I have been so busy working on my project that I have nearly forgotten to point you over toward the Patheos Book Club, where they are looking at Denise Bossert’s lovely little book, Gifts of the Visitation: Nine Spiritual Encounters with Mary and Elizabeth
I had the pleasure of meeting Denise during my sadly truncated visit to Israel, and she is one of those people who possesses such a natural depth of beauty and understanding that even casual conversations end up lodged in your memory, where the recollection of her gracious presence and measured insights pop up at surprising moments. When I read Gifts of the Visitation, I was not at all surprised to find that her book reflected all of that grace and quiet wonder.
I have called it, “a little gem of a book”, and it really is. I confess that until reading it, my reflections about Mary’s visit to Elizabeth began and ended with an assumption that she ventured toward her cousin simply because she was seeking succor from someone experiencing the nearest thing to her own similar, strange and improbable situation. Denise, a convert to Catholicism, pondering deeply something we cradle Catholics take for granted, found much more there:
“Mary and Elizabeth became the quintessential model of women who understood their dignity in the eyes of God and embraced the roles God had given them to share Christ with the entire world. Like Mary, we are called to hold nothing back, to be ready to give God a total gift of self no matter what situation we may find ourselves in.”
You converted to Catholicism largely due to the story of Mary and Elizabeth. What was it about this encounter that so inspired you – compelled you – to convert?
I came to the Church with a bias against all things Mary. My father was a Protestant minister, my family descendants of French Huguenots and English Protestants. My great-great grandmother was a Quaker minister. We were largely anti-Catholic. When my father passed away, I discovered the writings of Carmelite saints and that paved the way for a friendship with a Third Order Carmelite and a desire to learn more about the Catholic Church.
When I was in RCIA class and we studied the teaching on the Immaculate Conception, I almost abandoned the journey into the Church. But I placed a petition before Mary to show me that she is my mother and the Immaculate Conception. That petition was practically impossible, and yet the Blessed Virgin Mary answered my petition precisely as I requested through the assistance of this Third Order Carmelite, Mary Beth Kremski. Mary Beth had no idea what I had asked of Mary. In fact, she lives in Scranton, PA. I live near St. Louis, MO, and yet, Mary used a woman I had never met to open the door for a divine visitation and prove to me that what the Catholic Church teaches is true. In the ten years since my conversion, Mary has become my mother and my favorite subject matter. Like Elizabeth, I find myself saying, who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? And yet, she has.
Leticia Adams, in reviewing the book, felt similarly:
I was crying by the introduction where Denise writes:
“Mary whispers to us, come and learn from me. Watch me. Feel what I feel. Desire what I desire. Risk everything as I risk everything. Share Jesus Christ as if it’s what you were born to do—because it is what you were born to do.”
This is a beautiful book, cover-and-text, and while — as Denise admits in the interview — there is “a feminine dimension” to the book, I didn’t find it to be an exclusionary one; I really think it can speak to men, because Mary speaks to men.
In fact, I think Gifts of the Visitation could be a wonderful consolation for men who are missing a maternal relationship, for whatever reason.
Comments remain closed, until my return in April.