A: Many Catholics may know Mary as the Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception and the Queen of Heaven and Earth. But how well do we know the Mary’s humanness? How well do we know the young virgin of Nazareth and her profound interior journey of faith?
I have spent much of my career researching, writing and teaching on the Marian passages of the Bible and exploring how the Scriptures shed light on Catholic beliefs about Mary. Over time, I also became increasingly drawn to the ways the Bible beautifully tells us about Mary’s interior spiritual journey.
There are many good books about Mary and the Bible that focus on Marian doctrine, Marian apologetics and Marian devotion. But there are not many works that delve into the Scriptures to help us understand Mary’s pilgrimage of faith and the ways God was calling her step-by-step, from Nazareth to the Cross, to ever greater levels of trust and surrender. And in the process, I began to see more profoundly how the Scriptures also reveal many lessons we can learn from Mary for our own walk with the Lord.
Q: This book is a valuable resource on Mary. With so little information available on the surface of the Gospels how did you research Mary and how long did it take?
A: There actually is quite a lot about Mary in the Bible. True, she only appears in a few New Testament scenes, but those passages come at pivotal moments in Christ’s saving mission—the Incarnation, birth and childhood of the messiah; his first miracle at Cana and his death on the cross. And each of those Biblical scenes is rich with insights into Mary’s life. Practically every line, indeed every word, can be mined to discover windows that give us at least a glimpse into Mary’s soul and into what the Lord was asking of her at those key moments in her life.
In a sense, I was working on this book all throughout my professional life. The Marian passages of the Bible have been a focus of my research, teaching and writing for the last 17 years. Over the last five years or so, the spiritual themes that appear in this book started to emerge more in my teaching and that’s when the idea for this particular book topic was born. The actual writing took place in the past year.
Q: What is one thing you hope all readers of Walking With Mary take away from it?
A: I hope readers will come to know and love Mary more. I hope they will find in the Blessed Virgin Mary a person to whom they can relate in their own daily lives , someone to whom they turn in their daily lives and someone they desire to imitate. Mary certainly was given singular graces and privileges, and as a result, had a unique, profound understanding of her Son and his mission. But still, Mary, like the rest of us, had to walk by faith and not by sight. She experienced moments of discernment and moments when the Lord was calling trust that His hand was present in the mysterious events unfolding before her. She faced times of trial and suffering, times of uncertainty and darkness…and times when all she could do was keep all these things and ponder them in her heart. Writing this book was a great joy. All the prayer, study and conversations with colleagues and students about the Marian passages of the Bible helped me personally know and love Mary more. I hope readers of the book will benefit in similar ways.
Q: Would you like to take a moment and talk about another project you are involved in the Catholic for a Reason apologetics series?
A: That’s a fun story. Back in graduate school, a number of my friends and I dreamed of writing various books on the Bible and the Catholic faith. But we were busy graduate students trying to keep up on reading assignments, papers and exams, and some had families and jobs on top of academic responsibilities. No single one of us could find the time to write a book during a Master’s or doctoral program.
But while I was flying back from Rome in 1996, I thought, “Curtis, Tim and I don’t have time to write a book right now. Neither does Jeff, Leon or Sean. But if we all came together, we could each write one chapter and then we’d have a book.” I shared the idea with my good friend Curtis Martin who was wanting to launch a publishing house, and we asked our teacher and friend Dr. Scott Hahn to contribute and be one of the general editors of that first volume. In the end, Catholic for a Reason was birthed out of a set of friends—Scott Hahn, Curtis Martin, Tim Gray, Sean Innerst, Jeff Cavins, Leon Suprenant—who truly came together on a common project that bore much fruit.
Q: You have a growing library of books you have written. Are there any future book projects on the horizon you can share with us?
A: I have a number of projects on the horizon. One is related to the theme of Walking with Mary. It’s a video-based Bible study with Ascension Press on Mary. Similar to my Biblical Walk through the Mass, this Bible study on Mary will include a workbook, a leader’s guide and a video. We will be filming in the Holy Land in October and literally walking in Mary’s footsteps taking participants on a tour of her life from Nazareth to Calvary. I’m also excited to be doing another book with Image—a very practical book on the virtues we need to live our relationships well, whether it be friendship, dating, marriage, parenting or family life.
But the project on which I’ve been spending most of my time in recent months is called Symbolon: RCIA and Adult Faith Formation. The US bishops have identified many challenges facing RCIA and Adult Catechesis today. When it comes to RCIA, for example, one out of three people who go through RCIA stop going to Mass on Sundays within just a few years after they enter the Church. In response to the bishops’ call for better resources for RCIA and adult faith, the Augustine Institute, where I teach, is producing an 18-session video based curriculum for RCIA and general adult catechesis. These are beautifully crafted videos filmed in Rome, the Holy Land, Calcutta and our studios in Denver. The videos feature some of the best Catholic speakers and catechists in the country who present the big picture of the Catholic faith. The videos offer clear, dynamic teaching that engages our secular, relativistic culture in a compelling way, proclaiming the timeless teachings of Christ in a manner that captivates the hearts and minds of people deeply influenced by our culture. People can check out the program and view sample videos at www.symbolonrcia.org
Q: Time for my signature ending question. This is a blog about books. What is currently on your bookshelf to read?
A: I’ve recently returned from Calcutta, India, where I was teaching and spending some time with the Missionaries of Charity. It was a tremendous blessing to be at Mother Teresa’s tomb and see the Mother House for the Missionaries of Charity and to see the places where Mother began her work serving the poorest of the poor. Coming back from that experience, I’ve been reading more about Mother Teresa, especially in these days that are very important for her community (Sept. 5 is her feast day; Sept 10 is “Inspiration Day”—the day on which Mother received her call to leave the Loreto Sisters, her first order, and start the Missionaries of Charity. Some books I’ve been reading or rereading in the last week, include: Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire by Joseph Langford
I Loved Jesus in the Night: Teresa of Calcutta by Paul Murray, O.P.
Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light by Brian Kolodiejchuk, MC
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Other titles by this author:
A Biblical Walk Through the Mass (Book): Understanding What We Say and Do In The Liturgy