Follow:
Browsing Category:

Mary

    Mary

    How a Feminist Poem Changed the Way I Understand Advent

    How a Feminist Poem Changed the way I understand Advent -- FemCatholic.com

    This is a post about Advent, about Mary, and about how the beauty of language can change what we think we know.

    But before I get into it, there are few things you need to know about me:

    1) I’m an English professor, and for most of my college and professional life, I kept that pretty separate from my faith life. It’s not that I thought my career and my faith were inconsistent with each other – just that there didn’t seem to be much overlap. I remember a conversation I had with a friend who is a theology professor in which I expressed jealousy that his work with students could potentially aid in their salvation. I feared that there was a lack of significance in my own work.

    As I grew more in both my faith and my career, however, I started to see overlap. I began to notice how great literature, even literature that is not explicitly religious, almost always contains aspects of truth, beauty, and goodness, and I started to notice the prevalence of stories of redemption and grace, even in the work of authors who seemed anti-religious in their work. I started to think about how the beauty of art can’t help but lead us to God.

    the beauty of art can’t help but lead us to God.

     I’ve had a less-than-enthusiastic relationship with Mary for most of my faith life. For a long, long time, I just couldn’t get into the passive, meek, mild woman I understood her to be. I couldn’t get excited about the rosary and couldn’t get past my sense that only old, conservative, traditional Catholics could connect with her.

    3) I’m kind of an Advent junkie. Whenever people ask me what my favorite season or holiday is, I say something nice and expected, like Autumn or Easter or Thanksgiving. But, secretly, it’s Advent all the way. I love the quiet expectation, the stepping back, the way the dimmer lights and quieter music reflect the shorter days and hibernation of winter. I love the wreath and the candles and “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”

    Read more

    Share:
    Mary

    The feminine strength of Mary, Mother of God

    Hail Mary, Badass Woman -- FemCatholic.comHail Mary, Badass Woman -- FemCatholic.com

    Confession time: Marian devotion has never come especially easy for me. I fall asleep during the Rosary and get the feast days mixed up.  It’s not that I don’t love our sweet Mama. I just find it hard to relate to her. None of the women in my family really reflect the meek and mild Marian ideal of popular devotions, hymns and literature. Instead, I come from a long line of farmers and teachers: Holy women, no doubt, but less “gentle Mother, peaceful dove” and more “mother butchering chickens in the yard.” We drive tractors, play softball, drink beer, read books, and rule over countless classrooms and tiny houses full of wild children. Of one of my pioneer ancestors, it was said: “She rode a horse well, could yoke and handle a double team of oxen … and could swing a two-bitted axe with telling effect … she is said to have helped her dogs drag down a deer.”

    Even so, this past October, the Month of the Holy Rosary, I resolved to pray the Rosary more often. Daily, if I could manage it. I wasn’t even looking forward to it. It’s just something I was convicted to do for my own good, like eating more vegetables or going to bed at a decent time. But it took only three days of reciting Mysteries before I was smacked over the head with a whopping dose of grace and an important spiritual insight.

    The Blessed Mother was tough.

    Meek, but mighty.

    Feminine and formidable.

    In short, a badass.

    Read more

    Share:
    Mary

    From Resenting to Befriending Mary

    From Resenting to Befriending Mary -- FemCatholic.com

    Though I was raised Catholic, the Virgin Mary has been a figure I have wrestled with throughout my life. Experiences of hurt and certain secular feminist perspectives caused me to question and even resent who I thought Mary was. Experiences of healing, prayer, and reflection ultimately revealed more about Mary, and led to a deep friendship with her and greater peace within myself.

    In order to explain the progression in my relationship with Mary, I need to share a bit of my own story. When I was a sophomore in high school, my mom and dad split up after my dad came forward about being unfaithful. Eventually, my dad moved out of state while I was still in high school and was financially unstable and inconsistent with any kind of support to my mom. My mom was a single parent, breadwinner, sole caretaker for my little sister and I, yet she was also going through her own anguish which I often bore the brunt of. My dad fell from the pedestal I’d placed him on, and my mom simultaneously modeled that she didn’t need a man (or couldn’t rely on one) and yet often shifted the responsibility (unwittingly) onto me to pick up her broken pieces.

    Understandably as a result of this, I learned to bottle up my emotions in order to be strong for others. I learned not to trust others to be there for you, especially men, and that women need to be strong for themselves. Both my maternal grandmother, and great grandmother were also single mothers with failed marriages.  I come from a line of women who are independent, strong, stubborn, resilient, gritty, and unorthodox. I also learned to downplay my femininity because it seemed to be so associated with a lot of negative stereotypes about women such as being less capable, less intelligent, and weak or easy to manipulate. In my desire to be treated as equal I felt I needed to embody more masculine qualities, and I resented my femininity and seeing others who displayed it.

    Yet, deep down, I longed for someone to support me, to be loved by a man in the ways my dad failed to love my mom and me. This longing was often manifested in unhealthy and codependent ways. I longed to not repress my femininity. So when I saw it so openly and freely expressed in others, my resentment was rooted partly in my own longing to be more feminine, partly in feelings of inadequacy – that I would never be feminine enough – that I could never embody all that consists of being the perfect, ideal woman.  

    Read more

    Share:
    Mary, Modern Catholic Women

    The culture of “efficiency” and how to escape it

    The culture of "efficiency" and how to escape --FemCatholic.com

    Our society is very concerned with productivity and efficiency. As with most social phenomena, there are a variety of factors that contributed to this. One factor that I find fascinating, however, is the so-called “Protestant work ethic”.

