1 Vudojas

All About Blessed Virgin Mary Book Essay

Tota pulchra es, Maria. Et macula originalis non est in Te.
Thou art all beautiful, Mary. And the original stain is not in Thee.

Mary is beautiful because God loves her. In love, God her Father created her. In love, God her Son redeemed her. In love, God her Spouse dwelt in her always. The Blessed Trinity delights in Mary and so granted her first the fullness of grace on earth and then in heaven the highest glory.

Mary is also beautiful because she loves God. In childlike hope she trusted the Father and clung to the promises he made to Israel. In motherly openness she conceived and brought forth the Son, the Savior of the world. And in bridal ardor she united herself to the Holy Spirit. By grace, Mary is the true burning bush and tabernacle, the creature in which God becomes present and that burns with God’s love but is not consumed.

In all this, Mary never knew sin. In view of the merits of Jesus, God preserved his Mother totally pure. But why did God choose to make the all-beautiful, the Immaculate? He did so for love of us, to prepare for himself a beautiful and worthy Temple in which to dwell among his people. Mary Immaculate was the way God chose to come to us. As such, she is also the way for us to go to him. If we contemplate and love Mary, we will ever more deeply contemplate and love her Son, Jesus Christ.

Down through the ages, Catholic hearts have loved to contemplate the beauty of Mary as a way to approach her Son. This love moved the Church from early on to celebrate her mysteries in the liturgy. It also led Christian artists to create countless works of beauty. Poets and musicians sang her praises. Painters and sculptors imagined and portrayed her gracious countenance. Love of Mary encouraged saints and theologians to meditate and understand her place in our salvation. As a result, the Catholic patrimony boasts of many rich visual, verbal, and musical meditations on the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In our own day this great inheritance of Marian piety is preserved, promoted, and developed in an exemplary way by the popular prayer aid Magnificat. This month Magnificat celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary since its foundation. To mark the occasion and to thank the Blessed Virgin for her assistance in their apostolate, the publishers have issued a lovely book of art and prayer.

In Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary moves through the mysteries of Mary’s life. It presents forty beautiful, full-page reproductions of icons or paintings of the Madonna that have through these years graced the covers of the magazine. Reflections by Pierre-Marie Dumont, the founder of Magnificat, accompany each image. These provide insight into the images and take their inspiration from them to meditate on the divine realities they represent. In addition the book gives each “mystery” a voice through a traditional hymn from the Church’s liturgy and a brief thought or prayer from various saints and Christian authors.

The book, just like the issues of Magnificat, is attractively laid out and printed. It would make for a lovely coffee table book. More significantly, reading and looking at this book would be an excellent way to gaze on Mary and contemplate her, to get to know her and love her more. Through word and image this work could move those hearts who take it up to share the deep delight that God enjoys in beholding the Immaculate. And in drawing nearer to her, these souls would grow more desirous of that infinitely beautiful Love and Light, the Triune God, from whom she comes to us and to whom she wishes to lead us.

Image: Murillo, Immaculate Conception

Br. Josemaría Guzmán-Domínguez entered the Order of Preachers in 2014. He is a graduate of Notre Dame University where he studied Italian Language and Literature. On DominicanFriars.org

Book Reviews by Author

Marian Book Reviews

The entries are listed in alphabetical order, by author.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


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.

Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *