The Blessed Virgin Mary
So what's a Buddhist/Unitarian/Swedenborgian/Liberal Christian who grew up a Protestant with distinctly Hindu leanings doing with a devotion to the BVM? I don't know, I can't explain it, but ever since I was a child I've been devoted to the Virgin and found great solace in her image. When I found out about the Hail Mary I begged my Catholic cousin Marisa to teach it to me, and thus become one of the only people in the Inter School Christian Fellowship - that hyper-protestant body - who had the Hail Mary as part of his regular prayer life.
Of course, it didn't take me long to ditch the ISCF, but I always remained devoted to Mary, and I seek her out wherever I go in the world, lighting candles and sending up prayers. I have never taken part in a Novena, but it is one of my secret wishes, and I hope to do it one day! What a glorious idea.
So, I have favourite Marys in Macau and Vietnam. I also have my own little Marian pilgrim path in Sydney, which I may detail one day (it's raining today and I have shocking neuralgia, so I won't be leaving the house). I also have all kinds of radical ideas about the similarities in imagery between the Virgin Mary and Kuan Yin - backed up, I must say, by some prominent academics.
The photo accompanying this post is the icon of Mary at St. Benedict's, Arcadia. In front of this icon every night they sing the Miserere in Latin, just before the monks go to bed. It is always such an incredibly moving moment.
I also happen to think that a devotion to Mary - or more specifically, a lack of it - was what destroyed Protestantism. People cannot live without a feminine face of spirituality - in my opinion it is a primal human need.
Hail Mary, full of Grace...