Two New Books Draw Readers Deeper Into Relationship With the Blessed Mother
BOOK PICKS: Manual for Women and My Queen, My Mother: A Living Novena
Manual for Women
TAN Books, 2019
By Danielle Bean
284 pages, $19.14
To order: amazon.com
My Queen, My Mother: A Living Novena
Ave Maria Press, 2019
160 pages, $14.95
To order: EWTN Catalogue
Besides being well-known Catholic authors, Danielle Bean and Marge Steinhage Fenelon have something else in common: a great love for the Blessed Mother. As such, their unique feminine contributions to Catholic literature reflect Our Lady’s motherly grace. In their new books, they show how the faithful are drawn ever closer to God through love for her.
How-To for Holiness
When it comes to womanhood, “Mary is our model,” Bean writes in Manual for Women. She is the brand manager for CatholicMom.com and the former publisher and editor in chief of Catholic Digest. She shares her personal experiences and insights as a mother and integrates them with Scripture, the saints and the Catechism of the Catholic Church to embrace the gifts of womanhood by imitating the most immaculate of women, Mary of Nazareth.
Bean points out that the error of the first woman, Eve, is significant to us all today. She was not enticed to eat the apple because it was delicious, Bean notes, but because Eve believed the serpent’s lie that God was not to be trusted, “so if she wants good things, she must take them for herself.”
Thus, the first sin was committed in the way that all sin begins, according to Bean. “It begins with a lack of trust in God.” She pointed out that, remarkably, after God handed down his punishment to Adam and Eve, in the very next line we read, “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20).
“There, in that shared moment of sin, sorrow, shame, death and loss, Adam saw the potential for life-giving love of Woman. … The mother of all living isn’t just Eve,” Bean said. “It’s all women. It’s me and you.”
The word “mother,” which is also a verb synonymous with “nurturing,” is written in the hearts of every women and is very much needed by the world, Bean says. She gives strong examples of some of the ways that Mary demonstrates the perfect example of womanhood, writing, “for it is in imitating Mary that we may best understand, embrace, cultivate and share our uniquely feminine gifts and strengths, among which may be included receptivity, sensitivity, compassion, beauty and generosity.”
Bean’s Manual provides much-need clarity for what it means to be a woman, modeled after the Mother of God, in a world that has a distorted notion of authentic femininity.
A Living Novena
Marge Steinhage Fenelon takes her Marian devotion on the road with My Queen, My Mother: A Living Novena. The award-winning author, journalist and speaker put her love of Mary into action chronicling nine pilgrimages (thus, a “living novena”) to shrines dedicated to the Blessed Mother. Her goal in this book, part spiritual reflection and part travelogue, is to uncover spiritual treasures that can help people love the Blessed Mother more and to inspire a greater appreciation for the different regions of our country.
Fenelon visited a variety of shrines from around our nation, located in cities, in the mountains and on the coast. We learn that many of the early Catholic missionaries had arrived long before the Pilgrims on the Mayflower. These Catholic pioneers had come to this continent to conquer it for Christ, and they often dedicated their efforts to Mary.
The oldest shrine that Fenelon visited is Our Lady of La Leche Shrine located on the grounds of the Mission Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine, Florida. It was there on the feast of the Blessed Mother’s nativity, Sept. 8, 1565, that Pedro Menéndez de Avilés landed with five ships in the New World and proclaimed the site for Spain and the Church.
At the La Leche Shrine, there is an outdoor altar commemorating the first Mass to occur in North America, which was celebrated upon de Avilés landing more than 450 years ago. (For perspective, the Mayflower landed 55 years later, in 1620.)
The first settlers in and around St. Augustine began the devotion to Our Lady of La Leche that continues today. They built the first American shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the early 1600s. Pilgrims now come from around the world to pray for her intercession.
Fenelon also visited St. Mary’s Mission in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana, which was a mission to spread the faith to Native Americans, and Our Lady of Prompt Succor in New Orleans, which played a vital role at the end of the War of 1812. Regarding the latter, the author explains, without the internet and cellphones back in the day, news traveled slowly. As a result, on Dec. 24, 1814, the British and Americans had not received word that a peace treaty was signed. When 10,000 soldiers of the British army advanced to New Orleans, the women of the city fled to the Ursuline convent chapel and spent the night there with the nuns, praying before the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor.
“On the morning of January 8, the vicar-general celebrated Mass on the main altar, and before the Mass ended, a messenger appeared to announce that the battle was over and had been won by Jackson and his troops, lasting less than twenty minutes,” Fenelon explained. “Jackson, who was not a believer, went to the convent to personally thank the Ursulines for their prayers, sharing a special supper with them in celebration and thanksgiving.”
Also on Fenelon’s spiritual itinerary, the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio, is a shrine to the Mother of God under the title of Mary, Consoler of the Afflicted. Devotion to Mary under this title dates back to the second century and is among Mary’s earliest titles of honor. She has been credited with miracles, even saving cities from the plague, under this title.
Readers can join Fenelon in an armchair pilgrimage, but she reminds us that these shrines depend on flesh-and-blood pilgrims to survive — and to continue as majestic witnesses to the Catholic faith throughout the country. For this reason, Fenelon strongly encourages readers to follow in her footsteps or blaze their own paths to Marian sites — lest these important monuments to the Catholic faith go the way of the beloved Schoenstatt Marian shrine from her childhood, which, she notes, was demolished for lack of visitors. “It is time to step out of ourselves and into an encounter with Our Lord and his Mother,” Fenelon said, “for our own sakes and for the sake of our nation.”