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Book Reviews by Author

Book Reviews by Author

Marian Book Reviews

The entries are listed in alphabetical order, by author.

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The Hail Mary: A Verbal Icon of Mary.
-Nicholas Ayo, C.S.C.
Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994.

The Hail Mary has been part of the prayer life of the Western Church since the eleventh century. Two lines of St. Luke's Gospel--The Annunciation, and the Visitation verses (Lk. 2:26 and 2:41)--were joined to form the first part of the prayer. The second part--invocation of the "Mother of God" and the request for her intercession--was derived from the popular litanies. the text was given its present form in 1569 when it appeared in the Breviary of Pius V.

In the Gospel's introduction to the Our Father, Christ's admonition that we should not simply repeat works but live the spirit of the prayer may occasionally cause us to take time to reflect on this prayer. Similarly, the words of the Hail Mary, especially since they are so frequently repeated as part of the Angelus and the Rosary merit our reflective consideration. Father Ayo's book is a guide for this endeavor.

The first part of the book deals with the origins and history of the Hail Mary, and the third part provides a number of classical and contemporary commentaries on this prayer--from St. Cyril of Alexandria to Sr. Agnes Cunningham. In the central portion, each of the phrases of the Hail Mary is explored and used as a springboard to discuss larger issues of prayer and Marian devotion.

Father Ayo capably handles the historical and exegetical materials, but at the same time he is aware of the difficulties which surface when some reflect on the works of this prayer. Do certain traditional images contribute to a misunderstanding rather than clarification of Mary? Should not God's assistance rather than Mary's be sought at the crucial moment of death? What is required before one can accept and appreciate this simple prayer? A beautiful quality of the work is the author's respect for the sensitivities of the reader. Pope Paul VI wrote that Marian prayer is not to be imposed but presented in such a way that people are drawn "by its intrinsic value." Similar to an icon, this work conveys a spiritual atmosphere while at the same time serving as a window open to the mystery of Christ and His mother.

Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.



Encounters with God, In Quest of the Ancient Icons of Mary
- Sister Wendy Beckett

A personal and moving book on iconography has emerged and should fascinate the ecumenical world. It is, as the author Sr. Wendy Beckett explains, a "pilgrimage" and investigative journey in search of the ancient icons of the Theotokos. Sr. Wendy is a Roman Catholic nun and well known art commentator. Her discovery of the world of early ancient icons of eastern Christianity is surprising to her and perhaps to all those in ecumenical dialogue.

Before she even started the quest, Sr. Wendy knew there was something that differentiated European portrayals of Mary, the mother of Christ, from those found in an early icon. She wrote, "Until I realized that I would never experience the true beauty of the icon, unless I regarded each icon as a means of entering more deeply into the experience of God, and that I should forget all about trying to integrate them into a history of art, I was somewhat, and foolishly, at a loss."

The ecumenical read on this book provides a window to an interesting factor--that the eye and heart of western art may not, at first, appreciate the language of an icon. In particular, Sr. Wendy searched for the eight icons of Mary, among the "roughly fifty-three pre-iconoclastic icons in existence." In other words, these are the images of Mary that are the only ones still available for eyes to see, icons that were written before the age of iconoclasm--a time when it was illegal to own and venerate such an image. In fact, most were destroyed with vengeance and violence. [Two periods of iconoclasm occurred in Christian history, 730 until 787, and again in 814-842.]
Traveling to view and consider the eight ancient icons resulted in profound appreciation of their spiritual value. Sr. Wendy wrote: "They are potentially revelations, encounters. Strangely, or perhaps (considering Iconoclasm) it is only to be expected, these images are few." She identifies the precious eight ancient icons of Mary that she "encountered." [In Rome: the Virgin and child, Santa Maria Maggiore (Salus Populi Romani); mosaic in Santa Maria Maggiore-the Annunciation and the encounter with the Magi; Santa Maria in Trastevere; the Icon of Santa Maria ad Martyrs in an underground corridor of the Pantheon; the Virgin of Santa Maria Nova-Santa Francesca Romana; and the icon of San Sisto. In the Ukraine: the Icon of the Virgin of Kiev. On Mt. Sinai: the Icon of the Enthroned Virgin .

Sr. Wendy shares her own emotion in encountering the Virgin of Kiev. "Central, of course, is their great Virgin and Child, and I must confess to bursting into tears, to see it so honored and so beautiful. This is a unique vision of Mary, not tranquil or remote like her seven sisters [the other ancient icons of Mary], but passionate. She has snatched up the Child Jesus and holds him firmly, her eyes fixed with frightening force upon what would seem a danger that Mary alone can see. Of all the infant Christ, this is the most beautiful, a golden child, trustful and loving."

Tenderly and frankly, Sr. Wendy's tale of pilgrimage to encounter these icons weaves together extremely sensitive inter-denominational grief of history past: Orthodox-Catholic struggles over schism and power, iconoclasm of Catholic images in Reformation anger, Muslim misunderstanding of Christian tenets on the Incarnation of Christ, and current cultural differences in liturgy and prayer. Sr. Wendy briefly mentions that she discovered that the monks at St. Catherine's monastery on Mt. Sinai have provided an Islamic mosque within their confines in which local Bedouins, now their neighbors and friends, may pray.

As an Orthodox reader, I want to share with Sr. Wendy more of the mystery and depth of faith found in the iconographic tradition. For instance, she pondered the strange absence of the child Jesus in the ancient icon at San Sisto. This icon is perhaps not an "orans" as she claimed but more a "deesis"-the mother petitioning her Son for the needs of the faithful. Sr. Wendy's western artist's eye wanted to explore skin tones, facial expressions, and motherly relationships to the Son. The Byzantine scholar will say that the surrealistic style of iconography as it developed was on purpose to draw the eye to another world. But .... in the end, Sr. Wendy has identified that quality: "They are drawing us out of our worldly reality into their world, the true world, summoning us to leave behind all that is earthly and to breathe an air more pure than we can understand."

The ecumenical lesson here is for all to probe the ancient past and find the spiritual realities of God that we all share, as they are found in ancient icons. For this, Sr. Wendy put it succinctly: "Icons are for prayer." In praying together, it may be that diverse cultures of Christianity can find unity.

-Virginia M. Kimball.


Mexican Phoenix, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Image and Tradition across Five Centuries
- D. A. Brading
Cambridge University Press, 2001

The phoenix is a symbol of beauty, and, as it rises from its ashes, a symbol of immortality. Our Lady of Guadalupe as the Mexican phoenix refers both to the beauty of the image and to its recrudescence at crucial moments of Mexican history. This work of social and intellectual history by David Brading, University of Cambridge, covers five centuries of Mexican and Guadalupan history. It deals with the sources and the transmission of the original account of the apparition, and, significantly, includes the scriptural, and even sacramental interpretations, which early preachers ascribe to the apparition and the image. It also deals with the consequences that Guadalupan history has on the Mexican ethos and character. There was also an account of the apparitions in Nahuatl - the Nican Mopohua (subject, in the last decade, to intense investigation).

The principal events in Guadalupan history -1746, declaration of Our Lady of Guadalupe as patroness of New Spain; 1895, the solemn coronation of the image; 1990, the beatification of Juan Diego (the process began in 1939) - have all been rallying points for the Mexican Church. Guadalupe was prominent in Miguel Hidalgo's struggle for independence from Spain in the nineteenth century and in the flags of the Cristeros in their opposition to the Mexican anticlerical governments of the twentieth century. And, although this is only suggested in Brady's work, the normalization of Church-state relations which occurred in Mexico in 1992 could in part be attributed to John Paul II's words at Guadalupe and to the beatification of Juan Diego, a representative of all of Mexico's indigenous peoples.

The last sections of the book, outlining the controversies which have erupted in the last century over the "historicity" of the apparitions, the beatification of Juan Diego, and the current investigation of the Nican Mopohua may be the most interesting. The conclusion - that Guadalupe is a divinely-inspired work, inspired even though its "historicity" may be wanting - may disappoint some but it also may convert skeptics. Reading this impressive and at times ponderous work requires discipline, but the efforts are rewarded by insights into Mexican character and by intimations on how divine messages are communicated.


Mary: The Virgin Mary in the Life and Writings of John Henry Newman.
- Philip Boyce
Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans. 2001

Bishop Philip Boyce outlines the place the Virgin Mary occupied in Cardinal Newman's own spiritual quest. As an Anglican, Newman had, in his own words, a "true devotion" to the Virgin Mary: his first sermon to appear in print was on Mary. After he entered the Catholic Church, he was critical of devotional practices imported from Sicily which were "not necessarily to the taste of a less exuberant race like the English." His efforts to accept the Catholic understanding of Mary involved a struggle towards a broader view of doctrinal development and a more profound grasp of Mary's role as intercessor and advocate. This second part of the book contains a selection of Newman's writings on Mary. This valuable compendium makes clear that his growing understanding of Mary was rooted in a life which, as he said, was "ever under her shadow."

Mother, Behold Your Son: Essays in Honor of Eamon R. Carroll, O. Carm.
- Donald W. Buggert, O. Carm.; Louis P. Rogge, O. Carm.; Michael J. Wastag, O. Carm.
Washington D.C.: The Carmelite Institute, 2001

This collection of essays, to celebrate the eightieth birthday of Father. Eamon R. Carroll, O. Carm., was presented by the members of his Carmelite province. The work contains introductory tributes and congratulatory letters from the Prior General and the Prior Provincial of the Carmelites, nineteen essays, and, finally, a bibliography of Fr. Carroll's writings from 1941 to 2000.
Fr. George Kirwin's study, "Theologian Specializing in Marian Studies: HisContribution to a Deeper Understanding of the Marian Reality" speaks of Fr. Carroll's constant zeal in preaching and teaching "the Marian reality," in his Carmelite family and in his teaching career at the Catholic University of America, Loyola University of Chicago, and the International Marian Research Institute. Almost a founding member of the Mariological Society of America, he has contributed to virtually every meeting for the last fifty-two years.

Of the twelve essays from Carmelite authors, several deal with Carmel's history: its Marian shrines and images; its chants, feasts, and traditions; a translation of a work by Arnold Bostius (the subject of Fr. Carroll's doctoral dissertation). Other Carmelite contributions deal with current ministries and apostolates, such as the Lay Carmelites and service to poor of Guatemala ("Garbage pickers at the Nejap Dump"). Finally, there are interpretations for contemporary audiences of the meaning of traditional Carmelite traits of contemplation, silence, ministry, community.
Other essays deal with the relation of Marian studies to theology, the changed context for the expression of Marian doctrines, suggestions for Marian preaching, and the symbolism related to the ordination of woman.

The many offerings will appeal to diverse palates. Among this reviewer's favorites were John Macquarrie's essay on early Scottish religious poetry; David Blanchard's account of the scapular of Carmel as a symbol of solidarity with the poor; John Welch's contemporary interpretation of Carmelite mystical tradition; and Ernest Larkin's analysis of John of the Cross' The Dark Night.

Fr. Carroll's eightieth birthday occurs as Carmel's marks its eight-hundredth anniversary. Mutatis mutandis, we extend to Fr. Carroll the wish for Carmel expressed by one of the volume's contributors: "Carmel has had eight hundred years of ministry in response to the Church and God's people, and, God-willing, will have many more centuries of unselfish service."


Empress and Handmaid: On Nature and Gender in the Cult of the Virgin Mary
- Sarah Jane Boss 
London and New York: Cassell, 2000.

Central to the main point of the work are the various twelfth-century Romanesque statues of Mary, sometimes known as the Virgin in Majesty. Seated on a throne, with Christ seated on her lap, the Virgin, clearly a mother, gazes confidently, even authoritatively, forward; the image "takes command of us with its tantalizing stare." These Romanesque images indicate an acceptance of maternity and of the authority it conveys. These images, including nursing Madonnas, also signify an identification with nature and the authority it imposes. In contrast, nineteenth-and-twentieth century images often depict Mary without child, hands folded, and gazing upward, not outward. References to maternity are shunned, and the image is separated from any reference to nature.

To respond to the question why "modern images of Mary have neither authority, nor any visible sign of motherhood," Sarah Jane Boss draws upon the theories of the Frankfurt School and others. Max Weber's theory of domination explains the individual's alienation from nature and from maternity. Once separated from the natural, societal forces then reduce the individual to a commodity and finally reify it. A similar sociological analysis is applied to other themes within Marian devotion - the Pieta, virginity, the Immaculate Conception. Save for some questionable generalizations, Empress and Handmaid is a balanced work highly recommended for those who wish to analyze the psychological, sociological, and cultural factors present within some expressions of Marian devotion. It also provides a good bibliography on religious practice as seen in the social sciences.


- Doctor Remigus Bäumer
- Doctor Leo Scheffczyk
EOS Verlag Erzabtei St. Ottilien, 1987-1994.

The most complete and comprehensive reference work on the Virgin Mary is the Marienlexikon from the Institutum Marianum in Regensburg, Germany. The first volume appeared in 1987 and the sixth and final volume was presented at a festive ceremony in Regensburg on December 9, 1994.

The project was initiated and sponsored by the Bishop of Regensburg and the Institutum Marianum of Regensburg. The directors of this encylopedia were Leo Scheffczyk (Munich) and Remigius Baumerwork (Freiburg im Breisgau). They were assisted by twenty-nine individuals, each in charge of an area of research. Over one thousand scholars contributed articles; Dr. Florian Trenner (St. Ottilien) was the general editor. Its completion within a period of seven years is a tribute to the directors and editor and also a sign of a rising interest in Marian studies in German-speaking countries.

The Marienlexikon presents an up-to-date account of biblical and theological scholarship, but it is much more than a theological dictionary. It is a record of the influence which Marian devotion has exerted on cultural, artistic, and literary history. It deals with Marian traditions of cities, organizations, religious congregations, and places of Marian pilgrimage. It is particularly helpful on topics related to spirituality and asceticism. The articles frequently indicate how the events at Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Cana and the Marian doctrines the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption have been portrayed in art. A feature, not found sufficiently in religious works, is the attention given to artists (Chagall, El Greco, the Buddhist Georg Wang Suta) and musicians (Palestrina, Bach, Schubert, R. Vaughan Williams). Each volume has an attractive Marian image imprinted on the cover, and the text has many illustrations; especially charming are the medieval woodcuts.

In his congratulatory letter, Cardinal Ratzinger hailed the work as one which "does honor to German-speaking theology." He wrote, "As the volumes continued to appear, the Marienlexikon became for me an important guide. It is not only a truly theological work but also an instrument for evangelization and spiritual renewal. It includes the history of devotion and doctrine, as well as articles on iconography and symbolism which otherwise could only be found in widely scattered journals and references. The work extends beyond Mariological questions in the narrow sense of the word, because Mariology must always be seen within the framework of the whole of theology. From an ecumenical viewpoint, it is a most valuable instrument especially as it presents the spiritual heritage of the Eastern Church. The Marienlexikon occupies an honorable place among reference works and is a great credit to German-speaking theology."

- Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


The Miracle Accounts of Our Lady and the History of Mentalities
Les Collections de Miracles de la Vierge en Gallo-et Ibéro-Roman Au XIII Siecle
-Paule V. Beterous

Paule V. Beterous, professor of medieval literature at the University of Bordeaux, exhibits a vast and profound knowledge of the thirteenth-century collections of Our Lady's miracles written in Gallic and the Ibero-Romanesque languages in this 733-page, double-issue volume, which includes charts, bibliography, and indices.

Her study retraces the history of Marian miracles between the fifth and the fourteenth centuries. The earliest accounts of miracles of Mary were from the Latin oral tradition, and Gregory of Tours (538-594) seems to have been the first to collect these miracles and put them in writing. Beginning in the eigth century, the miracle accounts were incorporated into collections of exempla (accounts, legends) and sermons. At the beginning of this century, Albert Poncelet mentions no fewer than 1,783 titles of Marian miracles written in Latin, most of these in multiple variations.

Between the twelfth and the fourteenth centuries, miracle accounts written in the vernacular acquired literary status and quality. They reflect a society with a hierarchical and static character, in which the strong dichotomy and interdependence between the natural and the supernatural order, good and evil, punishment and reward, produced a religious outlook with strong anthropomorphic traits and patterns. Miracle accounts are based on a religion of other-worldly hope and the certitude of God's mercy; they appeal to sensitivity more than the intellect; they are based on extraordinary signs and events. In addition to their moral purpose, the miracle stories had the didactic function of explaining Marian feasts and shrines, assisting Marian apologists and fostering Marian devotion.

Mary was presented as domina par excellence (parallel to Christus Dominus). Christians were her vassals. Accordingly, she held different roles, which all reflected her powerful intercession with God. Frequently, she made reparation for evil, both moral and psycho-physical. She commanded through signs, visions, and voices, and brought about the conversion of the sinner. Mary's intervention might be retributive, sanctioning just or unjust judgment, or tutelary, taking the persecuted under her mantle. Mary was the intercessor, using her dialectic abilities in her arguments with Christ. She was comfort and assurance in moral and physical danger, and she assisted in making decisions in time of trial.

The literary analysis of the miracle accounts takes up an important portion of the study. Beterous concludes that the accounts do not constitute a separate literary genre, but should be considered a special category of the narrative genre. The miracle stories combine popular aspects (simplicity of considerations and solutions) with more erudite aspects (literary form and transmission). Their literary value differs from one collection to another. Borrowing from Latin models, the clerical authors wrote for believers whose faith related them to living persons. In the description of the relations, courtly literature began to influence the miracle accounts. The short life of this literature was a result of its lack of adaptation to new social conditions. Written in a monastic and rural context, these accounts did not survive the new emerging urban mentality.

The accounts are of liturgical interest (Marian prayer, especially the "Ave Maria," the joys of Mary, names of Mary, litanies): they reflect a sound christology (virginal conception, incarnation), but sometimes a debatable concept of mediation. Popular piety is mirrored in the miracles. We learn about the official cult of Mary (the five principal feasts); the saints, especially those related to that cult (St. John); the local and international Marian pilgrimages; and pare-liturgical devotions and practices, sometimes of a mixed religious and magical character.

This study is of special interest for scholars of Hispanic literature and culture and for those in medieval studies and comparative literature. It is precisely in comparative studies that the work of Beterous will produce a rich harvest. She admirably explores the miracles of Our Lady from the point of view of the history of mentalities. Specifically, the miracles present a Mariology ad usum populi manifesting the powerful role of Mary with God, in this world, in her fight against the devil, and at the hour of death.

Although limited geographically and linguistically to the regions of southern France and northern Spain, Beterous' work has a paradigmatic character, both methodologically and thematically. The author succeeds not only in establishing a meticulously qualified inventory of the collection of miracles under scrutiny, but also surprises the reader with her comprehensive and qualitative approach to the material. Last but not least, Beterous' study offers to theologians and to Mariologists, in particular, an admirable example of Mariology in situ.

- Johann G. Roten, S.M.


