THE MARIAN OPTION
God’s Solution to a Civilization in Crisis
By Carrie Gress, Ph.D.
Tan Books, 2017
240 pages, $27.95
Supporters say that the “Benedict Option” — the formation of small, tight-knit Christian subcultures — is exactly what we need since we are clearly living in a post-Christian world.
Critics condemn the idea of “embracing exile from mainstream culture” as a form of giving up, akin to picking up our toys and going home and refusing the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations.
Others have responded by proposing options of their own, including Register contributor Carrie Gress. She, along with The Benedict Option’s Rod Dreher and other cultural observers, acknowledges “a growing sense of unease in the world today.
People of every political stripe and creed are concerned that the world seems to be spinning out of control.” Those who think it’s too extreme to withdraw from the world will find Gress’ Marian Option eminently doable and disarming in its simplicity.
Gress begins her book with a fascinating walk through key points in history since the time of Christ, showing just how the simple peasant girl from Nazareth became one of the most influential figures in the world. Devotion to Mary and appeals to her intercession have literally stopped wars and toppled regimes, and cultures that honored Mary reached literary, artistic and philosophical heights unknown in cultures that place Mary on the sidelines.
As a remedy, Gress offers a helpful section on Mariology that explains how to practice a vibrant and rewarding devotion to Mary while avoiding the pitfalls that cause scandal even to other Catholics.
After laying a solid foundation of history and Mariology, Gress concludes her book with a highly actionable section called “Living the Marian Option.”
Which is what, exactly?
Simply put, the Marian Option is living an authentic Christian life in close communion with other believers and seasoning that life generously with Marian devotions. These devotions, especially the Rosary, express our heartfelt trust in our Blessed Mother’s care for us and her power to intercede effectively.
“We live in dark times,” Gress writes, “and our media-driven culture has made us more aware of the struggles. … Fear, human weakness, vulnerability, brokenness, and sin can all add weight to the burden of difficult times. It’s natural to want to turn away from the difficulties — from the Cross — but Christians are called to not live naturally [sic] but supernaturally, to live with God’s grace.”
Mary herself is a conduit of that grace, and we can’t go wrong staying close to her.
Gress’ book would have benefited from more careful editing, but it is still an excellent overview of Mary’s ideal role in the life of every Christian. Newcomers to Marian devotion will appreciate the handy appendix, appropriately entitled “Daily Ways to Live the Marian Option.”
Clare Walker writes from