I think of her every day. I catch myself muttering to her. I’m caught unaware by her image all. the. time.
And yet, it still seems strange to me.
It’s not unusual that Mary would have such an impact on me. She’s been capturing people’s imaginations since the beginning.
Says Fr. Robert Barron in his blockbuster book, Catholicism:
This young Israelite woman has beguiled the finest poets of the West, from Dante to T. S. Eliot; she has been the subject of paintings by the greatest masters, from Fra Angelico and Michelangelo, to Rembrandt and El Greco; over the centuries, millions of people have visited her shrines seeking her aid and calling out to her, their mother. She is referred to as the Queen of all the saints, the Queen of all the angels, and the Queen of heaven. And she has been invoked, over and over again, across the centuries, in the words of the simplest and most beautiful prayer in the Catholic tradition: the Hail Mary.
When I first read this chapter, I marked it. The first page of that chapter, Chapter 4, “Our Tainted Nature’s Solitary Boast: Mary, the Mother of God,” is the only dog-ear in a book that I counted as one of the best reads in my 2011 pile. To write about this chapter, in fact, I had to track this book down: I consider it a great book to lend and share and reread (though I’ve not done the last, in part because of the first two).
As he does throughout the entire book, Fr. Barron unpacks Mary, but he does it without making her an object or merely a subject. Somehow, his explanations bring her to life.
You won’t find everything about Mary in this chapter. (That would take a whole book.) But it’s a good introduction and an even better refresher. It’s a reminder of what’s important…and maybe a niggle as to what you’ve forgotten. (Looking in the mirror as I say a loud ahem.)
Immaculate Mary, the Mother of God, assumed body and soul into heaven, is not of merely historical or theoretical interest. Nor is she simply a spiritual exemplar. Instead as “Queen of all the saints” (another of her titles) Mary is an ongoing presence, an actor in the life of the church. In entrusting Mary to John (“Behold, your mother”), Jesus was, in a real sense, entrusting Mary to all those who would be friends of Jesus down through the ages. The Blessed Mother’s basic task is always to draw people into deeper friendship with her son. The church’s conviction is that the Blessed Mother continues to say yes to God and to “go in haste” on mission around the world. She does so usually in quiet, hidden ways, responding to prayer and interceding for the church, but sometimes she does so in a remarkable manner, breaking into our world strikingly and visibly.
I have an endless fascination with the stories of Marian apparitions, even as I have a healthy sort of fear of them too.
It reminds me of how I felt when I was at a sleepover in grade school and someone turned on one of those horror movies with the guy with the pin-things sticking out of his head (I refuse to Google it and my in-home crowdsourcing is really letting me down here) . I had heard about seances and how dangerous they were. I was terrified of the devil.
So I did what any self-respecting wimp would do: I pretended to be asleep and then actually fell asleep.
But there was something fascinating about it all, and a few years later, I was reading (not watching much, mind you, because it’s one thing to read and quite another to watch) all the horror I could.
Maybe that explains my conflicted approach to Mary.
It is an approach, though. I can’t leave her alone. She’s all over my house, on a bunch of my jewelry, even on my clothing. My kids are named after her, consecrated to her, reminded daily to turn to her.
As I read through what Fr. Barron has to say about Mary, I sense that he, too, has a fascination. It’s part of the whole, but it’s there. He writes in his approachable scholar way, but there’s a feel underneath it.
He loves her, too.
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This post is part of the chapter-by-chapter blog tour celebrating 100,000 copies of Catholicism being sold. And hey, it’s in paperback now. So if you don’t have a copy to highlight and a copy to share, now’s the time.
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Now, for a bit of celebrating. I thought about not telling you about this sweepstakes (because, truthfully, I WANT TO WIN), but…well. Good news is better when it’s shared, don’t you think.