The Sacred Memory of Mary
- Walter Brennan, O.S.M.
Paulist Press, 1988

The Church holds in reverence the memory of "the glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Lumen gentium 55 and the First Eucharistic Prayer). Father Walter Brennan's book explores what is meant by the Church's "memory of Mary," how one becomes acquainted with the Church's memory, and what the Church's memory accomplishes today.

The sacred memory of any religious group focuses on beginnings, for a group finds meaning and purpose in the story of its origins. Mary is in the Church's memory of its origins; she is part of the story of Jesus and the divine plan of salvation.

Recovering the authentic memory of the Church involves a three step process: 1) critique--determining who are the authentic witnesses of the memory; 2) hermeneutic--discerning the original meaning of the events; 3) anamnesis--entering into a prayerful encounter with this living memory. Just as members of a family assist each other in retrieving their history, so the church's memory comes together from witnesses and documents, from reflection on the meaning of important persons and events of the past.

Those who minimize Mary's role because of the relatively few "historical references" to her in the earliest literature fail to see the significance of the events in which she is present. The meaning of sacred history lies not in recital of events alone, but in the significance which contemporaries gave to events and the symbols they used to describe their meaning. Father Brennan's reading of the Gospels and the early Christian literature is that the moments Mary appears in the Gospel (the birth of Jesus, Cana, the Crucifixion, Pentecost) and the symbols which represent her (the meeting of the two testaments, the New Eve, the Mary-Church relation) indicate the extent to which Mary is part of deep currents of the Gospel.

Father Brennan brings to this work not only the knowledge of a Scripture scholar and historian of early Christian literature, but also his interest in hermeneutics, symbolism, literary theory, and aesthetics. This fine blending of biblical and historical insight with contemporary analysis illustrates that Mary, present at the Church's origins, continues to be present in its sacred memory.

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


A Western Way of Meditation: The Rosary Revisited
David Burton Bryan
Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1991

Our age appears less than enthusiastic about the doctrines and institutions of religion, but there is no shortage of interest in prayer, meditation and spirituality. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith has noted this interest and has offered guidelines in its 1986, letter "On Some Aspects of Christian Meditation."

Some look to the East for guidance in meditation, unaware perhaps that in the West the Rosary has served both as an introduction to and as a method of prayer and meditation. David Burton Bryan is a specialist in Near Eastern studies and biblical languages and reads widely in anthropology, spirituality, and science. He brings many interests and the enthusiasm of a convert as he considers the Rosary, not as a practice limited to Marian devotees but as a method of prayer profitable for all believers.

For Burton, the Rosary is symbolic of the prayer and meditation necessary for the life of every Christian. He begins with several considerations on the nature of Christian prayer and meditation, on the "seeking" and "waiting," the praise and petition which are part of Christian prayer. Prayer, he maintains, must be organic, unitive, and intuitive. He offers several suggestions for seeing the Rosary as a complement to or extension of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours.

Several times he reviews the fifteen traditional mysteries of the Rosary - each time plumbing a bit further the relation of the individual mysteries to daily life. Each review of a mystery includes references to current studies in Scripture, spirituality, and psychology.

What is missing in this work is a historical perspective showing the Rosary as an evolving and flexible type of prayer. Only in the post-Tridentine period did it become a fixed, unchangeable formula as presented by Bryan. In their 1974 letter, the American bishops suggested that, in addition to the traditional pattern of the rosary, "we can freely experiment." New mysteries, attuned to the spirit of liturgy, they said, are possible. Because of this encouragement to adaptation, the Rosary has become an attractive way of prayer for many who had difficulty with the traditional form. Finally, any commentary on the Rosary should be mindful of Paul VI's advice: "We recommend this very worthy devotion not be propagated in, a way that is too one-sided or exclusive. The Rosary is an excellent prayer, but the faithful should be serenely free toward it. Its intrinsic appeal should draw them to calm recitation." (Marialis Cultus #55)

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


Mary of Galilee (Volume I): Mary in the New Testament
- Bertrand Buby, S.M.
New York: Alba House, 1994

This is the first part of a trilogy dedicated to Mary in the Scriptures. Succeeding works will deal with Mary in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the Apocrypha. The inspiration for this trilogy is the letter from the Congregation for Catholic Education, "The Virgin Mary in Intellectual and Spiritual Formation" (March 25, 1988). This letter, which deals with the study of Mariology in seminaries and colleges, states that "the study of the Scriptures must be the soul of Mariology." The work is motivated by the conviction that the biblical image of Mary provides the basis for an authentic Marian devotion, unencumbered by exaggerations in the direction of either too much or none at all.

The New Testament texts relevant to the Virgin Mary are presented in chronological order. Each text is thoroughly studied and the commentaries of both Catholic and Protestant exegetes are considered. Not limited to exegesis, the author always has an eye on the pastoral and devotional implications of a text. Mary is a "fact," a "given" of divine revelation, and a "maternal presence" always operative in the life of the Church. In addition to serving as an introduction to all the Marian texts of Scripture, the work will be useful to homilists and teachers who want a succinct and readily available review, together with various commentaries, on a text related to the Virgin Mary.


Mary of Galilee (Volume II): Woman of Israel-Daughter of Zion A Biblical, Liturgical, and Catechetical Celebration of the Mother of Jesus
Bertrand Buby, S.M.
New York: Alba House, 1995

This is the second part of Fr. Bert Buby's trilogy on the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Scriptures. The first work dealt with Mary in the New Testament, the second with Mary in the Hebrew Scriptures, and the third part will deal with Mary in the Apocrypha and Apostolic Writers.

Because some may be surprised to learn that there are any references to Mary in Hebrew Scripture, the introduction provides valuable principles for interpreting the Scriptures. The Catholic Church regards the Scriptures as a living text with a specific historical reference but with new meanings for successive generations of believers. The Lectionary of the Mass (1981) states that God's word is enriched with new meaning and power at each liturgy.

The Hebrew Scriptures provide symbols, themes, and events, which, when read in the light of Christ's death and resurrection, point to the person and role of the Virgin Mary. Underlying this method of interpretation is the principle that both the Hebrew Books and the New Testament have one ultimate author and attain their fullest meaning when read in the light of Christ's paschal mystery: "They comprise one book which is inspired and revealed by a living, loving and personal God."

Mary was a true "woman of Israel," and we understand her better through the Jewish context in which she lived. There were Scriptural verses which she pondered and prayed, and customs which every Jewish mother and wife followed. Within the Catholic tradition, she was seen as the daughter of Zion, the representative of her people, and the woman of faith. The Church's liturgy has seen her exemplified and prefigured in the holy women of the Hebrew Scriptures-Rachel, Rebecca, Miriam, Judith, Esther, and Ruth.

The work deals with the readings from the Hebrew Scriptures used in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Marian themes found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The appendices contain lists from the Hebrew Scriptures and Marian references in Catholic catechisms.

Similar to the approach used in the first volume, the author always has an eye on the pastoral implications of a text. The work opens new ways of appreciating the Scriptures; it will be useful to homilists and teachers who want a succinct and readily available introduction or review of a Scriptural verse related to the Virgin Mary.


Mary of Galilee (Volume III): The Marian Heritage of the Early Church
- Bertrand Buby, S.M.
New York: Alba House, 1997

Mary of Galilee is the name of a trilogy of works by Fr. Buby, volumes inspired by the vision and spirit of Vatican II's Lumen gentium (chapter 8), Dei Verbum, and the Congregation for Catholic Education's letter, "The Virgin Mary in Intellectual and Spiritual Formation." From these seeds germinated this three-volume study of Mary in the Scriptures and in its earliest commentators.

Volume I treated Mary in the New Testament; volume II examined Mary in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Liturgy, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The third volume explores the Marian doctrine and devotion of the first five centuries of Christianity. A pervading theme throughout the work is that the Marian heritage of the Church must be continually reexamined, reappropriated, and transmitted to future generations. The author outlines the Marian teachings of the early preachers and writers, while calling the reader to affirmation and response. The early writers pondered the Scriptures, while involved in all the controversies of the era. Each wrote in a distinctive style as they searched for fresh images to communicate the Christian message. Slowly, new terms developed. Political terminology was used: Jesus became the "Pantocrator" (the Almighty), the extension of "Kyrios" (Lord). Mary was "Theotokos," God-bearer or forth-bringer of God.

More than twenty vignettes are presented to entice the reader to respond to the image of the Mary which the authors present. Excerpts are taken from Ignatius of Antioch, Justin, Irenaeus, the Protogospel of James. A chapter deals with Mary in the Koran.

The final chapter contains ten biblical principals employed by the early writers, together with six conclusions about their way of presenting the Virgin Mary. The select bibliography is a significant contribution, providing an overview of the apochryphal and patristic literature. The text reads smoothly and is always mindful of the pastoral implications of each topic. Both the reader seeking general information as well as the student looking for bibliographical leads will find this volume interesting and useful.


Sourcebook About Mary
- Edited by J. Robert Baker and Barbara Budde
Liturgy Training Publications, 2002.

In its "Sourcebook" series, Liturgical Training Publications has published issues on the liturgical seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter) and on the sacraments (Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Marriage) and on other topics. Each sourcebook contains excerpts from prayers, hymns, spiritual classics, world literature. The sourcebooks are printed on fine paper with many attractive illustrations (by Steve Erspamer, S.M.), and they can be used in a number of ways : as prayer or meditation "starter," as a garnish for homilies. The open book may be placed on a bookstand and turned to different page each day.

The Sourcebook about Mary is centered on the tradition of Mary’s discipleship – on the great range of tradition about Mary, the woman of Nazareth, the mother of God, the friend of sinners, the protector of the weak, the defender of the poor, the comforter of the sick and the dying. The material has been gathered from a variety of cultures, eras, traditions, and it is arranged under the titles from the Hail Mary, corresponding to a section of the Magnificat, and ending with a portion of the Litany of Loretto.

The women saints are well represented – Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Thérèse of Lisieux, but the poets outnumber all other classes – W. H. Auden, G. M. Hopkins, Amy Lowell, Emily Dickinson. Even Fred Rogers is included. But – students of theology and Marian studies take note – almost no writings are found from theologians or Mariologists. Does that tell us something about the appeal of our writing?


With a Listening Heart: Biblical and Spiritual Reflections on the Psalms
- Bertrand Buby, S.M.
Staten Island, NY: Alba House, 2005.

Marianist Father Bertrand A. Bubys new book, With a Listening Heart: Biblical and Spiritual Reflections on the Psalms, is the fruit of many years of daily meditation on these sacred texts. Happily for us, Buby recorded his thoughts in a prayer journal. Although done for his own spirituality, at a point in time his passion and energy for the psalms came together with the "listening heart" theme and launched him into writing this book that demonstrates how, in his words, "the psalms are the heartbeat of prayer in the Bible. They are the responses of people who are in love with God."1

Father Buby tries to get at the heart of the message by attuning his own heart and mind to the central ideas in each psalm: "I attempt to have a listening heart for what the poet is saying." Father credits his listening heart to his Marianist Family of sisters, brothers, and brother-priests, as well as the lay branches and the spiritual Affiliates of the Society of Mary and the Daughters of Mary. "They have shared their spirit, prayers, and friendship throughout the years."2

Bubys process is, first of all, reading a particular psalm from Hebrew texts, for which his fifty years of studying the language have prepared him well. Through his long involvement in the Dayton Christian-Jewish Dialogue, he has listened to, prayed with, studied with, and celebrated with many in the Jewish community, attuning himself to their perspectives, out of which have come insights and reflections that are both fresh and revealing.

Based on the premise that knowledge gained from study can enhance meditation, he next turns to one or more of his twenty Christian and Jewish commentaries to confirm his own "take" on the psalm in question before providing some scholarly background on it. For instance, to some psalms he assigns a title-such as, "true wisdom," "poetic justice," "a cry for the oppressed," or "an antidote to murmuring" as an introduction. In other cases he provides a one-sentence preview, such as, "What a magnificent description of a storm," "A psalm of two different moods," or "An individual lifts his/her soul up to God." Some psalms are then classified as to literary genre: lamentation, thanksgiving, royal, hymn, instruction, supplication, etc. Some psalms are further designated as either morning praise or night prayer. The background material is free flowing, with no formal lock-step format; rather it appears based on what Buby spontaneously judges would be helpful to the reader.

Next, the text of the psalm itself is addressed in terms of structure, images, historic background (time and place), emotions expressed, titles used or the situation at hand. This step, as well as the preceding one, helps the reader prepare to approach the text of the psalm itself with a listening heart.

The final step in the process is the addition of Father Buby's own personal reflections. One example, from Psalm 64: "I relate this psalm to the power of fear which often cripples us from doing things. It often makes us immobile, anxious, and depressed. Praying this psalm can help us to be aware of fear and to overcome it along with human respect, realizing and trusting in God who overturns false fears and useless worries that we suffer from time to time."3 Another example, from Psalm 65: "I find myself summoning up my sentiments and devotion in verse 5. 'Happy the one whom Thou chosest, and bringeth near, to dwell in the courts.' "4 Or from psalm 70: "Often such direct and simple prayer to God is just what is needed. It is like a javelin thrown into the heavens to catch God's attention.

Joanne Beirise

1 Bertrand A. Buby, SM, With a Listening Heart: Biblical and Spiritual Reflections on the Psalms (Staten Island, NY: Alba House, 2005), p. xviii.
2 Ibid, x.
3 Ibid, p. 74.
4 Ibid, pp. 75-76.


The Greatest Marian Titles: Their History, Meaning and Usage
- Anthony Buono

A most useful book! And for more than one reason!

The Greatest Marian Titles starts out with Mary's Present Mission: a clear signal that Mary is not a figure of the past but an ongoing, active and rich presence all through salvation history. Veneration and love, deepening understanding and religious experience made her the lady of many titles, an expression of both human and heavenly answer, and a veritable encyclopedia of Marian treasures.

Anthony Buono sets his gallery of Marian portraits in a historical frame covering the development of titles from the second to the twentieth century. Reference is given to the overall foundation of her titles in Biblical conciliar and traditional sources. Each one of the twenty-four titles follows a loosely-handled outline highlighting history, meaning, endorsement by the church and application to the present. Each one of the titles leads from a "sitting theology" to a "kneeling theology," indeed, the author offers a special prayer at the end of each one of the presentations. Ordered according to the alphabetical criteria (Advocate of Grace to Queen of All Hearts) these "most important and popular titles of Our Lady in our time" fall into a variety of categories, some biblical (Handmaid of the Lord; Daughter of Zion), some dogmatic (Immaculate Conception, Mother of God). Some of these titles are from earlier times (Advocate of Grace), others championed in the recent past (Mother of the Church). Mystical theology and pastoral concerns are not forgotten. Mary is not "Seat of Wisdom" and Temple of the Holy Spirit"--pointing out Mary's relationship to the Trinity; she is "Our Lady of the Rosary" and "Queen of Families": a beacon of courage in past and present and a protector of the "first and vital cell of society." She is Mother (Blessed Mother) and Queen (Queen of All Hearts), linking affection and admiration; close to her son and redeemer (Associate of the Redeemer) but also close to us (Help of Christians). Speculative and practical at the same time "Queen of All Hearts" according to the author represent the "culmination of all Marian titles." There is even the odd entry of the Exemplar which, in a sense explains all others. The use of titles responds to the human need for models. A 'singular model', Mary invites imitation as model of the Church and model of all Christians.

In sum, what we have here is a kaleidoscope where different facets of the same foundational image reflect an underlying common foundation and meaning. It makes Buono's book to be a little summa of Mariology which can be read as separate chapters on each of the titles or as a fresco of the Church's lasting memory of Mary's person and role in salvation history.

- Johann G. Roten, S.M.



Totus Tuus: John Paul II's Program of Marian Consecration and Entrustment
- Arthur Burton Calkins
Libertyville, IL: Academy of the Immaculate, 1992.

At one time, the word consecration was used freely as a way of expressing total dedication to the Virgin Mary. In recent years, because of a greater theological and ecumenical sensitivity, the term consecration is not used with reference to Mary so freely as in the past. Entrustment appears to be the term preferred by Pope John Paul II, who has made repeated references to this distinct form of dedication to Mary in his addresses and on his pastoral visits.

Fr. Arthur Calkins presents a thorough and comprehensive study of the meaning of both consecration and entrustment in the works of John Paul II. The work analyzes numerous references in the writings of the pope, and it also indicates the nuances of the Polish words for entrustment, as well as the circumstances in Poland which served as preparation for "the program of consecration and entrustment to Mary."

Along with the analysis of the papal writings, there is a fine survey of the historical development of Marian consecration, as illustrated in the works of Ildephonse of Toledo, Fulbert of Chartres, the sodalities, Pierre Berulle, Louis Grignion de Montfort, William Joseph Chaminade, and Maximilian Kolbe. In addition, there is good analysis of the theological and Christological implications of the term. The bibliography, which lists both the references of John Paul II and the extant literature on the topic, is complete and contains many suggestions for further study.

This work appears as the first in a new series of "Studies and Texts" from the Academy of the Immaculate (Libertyville, IL). The Academy is dedicated to implementing St. Maximilian Kolbe's program of theological renewal under the auspices of Mary Immaculate, which will lead to a "global vision of Catholic life under a new form." A significant introduction to the work was written by Cardinal Paul A. Mayer, O.S.B.

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


"Should We Sing of Mary on the Fourth Sunday of Easter?"
 James Chepponis, Pastoral Music (December-January 2003):18-20.

Frequently, the selection of music for liturgy at a Sunday during one of the "Marian months" sets liturgists on one side and advocates of Marian devotion on the other. The recent Directory of Popular Piety and Liturgy suggests that some traditional Marian hymns might be revised to include a biblical and ecclesial dimension, and that the Marian seasons could be harmonized with the current liturgical season. Five sound liturgical considerations are given indicating how the Marian presence can be highlighted in the liturgy, as well as five suggestions for selecting music both in accord with the spirit of the liturgy and with Marian devotion. Among the suggestions are a close examination of the suitability of a text, the use of a traditional hymn with a Marian reference or "flavor," and the possibility of a Marian "hymn festival."


In Search of Mary: The Woman and the Symbol
Sally Cunneen
New York: Ballantine Books, 1996

In Search of Mary is a personal search. It is the author's attempt to piece together images of Mary that have been important to her but whose meaning has changed. In this inquiry, she examines the New Testament, looks at the role of Mary in the struggling church of the early centuries, evokes the emergence of the God-bearer in the patristic era. Sally Cunneen deals with differing views toward Mary among Catholics and Protestants, her inculturation in the nations of the New World, and the nineteenth-century developments of Marian apparitions and devotions. As the author reaches the present, her image of Mary escapes the purely traditional expressions and offers fresh discoveries that are meaningful to contemporary men and women. This attractive and readable book on Mary evokes a matured Marina Warner but does not espouse her conclusions. Mary is not a fossilized symbol anymore. Both woman and symbol, she is very much alive and even useful. "Whether we are believers or nonbelievers, it is worthwhile to think about Mary today if only to clarify our attitude to religion in general." In Search of Mary attempts a dialogue between theological insights and artistic creation, between the place of Mary in earlier eras and interpretations by contemporary, mostly feminine, viewers. The result is that of a complex Marian figure almost infinitely malleable but a powerful presence for millions and women for two thousand years.

