A Word in Season
Blessed Virgin Mary: A Mother Not Just for Catholics
In the book Mary, For the Love and Glory of God: Essays on Mary and Ecumenism (AuthorHouse, 2011), one finds a variety of essays by scholars within the ESBVM, that were presented at its International Congress held in Pittsburgh in 2008.
I recently spoke to co-editors Virginia Kimball, STD (a member of the theology faculty at Assumption College, and President of the ESBVM-USA), and Maura Hearden, Ph.D. (a member of the theology faculty of DeSales University). Both were enthusiastic in reaching out beyond their scholarly circles with the message of Mary as a rallying point for God's children on earth.
Dr. Virginia Kimball notes, this book represents a wealth of wisdom, the latest in a series of books from the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary, founded in the wake of Vatican II.
Dr. Maura Hearden describes Mary as a bridge between denominations that have traditionally been at odds over Mary since the time of the Reformation:
During the time of the Reformation, and in the centuries after, Mary became a kind of a symbol for everything that was 'Catholic.' So Catholics loved her and exulted her . . .
Even though the original Protestant Reformers had devotions to Mary, as time passed, because of Mary's association with Catholicism, the Protestant traditions tended to downplay Mary a great deal, until you get up to our current times. Often my Protestant Christian friends will tell me that Mary is someone you [bring] out at Advent and Christmastime, and then you put her back in the closet afterwards . . . you just don't think about her much at all because that's 'a Catholic thing.'
There were many misunderstandings that developed and Mary actually became a source of division within the Body of Christ, which is something that must have struck to the very core—or the heart—of her Son. Here, her Son has given us every opportunity to become one in his Body. And his mother—the woman he loved above all else—is a source of division. After Vatican II, [many denominations came together and found] his mother should be a point of unity rather than a point of division."
Kimball and Hearden both agree that by studying the life of Mary certain abstract theological formulations become more concrete. Discussions about Mary also shed light upon discussions of "Who is Christ?" and "What is the Church?" For Mary's life is linked to each.
Kimball: There's a lot of surprises . . . and I think if we speak of one of the true fruits of this Society since its founding in 1967, in England . . . is that when people . . . attend one of our conferences, or . . . pick up this book, [they find] information about Mary, or devotion for Mary, or customs or traditions that are new to the reader. And, as they reflect on it, it enriches them.
Pat Gohn is a Catholic writer, speaker, and the host of the Among Women Podcast and blog. Her book Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood is published by Ave Maria Press. Subscribe to “A Word in Season” via email or RSS.