Today someone remarked that they had to face a new day and put on a brave face. That reminded me of the instructions of yesteryear… are young girls still told: “Head up, shoulders back, chest out, stomach in”? It was a guide to posture but also a lesson in how to conduct oneself in the world. “Chin up” is always a useful reminder in the face of misfortune or a challenge.
I have been reading about Blessed Laura Vicuña (1901-1914), who died of a combination of TB and injuries sustained from her widowed mother’s ‘protector’. She is the patron saint of abuse victims, incest victims, martyrs, those who have lost their parents and of Argentina. This is the only known photograph of Blessed Laura:
There has been quite a debate about how Blessed Laura has been portrayed. As a Chilean ‘mestizo’ child, her image was ‘Europeanised’ in devotional paintings. This photograph ‘reclaims’ her as a child of mixed heritage.
The picture says even more, however. I like her direct gaze, her widow’s peak, her pretty dress, her devotional medal, her serious face. I like the lady behind her, in her tailored costume. And I like the little girl in front, with her head up and, again, her unsmiling, dignified expression. I do not know when people starting grinning in formal pictures – some time in the 1980s or 1990s? Or whenever it was that the taking of a photograph stopped being an important and somewhat arduous and expensive endeavour? If you have one shot (pun intended), you want it to be the very, very best, don’t you?
A bit like life, no?
Blessed Laura Vicuña, pray for us.