As #MeToo campaigns rage and countless men are outed for the sexual harassment, abuse and assault of women, it may be time to look to a woman—THE WOMAN—for the answer on how to heal this mess...Read More
With the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross having just presented itself again on the liturgical calendar, it’s hard not to wonder: If Christ triumphed on the Cross, then why is the world such a mess?
During the past two weeks, I’ve wept over the news of a precious friend’s recurrence of beastly breast cancer, wept with a still-grieving friend over the loss of a loss of her infant son several years ago, and listened to a friend’s weeping heart over the agony of his son’s addiction. These friends I’m crying with and for? All great people of faith. All devout Catholics who deeply love the Lord. All seeking to look at the serpent that’s bitten to find life instead of death (Numbers 21:9).
For a long time, I believed that being triumphant as a Christian meant that life would somehow magically go well. I can still hear that peppy song we used to sing every Sunday at the little evangelical church I attended in my twenties: Abiding in the vine/abiding in the vine/ love, joy, health, peace, he has made them mine/ I’ve got prosperity, power and victory, abiding, abiding in the vine.
I bit into that message hook, line and sinker because I wanted to believe that faith could somehow produce a particular outcome from God, and hence assure me of some control over life. I wanted to believe that faith could guarantee good results, because that perspective made life seem less daunting and me more powerful. The rude awakening of learning the hard way that “the abundant life” does not equal a pain free life was itself extremely painful, but it compelled me to seek a new understanding of the meaning of the Triumph of the Cross. In so doing, I discovered the work of Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) who’s had plenty to say about the meaning of the Cross.
Ratzinger once wrote:
God’s compassion has flesh. It means scourging, crowning with thorns, crucifixion, a tomb. He has entered into our suffering. What does this mean, what can it mean? We learn this before the great images of the crucified Jesus and the Pietà, where the mother holds her dead Son. Before such images and in them, men have perceived a transformation of suffering: they have experienced that God himself dwells in the inmost sphere of their sufferings and that they became one with him precisely in their bruises. (Ratzinger, The God of Jesus Christ: Meditations on the Triune God, 53)
Truth be told, many of us believe that if we could just get rid of our bumps and bruises, then God would be with us. Or conversely, we think that if God were really with us, then we wouldn’t suffer so many bumps and bruises. But that is not the message of the Cross. Ratzinger goes on: The crucified Christ has not removed suffering from the world. But through his Cross, he has changed men. (Ratzinger, 53)
How, we want to know? How has God transformed suffering when he hasn’t taken away life’s pain? And how has he changed mankind through the Cross, when life on this Earth is still disordered?
By entering into the bowels of human suffering, Christ transformed suffering from a dreaded curse into a love offering that becomes the gateway of intimacy with him—a door through which he comes to meet us in our broken humanity. On the Cross, Emmanuel’s presence on this Earth finds its definitive meaning—the place where the deepest human anguish becomes the very locus of God with us; where he makes himself present in every God-forsaken experience of human life. Further, Christ asks us to embrace the Cross and let its triumphal resurrection fruit bleed grace into us—grace that enables us to stand in faith, hope and love in the face of life’s most formidable challenges.
It is instructive that the Church places the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows one day after the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. The Mother of God, at the foot of the Cross, incarnates for us what “redeemed” suffering looks like. There she stands in travailing union with the God-man, uttering an acquiescent: Let it be done to me according to your will. There she stands in piercing pain, anticipating new birth, new life, a resurrection. There she stands with eyes fixed on Christ, trusting that love is stronger than death. The Crucifixion—his, hers, ours—thus becomes the place where each human being is intimately united to God.
It is not by eschewing pain and sorrow that we become victorious, but by inviting Christ into it that we receive the grace to perceive suffering as love, as gift, as triumph. And it is this very love—this self-gift—offered for others that turns wounds into glorified gashes in humanity capable of bearing great fruit. That is how the Cross changes us. And that is precisely where we experience its triumph.
This article was previously published at Aleteia.
Dear Friends, I'm heading off to play "Grandma" for a few days! While I'm away, I thought you might enjoy this interview about "Mary's Way" by CatholicMom.com founder Lisa Hendey. I am so grateful and honored that "Mary's Way" bears the CatholicMom.com imprint and pray that you will find the book to be a powerful resource in praying for your children and grandchildren.
