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Mary and Marilyn Monroe: "Candles in the Wind"

My wife surprised me with a new record player for Christmas. My old records, inherited from everyone else that had moved on to tapes and CDs, were just languishing in a closet. My wife resurrected all these old great albums with her gift.

My aunt passed down to me all her original Aerosmith, Cars, Styx, and Elton John records. Not a lot of Catholic saints in the bunch, despite being my early catechists. I was spinning Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road record this morning. That's the one with "Candle in the Wind" as well as the title track.

As we enter the last week of our Marian Consecration, Elton John's reflection on Marilyn Monroe, "Candle in the Wind", turned into a reflection for me on the Blessed Mother. These are two feminine icons: the Blessed Mother and Marilyn Monroe. I was struck by how perfectly different these two beautiful women lived.

Two very different kinds of beauty. One beautiful woman was ravaged by Satan; another beautiful woman trampled Satan underfoot. 

Here are some thoughts on the Marilyn Monroe of "Candle in the Wind" and the Virgin Mary. Just a little Christmas reflection:

Goodbye Norma Jean
Though I never knew you at all
You had the grace to hold yourself
While those around you crawled

Marilyn had physical grace. Mary was "full of grace".

They crawled out of the woodwork
And they whispered into your brain

The serpents crawled out of their holes for one woman. The serpents whispered to her and destroyed her. Angels hailed the other. Serpents feared her, and she crushed them underfoot. 

They set you on the treadmill
And they made you change your name

Marilyn was, coincidentally, given Mary's name. Not as a nun would change her name, but as one minted by Hollywood. Mary was given a name above all names, save One. Mary was named "Full of Grace". It is Mary's title in Heaven.

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When the rain set in

Mary and Marilyn both had the delicacy and fragility of "candles in the wind". Marilyn never knew who to cling to "when the rain set in". Mary always clung to God.

The harsh winds of fortune battered Marilyn to death. The divine wind of the Holy Spirit espoused Mary and ensured she never tasted death.

And I would have liked to have known you
But I was just a kid

Marilyn was an unreachable ideal, even for Marilyn. Mary is ever-present. She waits to be our mother and our unflinching ideal. She can be closer to us than we are to ourselves. 

Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did

Marilyn's legend is dying out even now. She is just an image now, slowly fading from memory, and she lived not even a century ago. Mary's life and legend is undimmed even after thousands of years.

Such different icons:

When Mary appears to her children, she is always described as the "most beautiful woman". It's an entirely different kind of beauty than the "Hollywood created superstar". Mary's beauty is, in fact, the antidote to our addiction to this kind of flesh-deep beauty.

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