There is so much to be said – and to know – about the Blessed Virgin Mary that it would be near impossible to put it all in one book. Yet, Manual for Marian Devotion ($29.95 Tan Books, 2016) by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist does an amazing job.
I first fell in love with Manual for Marian Devotion’s companion book, Manual for Eucharistic Adoration and blogged about it for the Register. So, when Tan Books approached me about reviewing the Marian manual, I agreed immediately.
Manual for Marian Devotion is a treasure-trove of Marian history, theology, doctrine, customs, and, of course, devotions. It’s not just food for thought, it’s an entire banquet!
Part One: Preparing for Marian Devotion gives an overview of how Mary fits into God’s plans, her place in Catholic doctrine, and both highlights and the practice of Marian devotion.
“Mary’s place is at the center of God’s plan. Christ’s story is hers; she his mother to God’s people. … Mary is the one chosen from all eternity to bring God’s Son into the world, and she is the perfect believer who teaches us to love her Son,” the section begins.
Part Two: Aids for Marian Devotion provides background and explanation for the Church’s teachings on Mariology. There are seven sections: Church Teaching on Marian Devotion, The Blessed Virgin Mary and Scripture, The Saints and Other Spiritual Writers, Marian Miracles and Messages, Marian Prayers, Mary in the Liturgy, and Marian Poetry.
This section is very well done. I guess not only an understanding of the various prayers, devotions, and liturgies but also suggestions and methods for their practice. The only drawback I saw personally, was that I would have preferred to see a broader array of Marian apparitions mentioned in the book.
On the other hand, the section on Marian teaching from the Church Councils was eye-opening, including teachings from councils that I never knew discussed Marian all. For example, this passage is taken from the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451):
“He was conceived of the holy Spirit within the womb of the Virgin mother. She brought him forth with her virginity intact, just as she conceived him with her virginity intact.
“He is God, by the fact that ‘all things were made through him, nothing was made without him,’ man, by the fact that ‘he was born of a woman, born under the law.’ The birth in the flesh is the manifestation of human nature; the bringing forth from a virgin is a proof of divine power.”
While I knew that Mary’s virginity had remained intact before, during, and after the birth of Christ, I did not realize that this teaching came from the Council of Chalcedon.
The collection of quotes from Saints and other spiritual writers is intriguing, quoting Saints and writers that were new to me. Here are a couple that I liked very much, and I think you will too:
Now, O Lady of heaven and earth, arise and be a mediatrix, a bringer of grace from your tender Child, Eternal Wisdom! O eternal Wisdom, how shall you deny me anything? In offering you to the eternal Father, I offer before your eyes the pure, tender, beloved Mother as well. —Blessed Henry Suso
“She’s the woman of speech and the woman of silence. She’s stronger than an army in battle array and as weak as only a woman can be with God. She dusted and she cleaned. She cooked and she knew how to weave. Her life was a sea of small things… From her we can learn the quality of listening, and of taking up human words as well as God’s words, holding them in our hearts until the Holy Spirit cracks them wide open and gives the answer to us as he did to her.” —Catherine De Hueck Doherty
Whether you’re well-first in Marian doctrine and devotion or are a newbie, Manual for Marian Devotion will be a great help to you. It’s on my bookshelf right now, but it won’t remain there for long, as I’ll be taking it down frequently to use in my daily prayer life.