- Johann Roten, S.M.


The Significance of Mary
- Agnes Cunningham, S.S.C.M.
S.T.D. Thomas More Press, 1988

This book was written for those seeking a Marian theology and devotion which is in some way related to their experience and lives. The plan of each chapter of this book offers a fine lesson in theological presentation. The author first describes a human experience ("Image"), then reflects upon its meaning ("Message"), consults the tradition of the Church ("Teaching"), and finally suggests an interpretation for today's believer ("Significance").

"Image" is the story of an apparition, symbol, or work of art that has had universal appeal. Examples are the experience of Juan Diego and the account to his bishop about the woman who wanted to be known as "Virgin, Mother of God, Mother of all People," and the history of the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir, which became a nation's sacred treasure.

"Message" is a description of the effect the image has had on the lives of people. The Lady of Guadalupe's complete identification with the Mexican people achieved their conversion, something missionaries alone never could have done. Or, in the light entwinement of the fingers of the woman and young son in the statue at the Liverpool Cathedral, we sense the feeling of the mother undecided whether to push the child forward (for mission) or to hold him back (for the right moment).

"Teaching" is a statement of the Church's belief about Mary, drawn from witnesses of the Christian tradition, the liturgy, the councils, and papal documents. Here, the testimonies range from the earliest Marian prayers to the writings of Paul VI and John Paul II.

"Significance" suggests what the message developed in "Image," "Meaning," and "Teaching" may be for today's believer. For example, the suffering of the Pieta refuses to let us escape the harsh phenomenon of suffering today. The dogma of the Assumption evokes a hope that sustains us through the darkest experiences of life.

This is a book of rare sensitivity: Sister Cunningham has listened both to the teachers of Christian spirituality and to youth and feminists who struggle with past interpretations of images. The book is filled with hope: the images of Mary, interpreted anew for each age, continues to attract and motivate.


One Hundred Names of Mary: Stories and Prayers
- Anthony F. Chiffolo.
St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2002.

For each of One Hundred Names of Mary, Anthony Chiffolo provides an engaging, sometimes poignant "story," about how the name was part of the lives of believers, then a traditional prayer associated with the name, and, finally, in the words of one reviewer, his own "sparkling new prayer." The "names" of Mary range from the traditional doctrinal ones –Mother of God, Ever-Virgin, Mediatrix, Advocate, Morning Star – to many that are little known but have had great meaning for some people – Our Lady of Gyor (shared by Ireland and Hungary), of Sinj, of Tinde, of Marija Bistrica, or Neocaesarea and of Trast.

Every entry is well-crafted, concise, attractive, written with marvelous sensitivity. Just one example. After explaining the origin and meaning of the two images of the Madonna della Strada – one in the Jesuit church in Rome, and the other, a painting of a peasant girl by Roberto Feruzzi, in 1897, and citing a short prayer from Pope John XXIII, the contemporary prayer reads: "When I feel hungry or thirsty, remind me of those who are hungrier and thirstier . . . When I think I need a fancy new jacket or a pair of designer sneakers, remind me of those who have no coat or shoes . . .When I begin to drown in all my anxieties, lift me out of my funk and push me into the streets among those whose needs are life threatening...." 100names.jpg (1468371 bytes)
This history of Marian names and devotion contains "auras of beauty, superlative love and sustaining hope." (Ingo Swann) The author acknowledges that the book not only brought him to a "deeper and more honest relationship" to the Blessed Mother but also helped him "to recognize the magnificence of the redemption story." Take up this remarkable book; you will never again think that the "names" of Mary are evidence of excessive devotion.



Stabat Mater: Noble Icon of the Outcast and the Poor
- Peter Daino, S.M.
Alba House, 1988

In this book Peter Daino, S.M., shares the story of his life, his work, and the development of his faith. In the 1970's, he was a member of the Peace Corps and taught English in the Republic of Niger; now, as a Marianist, he works in Nairobi, Kenya, with I.M.A.N.I. (Initiative from the Marianists to Assist the Needy to be Independent).

This book is about exiles and refugees, about the homeless urban squatters. Because of their homelessness and poverty, these people are particularly vulnerable to the "Master Deceiver" who wishes to deprive them of dignity and hope by making them feel unworthy or unable to change the inhuman situation in which they find themselves.

For Bro. Daino, faith means courage and the rejection of the lie which causes individuals to view themselves as unworthy and unable. For him, faith means accepting the empowering love of God revealed in Jesus Christ and exemplified in the woman who sang "Magnificat" and stood at the foot of the cross steadfastly refusing to submit to a future determined by oppressive forces.

In reading the scriptures, we frequently transport ourselves to another time. In this work, however, the stories of the Bible take place within the events of everyday life. The dispossessed of the Bible are today's homeless and starving. The homeless in Africa--many of whom have biblical names: Mariama (Mary), Issa (Jesus), Ibrahim(Abraham)--present anew the lessons of the Bible.

In his own way, Bro. Daino helps us recover the image of Mary, proposed by Paul VI, as one who "stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, a woman of strength, who experiences poverty and suffering, flight and exile." Here, we find Mary as model for "the disciple who works for that justice which sets free the oppressed and for that charity which assists the needy." (Marialis cultus)

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


Mary Woman of Nazareth: Biblical and Theological Perspectives
- Edited by Doris Donnelly
Mahwah, NY: Paulist Press, 1989

The papers in this book were part of a Marian Year Symposium at St. Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN. The quality of the essays confirms Doris Donnelly's observation that the "dormition of the Virgin" which occurred after Vatican Council II has given way to a gradual emergence of Mary, this time within a context of balanced theology and piety based on scriptural, patristic, and biblical roots and conscious of pastoral and ecumenical implications.

The keynote address, Anne Carr's "Mary, Model of Faith," outlines the basis for Mary's ever active and growing faith--similar to John Paul II's description of Mary's "journey of faith." There is a Mary in us all, as all of us are recipients of grace and a call that we are the foundation of all we hope to accomplish.

Elizabeth Johnson presents two major essays, "Mary and the Image of God" and "Reconstructing a Theology of Mary." The first outlines how, throughout much of Christian history, Mary was the female representation bearing images of God which would otherwise have been excluded from the mainline representation of God. Now elements, previously represented by Mary, can be transferred to a fully inclusive idea of God which would allow a clearer perception of both God's and Mary's natures. Her second essay presents a portrait of Mary in a praxis-oriented theology through the use of the categories of memory, narrative, and solidarity.

In "Gospel Portrait of Mary," Donald Senior addresses such unconventional topics regarding Mary as scandal and promise unfulfilled seen in the Gospel of Matthew. Pheme Perkins, in "Mary in Johannine Tradition," traces the tendency to view Mary as a significant symbolic person to the Johannine writings and second-century texts. In "Mary and Evangelization in America," Vergilio Elizondo writes of Guadalupe as the beginnings of religious liberation. Other essays are "Mary and the Anawim" (Richard J. Sklba), "The Justice Dimension: Mary as Advocate of Peace" (Carol Frances Jegen), and "Mary and the People: The Cult of Mary and Popular Belief" (John R. Shinners, Jr.).

This is the finest collection of Marian essays produced in the United States in recent years, and, for the first time in such a collection, the women contributors outnumber the men.


The Assumption Dogma
- Paul E. Duggan
Cleveland, OH: The Emerson Press, 1989.

This is the doctoral dissertation presented at the International Marian Research Institute (Pontifical Theological Faculty Marianum) by Fr. Paul Duggan, a priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, currently auxiliary chaplain in the United States Air Force.

The work begins with an analysis and commentary on the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus (1950) defining the dogma of the Assumption. Succeeding chapters describe both the intrinsic and extrinsic influences which lead to the definition, the contents of the dogma, the relation of this doctrine to the other privileges of Mary. Especially valuable are the interpretations of both Catholic and non-Catholic theologians on the ecumenical implications of the definition. The ecumenical significance of the dogma is further explored by a discussion of the hierarchy of truths. The final section deals with the Assumption in the thought of John Paul II.

The study concludes with fifty pages of endnotes and a twenty-five page bibliography of books and articles. It is a valuable reference work for information on the Assumption in modern writers.


Mary in the Plan of God and in the Communion of Saints
- Alain Blancy and Maurice Jourjon and the Dombes Group.
Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2002.

The Dombes Group (Group des Dombes) is little known in the English speaking world, and this work, which was published in French in 1998-99, did not appear in English until 2002.

Founded in 1937 by Paul Couturier, the Dombes Group represents a "spiritual" approach to ecumenism, involving not only discussion of doctrinal matters, but also common prayer and the "call to conversion" addressed to the churches. Couturier established the Week of Prayer for Church Unity, a practice first suggested by Fr. Paul Watson, founder of Graymoor.

This document on Mary is the result of seven years of meetings, assignments, and discussions (1991- 1998), and it is now presented to the churches for their study and consideration. The Dombes Group's method is to study a topic, review the Scriptural and historical development, identify the areas of agreement and disagreement. Suggestions for convergence are offered, and finally a "call to conversion" is addressed to each church--a conversion which involves attitudes, teachings, and practices.

The first of the four sections, an "ecumenical reading of church history," presents the Virgin Mary of the early creeds and church councils. During this period there was no controversy about her role. Only at the end of the first millennium did issues arise that would later cause disagreements. The second section, the "ecumenical reading of the Scriptures," is a review of relevant Scriptural passages within the framework of the three principal articles of the Creed. Underlying this approach is the conviction that all the Scriptures are "spiritual" and receive a fuller meaning when considered within a statement of basic beliefs. The third and fourth sections, "controversies" and "the call to conversion," deal with four points: 1) Mary's cooperation with the saving work of Christ (a frequently recurring theme in Catholic theology); 2) the two Marian dogmas defined in 1854 and 1950; 3) the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary; and 4) the invocation of Mary in liturgical and popular devotion.

Although the Virgin Mary was not the cause of the separation between the churches in the West, she has unfortunately become the sign of separation. The Dombes work concludes that, "at the end of our historical, biblical and doctrinal study, we do not find any irreducible incompatibilities, despite some real theological and practical divergences. Finally, our entire work has shown that nothing about Mary allows her to be made the symbol of what separates us." (#337) The work deserves wide diffusion in ecumenical and academic circles.



Guadalupe: Mother of the New Creation
Elizondo, Virgil
Maryknoll, NY : Orbis Press, 1997

The book presents a translation, from the Spanish, of the Nican Mopohua, a poetic account of the Guadalupe events of 1531. This masterpiece of Nahuatl literature is a work of great harmony, depth, and beauty. To this account, Fr. Elizondo provides an extended and enthusiastic commentary pointing out the epic qualities of the work and the great significance of Guadalupe for evangelization.

"It was already beginning to dawn" indicates both the arrival of the Gospel and new harmony between peoples and cultures which Guadalupe foretold. Juan Diego is a symbol of the native peoples, at once "most abandoned, most beloved." The flowers and the singing of birds which are highlighted in the narrative communicate more effectively to native peoples.

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.



Lord, I Believe
- Austin Farrer
Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 1989

Austin Farrer (1904-1968) was a brilliant Anglican theologian, Scripture scholar and metaphysician. Chaplain at Trinity College and later of Keble College, Oxford, he was invited to give several distinguished lectures - those of Deems, Gifford, Bampton.

Originally published in 1955, Lord, I Believe has as subtitle "Suggestions for Turning the Creed into Prayer." Here are seven chapters on the articles of the Creed filled with a penetrating faith, the paradox of mysticism, and a completely natural spirit of prayer. In addition to considerations on the dogmas of the Trinity, creation, and Christ's saving death, there are, at the same time, reflections on the human situation - the meaning of friendship, possession and loss, faith and courage.

There is an introductory chapter on the necessity for doctrine informing or being part of prayer. "Prayer and dogma are inseparable. They alone explain each other No dogma deserves its place unless it is prayable, and no Christian deserves his dogmas who does not pray them."

The last chapter develops a specific suggestion for translating dogma into prayer. The "heaven-sent aid" is a type of prayer similar to the rosary. The rosary is "a method or prayer... to be used freely"; it is an "unbreakable thread, something I can hold onto in which the words accompany the beads, and the mind the words. " The mysteries of joy, obedience, grief, and glory are a summary not only of Christ's life, but also of our own as well.

First published almost thirty-five years ago, there is a time-less and universal quality about these meditations - ideal for those who wish suggestions for prayer in a classical but warm and ever-relevant manner.

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


Joyous Expectation: Journeying Through Advent with Mary
- M. Jean Frisk
Journeying Through Advent with Mary

Prepare for Christmas by journeying with Mary to Bethlehem. Drawing on the liturgy, these warm and inspirational reflections will help you celebrate the Advent and Christmas seasons with faith and prayer. It only takes a few minutes a day, even in the busy Christmas season, to take time out for the Lord.

M. Jean Frisk, S.T.L., is a member of the secular institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary. She holds a licentiate in sacred theology from the Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute in Dayton, Ohio, where she helps publish The Mary Page. Sister Jean resides at the International Schoenstatt Center in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where she writes "in the shadow of Mary's shrine."



Mary and the Fathers of the Church
- Luigi Gambero
San Fransisco: Ignatius Press, 1999

Father Luigi Gambero is a Professor of Patristics at the Marianum (Rome) and the International Marian Research Institute (University of Dayton). He was a principal contributor to a four-volume work which presents in Italian translations all the texts of the first millennium related to the Virgin Mary (Testi Mariani del Primo Millennio). He is now the editor of what will be an eight-volume work on the principal texts of the second millennium related to the Virgin Mary.

This book on the early Marian writings is divided into four parts (the Apostolic Age; Ephesus; the great flowering of Marian devotion in the East after the Council of Ephesus; and the writers of the seventh and eighth centuries. Helpful introductions are provided for each section and author; each section concludes with a substantial portion of text from an ancient writer. Before this publication, many of these texts were unavailable or hardly accessible in English. Additional bibliography is given in the footnotes. The translations are always clear and fluid.

The Marian writings from the first six centuries are dominated by the authors from the East--Alexandria, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Jerusalem. Only with Ambrose, Augustine and Jerome do significant writings appear in the West. In the century after the Council of Ephesus (431), the East witnessed a great flowering of devotional writings on Mary.

This work provides a solid introduction for students and will be of value to those who from an ecumenical perspective seek the origins of the later doctrinal developments. These authors are closer to the actual historical events and witness to the oral traditions. Reading their works is "tasting the fresh waters of a spring." In these writings, there are not separate treatises or books of devotion. All of the Marian references are part of larger works explaining the Scriptures and identifying the work of Christ. In the face of the opposing views, the writers are strong in their affirmations: Mary is truly Theotokos (Mother of God), ever-Virgin, the one associated with Jesus Christ (the New Eve), the model for total dedication to God.

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


Mary, Mother and Disciple: From the Scriptures to the Council of Ephesus, with a Woman's Response and Poems
- Joseph and Carolyn Grassi
Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1988.

Joseph A. Grassi's book deals with the true place that Mary found within the memory, beliefs, and theology of the early Christian communities. The first part follows the Scriptures chronologically from the letters of Paul to the Apocalypse; the second part outlines the history and traditions concerning Mary from the apostolic writings, through the golden age of the Church fathers, to the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. As a result, Mary emerges as Theotokos, the Mother and Disciple of Jesus, and an enduring female archetype.

This book is a valuable contribution to the study and appreciation of Mary after Vatican II. It is recommended for courses in Mariology, for adult education, for biblical study groups and for religious in formation. It is a contribution from lay theologians who present Mary to a world that needs her courageous commitment and feminine strengths.

Bertrand Buby, S.M.


Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the Poor
- Ivone Gebara and Maria Clara Bingemer
Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1989

This book is a first in several ways: it is a comprehensive approach to Mary, the first to appear in English in recent years; it was written by two women--one a religious and the other a lay person; and it is based on the conviction that the poor, who have a special place in the Kingdom of God, can teach much about the meaning of God's Word today. Finally, it is the first major work on Mary from Orbis Books, the publishing house which makes available in English the writings of many South American theologians.
This "rereading of Mary from the point of view of our age" begins with two chapters on underlying suppositions and hermeneutics. Because of the continuity between those who now "live in history" and those--Mary and the saints--who now "live in God," the experience and faith of people today can speak of Mary. In place of the "male-centered, dualistic, idealist, and unidimensional" approaches of the past, the authors choose to study Mary in a "human-centered, unifying, realist, pluridimensional" way. They use the voices and aspirations of women and the poor to show the place of Mary in today's world.

After the two opening chapters which establish and justify their approach, the succeeding chapters--on Scripture, the Marian dogmas, and Marian devotions--illustrate how this approach can bring forth a new way of thinking about Mary. In every context, she is presented as deeply and intimately related to the concerns of people. She is part of the Kingdom of God present in history. The new people of God is "begotten in the woman who is the figure of the people." Mary's motherhood continues in every place and individual where the reign of God's Word becomes a living and active force. The final chapter, "Mary and God's Wonders among the Poor," contains an analysis of the Magnificat in which Mary affirms the desire for life for God's people and engages herself in the struggle against evil.

The traditional objection to Mariology which arises from the people is that it will be an impoverished one. However, when the people are the poor whose patience and sufferings are sustained by a belief in a God who loves justice, the result is a Mariology rooted in the living faith. A good book for those interested in a rich reinterpretation of all we say about Mary.

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


A Still, Small Voice A Practical Guide on Reported Revelations
- Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.
San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993.

News of an apparition can cause thousands of people to come together. With the devout and the spiritual seekers, come the curious and representatives from New Age religion, and even those whose confidence in Scripture and the Church has been shaken by the most recent theories. History shows that private revelations to the saints and Marian apparitions have had great influence within Catholicism. So, when faced with frequent media reports of new revelations or messages, most Catholics try to take the middle road between skepticism and gullibility.

For those on the middle road, Father Groeschel provides a "practical guide" for discerning visions, messages, and other extraordinary religious phenomena. Although he wished to provide a more comprehensive work, "the intense interest in extraordinary religious experience at the present time" convinced him that a "concise" work was needed now.

Father Groeschel acknowledges that he draws heavily upon The Graces of Interior Prayer by Father Augustin Poulain, S.J., first published in French in 1902. In its tenth French edition and the sixth English edition (1950), the work is a masterful compilation of teachings on mysticism, interior graces, and visions. Similar to Poulain, Groeschel states clear, practical rules and then illustrates them with abundant examples:

1. Keep private revelation in perspective;
2. Since no private revelation comes immediately and directly from God, none can be assumed to be totally and inherently true;
3. Private revelation is personal and can never be used in an unreasonable way or against the teachings of the Church;
4. Sincere persons, even saints, make mistakes in understanding or reporting revelations. Examples from the lives of Sts. Bernadette of Lourdes, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, and others, are given to explain the rules.