Grace, peace and blessings to you and yours! Judy
From Lisa: Today, we celebrate the launch of our newest CatholicMom.com Book Imprint title, "Mary’s Way: The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God," by our very own Judy Landrieu Klein. From the moment I met Judy a few years ago, there was a grace about her that drew me in. In a way, I had “known” her through my great fondness for her daughter Kara Klein, who was already a friend of mine. It didn’t surprise me that such a gifted and graceful young woman would have a lovely mother.
But in better coming to know Judy’s story over the past few years, my initial respect for her has only deepened over time. We came to know some of Judy’s challenges and triumphs in her first book, "Miracle Man." But with "Mary’s Way," we learn more about how Judy’s powerful intercessory relationship with our Blessed Mother has helped her in her own spiritual perseverance and in the parenting of her children. Whether you are a mom of young ones or of young adults, or even not a mom at all, you will benefit from the mature wisdom Judy shares in this book. In my friend Judy, you will find a mentor who doesn’t candy coat life’s most difficult trials. Rather, you’ll discover a companion for your own moments of need, as Judy holds your hand and leads you into Mary’s Immaculate Heart. I hope you enjoy our conversation today and that you’ll make this important book a part of your spiritual library.
Q: Judy, congratulations on the launch of "Mary’s Way: The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God"! And a huge thank you for being a contributor to our family here at CatholicMom.com. Please briefly introduce yourself and your family to our readers.
I’m thrilled to be part of the Catholicmom.com community and especially delighted to have "Mary’s Way" honored with the Catholicmom.com imprint! As a Catholic theologian, a mom of five children and grandmother of seven, I am always looking for good resources that will help women raise their families with strong Catholic faith in a secular culture. I hope that "Mary’s Way" will be such a resource for women.
Q: What will readers discover when they open the pages of your new CatholicMom.com imprint book "Mary’s Way"?
Readers will discover our own family’s story of both suffering and finding hope in the midst of multiple tragedies, including the death of my husband, Bernie, to a massive heart attack and my son’s serious battle with drug addiction. They will discover how to surrender to God in the midst of real life problems that can seem formidable, they will find hope in the face of hardship, and they will also find specific prayers to pray for their children. But most of all, I pray that readers will discover how to look to Mary not just as a model of Christian motherhood, which she is, but also as a model of persevering in faith, hope and love in the face of suffering.
Q: Why this book at this time in your life?
It has been an ongoing source of frustration for me to bump up against what I call the “prosperity gospel” as a mother, which suggests that if I do enough and try hard enough in my relationship with God, then my life will turn out “well,” my children’s lives will be perfect and we will know nothing but “blessing.” I believe that one of the great challenges mothers encounter in this world is how to contend with the reality that we can try our very best to love God and be faithful to him, and have things turn out messy anyway. I encountered this dilemma myself, and when I began to ponder Mary’s life I realized that in spite of the fact that she was sinless and had a sinless son, her only child died a brutal, violent death upon the cross—not exactly turning out “well” by the world’s standards. And clearly it wasn’t because Mary had done something wrong or hadn’t gotten it right. Mary’s life holds the clues we need as to how to have steadfast faith and hope in the midst of the mess, and it’s what I hope to convey in "Mary’s Way".
Q: You speak openly and honestly in the book about your family’s joys and challenges and about your own faith journey. Briefly, how has our Blessed Mother been a companion for you along the way? How will the book help lead others into her loving embrace, especially those for whom Mary has not been a big part of their spiritual lives?
When I came back into the Catholic Church from evangelical Protestantism, Mary was one of the biggest stumbling blocks for me. But once I understood and embraced Marian devotion, everything changed! Today, I cannot overstate how much Mary has helped my family and how critical I believe her intercession and example are for us—particularly at this time in history when there is so much confusion about what it means to be a woman and a Christian.
I use one chapter of the book to present some basic biblical apologetics about Mary that convinced me that what the Catholic Church teaches about her is both biblical and true. But I also give concrete examples of the miracles Mary has secured for our family, of the ways consecrating myself to her healed me as a woman, and of the ways the Rosary has been a lifeline to God for me in times of deepest darkness. I hope and pray that our story will encourage others to embrace and love Mary, and especially to seek her most powerful aide.
Q: This book is very personal, which is part of what makes it so compelling. Why is it worth the personal risks you’ve taken for you to encourage other women who may be experiencing major trauma (or even minor annoyances) in their own lives?
I made a decision to be very self-revelatory in this book because I believe that so many women and families are struggling with the same issues we faced as a family. I am weary of the Pinterest-perfect world and even the Pinterest-perfect church, where we all pretend our lives are just fine while we secretly die a thousand internal deaths over our personal struggles. Knowing we are not alone in what we’re confronting, and knowing that other faith-filled people have made it through great adversity with God’s help, lends itself to both spiritual and emotional health. I pray that our story gives others hope and courage, and that it will draw them more deeply into a trusting personal relationship with God, who is so good and merciful, as well as with Mary, our loving Mother.
Q: As a theologian, how has your study of Mary enhanced the love that you have for her in your heart?
It was a great thrill for me to study the Church’s Marian doctrines and to learn not only how biblical they are, but also how incredibly beautiful they are! Learning about Mary and embracing her as my own Mother has made me love Mary, but more importantly, it’s made me love Jesus more. In the end, leading others to her Son is Mary’s greatest glory, and it’s also the most convincing proof of her God-given role as Mother, intercessor and treasure house of God’s graces.
Q: What few words of encouragement can you offer to the mom out there who feels as though her children’s lives have completely spun out of control?
First I would say to continue to pray and ask God for your children to be converted, and don’t give up! (And please do make use of the powerful prayers in "Mary’s Way"!) God is faithful to hear the cries of a mother’s heart, even if our prayers aren’t answered in our lifetimes or in a way that we will see. I think of my own mother-in-law, who prayed a Rosary for my late husband every day of her life. His conversion didn’t happen until his deathbed, and she was in her 90s and too far into dementia to understand what had happened. But her prayers were answered!!!
Second I would say to surrender your children to God in trust—to intentionally place them into God’s loving hands, which are big and strong enough to carry them. Truly, they are God’s children and He is far more invested in their salvation than we are. Trust Him to take care of them.
Finally, I would say to consecrate your children to Our Lady. (I offer a consecration prayer for children on my website.) Consecrating a child to Mary and placing them under her mantle of peace and protection is very powerful. I have seen miracles happen by doing this.
Q: What are your hopes for the women who will read this book?
My ardent prayer is that women will find deeper faith by reading "Mary’s Way" and that when they finish reading the book, they will have a renewed sense of hope that God is always acting lovingly and mercifully on their behalf, and that He can be trusted. I hope they will learn to surrender to God more deeply, and that they will come to believe that God is always about the business of working all things together for our good. When we truly believe this, we have much more peace!
Q: Judy, thank you for so generously sharing your gifts! How can we learn more about your writing and speaking?
I’d love for readers to spend some time at my website at MemorareMinistries.com. And it would be my joy to visit your parishes or conferences personally to share our stories of hope!
Q: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to share with our readers?
Faith is more than just believing in God—it is our total self-surrender to the living God in trust. That is, indeed, “Mary’s Way,” and it is the way to peace.
You can buy "Mary’s Way" at MemorareMinistries.com, at Barnes & Noble or at Amazon.com.
Copyright 2016 Lisa M. Hendey ABOUT AUTHOR
Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at www.LisaHendey.com for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.
As I watched the excellent movie Suffragette this past weekend, which documents the history of women’s struggle for the right to vote in England, two things really struck me: 1) The women’s rights movement was rightly spawned by the need for women to escape the unjust, dehumanizing and often brutal treatment suffered at the hands of men. 2) It took less than 100 years after gaining the right to vote for women to begin to use the same force, violence and dehumanizing domination they had sought to escape—most tragically, by exerting themselves against their unborn children.
While the movie did not place the struggle for women’s rights into a Christian context, I couldn’t help but think about Saint John Paul II’s words in Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women), which I recently reread to prepare for a talk at a women’s conference. More relevant today than when he wrote the Apostolic Exhortation nearly 30 years ago, the great pope wrote forcefully and with striking clarity about the effects of Original Sin, particularly upon women:
“Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16)… Domination takes the place of “being a sincere gift” and therefore living “for” the other…This “domination” indicates the disturbance of and loss of stability of that fundamental equality which the man and woman possess in the “unity of the two”: and this is especially to the disadvantage of the woman. Mulieris Dignitatem, par. 10.
