Advent 2011 By Barbara Marian

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

Romans 8:22   (NIV)

Advent 2011

Ancestral midwives kneel in shadows

bringing aid and comfort

witness giving

to the pains and crying out and pushing,


prepare the way,

For birthing

in a gushing

mess with cries of gratitude and joy,

As water holy turned

to blood in breaking open paths and sacks

that spill out life

and milk and bread

from deepest springs of hope ferocious.

MARY WITH THE MIDWIVES © Janet McKenzie - 42"x54" oil on canvas. Collection of Barbara Marian, Harvard, IL

Beyond the burning ropes

and rapes

and silence, neglect and jailings all of them passed over

stories buried

never heard of more nor seen nor named for eons

but now we care and picture them and her with them and us.

And tell how even Sister-Mother-Midwife Allah

gave a tree bent down to shake

to give her fruit

and water in a rivulet

to bathe her tears and terrors.

And now we know that tales of her alone with no one near

are told from fear of what might be

with women’s arms around her.

To this very day they warn “You dare not, Women,

think of that. She’s not like you for were she that

God would never come through you.”

But sister, mother, holy one, around you waiting now as then

we sisters, mothers, holy ones are here with you to aid and comfort

wait with you and witness to

the work and spirit in you ready here and now is God.

And when we breath with you and help you with the birth

we bring it all

to life among us

all a’groaning to be saved and free

and all in all, Good Women,

in you, with you, for you all

in God’s good healing time.


Barbara Marian commissioned MARY WITH THE MIDWIVES by internationally known artist, Janet McKenzieBarbara has a Masters Degree in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University and before retiring served parishes and dioceses around the country as a lector instructor and taught in her diocese’s lay ministry formation program. Her activism for women’s equality began in her thirties and continues in her present day efforts to help bring about reform in the Catholic Church. The five McKenzie images she commissioned celebrate the central role of women in the scripture stories of the Incarnation as well as their leadership before and after the Resurrection (

Categories: Art, Childbirth, General, Mariology, Motherhood

Tags: , , ,

7 replies

  1. I am honored to work with Barbara Marian, a true collaborator, who gave me complete freedom to follow my vision, in bringing forth art honoring the courage and dignity
    of women worldwide.
    It is beautiful to experience the written word – hers – with my art. I am grateful indeed.
    Janet McKenzie


  2. Thank you for a beautiful poem and painting expressing a powerful idea — that God is born through real-live women like us.

    Janet’s painting of Mary with the Midwives stunned me the first time I saw it. Until then I had a false idea of Jesus’ birth based on the usual Nativity scene: Mary surrounded by men. I always imagined that there were no women present to assist Mary… part of the suffering of having to give birth in a stable because there was “no room at the inn.” But Janet’s painting made me realize that of course someone found her a midwife, or at least a woman experienced in giving birth. The Bible doesn’t mention midwives at Jesus’ birth, but people in first-century Palestine would have assumed their presence. I loved this painting so much that I included it in my book “Art That Dares .”

    But as Barbara put it so well:

    Now we know that tales of her alone with no one near
    are told from fear of what might be
    with women’s arms around her.

    I know that some have criticized this image because Mary is white and the midwives are dark-skinned. However I see them as powerful co-creators with Mary. Janet is well known for her paintings of Gospel scenes with African American models, including her controversial “Jesus of the People.”

    Janet is the one who first introduced me to Barbara Marian, and I am so pleased to see her work on display here at the Feminism and Religion Blog. As a sister-blogger at FAR, I welcome you Barbara and look forward to seeing more of your work here.

    I wish a blessed Advent to all!


  3. Powerful words and image–thanks!


  4. This is such a beautiful piece. Thank you!


  5. Your word picture was as wonderful and thought provoking as Janets!
    Mary Christmas


  6. Such a powerful conjunction of poetry and art. Very moving. I teach Roman Catholic studies for our local liberal arts college and have just returned from two months in Spain where I shepherded my students through Maria Warner’s “Alone of All Her Sex” and two months of museums and shrine visits. Warner concludes that the Virgin Mary has a dim future if she stays controlled by the Catholic Church. I don’t totally share in that conclusion and am working on materials, not unlike your page here, that cast Her and Her future in a new light. Thank you for continued inspiration!



  1. RIP Barbara Marian: Q Spirit supporter, LGBTQ ally, arts patron, feminist religion teacher, woman of faith

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