October 20, 2006

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Getting to the heart of Our Mother Mary

Shirley Vogler MeisterOctober is Respect Life Month. How appropriate, since October is also dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus. It is the month of the Holy Rosary.

“There is truly no woman in the history of humanity who has affected the course of history as powerfully as Mary of Nazareth,” writes Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda, a respected and frequently published Catholic writer and journalist for the religious press and secular press as well as the author of five books. (See www.mymaria.net.)

Her newest work, published this year, is the most comprehensive book that I’ve ever read about the Blessed Mother. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Mary of Nazareth, an Alpha Book, is published by the Penguin Group.

At first, I was put off by The Complete Idiot part of the book’s title because I thought I was fairly knowledgeable about Mary. I was wrong.

What I knew about the Mother of God was only a smidgen of Marian knowledge compared to the information in Maria’s book. This is not a “quick read.” Instead, it is a book to read mindfully and slowly enjoy, and to keep for future reference. This is a book to savor.

The back cover simplifies the richness of the book’s contents with these points: Mary as a woman of her own times and ours—in Scripture from the books of Luke, Matthew, John and Mark, as represented in art, music and literature, and common devotions, prayers and pilgrimages associated with the Holy Mother.

The back cover also confirms that each reader is “no idiot, of course. You know that Christians revere Mary of Nazareth as the Holy Mother of Jesus Christ. But Mary’s influence stretches beyond religious and cultural boundaries throughout the world as her wisdom explores what it means to be human.”

This book is filled to the brim with information, but is easy to read and especially easy to follow. If I were a Catholic high school or university teacher, I would use it as a textbook because of the comprehensive way that it is organized.

Material in the appendixes is especially helpful: glossary, sources for further reading, Internet resources, basic historical timeline (including key Marian dates), Marian feasts (more than 25) and an index.

As the author states in a note to readers, “These are not just mere theological ideas, but everyday, down-to-earth truths about Mary. … She was mother. She was wife. She was daughter. She was a believer. She was a devoted Jewish woman. … She cleaned dishes, swept the floor and was up late at night with a crying baby. She worried about her child’s safety, and taught her son his first prayers. She lived with a teenager, and she learned how to have a life-giving relationship with her adult child. Mary was like us!”

This book is more than informative. It has heart!

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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