Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. John McKenna
Spiritual writing, like any type of nonfiction, can be a daunting task for a writer. Not only does the topic lack the certainty that we’re all searching for, but its canyons have been surveyed and examined and trudged by men and women for centuries. Like a travel writer must look at a place as though it is untouched, a spiritual writer must write with the confidence that their words ultimately inform the audience about their own unique motivations. Like a collection of travel writing, I use place to organize ideas. Or, perhaps, these places picked me, so that I might discover myself within their mysteries. As miracle sites, the five places I’ve chosen allow me to explore the maternal relationships in my life. The image of Our Lady of Fatima, Portugal, the site of a Marian apparition in 1917, attests to the need for an identifiable, spiritual mother. This chapter considers how my own mother’s fascination with exorcisms has informed the way I experience religion. Our Lady of Guadalupe demonstrates the complexity of womanhood—the met and unmet expectations. The shared vocabulary of fertility, whether fertility is present or not, becomes a language about language—about the way women share the most intimate details of their lives. Mary’s message to the visionaries in Medjugorje, was an integral part in my understanding of spirituality. Her monthly messages, asking for prayer and faith, gave structure to her ambiguous person. When my mother’s desperate need for order ends in disappointment, her pain allows me to understand Mary. The miracles at Lourdes, France, give believers the much needed concreteness to faith. Likewise, St. Augustine’s philosophical discussion of God’s presence in our memories ignites a conversation about spirituality in physical places. The healings in Beaupre, Quebec, are perhaps the most corporeal of all the miracles discussed. This first-hand account of a pilgrim site, where signs of healing hang from pillars, remind me of the great love we have for mothers.
Murnan, Susan, "Apparitions: Essays on Revisioning my Faith, My Mother, and Myself" (2006). Student Work. 2747.