There’s something about Mary

By  Eleonore Fournier-Tombs, Catholic Register Special
  • July 10, 2008

{mosimage}Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God, by Ginny Kubitz Moyer (St. Anthony Messenger Press, softcover, 120 pages, $14).

This compelling little book, written by an unmistakable Mary enthusiast, attempts to answer a question asked time and time again by Catholic women: How is the Virgin Mary relevant to my life?

Ginny Kubitz Moyer interviewed dozens of women on their relationship to Mary and her impact on their lives. The result is a patchwork of personal stories held together by Moyer’s own vision of a grassroots, loving Mary, a “homegirl” who is modern woman’s best friend and ally.

While raising interesting and relevant issues that will appeal to active women who struggle to balance their own faith with family, career and dozens of activities, Moyer nevertheless touches on some troubling questions that deserve a deeper look. Left unanswered here, these questions have no doubt disturbed innumerable women trying to identify with the Blessed Virgin Mary while accepting the inevitability of their own imperfection.

The strength of Mary and Me can be found in the chorus of voices, led by Moyer, discussing the comfort and wisdom they have found in their relationship with the Mother of God. Some of the women interviewed speak of very painful personal circumstances and of the healing that was possible through prayer with Mary. Others describe experiences during which Mary suddenly came into their lives, leading them towards self-discovery and inner peace.

One of the most endearing references to Mary can be found in Edna’s story, who talks about Mary as a homegirl.

“In the Mexican-American street culture, a homegirl was a term reserved for your closest friend, an advocate, a parental figure, someone who spoke on your behalf, someone you respected.... She has utter and complete faith in you and love for you.”

Many women also describe their relation to Mary as a mother, saying that understanding what it feels like to be loved by Mary has given them a more personal relationship with Jesus. Moyer writes, “There’s no doubt that He grew up feeling safe and loved, always aware that His mother was a soft place for Him to fall. Even the Son of God must have needed His mommy sometimes.”

Moyer not only portrays Mary as a great mommy but also as a powerful role model for womanhood. Moyer’s Mary is a courageous go-getter who might even have been considered a radical in her time. Making reference to Mary’s reaction to the Annunciation, Moyer writes, “As an unmarried pregnant woman, she was opening herself to harsh gossip and ridicule.... Agreeing to put herself in such a precarious position was nothing less than astonishing.” She also quotes Alice, who adds, “What courage she exhibited. I admire that courage so much.”

{amazon id='0867168315' align='right'}In today’s stressful and competitive world, personal courage and the willingness to stand up for one’s values are qualities many women aspire towards. With the multitude of new choices that both women and men are presented with, and the disappearance of comfort zones and tried-and-tested approaches, the idea of a Mary who faced risk with determination is both refreshing and reassuring.

Just as the Mary of Catholics has countless names — Mother of God, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Sorrows, Queen of Angels — Mary and Me’s Mary has many qualities, building her into a complex and rich figure that is almost complete.

There are, however, a few holes in this portrayal. Moyer leaves one wishing she had spent more time thinking about the dark side of Mary’s relationship with modern women. Although Moyer convincingly dismisses any concerns about Mary being submissive and passive, she is less assertive when it comes to the relevance of Mary’s sinlessness and virginity.

Moyer herself asks the question, “How are we to understand a person who is exempt from the fumbling mistakes and the misguided choices that are so much a part of human condition? How can such a woman possibly be real to us?” Later on, she adds: “If Mary was both a virgin and a mother, doesn’t that make her an impossible role model? How can any other woman manage to pull that off?”

Although Moyer conveys the answers several women have found for their lives, the thread that binds the rest of the book together here seems a little limp. Maybe she doesn’t know how to approach these questions — a sinless or perfect Mary might contradict the grassroots Mary she seems to prefer.

Nevertheless, the book as a whole holds together well. Although it stays on the surface, it will no doubt stimulate the refection of Catholics seeking a better understanding of their own faith and their personal relationship with Mary. Who knows? It might inspire some to trade in their yoga mat for rosary beads.

(Fournier-Tombs works in communications for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.)

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