In other words, the fundamental equality God intended between men and women was ruptured through sin; sin that has played itself out historically in disunity between the sexes, most often at the expense of women. As Suffragette accurately depicts, women have fought hard to gain a voice in a world ruled by lopsided patriarchal attitudes and customs, sometimes at the expense of their own lives. Their goal was threefold—the right to vote, the right to education and the right to employment, rights for which women in various areas of the world are still fighting today.
Sadly, the struggle for women’s rights did not stop with authentic human equality, but instead morphed into an all out battle over women’s “reproductive” (read: abortion) rights which rages throughout the world today. It is bitterly ironic that such “rights” demand that women imitate the male models of violence and domination they sought to overcome in the first place. John Paul II warned of the grave danger of such an approach:
Consequently, even the rightful opposition of women to what is expressed in the biblical words, "He shall rule over you" (Gen 3:16) must not under any condition lead to the "masculinization" of women. In the name of liberation from male "domination," women must not appropriate to themselves male characteristics contrary to their own feminine "originality." There is a well-founded fear that if they take this path, women will not “reach fulfillment,” but instead will deform and lose what constitutes their essential richness. Mulieris Dignitatem, par. 10.
And what constitutes the “essential richness” of women? While our feminine giftedness, which John Paul II referred to as “the genius of women,” is deep and multi-faceted, it is grounded in the fundamental orientation that women have toward love and life in virtue of the fact that our hearts, minds and bodies are ordered to motherhood, and hence, naturally toward loving and caring for other persons.
Suffragette left me asking: what went wrong in the fight for women’s rights, which has culminated in millions of women doing violence to the very persons we are called to nurture and protect? My theory is that the bastardization of the authentic movement for the recognition of women’s dignity was hijacked by what I call “the Jezebel spirit,” which is the age-old temptation toward grasping for power wherein women to use manipulation, domination, control and even violence to beat men at their own game.
One of my favorite stories from the Bible is in this week’s Mass readings, where the prophet Elijah engages in a showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel during which the reality and power of Israel’s God—the one true God—is ably demonstrated. The backstory of that power encounter reveals that the wicked pagan queen, Jezebel, and her spineless husband, King Ahab, together led the Israelites into apostasy through “the veneration and worship of Baal” (1 Kings 16:31).
Interestingly, Baal worship involved the belief in having sway over the fertility gods, who were supposedly appeased by self-mutilation, deviant sexual practices and child sacrifice. Sound familiar? Jezebel’s “spirit”—in direction opposition to the spirit of Mary, the Mother of God—is all about exercising power for the sake of control: control over men, control over the gods, control over fertility and ultimately, control over life and death. In contrast, Mary’s spirit, which is the icon of both authentic femininity and all true humanity, is all about reigning supreme through the gift of self given to God and others in self-donating love, life-giving generosity and self-sacrificing service.
Mary or Jezebel? Each generation of women must decide whom we will emulate. Indeed, the future of the world depends on our choice—and the choice is in no uncertain terms one between life and death, the blessing or the curse.
“In this Holy Year, we look forward to the experience of opening our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society.” Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, par. 15.
When I spotted them standing on the downtown Denver street corner handing out pamphlets, I kept my eyes down so as not to be accosted by what I thought were Jehovah’s Witnesses. But as soon as I heard the young man say to a passerby: “If you’d like to learn more about the Catholic faith…” I stopped dead in my tracks.
“It’s not very often that you see Catholics on the street handing out flyers about the faith,” I offered with a smile, extending my hand to introduce myself to the brave evangelist. “What group are you with?”
John shared that he was a seminarian at the nearby St. John Vianney Seminary and that he’d recently been ordained a deacon. In evangelization training with St. Paul Street Evangelization, he was there with a group of soon-to-be ordained priests trying to engage passers-by in a non-confrontational conversation about Jesus Christ and the Church, hopefully planting seeds for them to learn more about both.
A disheveled, confused looking young man with a devil’s face on his t-shirt and the word “DEMON” tattooed in large letters on his bicep approached. “Dude, can I have one of those?”
John happily offered him a rosary, which the young man proceeded to place around his neck while explaining that he is a Wiccan who uses magic on people. “I only use good magic, but there are others in my coven who are infernal. The magic makes me very disoriented, because it takes so much out of me,” he continued.
The rosary-adorned Wiccan quickly moved to another group of seminarians to seek more goods, and John, my daughter, Kara, and I joined our voices in prayer for his soul. Before long, he reappeared wanting to hear more about Mary, the Mother of God. “Wicca has a great mother in its religion, too,” he informed us. “We call on her for help,” he explained.
Suddenly, I remembered a story I’d read on the Internet about a former satanic high priest who was awakened to the truth of Jesus Christ via a Miraculous Medal given to him in a shopping mall . I quickly dug into my backpack and found a small white envelope with the words “Blessed Miraculous Medal” on the front and gave it to him.
“Here you go,” I said placing the envelope in his hands. “Mary is the Mother of Jesus Christ. Remember to call on her if you ever need help.”
He smiled and took the medal out, then placed it on a beaded chain that fit snugly around his forehead. Off he meandered down the street sporting the rosary around his neck and the Miraculous Medal on his forehead—with us praying a “Hail Mary” for his conversion.
“What led you to the priesthood?” I asked Deacon John after the Wiccan visitor left.
“It was attending Denver’s World Youth Day in 1993 with Pope John Paul II. Following his visit, it was like a wave of the Holy Spirit came through the whole city and nothing has been the same since. There’s a lot of strange stuff in this city, but there’s a profound Catholic presence also. God is really moving here.”
Deacon John and I said our goodbyes and I walked into the corner department store I originally intended to enter to resume shopping with my daughters.
“Is there anything left in this world that will satisfy me?” a song screamed from the store’s speakers, seeming to speak right to the confused young Wiccan we’d just met on the street corner, seeming to speak to all of the searching people in the world. I thought of John Paul II’s words to the Church on World Mission Sunday in 1985, “Jesus alone can satisfy humanity's hunger for love.” Jesus alone, I prayed.
This article previously appeared on Aleteia.
I'm proud to dedicate this blog to my beautiful Mama, Phyllis Landrieu. I hope to have a fraction of your grace and courage some day. Happy Mother's Day! I love you!!!
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother. John 19:25
“My Mama’s given me big shoes to stand in,” I have frequently been heard to say. And it’s true. My mother is one of the smartest, most gifted, hard-working and energetic women I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing and loving. And did I mention that she’s beautiful? At eighty-one, she’s lovely, elegant and graceful. See for yourself.
But the thing I appreciate most about my Mama is that she’s taught me to stand strong in the face of suffering. She’s demonstrated in living color how to let love make suffering pregnant with life, and how to permit intense pain to bear great fruit. She’s shown me how to stand—yes, stand at the foot of the Cross—offering bitter tears and the sacrifice of a sword-pierced heart for the good of other souls. Reflecting on my Mama, I can’t help but think of the Blessed Mother, who gave us the first big shoes to stand in. And like my earthly mother, stand she did, even as her heart was breaking.
When my mother faced the shattering suicide of my thirty-five year old brother, Scott, sixteen years ago, she had a choice to make. She could turn in on her grief—focus on her sorrow and let it consume her—or she could let her suffering become a conduit of blessing for others. She chose to found a task force in Scott’s name, training school teachers to recognize and respond to the signs of sexual abuse in children. It was not until my late husband, Bernie, died that Mama shared with me a private letter she’d written to him upon the death of his own son, Marshall. Her powerful words encouraged Bernie not to let his grief defeat him, but to use it instead as an impetus to help others. She wrote:
At first after Scott’s death, I wanted to remove myself from all of my activities, pull down into the lonely darkness...just sit and hold my pain. But the abused children kept calling me and I found an opportunity out of the darkness by working to open the Children’s Advocacy Center. I did it in Scott’s name and there is a picture of Scott on the wall…If I could relieve some child’s suffering, I could relieve some of Scott’s suffering, and mine…There are so many suffering, just as I am, with pain and disappointment. In helping them, I am helping myself...They dim my pain, and I am rejoicing that Scott is in some way helping them also.
