Mary, Mother of All Christians
THE PRAYER OF MARY: LIVING THE SURRENDERED LIFE
by Keith Fournier with Lela Gilbert
Thomas Nelson Books, 2005
198 pages, $13.99
To order: (800) 251-4000
If Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants are to engage their common enemies of humanism, relativism, the culture of death and what Keith Fournier aptly calls “the disordered love of things” — as Pope Benedict XVI insists they must — then The Prayer of Mary might be essential reading for folks from all three branches of Christianity.
That it's written by a Catholic and an evangelical Protestant together — and produced by Thomas Nelson Books, a leading evangelical Protestant publisher — marks it as a significant milestone for all Christians.
Then, too, it's a very good book. Fournier, a Roman Catholic deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Va., who also serves that Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy with permission, is a constitutional lawyer and public-policy advocate with degrees from Franciscan University of Steubenville, the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, the University of Pittsburgh and St. Thomas University. He has written widely on issues concerning faith, life, evangelization, ecumenism, family, political participation, public policy and cultural issues.
The Prayer of Mary, Fournier's eighth book, is written with Lela Gilbert, an evangelical whose publishing credentials are also impressive. A poet, Gilbert is also a Gold Medallion-winning freelance writer and the editor of some 40 evangelical books. Her book Windows to Heaven: Introducing Icons to Protestants and Catholics, written with Russian Orthodox author Elizabeth Zelensky, also aimed toward mutual understanding among the three traditions.
Pope Benedict's insistence on the importance of this united front isn't new. Ecumenism among Christians was a strong suit of Pope John Paul II, and a shared zeal for evangelization was at the root of the ongoing Evangelicals and Catholics Together initiative.
As for this new entry in that unfolding process: As it has since the Reformation, dialogue between Catholics and Protestants still tends to run aground when the talk gets around to the Virgin Mary. Fournier writes:
“Unfortunately, within the Western Church, Mary has too often become a point of division. As is the case with many of the differences between Protestant and Catholic Christians, theological reflection on Mary has devolved into argument rather than evolving into an opportunity for grace. Yet, the reflections on Mary continue because there is much to be learned from her life and her witness. … The Prayer of Mary is offered as a bridge to heal the factions within the family of the Church, the body of her Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The purpose of this book is to focus not so much on devotion to Mary as much as the devotion of Mary.”
And that focus is precisely why Every Christian — Catholic, Orthodox and Protestants of all persuasions — can find in Mary's simple fiat and beautiful Magnificat a pattern for daily living, as well as a resource for effective interfaith communication. The idea is not for either author to proselytize, but rather to present the truth about Catholic devotion to Mary as something shared by the Orthodox and something that can enormously enrich Protestant understanding and practice.
Fournier's carefully constructed prose, coupled with Gilbert's evocative poems and copious citations of Scripture from both Old and New Testaments, shows how Mary modeled the surrendered life of humility and loving obedience that her son desires for every believer. This book has the potential to lead even reticent believers to follow the Blessed Mother's gracious example.
Ann Applegarth writes from Roswell, New Mexico.
- October 30-November 5, 2005