    I had never even heard of the Protestant work ethic – although it’s got a whole Wikipedia page unto itself – until senior year of college in my Intro to Sociology course (yes, it was a class of freshman + me). Sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920) wrote an entire book called The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, in which he claims that Protestant (especially Calvinist) theology, laid the foundation for capitalism. It’s a very fascinating argument, but I can’t do it justice here. The overall (oversimplified) argument is that, in some Protestant circles, there has historically been a significant emphasis placed on hard work and industry as a sign of one’s “election by God.”

    Hence, the emergence of capitalism.

    I suppose it’s no surprise, then, that American Christianity has elevated “industry” to a virtue. Think I’m exaggerating? I was shocked to discover recently that sloth (the deadly sin, not the animal) is NOT the same as laziness.

    Read more

    Share:
    Mary

    The Genius of Mary

    Do we really get Mary?

    We know God made her perfectly sinless. She needed to be perfect because Jesus would take His human nature from her. That’s why she was humble, meek, and so, so good.

    And that is where we get stuck.

    Everybody focuses on Mary’s goodness. Some see her as a model disciple and try to be like her. Some seek refuge in her caring maternal arms and ask for her help. Some even dismiss her all together as out of their league, preferring saints who were sinners first.

    Holy pictures feature a serene, dutiful Mary – definitely not a troublemaker here. In movies, she comes off as someone who’d make a great babysitter. You get the idea that filmmakers have way more fun with Peter or Judas than with the predictably good, frankly boring character of Mary.

    Hello? Perfect goodness Mary had. But perfect goodness was not ALL she had.

    Let us look at the only other perfect human beings God every created – Adam and Eve – and we will find out just what Mary had going for her.

    Adam and Eve were created smart. If tests had been invented, they wouldn’t have had to cram for them. They would remember everything they had learned. Nothing was hard for them. We get a glimpse of what this must have been like everytime a genius comes alone. Leonardo da Vinci, Mozart, Shakespeare – all possessed a trickle of the run-off from our original state of perfection. They show us how talented man was originally created to be.

    That was Mary. Unlike Adam and Eve, she didn’t blow it. Beyond not being ignorant, she also did not have a weak will or the tendency to do stupid things called sins. This made her beyond smart; it made her wise.

    This means that if God had so willed to give her the job of Ruler of the Roman Empire, she would have done a bang up job. And we wouldn’t be forced to settle for Cleopatra or Hetsheptsut as examples of powerful women excelling in a man’s world.

    But God didn’t want that job for her. He gave her the job of bearing and raising a Child, and wiping the crumbs from the table and feeding the pigeons and making lots and lots of matza. We think of that job as pretty mediocre and so we portray Mary as mediocre. This only goes to show how mediocre WE are.

    Then there’s the fact that she doesn’t have a lot to say. And when she does talk, she seems confused. “Where have you been? We’ve been looking all over for you!” Nobody seems to notice the fact that she came up with the Magnificat right on the spot. God inspired it but did He write it? It is said that Mozart was inspired to write the Ave Verum while on a procession. Then he went home and sweated out the details. Mary didn’t have to bother with all of that.

    Or perhaps we think she was simple minded because of the question she asked the Angel Gabriel: “How can this be for I do not know man?” So let’s go there. In the first place she had no doubt about it. We know this because Zachariah asked a slightly different question of the same angel and was struck dumb for doubting. Was Mary simply bewildered and naïve so the angel didn’t hold it against her? There is a third possibility. Mary knew clearly that the Conception of Jesus would NOT happen in the usual way. She obviously had a solid grasp of what the usual way entailed – despite being very young and living in a very sheltered community, which just adds to my point about her not having to puzzle stuff out like the rest of us. She simply wanted to know how God was going to do it. The question starts with the word “How” not “Wait, this makes no sense!” So the angel explains it: “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you.” Mary then submits to the total awesomeness of what is about to happen.

    Back to films. I can think of one notable exception to Babysitter Mary, and that is the Mary of the film, The Passion of the Christ. THAT Mary is a Mary who indeed has all the usual qualities we associate with her – serenity, approachability, and not a lot of lines. But she is an intelligent Mary, a woman par excellence. She is the Mother of the Perfect Man and let me tell you, the apple does not fall far from the tree. You can take her seriously. You can respect her. She is someone you would go to for advice and she would never steer you wrong.

    This is the Mary people need to know. Or at least it’s a good start. Learn more about this fascinating and complex person by meditating on the Litany of Loretto, which lists some of her better known titles. Mother Most Banal is not one of them. Mother of Good Counsel is. So is Virgin Most Prudent and Seat of Wisdom. While it’s right that we appreciate the goodness of Mary, let’s not stop there. She was the smartest woman the world has ever known. Mother most Brilliant, pray for us.


    Susie Lloyd is the author of Bless Me, Father, for I Have Kids. Find more articles and books on susielloyd.com

    This article was first published in Catholic Digest.

    Share:
    Books, Mary, Resources

    Book Recommendation: Walking with Mary

    “I used to think Mary was totally unrelatable (she’s perfect, after all…) and this was one of the first books I read that really made her seem human to me.” – Samantha Povlock

    This Lent, why not walk alongside the woman who knew Jesus best? 

    Find Walking with Mary by Dr. Edward Sri here:

    Already read this book? Tell us what you thought in the comments below!

    Share: