Friday, May 16, 2014

Searching the Shelves for Mary

Since I am appropriately reflecting some on Mary this month of May, I thought I would share with you the Marian books on our shelves. If you don't see your favorite here, would you please leave a comment with the title? We are always looking to add to our collection!
First of all, I must share my very favorite books for sharing Mary with my children. These two books have spoken to their hearts, regardless of age or gender. Leading the Little Ones to Mary is a gem of a book with very short daily readings to inspire our children to become as "Little Marys" and "Little Marios" imitating our Blessed Mother. The Secret of Mary Explained to Children is a book we just discovered this year, and the author takes the writings of St. Louis de Montfort and makes the idea of a consecration to Mary accessible to young children. These chapters are longer, several pages to each, but such truth and simplicity are found here!
Of course, there are books about Mary for all ages, Mary Faban Windeatt wrote about several of the Marian apparitions in wonderful chapter book form, such as The Miraculous Medal and The Children of Fatima. My First Prayers with Mary is a board book with a gentle introduction to Mary for the youngest ones. And, all of the Father Lovasik St. Joseph picture books about Mary are fabulous, such as Mary My Mother, Our Lady of Lourdes, and Our Lady of Fatima.
Catholic publishers are doing such a phenomenal job of finding ways to reach children. We have many coloring and activity books that are about our faith. This photo includes My Rosary , Coloring Book About Mary , Teach Me About Mary , and The Brown Scapular Catholic Story Coloring Book (out of print but some in the series by Mary Faban Windeatt are not). Each of these is only one in a series of titles about various other aspects of our faith and are wonderful for children to work in while I am reading something aloud!

Three of our picture books about Mary are full of beautiful illustrations. Tomie de Paola's Mary the Mother of Jesus is special to us, and I am sad to see it is out of print except for a Kindle version. Mary Joslin wrote Mary Mother of Jesus, which is a part of the Catholic Mosaic curriculum. But, if you have not read Take It to the Queen by Josephine Nobisso, you simply must get this story of truth and beauty for your children!
For more formal instruction on Mary, Mondays with Mary (I have the older edition) is an excellent tool to use throughout the year, providing ideas for simple celebrations for well-known and little-known Marian feast days. And, we have complied our Marian geography binder using the posts from The Bookworm about the various Marian apparitions around the world. Every few years we go through it again and learn more about Our Lady's appearances, and it is simply astonishing to hear these stories.

Even something as simple as this coffee table book (another out of print one) someone gave us as a Christmas gift one year can be inspiring. My three-year-old was studying it last week, and I didn't dare interrupt him with such a serious look on his little face. A more in depth art study could certainly be done using the information in the book, as well.

The Marian books I keep on my shelf meet me in various seasons and inspire me to appreciate our Blessed Mother, regardless of how foreign she seems to me. Hail Holy Queen by Scott Hahn is one our mom's group studied together when I had my first child. Totus Tuus is my most recent addition, written by a priest with whom I attended college, and he is donating half the proceeds to our campus ministry at St. Mary's Catholic Center and the other half to the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. I have just read the introduction but cannot wait to dive into this preparation for Marian consecration under the tutelage of Saint John Paul the Great! I also have Through the Year With Mary with a small daily reflection for each day of the year and A Woman Wrapped in Silence, which is actually an epic poem on the life and virtues of Mary which I like to pull out during Advent. Finally, I enjoy pulling out The Imitation of Mary from time to time, using those brief meditations to evaluate myself as compared to Our Lady's virtues.

Whether you have shelves of Marian books or just one or two, I hope you treasure what you have. If there is something above you seek out, I pray the words within bless your faith and your family!

What are your favorite books about Mary not listed above?

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee, and for those who do not have recourse to thee, especially the enemies of the Church and those recommended to thee!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Super Mary!

So, here's the thing. I wasn't sure how this whole retreat on Mary was going to play out last weekend. I really, really wanted to go on the retreat, but when I heard the theme was Mary, I was kind of disappointed. Does that make me a bad Catholic? To be honest, I don't have a close relationship with the Blessed Mother. I love her and look up to her, but I cannot seem to find my way with devotion to Mary or attachment to her.