Along with spiritual writers and Church officials, Father Groeschel has reservations about private revelations; a simpler and safer way of finding God, he says, is in ordinary everyday experience. Drawing upon his own experience and that of friends and acquaintances, he relates events in which there was an unmistakable divine intervention. He regrets that so many miss the powerful experience of Christ's presence in the world because they are afraid or disinclined to search for him in the poor. "The only thing I really fear is Jesus passing by," said St. Augustine. Father Groeschel's outlook has been formed by St. Thérèse of Lisieux who, because she found Christ present in Scripture, the Eucharist, and everyday events of life, could say, "To ecstasy, I prefer the monotony of sacrifice." (The book's cover is an artist's representation of Therese's "mysticism and struggles.")

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


Blessed One: Protestant Perspectives on Mary
Edited by Beverly Roberts Gaventa and Cynthia L. Rigby. Foreward by Kathleen Norris.
John Knox Press, 2002.

This book of twelve essays on Mary, written by Protestant scholars (all professors in divinity schools), is ample evidence, as one writer states, that, although Protestants don’t talk much about the Virgin Mary, she is "most present in her absence." The editors believe that recent developments indicate that "the time has arrived for Protestants to join in the blessing of Mary." The developments were spurred by ecumenism, and include questions about theology’s relation to feminism, motherhood, family, culture, suffering, spirituality.

Throughout the essays, the shadow of the Reformation is clearly cast. The creative biblical interpretations presenting Mary as model clash with the Reform tradition that cautions that no creature can be model. A Mexican Baptist struggles with how Protestants could deal with the Guadalupe as cultural phenomenon. A feminist wonders how Protestantism could profit from a "model of maternal presence" (but not one of subservience): "The time could hardly be riper for reconsideration of Mary as mother, both to enrich the Christian tradition and to empower women as mothers." Another wonders how the Reformation tradition could accept the notion of Mary as part of the "artistry" of God.

There are two fine essays on Mary in the Reformed and Lutheran traditions: Daniel L. Migliore’s "Woman of Faith: Toward a Reformed Understanding of Mary," and Lois Malcolm’s "What Mary Has to Say About God’s Bare Goodness." Malcolm’s conclusion, "We have reached the limit of this Reformation reading of Mary," should be coupled with Kathleen Norris’s challenge in the introduction: "Had we a more elastic imagination, we might be less troubled by Mary’s air of serene contradiction. But ours is a skeptical and divisive age – more comfortable with appraisal than with praise, more adept at cogent analysis than meaningful synthesis."


"La Vraie Spiritualite de Saint Grignion de montfort"
- B. Guitteny, S.M.M. Nouvelle Revue Theologique 125 (2003) 99-114.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the dossier of the writings of Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort submitted to begin his canonization process inadvertently contained items which were not authentic works of de Montfort, such as compilation of texts made by preachers for their personal use and The Love of Eternal Wisdom, written after de Montfort's death by Charles Besnard (1717-1768). When, in the 1980s, the movement developed, encouraged by John Paul II, to have de Montfort declared a Doctor of the Church, the same dossier of his writings was submitted. In 2001, the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints replied that the writings, as submitted, did not give evidence of "balanced doctrinal synthesis" and suggested that the inauthentic writings be withdrawn from the dossier.


Jesus Redeeming in Mary
- Rev. Judith Marie Gentle, Ph.D.
Bay Shore, NY: Montfort Publications
ISBN: 0-910984-62X

An Anglican Church scholar's understanding of the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the work of our Redemption, according to St. Louis de Montfort

Despite the progress made at many levels of the ecumenical conversation, the possibility for the mediation of grace by anyone, other than the one Mediator, Jesus Christ, remains a consistent and significant theological source of division between Protestant and Catholic Christians. Jesus Redeeming in Mary sheds significant light on this dilemma by consideration of Mary as the "Second Eve." Judith Gentle demonstrates well that the Marian mediation neither takes nor adds anything to the person and work of Jesus Christ but, rather, fully reveals the efficacy of the savior's redeeming power and love. This book is a much-needed explanation of how Marian mediation--as well as the issue of the one true Mediator and many mediations--is related to a doctrine at the heart of the "hierarchy of truths," namely, that in Christ Jesus, God is redeeming and reconciling all things to himself.

- Harvey D. Egan, S.J
Professor of Systematic and Mystical Theology
Boston College

The work of Mother Judith Gentle, an Anglican priest of the diocese of Pittsburgh, should be of interest to all contemporary followers of Jesus Christ. As Christendom is being riddled with ever deeper divisions, this book fills a true need. The author has discovered in St. Louis de Montfort's teachings what may be called a fundamental source of unity for all Christians: the Mother of the Redeemer is the Mother of us all. Her book is a must for those interested not only in ecumenism but also in the entwined disciplines of Christology and Mariology.

- Father Patrick Gaffney, S.M.M.
Professor Emeritus of Theology
St. Louis University



Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age
- Ruth Harris
New York: Viking, 1999

Fifteen years ago, as she completed a book on medicine in France in the nineteenth century, Ruth Harris, who identifies herself as a Jewish agnostic, became interested in Lourdes. "As I examined Parisian physicians' confident assertions that a new scientific age had dawned and that religious belief was to be swept away like cobwebs from a musty closet, I wondered how it was that Lourdes was living through its 'golden age' at the very same moment." Lourdes, which, from a secular scientific viewpoint, should have been consigned to the dustbin of history, continued "vibrant and assertive in it own way" as the secular empire which it challenged.

Lourdes touches the deep convictions and traditions of both its advocates and detractors, and its story cannot be related in a unidimensional way: it is a mixture of religion, history, anthropology, geography, medicine, politics, psychology all of which the author brings to the subject with consummate sensitivity and skill.

The Pyrenean region of southern France contained other chapels which reported the apparition of the Virgin to young shepherds and shepherdesses, but these chapels never attained the fame and notoriety of Lourdes. A major difference was the character and witness of Bernadette, who, despite investigations and persecutions, remained steadfast and persistent in relating what she had seen and heard, refusing to allow the story to be changed to fit current religious ideas. Her utter disregard for any type of approval or public acceptance of the occurrences, and her self-effacement as she left Lourdes in 1866, never to return, contributed to the impact of the shrine on modern consciousness. The presence of crowds who early came for healing--of all types--testified that medicine and psychology did not provide all the answers to the heart's quest.

Lourdes was and continues to be a symbol of many opposing tendencies: of simple folk religion and belief against the reservations of theologians and the ecclesiastical hierarchy, of the restorationist forces in France against the Third Republic, of faith in miraculous healing against a skeptical medical establishment. It also became, as its later history testified, a point of union between simple, suffering masses and the urban educated women who cared for them.

In 1872, Bishop d'Alzon and the Assumptionists began the national pilgrimages, which, among other things, were a "great manifestation of Catholic piety in the face of secular godlessness." The two organizations which made the national pilgrimages possible were the Notre Dame de Salut, laywomen who volunteered their time and service, and the religious sisters, the Petites Soeurs de l'Assomption. To transport hundreds of thousands of the desperately sick seeking cures on the long, and frequently hot, train rides was possible only because thousands of women came forth. At times, simply removing the invalids from a train took as much as three hours. All these individuals were fed, assisted in the baths, aligned for the evening services.

Throughout the work, Harris alludes to the indispensable role of women in the development of Lourdes and also in nineteenth-century religious history (giving a new interpretation to "the feminization of religion"). With consummate sensitivity, she handles the letters of spiritual direction between clerics and well-educated urban women whose support they enlisted for pilgrimage and other activities. She attributes "the calls of feminism" going unheeded in nineteenth-century France not to the Church's blocking women's aspirations, but because the Church was "so effective at channeling them in spiritual and practical directions outside the republican mainstream." Although the Church may have assigned them a subordinate role, it offered them a "world of opportunity and found a means of cultivating their loyalty and energies."

Finally, Harris touches the miracles. Lourdes, she notes, was the "only major sanctuary in Christendom to possess a medical bureau of international renown, an institution founded in the belief that medicine might strengthen rather than undermine faith in miracles." Though modern medicine might not accept the notion of miracles, neither could it dismiss Lourdes as fraud. Harris' judgments are always well-nuanced and refined. "Even if divine intervention is rejected as a possibility, reducing such occurrences to the pejorative notion of suggestion is to misconceive the process of healing, and to stay with the analytical trap that Zola and his fellow fin-de-siècle protagonists created. Understanding what took place requires an imaginative sympathy for the psychic and physical world that pilgrimage generated, for the way intense prayer, unabating pain, and extreme humility were bolstered by the support of helpers and believers convinced of the ubiquity of miracles at Lourdes." She concludes, "Instead of Lourdes being weakened by the attacks of positivism, the example of the inexplicable that it proferred led to the ultimate discrediting and abandonment in some scientific circles of much of the posivitist ethos itself."

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


Ex Abundantia Cordis: a Study of the Cordimarian Spirituality of the Claretian Missionaries
- Hernández Martínez, José
Rome: Secretariat of the Heart of Mary, 1991

American Catholics may be familiar with the popular journal U.S. Catholic, published by the Claretians, a congregation of priests and Brothers, founded by St. Anthony Mary Claret. The congregation's official title is the "Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary." The text in the "Office of Readings" for October 24, the feast of St. Anthony Mary Claret, indicates the intensity of the Marian charism the founder bequeathed to the congregation: "The man who burns with the fire of divine love is a son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and wherever he goes, he enkindles that flame; he desires and works with all his strength to inflame all men with the fire of God's love. Nothing deters him . . . ."

After Vatican II, Claretians, along with many Marian congregations, wished both to revive their original Marian charism and to interpret it in accord with the biblical and theological orientations suggested by the council. At the 1985 Claretian General Chapter, a project was undertaken of "updating, both in theory and in our lives, the Marian dimension of our charism." A first step in this renewal was a questionnaire to all the members of the congregation, consisting of two questions: "How do you live your spirituality of the Heart of Mary," and "What suggestions would you offer for renewing and promoting the spirituality among Claretians and among all Christians" About one fourth of the members responded.

The author of this study, Fr. José Hernández Martínez, was asked to analyze the responses and develop the study. The responses to the first question, which were usually stated in personal terms related to life experiences, were presented in the form of an "itinerary" of Marian living: the determinative influences of family and early years of religious formation (which for many of the respondents corresponded to the preconciliar period). The responses were also divided into beliefs (mother, model, disciple); attitudes (filial, protective, formative); and practices (short prayers, rosary, liturgy).

Two chapters describe how the Heart of Mary was central to the religious experience of St. Anthony Mary Claret, and the way the charism was interpreted in the history of the congregation. Another two chapters situate the Marian charism within the context of contemporary biblical and theological currents.

The last two chapters provide "guidelines for the renewal of our missionary life." The Heart of Mary, understood as the core of Mary's personhood and her fundamental attitude of love, is the symbol influencing prayer, community living, and the apostolate. The Marian charism, nourished through prayer, study, liturgy and also through community experiences and environment, is integral to the total vocational response. For the Claretian, the Heart of Mary provides a spirituality which motivates, inspires, sustains, and is the key to translating the Gospel in daily living.

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


Mary in the Church
- Edited by John Hyland, F.M.S.
Dublin: Veritas and the Marist Brothers (Athlone), 1989

This book contains the papers given at the National Congress on Mary in the Church Today, in July 1984, held to mark the centenary of the Marist Brothers in Athlone, Ireland. The papers represent a wide range of topics by Irish and English scholars all related to Mary: New Testament (John McHugh), history of Marian devotion (Christopher O'Donnell), the Marian dogmas (Michael O'Carroll), Ecumenism (Alberic Stacpoole and John Paterson), Orthodoxy (Metropolitan Anthony), Feminism (Celine Mangan and Donal Flanagan), Youth (Patricia Coyle), Liturgy (Brian Magee), the Irish tradition (Peter O'Dwyer), the Marist Marian heritage (Romuald Gibson).

In addition to developing their individual topic, the participants adhered to the theme of the congress--"Mary in the Church Today"--and recognized that what is said today is not the same as what was said one hundred years ago. "We live in different worlds, with different preoccupations, asking different questions from those of one hundred years ago." John McHugh relates the virginal conception and Mary's perpetual virginity to the New Creation inaugurated by Christ. In his survey of the history of Marian devotion, Christopher O'Donnell proposes "three axes" to evaluate the vitality of Marian devotion in any one period: Mary's relation with Christ, her relation to us, and Mary's beauty. Marian devotion is balanced when these three dimensions are present. Romuald Gibson's account of the founding of the Marist family in 1817--envisioned as "one tree with three branches"--religious men, women and lay persons--outlines both the comprehensive vision of the Marist founders and their conception of the role of Mary in the Church.

The Marists today continue in the spirit of their founder who understood Mary as saying, "I was the support of the new-born Church; I shall be its support at the end of time." Filled with realistic hope for the future, the book continues the thanksgiving celebration begun in Athlone. It fulfills the expectations of the organizers of the congress who wished to make a "worthwhile addition to the ongoing theological and devotional reflection on the role of Mary in the Church today."

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


The Mystery of Mary.
- Gracewing--Hillenbrand Books, 2004.

Father Paul Haffner is an English priest, who studied physics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. After seminary studies at the Venerable English College in Rome, he presented his thesis at the Gregorianum, directed by S. L. Jaki, which was later published as Faith in God the Creator in Relation to Modern Science according to the Works of S.L. Jaki.

Now Fr. Haffner, with scientific precision and great clarity, turns to Marian studies and presents The Mystery of Mary, a well-integrated synthesis of Scripture, liturgy, and Tradition. In his words, the work is a "theological and doctrinal panorama concerning Mary, in an historical perspective," written in "a realistic perspective ... to guarantee the true relation between the knower and reality," an approach which avoids Kantian subjectivism and evolutionary notions.

The two chapters on Scripture are titled "Daughter of Zion" and "Handmaid of the Lord." Five prophetic passages dealing with the Daughter of Zion are fulfilled in the Virgin Mary, who is united to the mysteries of Christ. Mary cannot be separated from this economy of salvation, and this economy cannot be understood apart from Mary.

The work proceeds systematically: the "fullness of grace" is the foundation for Mary's motherhood. In view of her motherhood, she was immaculately conceived and remains ever-virgin, and, in view of that motherhood and her relation to Christ's saving work, she is assumed body and soul. Finally, her motherhood, along with her attentive reception of God's word, provides the basis for her discipleship, her role as co-redemptrix and as Mother of the Church.

Several years ago, Fr. René Laurentin spoke of the need for studies which present a integrated synthesis of doctrine dealing with Mary's relation to Christ and her role in salvation history. This book fulfills Fr. Laurentin's desire, and it will be used in seminary and college courses. Fr. Haffner's purpose in writing was to provide a "little shrine of the mind and heart for Our Lady, to celebrate the one hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the definition of the dogma of her Immaculate Conception."





Truly Our Sister: A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints.
- Elizabeth Johnson. New York: Continuum, 2003.

Sr. Elizabeth A. Johnson, a Sister of St. Joseph of Brentwood, New York, is one of the foremost theologians in the United States. She is Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University, New York, past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, a consultant to the Catholic Bishops' Committee on Women in Church and Society, and a member of the Roman Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue (no.8) which produced The One Mediator, the Saints, and Mary (1992).

This most impressive book is the result of a long search for the true identity of Mary, once freed from all the many roles she has served throughout Christian history. Now, the author feels able to present an image of Mary which is "theologically sound, ecumenically fruitful, spiritually empowering, ethically challenging, and socially liberating." The search took many turns. In preparation for this work, the author researched the image of the Virgin Mary in previous eras. From these earlier studies, she concluded that the patriarchy of the Christian tradition had shortchanged the image of God. Although Mary may have imaged the female qualities of God, "restoring to the holy mystery those elements borne by the figure of Mary can be one contribution toward a doctrine of God freed from the biases and restrictions of patriarchy. Concomitantly, relieving the figure of Mary of its historic burden of imaging God in female form can also remove from the Marian tradition one source of its tendency to distortion and set it more firmly on a gospel path, to ecumenical advantage." ("Mary and the Female Face of God," Theological Studies [1989] 504)

The book is lucidly structured, with interlocking chapters, each presenting an impressive summary of contemporary scholarship. The feminist hermeneutical principles which guide the work are given in the opening chapters; Mary is to be presented not as "transcendent symbol" but as an "historical person." In the description of Miriam of Nazareth's world, there is much valuable material on first-century Galilee: its social, cultural, political, economic situation, the recent archaeological excavations in Galilee, and the religious world of Second Temple Judaism.

The last section begins with impressive commentary on twelve passages of Scripture--featuring the Holy Spirit's relation to Mary, as well as the similarity of Mary's plight to that of so many of the world's marginalized. The final chapter on the Communion of Saints is the glorious denouement, where the Spirit-Sophia who weaves connections brings all together. All separating boundaries are broken down, and a vastly diverse people becomes one. Within "cloud of witnesses" are "paradigmatic figures" who accompany us and wonderfully exemplify what we are called to be.

The final chapters are truly exhilarating. Nevertheless, questions arise, some of which may be left over from the author's previous work, She Who Is. Much as we try to purify the Trinity of "a dreadfully masculinized conception of the Godhead" (Teilhard de Chardin), we cannot abandon the language of the Scriptures or the Creed. We wonder too, whether presenting Mary and the saints as "paradigmatic figures," but rejecting the notion of them as "transcendent symbol" as patronizing, accomplishes much. Many feel the need for being lifted and transformed.

The Communion of Saints surpasses the limits of the Church. It stretches "backward and forward" in time, including the "great and diverse multitude of people who are continually being connected to God and one another in a unique history"--a description similar to the eschatological communion where God will be all in all. But in the mean time, what images might help us to cope with the sinful realities in which we find ourselves?

One book cannot say everything. This is a work, one of few there are, which speaks almost exclusively of Mary as the woman related to the Holy Spirit. The author notes "I have not forgotten Mary as the mother of Jesus," but, "the Christian tradition of art and liturgy has forgotten [Mary and] the Galilean Jewish women with her...." But just as Christ without the Holy Spirit is incomplete, so we wonder about a work on Mary and Holy Spirit with little reference to Christ. It is a most rewarding volume, we hope not the final word, written perhaps, as Augustine said of his own work, "while we continue to search."


The Virgin of Guadalupe: Theological Reflections of an Anglo-Lutheran Liturgist.
- Roman & Littlefield, 2002.

Recently, the Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) produced official liturgical books in Spanish (Libro de oración commun and Libro de Liturgía y Cántico) to assist those ministering to Hispanics. The Virgin of Guadalupe is celebrated in some Protestant churches on December 12. (A publication of the Augsburg Fortress Press, Sundays and Seasons, designates December 12 as "Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.") With the growth of the Hispanic population in the United States, the Virgin of Guadalupe is being studied by all Christians. This book by Maxwell Johnson, a Lutheran church historian and liturgist, now teaching at Notre Dame University, deals with Guadalupe from different perspectives--especially the historical and liturgical--but appears mainly to deal with the concerns non-Catholics might have about Guadalupe.

The work begins with a historical study of the Guadalupan narrative (the Nican Mopohua) and the recurring question of the absence of early written records for the event, an objection raised by many historians. In his response, Johnson frequently gives examples from the formulation of the Scriptures and of early church documents where at times there was a considerable lapse between an event and its formal written record. In preliterate cultures, records were preserved in the oral tradition.

