Because this week we celebrate Mary’s Assumption into heaven, I thought it fitting that this blog be the introduction from my book The Catholic Companion to Mary. Hope you enjoy it! . . . In Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club, four young women, who are estranged from their mothers to varying degrees, come to understand them after hearing the stories of their lives back in China. This new knowledge lets the girls really see their mothers for the first time and leads to deeper relationships with them. Mary, the mother of Jesus, the Mother of God, was given to us by him as a gift when he was hanging on the cross, looking down on her and St. John the apostle. He told John (who stood for all of us), “Behold your Mother.”
This heavenly mother of ours is even more of a mystery to us than Tan’s Chinese mothers were to their daughters. Twenty centuries stretch between her life on earth and ours. Because Mary’s culture didn’t approve of making images, we have no contemporary paintings or statues of her. She didn’t leave anything in writing, and what was written about her in her century is sparse—a few passages in the Gospels.
Because Mary’s life is wrapped in mystery, no one can write a real biography of her. Our concept of Mary has been shaped by the Scripture, Church teachings, legends, pious traditions, apparitions such as at Lourdes and Fatima, and religious art—everything from Byzantine icons to Christmas cards.
Mary is our mother not only because Jesus said so, but because by cooperating with God, she gave us new life by bringing her son, the Savior, into the world. Where Eve is the mother of all the living, Mary, a daughter of Eve, is our mother on the spiritual plane. When the human race was spiritually dead because of sin and could no longer look forward to eternal life, through Mary in Jesus we were reborn as new creatures. We can now share God’s life again and hope to possess eternal life. Mary’s mission in the divine plan of salvation is unique.
Catholics have been criticized for treating Mary like God and speaking about and to her in terms that should be reserved for God alone. Before the theology of the Holy Spirit was more developed, there was a period when people in their exuberance for Mary ascribed to her divine powers and attributes. Mary the mother became equated with God the Father. True devotion to Mary, however, distinguishes between adoration owed God and honor given to Mary. It recognizes that Mary is one of us, a created human being in need of redemption. In that way she is our sister. Moreover, everything that is good and beautiful in her is from God. Mary is like the moon, which shines only because it reflects the light from the sun. And as spiritual writers have pointed out, she shines at night when we are in darkness.
Mary can’t be separated from her son Jesus. Her maternal relationship to him made her what she is today. Therefore any honor given to Mary is essentially Christocentric, Christ-centered. She would be the first to say this.
Attitudes toward Mary vary. Some people, due to the misguided thinking of certain past cultures, regard her as a goddess—lofty and superhuman. To them her perfection and purity make her unapproachable and as cold as the stiff statues that represent her. On the other hand, some think of Mary as they think of their own mother—someone near and dear. Then there are others who don’t think of Mary at all. Why bother when you can go straight to God?
So who is the real Mary, and what role does she play in our lives? The Catholic Companion to Mary is an attempt to bring Mary to life as a flesh-and-blood person, using what research and theological study and the experience of millions of Catholics have revealed about her. Just as restoring old paintings involves removing the encrustations, damages, and touch-ups of the centuries, today’s Church works to peel away the accumulations that obscure the true, original Mary. We find that although Mary lived in a culture totally different from ours and was a one-of-a-kind human being, we can distill characteristics from her life that give meaning to our own lives.
This book presents what the Catholic Church believes about Mary and a wealth of intriguing information about people’s devotion to her. While knowing about the Mother of God is important, this book’s paramount purpose is not merely to impart knowledge. Rather, may these pages act as a telescope that brings Mary more into focus so that the reader is drawn into a stronger relationship with her and ultimately with God.
quick quote . . .
“There’s never enough said or written about Mary.” St. Anselm
trvial tidbit . . .
Worship of God is called adoration or latria. Honor given to the saints is veneration or dulia, and veneration of Mary is hyperdulia.
short prayer . . .
Mary, make me live in God, with God, and for God.
What role has Mary played in your life?
A lovely Marian meditation for you . . .