When I first saw a news article about the beloved Sour Christiana singing a cover of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” this seemed too much to handle. I was deeply touched watching the clip from Italy’s The Voice in which she moves the hearts of the judges, particularly J-AX. It was profound.
I am a fan of religious orders engaging the world with their other-worldliness, like this brother from the CFR’s. After giving up skateboarding to enter, and not touching a skateboard for six years, he is ordered to get one and go to the skate park to reach out to the youth there. What evangelization! The article states, “after spending time within the skaters, he realized they shared a connection: both friars and skaters see themselves as counter-cultural. In their mutual rejection of worldly values, they both stand open to new paths in life.” As with therapy, evangelization falls flat if you fail to engage the person where they are. The evangelist must find a way to walk with the person in order to lead him or her.
To note the artistry of the video of the CFR. My husband noted the use of fire and water in the video of the skateboarding friar. A little baptism symbolism here? He is taking something ordinary, skateboarding, and allowing the spirit to anoint it, to bless it, to make it something holy in order to lead others to Christ. By bringing the light of Christ to the darkness, to the hovels (like Mother Teresa) of underground culture, the friar transforms his activity. Skateboarding becomes a light for those in need.
But “Like a Virgin”?
Sr. Christina says it well that for those who have not seen this song before and its associations, it can be seen as something new. Watch the video here.
To the pure all things are pure. If it weren’t for our culture. For what we know of Madonna and Moulin Rouge (my first encounter of the song, which is, I would say dirtier in its presentation than Madonna’s official music video), would we think in this way? What if it all went according to God’s plan? That virgin being a woman, a woman who has chastely kept herself and marries the man God has set aside for her. On their wedding day they come together. And at the sight of one another it is a moment of wonder, or awe, as God intended it to be. Not tainted, not dirty or risque, but pure, simple, beautiful. Whatever his past, he sees her as new. And they experience the beauty and the love of God through this most generous act.
There is something pure and uplifting when this consecrated sister sings the word “virgin.” She was right to see the beauty in the words. And when she sings them, they are something new. Through her virtue and love of Christ, the avenue of popular music is transformed. We can see a light in the darkness. And taking a song like this, frankly, from a singer like Madonna, to me is a way of laughing at the devil, saying he is powerless. Madonna has made it part of her career to scandalize and more than once in terrible, ugly ways. Now a woman in a habit sings her song and makes it something beautiful.
Transformative engagement with the modern world.
Take it a step further. What is happening for this generation of young people? For the over-achievers, they work and work and work and for what? Mark Shiffman observes the fear he sees in young people: fear of taking risks, fear of getting it wrong, fear of not making it in this world, and more deeply, a fear that in the end, all their efforts are but smoke. When you see the world you’re used to, through the eyes of the consecrated person, and then you see meaning in it, that is the light. That is evangelization.
“The Church grows by attraction,” Pope Francis said. “A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5). They are using ordinary things to bring Christ. They are using their bodies. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (Jn1:14). How beautifully incarnational.