A second part of the work deals with contemporary interpretations of Guadalupe from current American Catholic writers--Virgilio Elizondo, Orlando Espín, Robert Goizuet, Janet Rodriquez--who view Guadalupe within the context of popular religion, at times beyond official religion. Here Guadalupe is seen as a prism of evangelization, of inculturation, and of liberation; it represents the maternity of God and the new creation.

The last chapter corresponds most directly to the reason the book was written. The Guadalupe event appears so foreign to classical Protestantism, which is traditionally reserved in its Marian devotion and especially wary of apparitions and popular religion. Most Protestants now accept the image of the biblical Mary, but Guadalupe involves Mary's spiritual motherhood and her intercession. Is there a way in which Protestantism can embrace Guadalupe while being true to its founding principles? Part of the response is that Guadalupe is "dynamic parable of justification and a beautiful New World parable of the reign of God . . . it is a vehicle for the doctrine of justification by grace.” This book is a great guide through the thicket of ancient and contemporary literature on Guadalupe, as well as a sensitive discussion of the integration of Guadalupe into the liturgy of the churches.



Mary's Flowers: Gardens, Legends, Meditations
- Vincenzina Krymow. Illustrated by A. Joseph Barrish, S.M. Meditations by M. Jean Frisk.
Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger, 1999

This scholarly, beautifully-illustrated book may well be described as a treasury of Marian flower legends, gardens and meditations--as indicated in its title. But, as the author says in the introduction, it is more. "It is a book about devotion to Mary, God's Mother and our Mother. It shows how we continue to honor her through flowers."
Yes, the book does just that, by helping us meditate on Mary's virtues and attributes. Is that not what Marian devotion is all about? To quote Vatican II: "True devotion to Mary proceeds from true faith, by which we are led to know the excellence of the Mother of God, and are moved to filial love toward our mother and to the imitation of her virtues" (LG.67)

What more fitting way to describe Mary's virtues and privileges than by likening them to flowers, which are universally considered to be among God's most beautiful creations on this planet of ours? What better way to praise the Lord of Creation than by honoring Mary his Mother, by comparing her virtues and privileges to flowers, the work of God?

This inspirational gem of botanical lore is divided into three parts: 1) "Mary's Gold" is a history of flowers, legends and names; 2) "Mary's Flowers and the Legends" relate the origins of the associations, many relating to various events of importance in Mary' life, such as the Annunciation (Madonna Lily, Violet); the Visitation (Columbine); the Nativity (Christmas Rose, Carnation, etc.); 3) "Mary's Gardens," describes the appropriate plants for herbal Mary Gardens. Finally, there is an appendix, "Our Lady's Birthday Flowers," with the plants named after Mary: her life, attributes, features, garments, household, her garden and her roses. The book also features an extensive bibliography and index..

As a Montfort Missionary, I could not help relate this Mary-oriented botanical book of flowers to St. Louis Marie's approach to Marian spirituality. In his Secret of Mary, our Saint writes: "Mary is God's garden of Paradise, his unspeakable word, into which his Son entered, to tend it and to take delight in it. He created a world for the wayfarer, i.e., the one in which we live. He created a second world Paradise for the Blessed in heaven. He created a third one for Himself, which He named Mary."(#19)

Because of the technical and artistic beauty of its presentation, the thoroughness of its botanical and historical research, as well as its spiritual and inspirational message, this book can best be described as a worthy floral bouquet to the Mother of God for the Third Millennium.

Roger M. Charest, S.M.


Healing Plants of the Bible
- Vincenzina Krymow
Illustrated by A. Joseph Barrish, S.M.
Meditations by M. Jean Frisk.
Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger, 1999

Healing Plants of the Bible: History, Lore and Meditations invites you to consider not only the lilies of the field, but dozens of other flowers, herbs, trees and plants mentioned in the Bible. This unique and beautiful book offers information about the healing plants mentioned in hundreds of Bible verses, their scriptural context, their use in biblical times, present-day uses and their role in healing body, mind and soul. This book will help you learn the origin of the manna that sustained the Israelites in the desert, of the balm with which Jesus' feet were anointed, of the gall that was offered to him on the cross. It will tell legends of miraculous healing properties possessed by plants mentioned in the Bible. It will help you design your own Scripture garden if you choose and offer you pages of beauty while you wait for your garden to bloom.

With lavish illustrations and exhaustive research, this volume will acquaint you with thirty-eight of the plants most often appearing in Scripture, the lore behind their medicinal properties and meditations that focus on their ability to heal the spirit.


My Soul Magnifies the Lord: A Scriptural Journey with Mary.
- Jeanne Kun.
The Word Among Us Press, 2003.

Suitable for personal reflection or group discussion, twelve chapters present scenes from Mary's life together with the Scriptures and well-chosen explanatory comments. Each chapter also contains Pondering the Word, with questions on the Scriptural data, and Living the Word with the challenges to live the Word in daily life.


Consuming Visions: Mass Culture and the Lourdes Shrine.
- Cornell University Press, 2005.
Suzanne K. Kaufman

A frequent reaction from a sensitive visitor to the Marian shrine of Lourdes in southwest France is a certain surprise, bordering on repugnance, at the commercialism present, not in the sanctuary of Lourdes, but in the surrounding environs. It is this connection between the message of Lourdes and the apparently commercial way in which it is promoted which is studied in this work.

Lourdes occurred at a period in history of great transformation. Those who wished to make Lourdes known used all the advances available--railroads with special cars to accommodate the sick and invalids, popular guide books, religious newspapers, mass-produced picture postcards and religious art which served as both souvenirs and advertisements, urban planning to provide accommodations for great pilgrimages. In a way, it is a study of how the Catholic believer has interacted with the material world in promoting the religious message.

Modernization brought many new ways of making the Lourdes message known. Lourdes--with its great national pilgrimages--revived the Catholic concept of pilgrimage in the nineteenth century, making it available to the emerging mass culture of urban France. Pilgrimage to Lourdes strengthened Catholic devotion, but its Amore-enduring impact would be to enable rural pilgrims, most of them women, to find an important entrance into the world of mass society and consumer culture.

This book points out many of the delicious ironies associated with Lourdes. Lourdes, considered by the anti-clericals of France's Third Republic as a remnant of past medievalism, employed superbly all the advances of the consumer culture. Lourdes, a representative of traditional devotion, becomes an area for engaging women--Parisian ladies who cared for the sick on the pilgrimage trains (so well described by Ruth Harris), correspondents who sent from Lourdes post cards far and wide, participants in the processions, others who gave public testimony of favors received at Lourdes. Those in the medical profession, who were suspicious of the reports of cures at Lourdes, could become members of a medical board examining such cures. In 1903, the anticlerical Combes governments wished to close Lourdes, but was prevented doing so by the economic distress which would be inflicted on the area. The ultimate irony is that this simple "peasant shrine" was made known to millions by a world-famous film--The Song of Bernadette.

This outstanding book deals with pilgrimage and devotion, but also with political, economic and consumerist history. The research is most impressive--from archival, periodical, and historiographical literature--even excerpts from nineteenth-century postcards sent from Lourdes.



The Collected Works of Donald Charles Lacy.
- Donald Charles Lacy
Franklin, Tennessee: Providence House Publishers

Doctor Donald Charles Lacy, "a son of Indiana," has pastored United Methodist churches in Indiana since 1958, and for more than forty years, this seasoned preacher has written on many topics related to ecumenism. His writings stem from "a warm heart, open mind, and willing spirit, with the joyous imperative, 'woe be unto me if I leave these words unsaid', persistently present." In 1979, his Mary and Jesus, a series of Advent meditations for clergy and laity, described the relation between mother and son in well-organized essays which skillfully combined Scripture, doctrine, and pastoral experience. In his newspaper columns, he writes that Mary "transcends all denominations," and he suggests a way that all Christians can pray the Hail Mary. His tips for writers include the suggestion that "writing that is truly significant is born from the wedding of the human and the Divine." These writings reflect that wedding of faith and experience, and they are evidence of the ecumenical spirit which characterizes the disciples of John Wesley.


A Short Treatise on the Virgin Mary.
- Rene Laurentin
Washington, NJ: AMI Press, 1991.

This English translation of a classic of Marian studies Rene Laurentin's Court Traite sur La Vierge Marie has been long awaited. The first edition of this work appeared in 1953; it was revised and updated in succeeding editions. This is a translation of the fifth edition (1967), which includes references to the Marian doctrine of Vatican II.

The work treats with precision many of the historical and theological questions in Marian studies. It is divided into two sections: the first, "Doctrinal Development," outlines the history of Marian doctrines in six historical periods, beginning with the Scriptures. Particularly interesting is the section on the post-Tridentine Marian Movement which culminated in the 1950s with the pontificate of Pius XII. Comparisons are made between the Marian Movement and other preconciliar movements liturgical, ecumenical, scriptural all of which converged in Vatican II, with some reaching the goal for which they had been created.

The second section is a study of the principal Marian doctrines, again considered historically, from their "preparations in the Old Testament up to the parousia where the Church will rejoin the Theotokos in her integral glorification." The scriptural and historical view of Marian doctrines was in sharp contrast to the more speculative approach prevalent in the preconciliar period in the search for the fundamental principle of Mariology. Vatican II saw the development of Marian doctrine within the framework of salvation history: "Mary has entered deeply into the history of salvation." (Lumen gentium 65)

It is a tribute to Fr. Laurentin that, although written twenty-five years ago, the work still offers much to the English-speaking world. While a new introduction on the currents in Marian studies since Vatican II and an updated bibliography would have been desirable, these additions could have even further delayed the work or made its appearance impossible. Fr. Charles Neumann's translation is always clear, precise, and "reader-friendly." Fr. Fred Miller and the World Apostolate of Fatima are to be commended for making this work available. An indispensable reference guide for Marian studies.

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


A Doorway to Silence: The Contemplative Use of The Rosary
- Robert Llewelyn
New York: Paulist Press, 1986

The recent letter of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Christian Meditation," acknowledges that many Christians who seek a contemplative form of prayer look to the East for guidance. Robert Llewelyn, well-versed in the writings of the fourteenth-century English mystic Julian of Norwich, reminds us in this little book that for the last thousand years the West has had a prayer which can be used in a contemplative way--the Rosary.
The Rosary is a combination of different approaches to prayer. During its long history in the West, it has changed and developed. At times, it was a substitute for the psalter or the Western version of the East's slow, rhythmical repetition of the Jesus Prayer. The Pater Nosters and the Ave Marias were joined in various arrangements, until a Carthusian, Henry of Kalkar, suggested the formula of fifteen decades of Ave Marias, each decade introduced by a Pater Noster. Exactly 450 years ago, another Carthusian, Adolph of Essen, suggested that meditations on the mysteries of Christ be part of praying the Aves. Spreading devotion to the Rosary became a special work of the Dominican order. After its official approval in 1569, the Rosary remained unchanged until recently. Now both papal and episcopal documents have reminded us that there is no one way alone in which the Rosary must be prayed.

The reason many may become discouraged with the Rosary is that they have approached it with too much energy and determination and tried to accomplish too much. Don John Chapman wrote that a simple thought in connection with each mystery was the best approach. "If you try to make a mental picture, you will waste time and energy and get no good," he said. Llewelyn unravels the strands in the Rosary's development and presents us with a form of prayer, simpler than usually presented. The Rosary, or a rosary-like prayer, is a way of keeping prayer on course, of directing focus. It can become a prayer of patience and healing, of praise and thanksgiving. As Llewelyn says, the principle of the Rosary is more important than any particular use which we might make of it.
In his letter on the right ordering of Marian devotion, Paul VI spoke at length of the Rosary. Individuals are free to use the Rosary in many forms, he said, and they should be drawn to it because of its intrinsic appeal. Llewelyn's small book helps us to see the Rosary in different ways and invites us to test its value in our lives. Paradoxically, and true to Julian of Norwich, what is important is not how we pray the Rosary but whether the praying leads us to explore the loving silence which lies beyond it.

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


The Annunciation to Mary: A Story of Faith
- Eugene LaVerdiere, S.S S.
Luke 1:26-38. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 2004.

The Annunciation to Mary in Luke's Gospel has been the subject not only of innumerable homilies and commentaries but also the scene most illustrated in Christian art. Jaroslav Pelikan says, "Of all the Marian scenes that have been portrayed through the ages, references to Luke's Annunciation scene have exceeded the number of references to all other Marian themes combined." In a museum in Japan, Fr. LaVerdiere saw a note in front of a beautiful landscape painting: "If you want to appreciate this painting and other landscape paintings, you enter the painting. From the inside, you can see the trees and mountains around you." This work is an invitation to enter and spend some time in the scene - with a well-informed and insightful tour guide.

At the entry, we relate the Annunciation to Mary to the two other scenes which form the triptych in the prologue of Luke's Gospel - the Annunciation to Zachariah, and the Visitation. Gabriel's words are simultaneously an announcement of a great event and of God's choice of Mary and her mission. The angel's message has three phases: the greeting - "Hail, fully graced"; the explanation - the child will be the "Son of the Most High," and, in him, the kingdom of David would become the kingdom of God. Finally, Gabriel says that Jesus' conception by the Holy Spirit will confer on him a unique dignity. Mary's response echoes the words of Abraham, Sarah, Elizabeth: "Nothing (literally no word) will be impossible for God, including the word addressed to me...Fiat."

In this journey into the Annunciation scene, the author accompanies the reader at every step, reviewing, in a new way, what has already been seen. The guide can be picked up at any point - making it an ideal reference for this Gospel which appears frequently in Marian liturgies.

A portrait by El Greco shows St. Luke painting the icon of the Virgin Mary with Child (Hodegetria). Luke, concluded Fr. Laverdiere, was a "superb storyteller, a person of deep excellent artist."


Stories from Mary's Touch Real Life Accounts from the Mary's Touch© Radio Program Volume I
- Cheri Lomonte
Divine Impressions, 2009

It all began with a conviction ... a love for Mary. Cheri Lomonte started as an amateur and then professional photo journalist. She decided to visit shrines of the Blessed Virgin--these were places that seemed to draw her to them. She went there out of adventure, love for beauty and an inner love that she could identify only later in prayer and an amazing ministry. At those places of quiet devotion, she began hearing heart-stopping personal accounts from faith-filled people on how Mary had heard their petitions and lives had changed. She recorded these stories and began to travel even more to take photographs and collect more accounts--to Nicaragua, Peru, Italy, France, and throughout the United States. They are not grandiose theologies, but they are the spoken testimony and revelation spoken in real-life accounts from those touched by Mary. Eventually, these were published in Lomonte's The Healing Touch of Mary, by Divine Impressions in 2005.

Lomonte discovered that there is a fascinating connection between our human world and spiritual reality. Readers did find, and still find today, this collection of moving affirmations to be inspiring, giving hope to a broken and so often hurting world.

But Mary wasn't finished touching Lomonte's life. Growing in her skill at photography and collecting people's living stories, she had to quit her regular job and go to work for Mary and Mary's Son fulltime. She says: "Since the day I made that decision, wonderful things have happened to me. I believe Mary’s presence is affecting my life. I trust her. I know she is here for us." And, so, from her own day-to-day existence, Lomonte has her own miracle to tell. From the book came another idea. She teamed up with Sally Robb who had theological education combined with a taste of Christian radio experience. A new and powerful project began ... Mary's Touch Radio, where the tender and amazing personal stories of Mary in people's lives could be told to even more who would listen. 

Today, Mary's Touch Radio beams across the Midwest. The web page lists numerous radio station times. In August 2008, Lomonte learned that their radio programming had earned the prestigious Gabriel Award for Excellence sponsored by the Catholic Academy for Communication Arts Professionals. They were honored for achieving the Academy's criterion: to uplift and nourish the human spirit.

Mary wasn't done. The next project was to gather the testimonies from the first season of the radio show and publish them. Readers will find this newly-released book, Stories from Mary's Touch© Radio Program, to be a perfect companion during Lent, during the joys and sorrows of their own lives, and as a powerful affirmation of hope that Mary's Son offers if we but listen.

In the Foreword, the Most Rev. Gregory M. Aymond describes the new book as stories "from faith-filled individuals [who] give witness to their close relationship with Mary and the ways in which Mary has prayed for them, journeyed with them in life, and given them a sense of hope in times of difficulty."

Each of the stories is somewhat brief. But as the reader finishes each one, they are left with wonder. Some of the accounts seem almost unbelievable. Together, however, the stories form a modern-day scripture of faith. Father Kevin Rai describes the collection: "These stories are told with an art that does not come from purely human authorship. (They) remind us very poignantly that we, each of us and all of us, really do have a mother in heaven, a mother who watches over us, to whom we can turn in all our needs and troubles ... they reveal the true beauty of the church that Mary typifies. They unveil the face of a mother who deeply cares for her children and unceasingly prays for them."

But now another electronic sharing of faith has occurred to these contemporary Marian evangelists. The healing touch of Mary can be shared ... via a "MARYPOD." What is that you ask? It is an MP3 Player loaded with twenty Stories from Mary's Touch. Lomonte and Robb suggest slipping it into the pocket of one who is hurting--the homeless and the poor, our neighbors, even our family members. What an amazing new idea!

These stories are straightforward and vulnerable. The world may laugh at them. Even we, with our rational minds, may question them. But the "touch of Mary" is mystery. It is a work of God. Through uncomplicated and trusting lives, these people tell the story of Mary bringing the thirsty and the hurting, the needy and the broken to her Son, who is after all the Source of Life and Love.

- Doctor Virginia M. Kimball



The Lost Gospel of Mary: The Mother of Jesus in Three Ancient Texts
- Frederika Matthewes-Green
Paraclete Press (MA), April 2007

The title of this book is intriguing, and yet perhaps for some confusing. We all know that Mary had no gospel and the “good news” is truly her Son. The helpful subtitle gives us the real reason we read Frederika Matthewes-Green’s latest book. She offers some texts about the Virgin Mary which are to many Christians unknown and unavailable.

Eastern Orthodox writer Matthewes-Greene has written an ecumenical book that offers Catholics and Protestants, and even some fellow Orthodox Christians, a look at an apocryphal gospel and two ancient prayers that offer valid insight into the mother who bore Christ. When a non-Orthodox reader launches into this book, however, there are a few statements by the author about non-Eastern Orthodox Christians, where she has described some positions in Christian history which attested negative ideas about the source of her Gospels of Mary. Generally these no longer exist and are no longer really held. For example, she has chosen the title “The Gospel of Mary,” she writes, because it “was excluded from the Roman Catholic tradition because it shows Joseph as a widower. (And there’s another element in the story that so outraged St. Jerome that he termed any work where it appears ‘ravings’ – we’ll get to that later on.)” Most Roman Catholics today either are completely unaware of the tradition of this “Gospel of Mary” as she calls this Proto-Gospel of James, or they are familiar with it due to liturgical art through the ages which depended on this source (such as the stained glass windows in Europe’s Gothic cathedrals), or they are familiar because they have studied Mariology.

