“Katie, be a little mysterious and leave them wondering,” she told me as she expertly peeled potatoes with her perfectly manicured hands. I’d giggle and sip on Country Time lemonade at her kitchen table and dream about all the boys I would one day dazzle.
Fast forward a dozen or so years and here I am at 24. Grandma’s advice is taking different shape these days.
Mystery is a foreign concept in this culture hooked on affirmation. We just gotta give and receive instant-access information. Facebook statuses, gchat updates, blogging, networking and that necessary self-promotion on the job.
“Look at me!” our statuses shout. “I’m making this scrumptious, delicious, decadent dinner tonight – aren’t I just Ms. Suzie Homemaker!?” “Katie is … thinking some profound thought that just had to be typed in this little box.” “Yes, my Friday night was epic – EPIC I say. You wish you were there.”
Contrast the average status message to the famous Litany of Humility from Cardinal Merry del Val, friend and secretary to St. Pius X. Every line is counter-cultural, counter-intuitive, counter-worldly: “That in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, that others may be chosen and I set aside, that others may be praised and I unnoticed – Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.”
Shudder. Hidden, decreased, set aside.
Not the image of Grace Kelly “mystery” I had in mind at the kitchen table – confident, assertive, bold and somehow secretive.
I remember every morning as a kid coming down for breakfast and Grandma sitting in her chair, big, glow-in-the-dark rosary in hand. That routine never changed, that time with the Blessed Mother. Even as a very young child I knew Grandma wanted to be like the Blessed Mother. And if my superwoman Grandma, mother of nine, grandmother of fifty wanted to be like her, well then I did too.
Our Lady was hidden, decreased and set aside most of her life, yet she is mysterious, beguiling, utterly lovely and loving. She carried the Mystery of the Incarnate Word – also hidden and set aside – in her womb. She never sought affirmation or approval for their own sake, she didn’t try to convince those around her of her goodness, abilities or her “epic” Friday nights adventures.
Yet there aren’t enough superlatives in the world to describe her. There is no artist except One, who could ever attempt to capture her mystery or her loveliness. There is no one better at “making them wonder” than the Blessed Mother. We could wonder and wonder and wonder about her and never get tired of wondering.
As my sense of womanly mystery and wonder changes and grows, more and more I’m realizing that the mysterious charm I’m after is going to require much more leg work in the humility department. Somehow that’s both thrilling and terrifying at the same time.
The good news for us modern, mystery-deficient daughters of Eve is that we have the one Woman who got it right for our very own Mother. (Thank you, Jesus!) If I keep my eye on her long enough, I know she’ll whip me into shape.