Sophia Institute Press
For UK use family publications
Special thanks to Emily Stimpson and Todd Aglialoro for their astute editorial efforts in "translating" my Mariological thoughts into plain English
Introduction: Not Just a Catholic Thing . . . . . . . . . . xi
1. Be It Done Unto Me Mary in the Bible and the Early Church . . . . . . . . . . . 3
12. She Kept These Things in Her Heart The Four Marian Dogmas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
13. Behold, Your Mother Mary’s Spiritual Motherhood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
14. All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed Marian Devotion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
15. Clothed with the Sun Mary in Private Revelation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71
Conclusion: A Faithful Mother . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
Appendix: The Rosary and Other Marian Prayers . . . . . . 91
Endnotes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107
Biographical Note: Mark Miravalle . . . . . . . . . .. . . 121
Not Just a Catholic Thing
A book about Mary, written by a Catholic theologian, that can be read by non-Catholics and non-Christians? I can just see the eyebrows rising and hear the questions forming.
“Why on earth should non-Catholics and non-Christians read a book about Mary anyway?” “What is this book all about?” “Why is this man writing this book?” “Who is he anyway?”
With those questions ever present in my mind as I undertake this little book, I thought perhaps I might begin by providing some answers right up front. So, in reverse order . . .
Who am I?
Why am I writing this book?
When you have all these people talking and writing about someone about whom most non-Catholics know little, people start asking questions. “What does Mary have to do with my relationship with God?” “What does the Bible tell us about her?” And my personal favorite: “Why do Catholics worship Mary?”
Probably because the job title next to my name is “Mariologist,” I’ve found that people like to come to me for answers to such questions. And so I thought I might simplify the whole process by just handing people a book that answers the questions for me!
In all seriousness, the number of people with questions about Mary does seem to grow by leaps and bounds with each passing year, and that is why I’ve sat down to write this book — to give them a sure and ready source for good answers.
Which brings me to the next question: what is this book all about — and what is it not about? Let’s start with the latter.
First, this book is not a piece of apologetics. In other words, I’m not trying to convince non-Catholics and non-Christians to accept some or all of the Church’s beliefs about Mary. Obviously, I think it would be great if they did, since I happen to hold that everything that follows in these pages is true, and subscribing to what is true is always a good thing. My personal feelings aside, however, converting readers is not the direct point of this book.
Next, this book is not a biography of Mary. It doesn’t aim to piece together the life of the
mother of Christ by filling in the biblical blanks with bits from the apocrypha or my imagination. Neither am I
advancing some political or religious agenda. This book is not a Feminist, Marxist, Zionist, or any other kind
of “-ist” reconstruction
Finally, this book is not a watered-down, ecumenical rendition of Catholic teaching. It doesn’t leave out those parts of the Church’s beliefs that non-Catholics and non-Christians will find difficult or even repugnant. It doesn’t look for common ground, although you’ll find a great deal of that in any case.
This book is a straightforward presentation of Catholic teaching on Mary — where we encounter her in the Bible, what core beliefs we hold about her, how we honor her, and how she honorsus in return — with the goal of leading you to a personal encounter with an extraordinary woman who lived two thousand years ago and lives still today. It’s a sort of Marian guidebook for inquiring minds who want to know: who want to know about Mary, and who want to know Mary.
And that is the answer to why non-Catholics and non-Christians should read a book about Mary written by a Catholic.
The Catholic Church has spent the past two millennia getting to know the mother of Jesus.We’ve studied her in Scripture, contemplated her in prayer, and honored her in our liturgies. We’ve tried to see the face of Jesus through her eyes — eyes that watched him in the manger, in the Temple, and on the Cross. John Paul II called this kind of contemplation “studying at the school of Mary.”
Unfortunately, there have been, over the course of those millennia, those who focused more on the teacher than on what she Not Just a Catholic Thing taught. At rare times, Catholics and non-Catholics alike have succumbed to Marian excess, giving Jesus’ mother honors and devotions that she does not seek and does not want — indeed, that she finds offensive. I want to make it clear up front that those who adore or worship her as semi-divine, or who even place her on the level of the Trinity, are not living out the Catholic Church’s teachings. Neither are those who let acts of honor become superstitious rituals. Treating Mary like a goddess or a magician is strictly verboten in the Catholic Church.
But so is ignoring her.
Through the centuries, the vast majority of Catholics have managed to walk the very wide road between Marian excess and Marian neglect. They have said their Hail Marys, asked for her prayers, and named their daughters Mary Ann, Mary Margaret, and Mary Catherine. They have loved her as they love their own mother, striving to follow her example in faith, love, and obedience. They have, as Jesus commissioned the apostle John, taken her into their own homes.
And in return, they found a woman who understands suffering, who knows what it’s like to follow God at the risk of losing all, even what she loves most in all the world. They found a heart that has grieved, yet never ceased to believe. They found a mother. Even more important, they found Christ. And that is the true heart of all Marian devotion: coming to know and love Christ more deeply and more truly.
* * * * *
That’s why getting to know Mary, the mother of Jesus, is so important for all Christians, including those who don’t look to the Roman gentleman in white as their earthly spiritual father. And why, to perhaps an even greater degree, having more than a passing acquaintance with Mary is necessary for the non-Christian wanting to understand the Christian faith or looking for a model of love and compassion. Just as getting to know your spouse’s mother will help you know your spouse all the more, so, too, will getting to know Jesus’ mother help you to know him all the more. And while in Mary you will find a supreme model of love and compassion, you will also find that, over time, she will point you to an even better one: Christ himself.
Version: 21st July 2009