I can remember a time that I asked God to help me get to know His mother and did receive some sort of an answer in prayer. An image came to mind of Mary, holding me by the elbow, as one might lead a blind person, standing next to me, but clearly guiding me towards Jesus, not pushing or pulling, just steering. That picture helped me to understand Mary's role in my life, but it didn't necessarily inspire a deeper fondness for her or relationship with her. Since then I have tried to ask for her prayers and remember her more, but I couldn't figure out why it was such a struggle for me.

Then, this weekend, one of the sisters was speaking about Mary, of course, and pointed out how bold Our Blessed Mother was to ask the angel a question at the Annunciation. Here is Gabriel, coming to her directly from God Almighty to bring her amazing news, and she asks, "How can this be?" Sister explained that Mary was really asking if her acceptance of God's will meant she had to give up her vow of virginity, but she focused on how strong Mary must have been to overcome all fear and speak up in the presence off one of God's angels to get clarification on this detail.

As soon as I heard Sister describe Mary as bold, I reacted internally. But, Mary was docile, submissive, gentle, obedient, how could she be bold? Her entire life was spent in service of Christ. She was not in charge of anything, right? I had never thought of Mary in this way, and my furrowed brow quickly relaxed into quiet amazement.

But, of course, she was a strong woman. For who could know the end of Christ's story and live with Him day by day without incredible strength? Who could walk Calvary alongside Jesus and never turn her gaze away from his bloodied, pain-stricken face? I could agree that Mary was strong, but isn't she strong in a quiet way?

My internal dialogue revealed my long-standing, faulty presumptions. Mary could be both submissive and bold, both docile and strong. Why not? Most of God's story is a paradox. Much of my journey in faith has been to find the balance of two extremes. Yet, for many years, for some reason, I could only picture Mary as calm and quiet, and nothing like me.

There it is. Even though I am a wife and mother just like Our Blessed Mother, and I believe in her holiness and am drawn to the stories of her apparitions, I simply could not see that we have much in common. But when Sister described Mary as bold, I had to admit both that she is right and that I am like Mary in more ways than I would admit. In order to be submissive and docile, I do not have to abandon my strength. (I probably need to cut out the yelling, of course!) In fact, I need to learn the peaceful power of the Mother of God.

Once again, God proves to me that He is a both-and God, not an either-or God. He invites us to balance all things in our lives, seeking the good and preserving the dichotomy that He is. After all the Old Testament God appears so differently than the New Testament God, but He is the one God. Mary is both bold in her question and strong in her convictions, but at the same time, she submits to God's will without fail. Her bold question to Gabriel even proves that she chooses to follow the Lord to the very last detail, putting herself entirely in His hands, without ever giving up her power.

Lord, thank you for revealing to me how to identify more closely with Our Blessed Mother. I pray that I will grow in submissiveness and docility at the same time as I direct my boldness towards your service.

What qualities of Mary do you see in yourself? What characteristics do you seek?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Our Treasure

I was privileged to attend a quick women's retreat this weekend. It was a 22 hour retreat given by my dear friends the Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist. To be honest, I am still recovering from the lost night of sleep and ponderng all of the gems and nuggets, The Lord sent home with me. 

But I wanted to share a moment I had at th close of the retreat. You see, the women attending were of all ages. Some were young, unmarried. Some were widows and walked with canes and crooked backs. Of course, there were many of us in between, too. There were stay at home moms, homeschooling moms, empty nesters, and some who aren't able to have children. Plus I found one doctor, a medical student, some teachers, secretaries, and all those sisters! Women left behind families, large and small, many Catholic but a few where she is the only one boldly practicing her faith. 

The retreat theme was Mary, the First Disciple, and we closed our brief time together with a Rosary. Sitting there in the chapel with all of these women from different stages of different lives, I was struck by how we all knew the closing prayers of a Rosary. We recited the Our Fathers and Hail Marys in unison, but I got chills as we closed our prayer together. We said the Memorare and the closing prayer as one voice, seamlessly without much effort. And I realized once again what a treasure this Catholic faith of ours is. Too often, I take it for granted, but in that moment, I felt sorry for those around the world who do not have a universal faith, especially our fragmented Protestant brothers and sisters. Oh, what a treasure we have!

What is your favorite part about being Catholic? What practices do you treasure the most?