Carrie Gress has a doctorate from the Catholic University of America and is a philosophy professor at Pontifex University. She is the author of Nudging Conversions: A Practical Guide to Bringing Those You Love Back to the Church, and Ultimate Makeover: The Transforming Power of Motherhood. Carrie is the co-author with George Weigel of City of Saints: A Pilgrims Guide to John Paul II’s Krakow. A homeschooling mother of four, she and her family live in Virginia. Visit her blog at www.carriegress.com.
Every mother knows that raising children takes just about everything you’ve got. Author and theologian, Judy Landrieu Klein, has a new book to help make all these trials and struggles not just something to get through, but a real avenue for spiritual growth.
In Mary’s Way: The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God, Klein uses her experiences as a wife, mother, grandmother, widow, professor and a newlywed again to show women how tightly connected our joys, sorrows, and glories are to the mysteries of the Rosary.
I caught up with Klein to talk with hear about her new book. She and I met a decade ago in New Orleans for an event with Alice von Hildebrand and The Dietrich von Hildebrand Project. Klein credits that meeting with Alice von Hildebrand as a turning point in her life where she started to think deeply about what it means to be a woman of God in the modern world.
Gress: Your book is called Mary's Way, which captures the book's content. What would you describe Mary's way to be?
Klein: I think of Mary’s way as the way of radical surrender to God—the type of surrender to which every person is called in their relationship with God. Mary shows us the way all human beings are purposed to relate to God: which is to live in a posture of capitulation to and cooperation with God’s grace in order to bring the transforming presence of Christ into the world. Her way is the way of the “fiat mihi” that constantly seeks to say to God from the heart: “Let it be done to me according to your word”—even, and maybe especially, during times of suffering.
Gress: You have suffered so many ups and downs in life and in your faith and your book looks at these challenges in light of the mysteries of the Rosary. What did you learn in the midst of those sorrowful mysteries?
Klein: I learned the lesson which Mary lived: that in the midst of great suffering, God is indeed faithful to work all things together for good and that he can be trusted completely. So many of us believe in God, but deep down, we don’t trust God and are afraid to fully surrender ourselves and our lives to him. That’s exactly where I was before a period of tremendous suffering visited our life. I learned through our sorrows that it’s often precisely during times of suffering that God demonstrates his faithfulness to us, “proving” in so many ways his incredible love and particular care for us. That is what I personally experienced and it gave me not only needed healing in my trust issues with God, but great hope as well—hope that I try to share with others in Mary’s Way.
Gress: Some women feel like there is no rhyme or reason to their lives - just simply one day after another - one challenge after another. Do you think other women could find meaning in their lives by comparing certain events of their lives to the Rosary’s mysteries?
Klein: Absolutely! I think the Rosary becomes more relatable when we insert our own lives and stories into its mysteries and walk hand in hand with Jesus and Mary as we meditate upon both the challenges and fruits of the mysteries. For instance, when I meditate on the Birth of Christ, I may consider what poverties I am facing in myself as a person and parent, and where I need to depend more upon God. Pope John Paul II called the Rosary “the school of Mary,” saying that “our heart can embrace in the decades of the Rosary all of the events that make up the lives of individuals, families, nations, the Church, and all mankind—our personal concerns and those of our neighbor, especially those who are closest to us.” We can and should find our own stories in the mysteries of the Rosary and bring our stories to God through the Rosary.
Gress: Writing a book offers a deep meditation on one topic, unlike a short article. In what ways did this project challenge you? Or teach you in the process?
Klein: I learned so much about both the call to surrender and the power of surrender through writing Mary’s Way—and I was reminded by revisiting our own story that suffering is always an invitation to surrender more deeply to God. While that can be difficult when we feel like our lives are spinning out of control, it is entirely possible with grace and with practice; that is, by getting into the “graced” habit of intentionally uniting our own suffering to the Cross of Christ and “offering it up” for a particular intention. Writing Mary’s Way challenged me to be more aware of the tremendous salvific and transformative power in embracing the Cross with love, generosity and trust—something I have found hard to do in the past, but which became easier and more meaningful as I wrote the book.
Gress: If you had advice for moms, especially mothers struggling with the heaviness of small children or burdened by troubled teens, what would you say to them?
Klein: Looking back on my own life and realizing how fast the time has passed raising children, I would tell them to worry less, trust God more, and to practice the habit of surrendering their children and their concerns to God on a daily basis (or minute by minute basis if necessary!). I would encourage them to ask God to help them let go of fear and control, and to realize that motherhood is as much about their own healing and conversion as it is about raising godly children. Most importantly, I would emphatically encourage them to live a Eucharistic and Marian life—to avail themselves as often as possible of the graces of the Eucharist (both Mass and Adoration) and of Our Lady’s help, particularly through the Rosary and by consecrating themselves and their children to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. (I have a free download of a Mary’s Way Consecration Prayer available on my website at www.memorareministries.com). I would say Pray, pray, pray…and then entrust the results to God.
Gress: Mary's Way has been out for a few months now. What sort of responses have you got from readers? Anything that sticks with you that you can share?
Klein: The two most surprising responses from people have been that they couldn’t put the book down and that they took “copious” notes while reading it. The happiest response has been from several Protestants (ex-Catholics) who said the book totally changed their perspective on Mary and brought them to embrace Mary as their own mother. To that I can only say: Praise God!