. While there, she also met Pierre Soubirous, the grand-nephew of the little one who saw Our Lady, and brought back a beautiful portrait of Saint Bernadette which had been signed him. By the time I first saw it, the statue had been standing in a cupboard and Aunt Margaret was not using it – and so, with some pleading, she finally very graciously gave it to me.
Taking the statue home, I put a little table in my bedroom, covered this with a white cloth and adorned the statue with some candles and a small blue glass votive lamp. The statue was in need of a little restoration and so I went to the craft shop in town and bought some little pots of the paints used for model ships and aircraft. Over a weekend, I very carefully re-painted the statue. That little ‘altar’ become the place where I would pray the Rosary each day and it was very, very special to me. Although so long ago now, I can recall exactly where the table stood and how it all looked.
But it seemed to me there was something missing.
I had the idea to place a small crown upon the head of the statue of Our Lady. My first attempt at a crown was made of gold-coloured card, bought at the craft shop along with some silver card. The gold was cut into a crown with twelve points and on each of these I glued a small silver star. It took a while to get the size of the crown and the points just right, so that it fit well. I thought it looked reasonably good but I soon discovered a problem. Every time I closed my bedroom door, the draught would blow the little paper crown off the head of the statue.
Some time afterward, an idea came to me while at a jumble sale with my family at the parish church. One of the stalls was selling old costume jewellery and this included some old glass-beaded necklaces, probably from the 1940s or 1950s, of the sort which shimmer when they catch the light. I bought some of the jewellery and, using some craft wire we had at home, I set to work. I created a little diadem – a main circlet of beads, from which arose intertwined arches with more of the glass beads. It took many hours of work but finally, the little altar was, I considered, complete.
In actual fact, it was not complete at all – there was something else that was still missing at that point, although I didn’t know it. But that something was absolutely crucial – it was the point to which everything else was leading, though I had no concept of this at that moment. But I would soon find out. That story, I will tell in the next post.
Now, some forty years later, there is still a little altar in my room, upon which stands a statue of the Mother of God, still bearing a crown. It is a different statue and crown, certainly, but what it represents is precisely the same now as it was then.