The book redeems itself, however, and in a captivating way. As a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, Matthewes-Green can deliver concepts and describe the traditions of eastern Christianity in a refreshing “western” way. She includes in this little book, a page by page analysis of the Proto-Gospel of James with an English translation on one page and her commentary opposite. She is clearly aware of many innuendos that come from the translation of this document from Greek, meanings that a mere English translation would not offer. The next section of her book includes the ancient prayer text known in Latin as the Sub Tuum Subsidium, which the author titles Under Your Compassion. This may be the strongest part of her commentary in the collection of early source material. She tackles the delicate issue of “asking Mary’s prayers,” a topic so important to ecumenical dialogue today. Her graceful way in considering “prayer,” “the saints,” and this ancient petition for help to Mary who bore Christ is gentle and nicely convincing. She writes: “Some Christians who have found prayer companions among the saints report that it has enhanced their faith in undeniable ways – prayers answered, miracles attained, peace received.” She demonstrates the argument for prayer and the mediation of the Virgin Mary from the ages-old experience of Christians, and in this prayer, from ages before Christian division.

The third section of her book is devoted to her own translation and commentary on the ancient prayer, usually chanted in eastern churches of Christianity during the first five weeks of Lent. For many who have glanced at a prayer book with this Annunciation Hymn, as she calls it, they have found confusing rubrics and stilted translation. It is a hymn composed during ancient stressful times when the faithful recognized the powerful protection of Virgin Mary. It is not a hymn of petition begging Mary’s help but a hymn of devotion, a long and poetic hymn that praises the young woman who answered God’s call and gave her “yes.” Named the Akathistos, meaning “not sitting down,” it is a hymn recognizing Mary as a “hometown hero” as the author writes. “As the first step in our rescue, God invited the participation of a real human being, one who had an ordinary human body, which ate and itched and grew tired just like ours. His plan required the partnership of a regular person, and he didn’t choose someone who was powerful, strong or famous; he chose a girl. Everything turned on that moment, and Mary said yes. That seems enough to warrant a ticker-tape parade.” In her contemporary language, the author is pointing to why the ancient hymn of the Akathistos is long, replete with images of beauty, and explores in a multitude of poetic stanzas the very moment of when Gabriel rushed to Mary with the invitation from God. She writes: “Who can comprehend what must have been in her heart in those days, or how severely her faith was tried?”

If the reader perseveres through the three parts of this book, understanding the author’s point of view – which is to share some of the wisdom and beauty of ancient sources about Mary, the mother of Christ – he or she will be inspired to learn more, to reflect on these sources, and to pray. What better purpose can a book serve?

- Virginia M. Kimball


The Vision of the Beloved Disciple: Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John.
- George T. Montague, S.M.
New York: Alba House, 2000.

This is an original approach to the Fourth Gospel: seeing it through the eyes and faith of the author. "The anonymous disciple" is also the universal disciple with whom all can identify. The identification is not with the author's achievements, for which he wishes no recognition. Rather the identification is through a personal relation, a sharing the faith of "the disciple whom Jesus loved."

The reader is invited to experience the impact of the beloved disciple's vision of Jesus. The principal scenes of John's Gospel are presented: Nicodemus on rebirth, the Samaritan woman, the healing of the paralytic, Mary Magdalene, the Calvary scene, the post-Easter appearances. At the same time, the reader enters into the deeper themes of the Gospel: Jesus' gift of the Holy Spirit, the Paschal mystery, communion, the gift of Mary, and evangelization. The final section compares Cana and Calvary, where what was anticipated in one is completed in the other.

As in his many other works, Fr. Montague continues his tradition of allowing the reader to draw the advantage of many contemporary biblical approaches, without intimidating scholarly references. Each section ends with questions related to "real life" for prayer and discussion.


Mary for All Christians
- John Macquarrie
Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991

John Macquarrie (an Anglican Professor of Divinity and Canon of Christ Church at the University of Oxford until his retirement in 1986) offers a clear theological presentation of Mary in the context of the ecumenical discussion. Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, and Anglicans will appreciate the solid Mariological presentation. The book is appropriate for ecumenical dialogue.

Mary for All Christians consists of six chapters which are in tune with ecclesial and ecumenical developments since Vatican II. Chapter one, "God and the Feminine," is not so advanced as are some of the moderate discussions from American feminist theologians like Elizabeth A. Johnson and Anne Carr. This may be due to the slower pace of feminism in England and on the continent. Macquarrie's use of language demonstrates some unfamiliarity with current feminist thought. From a male perspective, I found this chapter least appealing. On the other hand, when read in connection with the final chapter, "Mary and Modernity," a better synthesis appears and some challenging ideas about individual and political morality are presented. Macquarrie has great skill as systematic theologian, always clear and comprehensible. Particularly insightful is the contrast and comparison of the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity with the virtues of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment--liberty, equality, and fraternity.

Chapter two, "Mary in the New Testament," is a fine essay on the passages of the New testament in which Mary is mentioned either directly or indirectly. The skill of Macquarrie consists in a creative and positive presentation--neither minimalist nor maximalist. This chapter would be excellent for ecumenical dialogue.

Succeeding chapters treat the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, and Mary as Mediatrix. These titles are explored in the light of both history and theology. As he explores the history of the development of dogmas, Macquarrie notes a defensiveness in the explanations of the Catholic Church. He relies on Catholic theologians for understanding the titles, while pointing out the shortcomings of such titles in the light of the Scriptures and Church history.

I recommend this work for discussion in ecumenical groups willing to consider the person and role of Mary in the Church and the Scriptures. It would also be a fine gift to seminarians and pastors of all denominations.

- Bertrand Buby, S.M


Our Father, Our Mother: Mary and the Faces of God
- George T. Montague, S.M.
Steubenville, OH: Franciscan University of Steubenville, 1990.

Similar to the convergence of three rivers, so three concerns come together in this work: the full range of meaning for "father" in both revelation and human experience; the meaning of "mother," of Mary's motherhood, of the motherhood of the Church; and finally, the current desire to use inclusive language in the liturgy.

The first part of the book deals with what is specific about Jesus' revelation: that God is Abba (a loving father). The rich notion of Abba includes God's choice of a people, sealed by the bond of covenant, and God's mercy, compassion, and intimacy. God as Abba, though limited as every human image and concept of God is, belongs to the historical core of revelation. As the address Jesus gave us for God, it is essential, and the liturgy cannot abandon it without dismantling the heart of Jesus' revelation." The concept of God overflows that ofAbba, and feminine imagery is used to describe the compassion and tenderness of God; still the fundamental image that Jesus conveys to us about God is found in Abba.

Father Montague is aware that many say that Jesus' revelation about God has led to political or ecclesiastical patriarchy. In reply, he cites ancient and contemporary societies who had one or several feminine representations of God. Despite the female deities, these societies were not free from a patriarchal structure, nor was the status of women in them noticeably better than in those which had only male representations of the deity.

The second part of the book outlines how several feminine motifs in the Old Testament come to a convergence in the person of Mary, who, through the Holy Spirit, provides a context for experiencing the fullness of God's revelation, especially those qualities of God characterized as feminine. Three Old Testament motifs receive fulfillment in Mary: the Queen Mother, the Virgin Daughter Zion, and Mother Zion. The Holy Spirit continues to use these motifs to bring the disciples of Jesus into the presence of the Holy Trinity within them.

This book does not pretend to answer all the questions raised, especially those dealing with language. It arises from the concern that some inclusive language tends to deprive God both of that which is distinctive in Jesus' revelation and also of being a living person someone we can come to know and love. A fine book for discussion groups and adult education classes.


The Woman and the Way: A Marian Path to Jesus
- George T. Montague, S.M.
Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 1994

Recent years have seen a growth of interest in prayer groups, faith-sharing, and Christian life communities. But some who are committed to the Blessed Virgin, perhaps touched by a Marian apparition, hesitate to participate in a Marian prayer group because the procedures for these meetings have not been communicated to them. This book is proposed as a guide or manual explaining the "Marian path to Jesus," and offering suggestions for individuals who wish to take this journey, preferably in company with others in a prayer group.

Father George Montague, S.M., brings to this work his background as a biblical scholar, and professor, his leadership in the charismatic movement, and his experience in the formation of Marianist religious seminarians. The author's long experience with faith-sharing and prayer groups is evident. The introductory chapter gives guidelines on the size of the group, the frequency of meetings, the procedures to be observed. The succeeding chapters are the "steps for the journey," outlining the way for advancing in prayer in the company of Mary. Underlying the "steps for the journey" is the Pauline notion of dying to sin, rising to new life, and advancing in the way of virtue as proposed by Father William Joseph Chaminade, founder of the Marianists. Current phrases like "taking hold," "letting go," and "letting God" convey the traditional stages of spiritual life.

The work is deeply scriptural but also personal. Faith-sharing deals not with abstract concepts but with the ways, the experiences, and the emotions through which the Holy Spirit leads the individual. The book can be used with college students, young adults--anyone who wishes the support which comes when faith and prayer are shared. Individuals who like a map before setting foot on path can gain much from this work.



Mary's Song: Living Her Timeless Prayer
- Mary Catherine Nolan, O.P.
Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2001

Sister Mary Catherine's reflective work introduces us into the world of the Magnificat, which itself is a wonderfully convenient summary of themes found in the psalms and the Gospel. These themes take on new meaning as read from the loving heart of Mary and her living faith in the God of the Covenant. As the psalms speak of God's concern for the poor, so in her song, Mary identifies with and gathers together the anawim--the poor and marginalized people of history.

Through fourteen meditations, corresponding to the verses of the Magnificat, the Scripture verses are first unraveled and then inserted into daily experience. The themes are focused and encourage a wholesome response to God's gifts: life, gratitude, joy, humility, mercy, compassion, remembrance, servanthood, the thirst for justice, the exaltation of the lowly. The Magnificat's concern with justice and liberation is a recurring underlying motif. The commentary has a personal anecdotal style, with directed questions and invitations to prayer. One leaves the work strengthened by the gentle lessons in prayer so well presented in Mary's Song.



At Worship with Mary: A Pastoral and Theological Study
- Christopher O'Donnell
Michael Glazier,1988

The original purpose of this book was to provide information on Marian feasts. For each of the fifteen Marian days in the liturgical calendar, there are historical notes on the origin, exegetical notes on the readings from Scripture, and references to current ecclesial documents which broaden and extend the meaning of the mystery celebrated. Each section concludes with suggested intercessions for the Prayer of the Faithful which succinctly summarize the principal themes of the celebration.

But this is much more than a bland commentary on liturgical texts. O'Donnell realizes that the intellect is not dormant in liturgy and that many questions about theology and devotion arise in the celebration of Marian feasts. For each feast, he provides a well-informed and balanced discussion entitled "Reflection," on questions which may occur to thoughtful and intelligent participants in liturgy. The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, gives rise to a discussion of the origin and Christological significance of the title Theotokos. The feast of Our Lady of Lourdes is the occasion to discuss the significance of shrines and apparitions: the discernment of apparitions and the type of belief which they warrant; shrines as places of pilgrimage; the centrality of the Eucharist at Marian shrines. Popular piety (the way Christianity is incarnated in culture) and its characteristics---spontaneous, festive, open to the transcendent, based on communal memory- are considered in relation to August 5, the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Sometimes, "Reflection" presents the conclusions from contemporary scholarly discussions. In other cases, a Marian prerogative or title, formulated long ago but now little understood and appreciated, is given new meaning. Within the long history of theology and Marian devotion, many titles which at one time conveyed valid and valuable insights today appear irrelevant. For example, grace was once presented in quantitative terms, something channeled and passed on; in this context, Mary as "mediatrix of grace" had meaning. Now, however, grace is presented not so much as something passed on but as a loving relation with the living God. What is, then, the meaning of the title "mediatrix of grace"? Mary is the model or the form through which grace is communicated; she is "the model which God uses in gracing us." Mary's person and loveliness give us the image of the person graced by God.

Through these discussions, a liturgical handbook becomes a compendium of current questions in Mariology. The discussions are honest and critical, not hesitating to deal with the relation of past formulations to contemporary concerns. A valuable bibliography is appended to each discussion.

The title, At Worship with Mary, is well-chosen. We are frequently reminded of the theocentric nature of Marian devotion. On Mary's feasts, we "join in Mary's praise of God's good- ness to her, and through her also to us. " How does Mary contribute to our worship? She is a model for the Church at worship, and she provides a vision of beauty-a vision which does not threaten but only draws us on. Her feasts are moments of repose and refreshment on our journey. "Beauty cannot be possessed; it can only be enjoyed...the admiration of her beauty causes us to marvel also at our own. "

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.



Why did she cry? The story of the Weeping Madonna
- Father George Papadeas.
South Daytona, Florida: PATMOS PRESS, 2000.

This book touches on a deeply felt question that many faithful will ask themselves when they hear about miraculous occurrences that include weeping or bleeding icons or apparitions of the Virgin. “Why did she cry?” What is the reason that the mother of Our Lord is crying and weeping tears, spilling myron (sweet smelling oil) on her face, and crying blood?

This book is an account that is ecumenical in its nature. It is written about three icons, declared to be “Divine Signs” by the Ecumenical Patriarch (head of the Eastern Orthodox churches.) On March 16, 1960, a young married woman on Long Island – also associated with the Roman Catholic shrine of St. Anthony in nearby Oceanside - was praying in front of her icon in a small home prayer corner. She was startled when she noticed a tear in the eye of the Virgin Mary which appeared to her to be sparkling like a diamond. This icon was witnessed for only three days but viewed by thousands as it teared. About one month later, another icon in the home of parishioners Peter and Antonia Koulis began to shed tears, continuing for six weeks. Both these icons were brought to St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Hempstead, Long Island in New York. For three months, they were seen by hundreds of thousands of people. Because the icon was donated to the cathedral, Fr. Papadeas presented yet a third icon to the family, which depicted the Hodegetria (Virgin Mary showing the way to her Son) which is recognized in the Catholic Church as the Mother of Perpetual Help. This icon began to tear profusely on April 12, 1960. This icon, too, was then taken to the cathedral.

Fr. Papadeas relates aspects of this period of time and explores the reason for the miraculous occurrences. It is interesting that there was correspondence between the Roman Catholic love of the Mother of Perpetual Help and the icons with the tears. As the crowds assembled, both at the homes of the icons and then at the cathedral, there was an outpouring of prayer and a drawing together of people of many faiths. People of all faiths read the numerous newspaper accounts and recognition came from all parts of the world. For example, Fr. Papadeas wrote: “Imagine my surprise one day, when I received a ceramic dinner plate from Tokyo, Japan, with the icon of the Madonna etched in the center. This proved one thing – that the hearts of people, regardless of race, color, or creed have a thirst, and are receptive to spiritual expressions and manifestations.”
Translating the ancient Greek liturgical texts and prayer services from Greek to English has been a hallmark of life for Fr. Papadeas. His work has been extensive. [See] Born in 1918, he has produced English texts of the prayers for Great Holy Week in the Orthodox Church, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and the beautiful long Akathist prayer to the Virgin. As pastor and first-hand witness to these three weeping icons, he has gathered together his notes over the many intervening years and offers now his thoughts on the meaning.

This book reads more like a journal, and one can hardly wait until the end to see what conclusion might be reached. Along the way, the author helps the reader understand Orthodox tradition and much of the background about icons. Without giving away the ending, Fr. Papadeas reaches conclusions that perhaps we all already know. There are great divisions among Christians, and feelings of separation from people of other religions. The society has fallen into moral laxity. “These signs,” he wrote, “are nothing short of ‘wake-up calls', for the many who are straddling the moral fence to their detriment.” He believes the “revered Mother” really “wept openly – to touch our hearts.”

It has been nearly fifty years since these weeping Madonnas appeared on Long Island. Why were there three? Why then? How fortunate it is that Fr. Papadeas wrote down his reflections a few years ago. Perhaps, it is a strong ecumenical statement and a mother’s plea for repentance in this corrupt society that is weak and failing, and becoming more so every day.

- Virginia M. Kimball.


Praying by Hand: Rediscovering the Rosary as a Way of Prayer.
- M. Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O.
San Francisco: Harper, 1991.

In the last few years, several books have appeared which present the Rosary not as a type of devotion, but rather as a method of praying. There is a great interest in prayer and spirituality. Two Cistercians, Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington, have made significant contributions to this movement by their writings on the Centering Prayer and other forms of contemplative prayer. Now, Basil Pennington writes a deeply personal book, describing from experience what the Rosary means in his life.

Included is a short history of how beads, stones, and shells have been used by peoples of all religions -- Christians, Muslims, Buddhists -- as a reminder of the call to daily prayer, a help to focus one's attention to prayer, a way to indicate the time spent in prayer, and a bond of solidarity with all who have prayed in this way.

The Rosary is not a fixed prayer to be recited, but rather a method, an instrument, of prayer." There are many ways of praying the Rosary, no one is a priori better than others. Three ways of praying the Rosary the literal, the meditative, and the contemplative are suggested, opening into limitless number of variations. Two sets of meditations on the mysteries are offered the one from the Scriptures, the other written during the author's visit to the Holy Land written from the site of the mystery Nazareth, En Karem, Bethlehem, Jerusalem. Also included are listings of scriptural scenes which could become mysteries of the Rosary at different periods of life: sickness, mourning, pregnancy.

In 1974, Pope Paul VI described the Rosary as a contemplative prayer in which, together with Mary, we center on the great mysteries of our redemption. Fr. Pennington's book is a fine introduction to this approach to the Rosary. (Also recommended is a book previously noted here, Robert Llewelyn's A Doorway to Silence: The Contemplative Use of the Rosary.)

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


Mary in Vietnamese Piety and Theology
- Peter Phan, Theology Digest 49:3 (Fall, 2002)

Vietnamese Catholicism bears the imprint of four centuries of missionary activity, especially the French Societe des Missions-Etrangeres de Paris, which left an indelible mark on Vietnam with its activities from the seventeenth century to 1975. Another influence was the Congregation of Mary Co-Redemptrix, founded by a Vietnamese priest in 1941 (170 members of this congregation settled in Carthage, Missouri, after the fall of Saigon, 1975). Alexandre de Rhodes, most responsible for the transcription of the Vietnamese language into a Romanized script, introduced traditional Vietnamese postures of bowing as part of Marian devotion. Two Marian apparitions occured, both during time of persecution: Our Lady of La Vang (1802) and Our Lady of Tra Kieu (1885), Vietnamese culture and tradition would welcome an image of Mary compassionate and all powerful, as a response to Confucian patriarchalism and to androcentric dominance. In a land where Catholics form less than one-tenth of the population, Mary could also be the topic of dialogue with Buddhism and Confucianism.


Our Lady, the Mother of Jesus in Christian Faith and Devotion
- Norman Pittenger
London: SCM Press, 1996

While it may be "an exaggeration to speak of a Marian movement in contemporary Anglicanism," recent works by Donald Allchin, John Macquarrie, and Norman Pittenger suggest some stirrings. In this work, Pittenger continues his life's project of making the entire fabric of Christian theology accessible in process conceptual categories.

