Madonna and Child


This afternoon I was chatting with my friend F– about Black Jesus and the Black Madonna of Częstochowa (also known as Our Lady of Częstochowa). I described the sparkling and revered four-foot-high image of the Virgin Mary and Child  I visited at the Jasna Góra Monastery in Poland.

I was asking F– if she might be interested in a wooden, bejeweled, mini version as souvenir. And, she was delighted by the promise of Black Jesus and less enthusiastic about the paler version I also had to offer: a new babe in a diaper who appears to be newly plucked from the manger, in a crib with straw.


I told F– briefly of how the monastery was packed with pilgrims who’d traveled distances to be in the presence of this scintillating icon, to pray, and to be enlightened. I explained how a wall in the sanctuary displays crutches, braces, and other relics of grave injury and seems to promise cures and strength. I detailed how I dutifully carried a bouquet of yellow flowers from a woman with Parkinson’s in Dobra, how a young man in a cobalt coat placed the fragrant bunch on the altar before Mary. I shared how some say Mary is named for where she was found and for her virtues. The virtue of being Black.


Spending Christmas mass at a Catholic church in Dobra, Poland, emphasized that I am a foreigner and a sightseer. I was mostly spectating the hour-long service in pure Polish and then I drove to Częstochowa to visit with the Virgin and Child. And,  I felt, as I have so often in Oaxaca, that I am a wayfarer, a church tourist.

And, this reminded me of Dean Young’s “My Process” and the other ways we might be congregants.

My Process

by Dean Young

Sometimes it’s like pushing a wheelchair
of bones through the high-tide sand.
Like giving birth to an ostrich,
an ostrich with antlers that glows.
The sense there’s something wrong and
not giving a hoot like going to church
to see what you can steal. Experimental

Read the rest of the poem at:

Here is another poem on process:




The Little Businessman and Co. led me into a posada I didn’t even know existed. I paid the attendant 20 pesos for them to use the facilities.

Cecelia was mad that it was 20 pesos; she didn’t think Marisella, not even one and attached to her back, should count, so she gave the baby a bath in the sink while the boys and I poked around.

Agostino took me over to a little fountain that was fashioned to look like a storybook well.  He said, “There are fish.” I looked in, no fish.  I said: “Tortugas. These are turtles.”  He repeated: “Tortugas, tortugas.”

We walked around the courtyard named Plaza de las Virgenes.  He pointed to various images of the virgins  Who’s that? That’s Mother Mary. Who’s that? That’s the Virgin of Juquila.  And, she’s the Virgin of Guadalupe.  She’s the Virgin of Soledad.

When he asked me who the golden man nailed to the cross was, I told him: Jesus.

Part of me thought this might be a pop quiz to see if I will avoid Hell’s fire.  Another part of me was relieved he didn’t ask for more details.  And, then there’s the part of me that worries no one has told him any great stories.