Nine years after Scott’s death, Mama faced the unimaginable. She faced the loss of another child to suicide; this time it was her second born son, Stephen. If anyone ever had a right to close the blinds, turn off the lights and call it quits, it was my Mama. Instead, she chose to found an educational center in a poverty-stricken neighborhood of New Orleans designed not only to educate poor children, but also to provide comprehensive healthcare for them, as many poor children have never been to a doctor or a dentist in their lives. Though Mama has faced numerous personal and health challenges in recent years, including recuperating from a brain injury caused by a fall and caring for my Parkinson’s stricken Dad, she passionately presses on to help “the children,” for whom she fervently believes we all bear a responsibility.
Yes, my Mama has given me big shoes to stand in, but mostly, she’s taught me to stand. To stand upright when life goes face down, to stand steady when the rug is pulled out from under your feet, to stand, and keep standing, when all you really want to do is crumble to the ground in a heap. She’s shown all of us, with incredible courage and grace, how to walk forward in the face of inconceivable adversity. She walks forward with her face set like flint, carrying in her heart the sacrifice of her grief—a sacrifice that may just give a poor, needy kid a chance at life.
Now those are some shoes worth wearing.
Susan thought her Catholic friends had drunk the proverbial “Kool-Aid.” A staunch evangelical Christian, she was offended and angry after attending my sister-in-law Hedy’s Medjugorje Rosary group and witnessing what she considered to be “blasphemous” prayers being said to Mary. As Hedy continued to host Rosary groups, Susan felt obliged by conscience to end their friendship, convinced that Hedy was not only in idolatry, but was leading others astray through her devotion to Mary.
Susan and Hedy had become friends several years earlier through their children, as each had several kids attending the same school in the small coast town of Pass Christian, Mississippi. The two families had grown very close—even taking family vacations together. But their friendship hit a breaking point when Susan and Hedy both became more fervent in their respective faiths, causing Susan to take a stand against Hedy’s perceived “idolatry” that left the friends and their families estranged for five years.
Eventually, Susan hit a personal faith crisis wherein she recognized that she could “talk the talk” of Christianity, but was unable to “walk the walk” toward the personal holiness she desired. After seriously reflecting upon the people that she knew who truly “walked the walk” as Christians, Susan came to the humbling conclusion that it was the Catholic women she had encountered along the way who had unequivocally treated her with kindness, patience, love and mercy. Though she still questioned their theology, she simply could not deny the fruit their lives bore.
“How could their lives be so full of the fruits of the Holy Spirit,” she asked herself, “when their faith is so theologically compromised?” That question led her to a massive interior dilemma about the authenticity of the Catholic faith, which she felt simultaneously drawn to and terrified by. After much prayer and wrestling with God, Susan made a decision not to be led by fear. She returned to the Catholic Church, which she had made a brief foray through a few years earlier when she was confirmed Catholic upon her marriage into a large, Catholic family. (Susan was baptized Episcopal and raised as “nothing,” and her husband had ultimately followed her into Protestantism.)
Susan began to attend Mass and pray the Rosary, while going to the people she had accused of “idolatry” to apologize to them. Surprising even herself, she developed a great love for the Catholic faith, spending the next few years making beautiful handmade Rosaries “in reparation for my blasphemies against the Blessed Mother,” as she tells it.
Fast forward to 2014, when Susan called to ask me where she could buy copies of my book, Miracle Man (which happens to be very Marian, by the way. I, too, had wrestled with Hedy about her devotion to Mary at the same time as Susan—a story I tell in detail in the book. Let’s just say Hedy and the Blessed Mother won.) After meeting me on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans to buy six copies of Miracle Man, Susan gave the book to her anti-Catholic sister Elizabeth. None of us could have guessed what would happen next.
Elizabeth’s first reaction was severe annoyance at the book’s Catholic overtones and references to Mary, which she found offensive and irritating. But she pressed on to the finish, wanting to know how the story ends. By the time she closed the book, Elizabeth was weeping profusely, and she couldn’t stop crying. She went to bed perplexed, wondering why she had been so profoundly affected by the story.
During the night, she dreamt about “the most beautiful Lady” she had ever seen, who was surrounded by light and filled with a depth of love that Elizabeth had never before encountered. Elizabeth began to follow her, recognizing the Lady as the Blessed Mother. When she awoke, it was clear to her for the first time in her life why Catholics love Our Lady so much, and why she is placed in such high esteem. That story to be continued.