Pittenger sees the roots of Marian reflection in the gospel traditions, refracted through the experience of the Christian community. The gospels are written ex fide, in fidem, to express and invoke faith. The virginal conception in the Lukan and Matthaean infancy narratives affirms that "Jesus [is] genuinely from God rather than to assert the supposed virginity of his mother." In the apocryphal literature, Pittenger distinguishes between sheer legend and genuine myth. The second Eve, the perpetual virginity, and the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary are all classified as "mariological mythology." The Freudian discovery that a mother has an overwhelming influence for good or bad on the conduct of her child is an inductive indication of the Immaculate Conception.

In the Annunciation, Mary's response to the divine initiative makes her "a model of all genuine Christian discipleship." The doctrine of the communion of saints expresses our reliance and interdependence upon one another in the order of grace which, for Pittenger, corresponds also to the order of nature. The inter-connexion of all actual entities in the becoming of creation reflects God's Being as Communion, and Mary's Fiat exemplified that appropriate response as God lures creation eschatologically to himself. The most problematic aspect of Pittenger's work are his references to Jesus as "a peculiarly vivid and decisive revelation of the deity," "a disclosure of God as 'pure unbounded Love," and the consequent reluctance to speak of Mary as "Mother of God."

This book is announced as his "last work" in the career of man who has dedicated himself to "bringing the truth of Christianity out of the cloister or the study and giving it currency in the living thought of men and women today." While affirming his contribution to rendering theology accessible, the highest accolade for this his final work is one of firm and critical appreciation.

Owen F. Cummings
Mount Angel Seminary


Our Lady of Guadalupe: the Origins and Sources of a Mexican National Symbol, 1531-1797
- Stafford Poole, C.M.
Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1996

Stafford Poole writes as a historian seeking documentation for apparitions at Guadalupe to Blessed Juan Diego, popularly believed to have taken place in 1531. In the past quarter century, there have been many serious studies on Guadalupe--Jacques Lafaye, Mauro Rodriguez, Edmundo O'Gorman. The story of Guadalupe is "complex and tortuous in the extreme," and this is perhaps the fullest and clearest available, thanks to the author's familiarity with Nahuatl, the native language.

That a Marian shrine existed at Guadalupe from the first half of the sixteenth century is not disputed. Popular literature will continue to date Guadalupe in 1531 under Bishop Zumarraga, but scholarly opinions will date it to the mid-1550s and Archbishop Montufar. What is questioned is why the account of the apparition was not written until 1648 by Miguel Sanchez, who appeared to use the shrine to promote a national criollo identity. The author seems unaware of the twin traditions, found from 1556 to 1666, one of which stresses the role of the Bishop Zumarraga and the gift of the image, and the other which speaks of Mary's promises and the cure of Juan Diego's uncle. The work concentrates on the written accounts, while the oral traditions which allowed Sanchez to synthesize the traditions are neglected. Though the style is readable, the author writes as a dispassionate observer, rarely showing the sympathy of a William Christian or William Taylor towards the pilgrims, nor much admiration for their trust in Providence.

Martinus Cawley, OCSC


Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant
- Ignace de la Potterle, SJ.
translated by Bertrand Buby, S.M.
New Yorh Alba House, 1992.

This work of Fr. de la Potterie is a philological, historico-critical exegesis of biblical texts relevant to the Virgin Mary and her mission in salvation history. His investigation leads to a study of the fundamental mystery of all of Scripture: the mystery of the covenant between God and people. Mary is seen in the light of the covenant as the personification of the "People of God," the "Daughter of Zion," the "Figure of the Synagogue," the "Spouse of God," the "Image of the Church."

In the epilogue, the author writes that "Mary is the very structure of Covenant, seen from humanity, whom Mary represents." Mary becomes the image, the figure representing the total people of God in its relation with God. The translation, by Fr. Bert Buby, is always clear and reader-friendly.

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.





Behold Your Mother: Priests Speak About Mary
- Edited by Stephen J. Rossetti
Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1991

Stephen J. Rossetti, editor of a new inspiring book for priests, Behold Your Mother, starts off with a confession. “In this modern era, I think many priests, including myself, viewed a Marian spirituality as something optional.” He admits that after listening to scholars and the priests who have authored the chapters of this book, he unabashedly affirms: “a Marian spirituality is not an optional, private devotion. God wills this woman to be an integral part of our Christian spiritual lives.” These are potent words that our modern church and particularly faithful priests need to hear.

This book includes the heartfelt and honest words of ten priests who know the truth themselves of Mary’s importance to one's spiritual life. It is not for priests alone to read. Every Catholic is aware of the contemporary crisis in the Church, understanding the loneliness and challenge that the faithful remnant of priests now serving the Church face in their lives every day. However, the insight into Mary’s importance of Mary that comes in the words of these faithful servants who have contributed to this book helps to heal the fear and doubt plaguing many in the laity.

Rossetti himself contributes a powerful chapter entitled “She will crush his head.” He addresses the often unspoken reality that Satan is the source of attack on the priesthood and the church. He shares insights from his own ministry with troubled priests noting that anger grips the society, a sign of Satan’s work. “Satan is an enraged being. He is consumed with a pervasive inner rage; it is perpetually eating him up from the inside.” Rossetti’s sound training in psychological counseling balances his words of caution to priests that there is a spiritual battle that is real and can be devastating to each man’s personal priestly life. He describes priests who have been consumed with “a cocaine addiction, alcoholism, internet pornography and/or a long series of sexual contacts.” Sinking to these lifestyles introduces, in the words of one priest he quotes, a “real ontological evil.” It is a battleground, he writes. “I believe that the spiritual battle is particularly important and waged with a special intensity in our priests.” The solution he finds is turning to Mary, the woman who can strike at the heel of Satan. It is more than assuming a personal devotion. He points out that Christ, himself, commanded us to turn to Mary, saying: “Behold, your mother.”

Many of the chapters recount personal experiences of Mary’s presence offering a human side to the priestly life. Many of the priests recall their mothers teaching them in childhood about Mary. But these early lessons are confirmed in later moments when the reality of Mary’s touch is realized in their priestly ministry. Fernando Ferrarese recalls one stormy night when he attempted to help a distraught wife deal with a miscarriage that threatened her marriage. Searching for ways to comfort her he thought of Mary and the pain of her loss at calvary. “As I was encouraging her to confide in this special, loving woman I felt a presence enter my office, a presence of ineffable sweetness.” At this moment, he sensed that “Mary was real.” The priests writing these chapters relate much of the church’s compendium of wisdom and writings on Mary, but balance it with a lived and acknowledged awareness of her reality.

Another strong chapter is offered by Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R. He took the opportunity in this collection of priestly thoughts about Mary to offer suggestions to the contemporary profusion of people who claim personal revelations. Referring to his own book on the subject, A Still Small Voice, he chooses a few succinct ideas to offer for priestly readers here. He warns that priests should be sure they are not too skeptical to expect the hand of God in people’s lives, yet at the same time suggests caution in handling the enthusiasm of “those who are intrigued or even mesmerized by a report of a private revelation.

Each chapter is unique. The interesting aspect for all readers is to see how priests can come to Mary through diverse paths. Some are more theological and systematic. Others, like the editor Rossetti, bring pastoral experiences to the discussion which are dynamic and sensitive. In conclusion, Rossetti gathers all the priests’ words into one basket of insights: it is time to re-energize Marian spirituality, remembering that important gifts of God come through the hands of Mary; she is the one who can bring us closer to her Son; she is the woman clothed with the sun whose heel strikes at the serpent and is our protector against evil; she is the unique mother who gives grace and strength to live out a celibate life; and she gives priests the feminine side of God showering them with loving, feminine tenderness. This is a fine read for all who care about the Church today and the spiritual strength that comes through Mary.

- Doctor Virginia Kimball, S.T.D.



Mary, Model and Mother of Consecrated Life: A Marian Synthesis of the Theology of Consecrated Life Based on the Teachings of John Paul II
- Fidelis Stöckl, ORC
Quezon City, Philippines: ICLA Publications, 2003.

Significant ecclesial reflection on the nature of religious life in the Church (also known as the consecrated life) occurred ten years ago at the 1994 Synod of Bishops. Two years later, the synodal recommendations were published in the Apostolic Letter, The Consecrated Life, a milestone document in the history of the religious life. The consecrated life was placed within a much larger context: the Trinitarian and the ecclesial life of communion and community. The mission of the individual religious and of religious institutes flowed from consecration. The Virgin Mary as the model of the consecrated life is integrated into the life and mission of the institutes. (Some of these themes had already been anticipated in the documents from the post-Vatican II general chapters of religious institutes, especially the Servites.)

Fr. Stöckl's book is a synthesis of the themes from The Consecrated Life and from the many letters of John Paul II, especially those addressed to religious institutes. The consecrated life is rooted in the mystery of the Church--which is virginal, spousal, and maternal. These three dimensions of the Church are Mary's core identity, and they are represented in the consecrated life. "The history of the consecrated life reflects the maternal presence of Mary in the mystery of the Church in a unique way." Mary's mission is continued in the consecrated life through the ministry of prayer, witness, and service.

These ideas are slowly entering our religious consciousness, but they are still embedded in works frequently inaccessible to those interested in the religious life. The great value of this study is its clear, intelligible, and attractive synthesis of these new insights on the religious life from the synod and the papal addresses.


Missing Mary: The Queen of Heaven and Her Re-Emergence in the Modern Church
- Charlene Spretnak.
New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Charlene Spretnak is professor in the philosophy and religion program at the California Institute of Integral Studies, a graduate institute in San Francisco. She has written on eco-feminism, women's spirituality, and a philosophy embedded in creation; she regrets that modernity has detached humanity from a more life-giving relation to the universe. This book applies the author's philosophical positions to contemporary Marian devotion. The author accepts the teachings of Vatican II, but has a quarrel with only "one eighth of one of the sixteen documents of Vatican II" (Lumen Gentium's eighth chapter) which, in the eyes of the author, has reduced Mary's "cosmological spiritual presence" into a simple biblical, modernist, radically minimalized figure--from Queen of the Universe to a "Nazarene village woman."

Missing Mary begins the "modernizing" of Mary in the 1960s, and proceeds to grassroots movement for "reinstating" Mary, to ethnic groups who have retained traditional and beautiful expressions of Marian devotion, to suggestions for restating Mary into a world cosmological vision, and finally to the gnostic denial of the essential physical, created order to which this reduced figure of Mary has contributed. The onus for these developments is the Marian minimalism of Vatican II, almost as if some other type of conciliar statement could have been the dyke against modernism.

In the post-Vatican II whirlwind, horrors may have been committed in the name of renewal, but not all were caused by the council documents. Vatican II's integration of Mary in the mystery of Christ and the Church may have displaced a certain type of devotion, but it also produced one much more directly related to Christian life. The proposals for reinstating Mary's cosmological status vary greatly, from associating Mary with a maternal ethics of compassion, to elevating her as a free-floating goddess. However, underneath, the author does express the cri de coeur of many young Catholics who feel that they have been deprived of a rich symbolic tradition, and who yearn for a deep sacramental consciousness and an integrated spirituality (and she often quotes this newsletter).


The Hail Mary: A Verbal Icon of Mary.
- Nicholas Ayo, C.S.C.
Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994.

The Hail Mary has been part of the prayer life of the Western Church since the eleventh century. Two lines of St. Luke's Gospel--The Annunciation, and the Visitation verses (Lk. 2:26 and 2:41)--were joined to form the first part of the prayer. The second part--invocation of the "Mother of God" and the request for her intercession--was derived from the popular litanies. the text was given its present form in 1569 when it appeared in the Breviary of Pius V.

In the Gospel's introduction to the Our Father, Christ's admonition that we should not simply repeat works but live the spirit of the prayer may occasionally cause us to take time to reflect on this prayer. Similarly, the words of the Hail Mary, especially since they are so frequently repeated as part of the Angelus and the Rosary merit our reflective consideration. Father Ayo's book is a guide for this endeavor.

The first part of the book deals with the origins and history of the Hail Mary, and the third part provides a number of classical and contemporary commentaries on this prayer--from St. Cyril of Alexandria to Sr. Agnes Cunningham. In the central portion, each of the phrases of the Hail Mary is explored and used as a springboard to discuss larger issues of prayer and Marian devotion.

Father Ayo capably handles the historical and exegetical materials, but at the same time he is aware of the difficulties which surface when some reflect on the works of this prayer. Do certain traditional images contribute to a misunderstanding rather than clarification of Mary? Should not God's assistance rather than Mary's be sought at the crucial moment of death? What is required before one can accept and appreciate this simple prayer? A beautiful quality of the work is the author's respect for the sensitivities of the reader. Pope Paul VI wrote that Marian prayer is not to be imposed but presented in such a way that people are drawn "by its intrinsic value." Similar to an icon, this work conveys a spiritual atmosphere while at the same time serving as a window open to the mystery of Christ and His mother.

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


The Beauty of the Holiness and the Holiness of the Beauty: Art, Sanctity, and the Truth of Catholicism.
- John Saward
San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997.

Words from Cardinal Ratzinger set the tone for this work: "The only effective apologia for Christianity are the saints which it has produced and the art which it has nurtured." Through an examination of the figures in Fra Angelico's Altarpiece in the Church of San Marco, Florence, Professor Saward examines the meaning of holiness, beauty and art. Each of the characters in the altarpiece is analyzed: the angels, St. Francis, St. Dominic, the Christ Child, the Virgin Mary. St. Thomas Aquinas is not pictured in the altarpiece, but his theology of beauty, characterized by clarity, harmony, and wholeness, deeply influenced the work of Fra Angelico. Pastoral theology , the author insists, must be a theology of beauty.

A second section deals with the relation of art to sanctity, morality, and the Eucharist; the third section deals with the beauty of Our Lady her faith, her holiness, her person as the paradigm for the renewal of Christian culture. The last section dears with martyrdom, the greatest expression of Christianity's rejection of the world, and the great works of art which martyrdom has inspired. In this "primer of theological beauty, " Professor Saward acknowledges the contributions which Hans Urs von Balthasar and Pope John Paul II have made to the restoration of theological aesthetics.

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


Redeemer in the Womb
- John Saward
San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993

Catholic spirituality is centered on Christ. Whereas modern thinking strives to interpret the exact words and teachings of Christ, an older spirituality and theology concentrated on the interior dispositions of Christ--his poverty, obedience, filial piety, resignation--and the events of his life. These "mysteries" or "states" of Christ's life continue into the present, and the Christian spirituality consists in reliving and participating in these attitudes and events.

Formerly of Ushaw College, Durham, and now at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philidelphia, John Saward presents a rich work of theology, spirituality, and ethics to consider one period of Christ's life--the nine months he passed within the body of the Virgin Mary. This "work of reclamation," as Professor Saward terms it, brings together "what early Christian writers, Christian philosophy, liturgy, poetry, and iconography" have said about this now forgotten period--the nine months of Jesus' embryonic and fetal life in Mary. Central to the story is the Annunciation, "the chief feast of the Incarnation." Christ's birth is the manifestation to the world of what occurred at the Annunciation. Through Mary's "Yes," the pre-existing Son of God assumed a human flesh and a human soul. The Eastern writers, especially Maximus the Confessor, insist upon the inseparability of body and soul, the wholeness of Christ's human person from the very beginning.

Christian spirituality does not limit communication to the verbal. At the Visitation, Mary, the new Ark of the Covenant, bears within her the God-become-man who sanctifies His forerunner, John the Baptist. Jesus' mission of sanctifying others begins even before his birth. Both Elizabeth and Joseph are filled with reverential wonder at the presence of the divine within Mary. Elizabeth expresses amazement that Mary, "the Mother of the Lord" should come to her. Joseph wanted to leave Mary, not because he was ashamed of her conduct, but because he sensed the divine presence within her. Mary's Assumption is the final transfer of the Ark, the "shrine of the living God."

This indwelling of Christ in Mary's womb is a figure of Christian reality. The womb in which Christ now dwells is "wide as the world"--it is the Church, the Eucharist, the individual. In each case, Christ comes trusting and defenseless, present as an unborn child awaiting a birth.

Saward's book is the perfect Advent book--the Advent not limited to the liturgical season. Caryll Houselander, whom Saward regards as a prophet, saw Advent as a time of darkness, of waiting. "We shall not see Christ's radiance in our lives yet; it is still hidden in our darkness; nevertheless, we must believe that He is growing in our lives; we must believe it so firmly that we cannot help relating everything, literally everything, to this almost incredible reality."

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


Adele: A Biography of Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon
- Joseph Stefanelli S.M.
North American Center for Marianist Studies

The two-hundredth anniversary of the birth and baptism of Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon (Venerable Mother Marie of the Conception) will be commemorated on June 10, 1989, by Marianists throughout the world. To enhance the celebration, a new work by Joseph Stefanelli, S.M., on the life of the foundress of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate has been prepared. Adele is the comprehensive biography; sure to find its way into the hands of all those who have waited for years for such a resource.

In the Preface, Father Stefanelli, a noted scholar and author in Marianist studies, summarizes the materials he used as reference. So, after Adele's death, many of the sources, such as letters and other primary documents, were gathered for a memoir, but these were accidentally destroyed following the death of one of the biographers. The task of reconstructing Adele's life - her activities, the influential people in her life, her personality - has been undertaken by many during the past two centuries, but Father Stefanelli's book is the first work of this magnitude available in English.

Adele's story is an engaging one. It is, in one sense, the simple story of a young aristocratic woman in rural southwestern France who founds and inspires a religious congregation of women, the Marianist Sisters. But, it is also a story of profound faith, courage, compassion, and determination during one of history's most dramatic periods. The see-saw politics of Revolutionary France, the danger and uncertainties for Roman Catholics, the disruption of family and economic life, are all the backdrop for scenes from Adele's life of prayer her succor to the needy, and her institution of a network of dedicated young women throughout France, a network tied together primarily through Adele's prodigious letter-writing and her appealing, motivating ways.

Father Stefanelli has provided students of Adele's life with a valuable research document. The appendices include bibliographic data and references, lists of correspondents, religious and secular names, personnel statistics, maps, biographical data on early members of the Daughters, a concordance of letters special notes, and an index.

For those interested in Adele's special charisma, very personal glimpses into her spiritual exercises her thoughts, hopes, and frustrations-even her humor-are offered through excerpts or summaries of her letters. For those seeking a fuller sense of the interweavings of Father William Joseph Chaminade's and Adele's works, several chapters detail the association between the two and the flowering of the family tree of faith that they together planted and tended.

The volume comprises nearly six hundred pages and contains numerous photographs. The book is available through the Marianist Resources Commission, the publication arm of the North American Center for Marianist Studies.

Carol Quinn Hiri


Experiencing Saint Thérèse Today (Carmelite Studies)
- Edited by John Sullivan, O.C.D.
Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1990

This book of essays is from the Chicago symposium of 1988 marking the centenary of Therese's entrance into Carmel. Therese of Lisieux continues to appeal to a wide array of thinkers and readers today- evident from the interest in Alain Cavalier's beautiful, though flawed film Therese.

Included in this collection are "The Song of Songs and St. Therese" (Roland Murphy); "The World of Therese: France, Church and State in the Late Nineteenth Century" (Leopold Glueckert); " An Artist and a Saint: Edward Weston and St. Therese of Lisieux" (James Georghegan); "The Religious Plays of St. Therese of Lisieux" (John Russell); "Therese's Approach to Gospel Living (Redemptis Valabek); "Therese and the: Mother of God" (Eamon R. Carroll); "Therese, A Latter- day Interpreter of St. John of the Cross" (Margaret Dorgan); "A Feminist View of Therese" (Joann Wolski Conn); "Religious Devotion or Masochism? A Psychoanalyst Looks at Therese" (Ann Belford Ulanov); "Therese and the Modern Temperament (Barry Ulanov); and "Therese of Lisieux: A Challenge for Doctrine and Theology-Forerunner of Vatican III" (William Thompson).

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.



El Secreto de sus Ojos: Estudio de los Ojos de la Virgen de Guadalupe
- José Aste Tönsmann
México: Tercer Milenio S.A., 1999

In 1531, ten years after the Spanish conquered Mexico, as Juan Diego came before the bishop to present to him roses which he gathered in December, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was revealed on the cloak which contained the roses. Each year, ten million people visit the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City where Juan Diego's cloak is on public display. For more than four centuries, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has been an object of veneration and also of investigation.

Beginning in the seventeenth century, studies were made into the style of the painting, the origin, a possible relation to some other style. The preservation of the painting on the cactus cloth, which should have deteriorated after twenty years, and the unfading brightness of the colors remain unexplainable. Infrared photography and computer enhancement of the image, begun in the 1980's could not find the "under sketch" which most artists would need for such work. This finding - plus the style, the colors, the design, and the preservation - caused the investigators to conclude that the work was the result of many "impossible coincidences."

But it is the eyes of the image which have fascinated investigators for the past fifty years. In the last century, two nineteenth-century ophthalmologists (Purkinje and Sanson) discovered that whatever is seen in the eye is also reflected in the eye (actually reflected in three places due to the curvature of the cornea). In the 1950's, an examination of the eyes of the image, by Dr. Rafael Torija-Lavoignet, identified the figure of Juan Diego. The most recent investigations of the eyes were conducted by Dr. José Aste Tönsmann, (Ph.D., Cornell University, Systems Engineering) who applied the same techniques used to interpret images received from surveillance satellites. The eyes of the image (about eight millimeters), were amplified twenty-five hundred times. The photos were digitally processed, and filters were used to separate the layers within the images. Dr. Tönsmann found more than the image of Juan Diego. Within the eyes were a group of thirteen people, including Bishop Zumarraga, Juan Diego, a seated Indian figure, a younger man acting as interpreter for the bishop, a male and a female with African characteristics (referred to in Zumarraga's will), the governor of the colony (Sebastian Ramirez y Fuenleal, and, standing in the back, a family group (man, woman, and several children). The same thirteen images, save one, are found in both eyes, This discovery of the family group in the Virgin's eyes, Dr. Tönsmann concluded, may be a "hidden message," reserved for our time, intended to strengthen family life.


The Forthbringer of God: St. Bonaventure on the Virgin Mary
- George H. Tavard
Franciscan Herald Press, 1989

George Tavard's work on St. Bonaventure stems from his involvement in the Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue on the Virgin Mary (begun in 1984 and not yet completed) and his long-standing interest in the thirteenth-century Franciscan.

Bonaventure, along with Thomas Aquinas and Albert the Great, opposed what he considered to be the unauthorized liturgical celebration of the feast of Mary's Conception. For that reason, he may have been eclipsed in recent Marian studies by Duns Scotus, another Franciscan, who proposed the basis for the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

Although Bonaventure wrote no separate work on the Virgin Mary, references to her are found throughout his writings. Fr. Tavard's book is divided into four parts, which follow the pattern of Sentences; "Scriptural Meditations"--from his biblical commentaries; "Liturgical Piety"--from his homilies on the Virgin Mary; and "Mystical Insight"--from his non-scholastic works of spirituality.

Much of Bonaventure's thought on the Virgin Mary is focused on the Annunciation. "In her task as channel for the Incarnation, Mary brought forth to us the Word of God Incarnate." Mary's cooperation with the Holy Spirit in the conception and the birth of Christ constitutes the basis for the title, "Forthbringer of God," a more exact rendering of Theotocos than "Mother of God," and a title which expresses the aspect of divine motherhood most emphasized by Bonaventure.

The thought of Bonaventure is profoundly Christocentric: Christ the word made flesh is at the center, with a radiation outward to include the Holy Spirit, the Church, humanity. In the thought of Bonaventure, Mary's sinlessness and her Assumption are seen not so much as "privileges," but as icons or images of the ultimate reality in Christ and its projection into the Church.

The thought of Bonaventure on Mary might appear remote. Fr. Tavard, however, believes that many of the categories with which we now speak of the Virgin Mary have become obsolete and hinder ecumenism. He offers the work as a contribution to the ecumenical dialogue, in the hope that the thought of the great thirteenth-century Franciscan mystic and theologian, who wrote before the definition of the Marian dogmas, may one day contribute to new ways of speaking about the Virgin Mary.

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


The Thousand Faces of the Virgin Mary
- George H. Tavard
Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1996

Father Tavard began his book on Anglican orders saying that he had resolved not to write more on that topic unless something new could be said. He could have made a similar resolve about the Blessed Virgin, for much in this book has not been said before. Marian titles are not the subject of this book. Rather it is an examination of Mary's relation to "Christian doctrines in a broad ecumenical perspective." The broad ecumenical perspective includes the place of Mary in the Scriptures, the apochryphal literature, the Koran; the images of Mary in Eastern Orthodoxy, in Protestantism, in poetry, in popular devotion and apparitions. There are also instructive chapters on female symbols of the Absolute in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Tavard should be recognized as a pioneer of Christian feminism, one who wrote on the topic before the term gained currency. He insists that grammatical gender is no indication of the reality. He also shows that the equality of women is independent of whether a society is matriarchal and patriarchal, both of which have alternated in the course of history. He is concerned about Scriptural texts cited to justify destruction of the earth--Gaia--and its resources. To the medieval trilogy which related Church, Mary, and soul, he adds Gaia.

To attempt an ecumenical treatise on Mary is no small challenge, since both the World Council of Churches and the bilateral ecumenical discussions have shown great reluctance to discuss Marian doctrine and devotion. When the churches are ready to discuss the Marian doctrine, Tavard suggests the two Marian definitions of 1854 and 1950 be restated in a way that the whole of Christian tradition, including Orthodoxy and Protestantism can contribute to its formulation. This may well be the "ultimate test of ecumenical commitment."

There is an impassioned ecumenism in these pages, not unlike the insistence on the need for Christian unity found in John Paul II's encyclical That All May Be One. In both works, unity is not something which is added to the Gospel, but something which stands at the heart of the Christian message (#9). Its absence is a "grave obstacle" to the preaching of the Gospel." In the matter of definition of doctrines, Tavard states that "authorities of the Church should strive for pastoral reasons to make the path of salvation less onerous." The Pope states, that in the journey toward unity, "one must not impose any burden beyond that which is strictly necessary." (#78) (cf. Acts 15, 28) The encyclical asks "What more needs to be done?" Fr. Tavard's book is full of suggestions.

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


The Magnificat: Musicians as Biblical Interpreters
- Samuel Terrien
New York/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1995

Mary's Canticle, the Magnificat, is a cherished part of the daily prayer of all the churches. In addition to the various ecclesiastical chants, classical composers - from Dufay, through Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Telemann; to Vaughan Williams, Tippett and Penderecki - have set the text of the Magnificat to music. The purpose of this unique book of Scriptural commentary and musical analysis is to suggest that sometimes composers in their musical settings of the Magnificat have captured and "expounded more forcefully the meaning of the text than have scholars and theologians."

For Samuel Terrien, longtime professor of Hebrew and cognate languages at Union Theological Seminary, the Magnificat was originally written in Hebrew. This becomes evident, he points out, when the present Greek text is translated back into Hebrew: several striking features common to Hebrew poetry appear. Fortunately, Professor Terrien provides a useful "Table of Parallelism and Assonances of Hebrew Words" of the Magnificat. The verses from the Gospel of Luke translated into Hebrew are as a "masterpiece of Hebrew poetry" with a structure similar to many psalms: a poem of four strophes centered around a core affirmation- Luke 1, 51.

A commentary on each of the four strophes is provided. Because of the author's deep familiarity with the Hebrew poetry of the psalms, strikingly original interpretations are offered. For example, "All generations shall call me blessed," may sound like static affirmation. However, the underlying substratum for the word "blessed" refers to a happiness which is "ongoing, growing, and which includes others." It is a "summons to the voyage of life from a leader." Mary's declaration of happiness is a challenge to the Church to "prolong, continue, broaden, and incarnate Mary's expectation." Another example: God's mercy (v. 50) on those who fear him denotes his longing to be with humanity; the fear of humanity is that it cannot adequately respond to the selfless compassion of God.

The climax is the core-verse (v.51): "He has shown strength in his arm; he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts." This verse relates the incarnation to justice, and points to the disintegration which must come to those who trust in themselves and their riches.

After the commentary on each strophe, there is an analysis of a section of the Magnificat from one of the classical composers, showing how the musical passage conveys, in striking ways, a meaning of the text difficult to convey with words alone- solidarity , incompletion, and expectation.

Those who wish soothing platitudes and gentle consolation are advised to avoid this book. On the other hand, those who read the commentary and listen to the suggested musical passages will find that the Magnificat will never be quite the same.

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.



Mary in the Church: A Selection of Teaching Documents
- USCCB Publishing, 2003

A collection of recent documents on Mary from the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, intended as a resource for those "desiring a deeper understanding of Mary's role in Christianity." In the Foreward, Bishop Wilton D. Gregory writes, "It is to be hoped that this compendium of important Catholic documents on the Mother of God will enrich the faith and love of all who seek to imitate her on their way to Christ."



The Beauty of Mary
- Compiled and edited by Rosemary Vaccari Mysel
Andrew J. Vaccari, and Peter I. Vaccari, Pauline Books & Media, Boston, 2008.

This little gem of a book is a compilation of over forty of the “best Marian authors through the ages.” According to Sr. M. Jean Frisk of the International Research Institute at the University of Dayton in Ohio, “In this anthology, authors of Eastern and Western traditions – poets and saints, housewives and theologians, mystics and founders, as well as popes – present with words of wisdom and beauty Mary’s ‘critical mission in our salvation'.” The first section of the book is a collection of writing on the Marian Mission as oriented in scripture. The second section of this book concerns liturgical celebrations of the Roman church and Mary’s mediation in the Church’s mission. These liturgical themes initiate poetic and theological reflections that can be used in personal spiritual reading, prayer, and catechetical teaching.

Part One of the book concerns the “Marian Mission” covering Mary’s Place in God’s Plan, the Annunciation, the Visitation, Mary’s Canticle, the Birth of Jesus, the Presentation of the Lord, the Finding of Jesus in the Temple, the Hidden Life, the Wedding Feast at Cana, “Who is my mother?,” Mary at the Foot of the Cross, at the Cenacle, the Woman of the Apocalypse, and Mary, Mother of Holiness (a prayer).

Part Two covers the liturgical celebrations of: the Solemnity of Mary (January 1), the Presentation of the Lord (February 2), Our Lady of Lourdes (February 11), the Annunciation (March 25), the Visitation (May 31), Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (May 31), Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (July 16), Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (August 5), the Assumption (August 15), the Queenship of Mary (August 22), Birth of Mary (September 8), the Most Holy Name of Mary (September 12), Our Lady of Sorrows (September 15), Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7), Feast of the Presentation of Mary ((November 21), the Immaculate Conception (December 8), Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12), Mary’s Fiat (December 20), and the Christmas season.

According to the Preface, “This volume traces the story of faith and love that is found in the maternal heart of Mary. Mary of Nazareth, who becomes the mother of God by divine design and her co-operation, continues to accompany the church in her own pilgrimage of faith.”

For Christians of all traditions, this little collection of reflections from early Christian ages until modern times could provide some measure of common regard for the mother of Christ.

Doctor Virginia Kimball



Stories of the Rose: The Making of the Rosary in the Middle Ages
- Anne Winston-Allen
University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997

Both the Bollandist scholar, Thomas Esser, and, later at the turn of the last century, Herbert Thurston concluded that the four-hundred-year tradition attributing the rosary to St. Dominic was a case of mistaken identity (although Dominicans from the fifteenth century were its chief promoters). Since these works appeared, there has been much research on the origins and the evolution of this prayer. From about the eleventh century, the recitation of 150 prayers (Pater Noster or Ave Maria) was considered a way of participating in the monastic office. From the eleventh to the fourteenth century, many "rosary-like" prayers appeared - psalm refrains or rhymed verses interspersed with the words of the Ave Maria.

Anne Winston-Allen's study investigates the developments which occurred from 1420 to 1520 in Germany. Here, in Cistercian circles, a "life-of-Christ" rosary developed, attributed to Dominic of Prussia, with fifty short phrases (clausulae) added to the Ave Maria. As an aid to meditation, these fifty scenes from Christ's life soon appeared on woodcuts. The Ulm Picture Rosary, containing these woodcuts, was among the earliest devotional works printed. Because, in popular recitation, it was difficult to retain the fifty points, the fifteen mysteries developed. Perhaps the most original part of Winston-Allen's work is to locate the origins of the mysteries in the statutes of the rosary confraternities.

In the 1470s, rosary confraternities or sodalities flourished in Cologne, Douai, Venice. The rosary fraternities attracted thousands of members, as they fulfilled the desire for greater religious participation. Winston-Allen's work refers frequently to current literature on late medieval piety and devotion-a topic related to many Reformation issues. Ironically, the many indulgences granted to the rosary and the fraternities soon over-shadowed and transformed a simple and basically contemplative prayer into a structured and unchangeable form. The author concludes that the rosary's development was not unlike a "tissue of quotations drawn from innumerable centers of culture" (Roland Barthes). It was a form of prayer which developed over several centuries drawing from many sources.

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


PonderThese Things: Praying with Icons of the Virgin.
- Rowan Williams. Foreward by Kallistos Ware.
Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2002.

Rowan Williams, soon to be installed as Archbishop of Canterbury, has written a small and a beautiful book on prayers, icons, and Mary. Icons are not simply "works of religious art," but "theology in line and color." Rather than simply gaze on them, we must "read what the icon writer has written." Important in these meditations is William's great sensitivity to the "lines and directions" within the icon.

Three icons are considered: the One Who Points the Way; the Virgin of Loving Kindness, and the Virgin of the Sign. In the first, Mary points away from herself to Jesus, whose eyes are directed to Mary, while Mary's eyes look toward us. In the icon, Jesus is not an isolated figure but one in relation with others.

We are invited to enter with Jesus "into his own self-forgetting engagement with the human world" and not simply contemplate him as a divine but isolated individual.

In the Virgin of Loving Kindness, the Infant clinging to Mary points out that God cannot be separated from the world he created, that he is passionate for our company. Mary's somber gaze directed toward us speaks of the many levels of the divine presence, which mold, challenge, and transform.

The Virgin of the Sign, with the representation of Christ within the body of Mary, is an image of the Church. Christ is concealed in the center of the Church; the image encourages the Church to trust in the God hidden in its life. Rowan concludes that "Imaging Mary in words and pictures has always been one of the most powerful ways of imagining the Church."

This work, a "spiritual gem" and appropriate for the Christmas season, is, as Bishop Kallistos Ware mentions in the Introduction, "to be read not once only but many times."


The Virgin Mary in Recent Ecumenical Dialogues
- Jared Wick, S.J.
Gregorianum 81, 1 (2000) 25-57

There are indications that the dominant theme of future ecumenical discussions will be ecclesiology: what is the nature of the church, how can diverse structures be reconciled, how should the apparently intractable differences between the churches be approached? In such discussion, attention will be given to the Virgin Mary, model of the Church, member of the Communion of Saints, the "preeminent and wholly unique member of the Church." (Vatican II) For this reason, two recent ecumenical dialogues merit careful study: the Lutheran/Catholic Dialogue VIII in the United States (from 1983 to 1990, leading to the study of the One Mediator, the Saints, and Mary and the Report of the Group de Dombes, published in 1997 and 1998, Marie dans le dessein de Dieu et la communion des saints.

Both documents affirm that the Virgin Mary was present in the early church and also in the life and preaching of the principal reformers. It was only in the post-Reformation period that a silence regarding Mary enveloped the Protestant Churches. Both documents concur in identifying the principal challenges to agreement regarding Mary: the definitions of 1854 and 1950; the notion of Mary's cooperation with Christ in the work of redemption, and the invocation of Mary.

There is a major difference in the two documents. A standard feature of all the documents of the Groupe de Dombes is "the call to conversion," that is, a call to the churches to reexamine their positions in the light of Scripture, church history and their own traditions. In this spirit, Catholics are encouraged to continue the reforms of Marian devotion as outlined in Lumen gentium and Marialis cultus, and Protestants are challenged to break their silence concerning the role of the Virgin Mary and to return to the position of the founders. It is unfortunate that no similar feature - "a call to conversion" -exists in the Lutheran/Roman Catholic dialogue.

A comparison of the two documents indicates a major difference in the way Scripture is interpreted. The Lutheran/Roman Catholic dialogue begins with historical-critical exegesis, and then attempts to formulate a statement of belief. The Group de Dombes proposes as starting point for the interpretation of Scripture the faith of the Church as expressed in the Creeds. The Creeds provide a Trinitarian, Christological, and ecclesial matrix for interpreting the Scripture.

- Father Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.





Mary for Time and Eternity: Papers on Mary and Ecumenism Given at International Congresses of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Chester (2002) and Bath (2004)
- Frances M. Young, William M. McLoughlin, and Jill Pinnock (Paperback - Nov 2007)

A new book of collected essays on Mary is now available from the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary for Time and Eternity: Essays on Mary and Ecumenism. Edited by William McLoughlin, OSM and Jill Pinnock, with a foreword by distinguished Methodist scholar, Professor Frances Young, the 368 page work invites both readers and contributors to consider the unexpected ways in which Mary challenges and inspires Christian believers today. Father Thomas Thompson, SM and Dr. Virginia Kimball were among the contributors.

This book is a “must have” for anyone interested in Marian ecumenical work. It is now available from online book distributors such as This collection follows other collections of Marian ecumenical papers published in England by the ESBVM. The most recent are: Mary is for Everyone, Papers on Mary and Ecumenism given at the International Congresses of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Winchester (1991), Norwich (1994), and Bristol (1996), and a Conference at Dromantine, Newry (1995), edited by William McLoughlin OSM and Jill Pinnock, Gracewing, 1997; and Mary for Earth and Heaven, Essays on Mary and Ecumenism, edited by William McLoughlin OSM and Jill Pinnock, Gracewing, 2002.




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