I can happily say that I have indeed drunk deeply of Mary, and oh, how sweet it’s been. She has led me into the heart of the fruit of her womb, Jesus. And He has led me into the heart of the fruit of His sacrifice on the Cross, the Eucharist. Food and drink like I’ve never tasted; the Bread of Angels, the Cup of Eternal Life. I’ll drink that cool, sweet aid any day.
Author’s note: I have quoted and paraphrased liberally from Ann Voskamp’s blog at http://www.aholyexperience.com/2014/10/dear-daughters-why-women-dont-need-to-freeze-their-faces-or-their-reproductivity-the-fluid-beauty-of-a-one-piece-life/. All quotes not from the Bible are from Ann Voskamp.
Dear Ann, I like your work. I really like your work. You have a way with words that boggles the mind and settles the soul. Your insights can be astounding, and it’s clear as day they’re the ripe fruit of prayer. Thank you for that offering.
That’s why I was thinking when I read your blog the other day: “there’s no way this blog could fail to mention the mother.” I’m referring to the blog of October 24 entitled “Dear Daughters: Why Women Don’t Need to Freeze Their Faces or Their Reproductivity: The Fluid Beauty of a One-Piece Life.”
I kept thinking as I read your words that you’re leaving something out. More accurately, I thought, you’re leaving someone out.
You wax eloquently about womanhood and silvery splashes and white light, but you fail to mention the woman. The one who’s noted from beginning to end, and in between the spaces:
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers. He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel. Genesis 3:15
Dear Ann, you inspire high ideals, and I appreciate that. You tell us: “My life is going to be about being a bringer of water,” which I admire, too. But, there it is—the question. Which woman was the bearer of the water for which we thirst? Who brought forth the water that alone can satisfy? And how does she go unmentioned?
Dear sister in Christ, please let me say that when you write that our daughters “watch us wait and struggle and be broken and believe and not shirk back,” I want to tell you that you’re describing Mary, the mother of Jesus. And oh, how we need her now. More than ever, this world needs Mary’s example of womanhood. We crave the shining light of the most blessed woman ever (Luke 1:42).
She, too, walked up a hill in the sun, right before the world went dark at three, and she stood at the foot of the Cross. Yes, she stood—she did not abandon the Son of God—because He was her Son. She had grown the bones of His spine, and her blood ran like a river right through Him so she could live—so we can all live—“open, fluid and willing.” More open, fluid, willing than hers this world has never known. Just listen:
Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38)
It was her willing that brought forth the universe’s greatest gift.
And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)
Ann, your words pierce our hearts, dear sister, because they nail the truth. You’re spot on when you say that “every daughter needs to know that when she speaks her Father’s mind, His heart—she makes even now and this place into her Father’s world.” May I beg mention of our mother, who bore in her flesh the incarnation of the Father’s mind? Who birthed the Word Made Flesh into this world and made this place, at last, into the Father’s world? And the last thing we hear her say?
Do whatever he tells you. (John 2:5)
Because she’s that woman, whose concern affects Him so much that it begins to reveal His glory (John 2:4,11).
Dear Ann, how right you are when you say that we women fret and freeze and fragment, and this world scatters us hard. And that we need the example of a One-piece Life where all is holy and, may I add, where it all flows together into One Seamless Body—to the One who came from her body. Child, please behold your mother.
I must ask: What wounds have made our faith so profoundly disconnected from her? What “has left us with (such) painfully disjointed and fragmented and compartmentalized” faith that we can talk of Christian motherhood without a mention of the mother.
Surely, it was not God’s idea to throw the mother out. Because she’s the woman, who “gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations.” It was the serpent that “pursued the woman…and spewed a torrent of water out of his mouth…to sweep her away with the current (Revelation 12:5,13,15). Lean in close, as you say. Can you see it? He’s the clown that emitted the current that ushered out our mother.
Dear sister, you summarize it perfectly: “Let us not tear apart the daughters from their mothers.” After all, His last instruction, just before it was finished:
Behold, your mother. (John 19:27)
For each disciple whom He loves, the words are still the same. Behold, your mother. Take her into your home. Welcome her into your heart. She is “wrenchingly beautiful…like an ageless offering into the light.” And she is not to be missed. Especially, dear sister, when the wounds of this world have left us bereft of a mother.
Behold the woman, dear Ann. And watch the current change directions.