Thursday, April 30, 2009

To Jesus, Through Mary?

I could honestly use some help with my Marian devotion. Simple explanations? I've read a book of articles written by Balthasar and Ratzinger about Mary as the Source of the Church and I just received some books on the Rosary (Balthasar's Threefold Garland and St. Louis de Montfort's The Secret of the Rosary) as well as a book by St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary. But I just don't understand the "to Jesus, through Mary" thing. And St. Louis de Montfort's language sometimes pulls amens from me and at other times his language about Mary makes me squirm. I'm still only beginning Montfort's True Devotion to Mary so perhaps I simply need to give him the time to better explain. But I feel dense here. Like he keeps talking and his words are just bouncing off of stone walls (i.e. my head).

The thing is, I love the Rosary and I love the place that Mary has in our Church - I suppose my trouble is with St. Louis's understanding of Mary's place in our Church and lives. I'm not saying he's wrong or even that he has a different understanding than the the teaching of the Church. I just don't comprehend it yet - I don't get it. So pray for me. I think I'll be discussing the matter with my priest as well, but any suggestions or explanations you could provide, I'd appreciate. Perhaps I've been too general here to garner any specific response.

Maybe I could put it this way best: I understand the hows and whys of Marian doctrine, but cannot wrap my head/heart around Marian devotion. Maybe that seems schizophrenic, maybe it is. Maybe it's simply hardness of heart. Maybe it's some vestigial Evangelical theology in my brain. I don't know. But that's kind of where I am right now. Any help?

Update: My terminology is most likely skunked on this issue, but I'm just trying to figure out what's going on in my head and heart and Church. I understand Marian devotion - as much as that I pray the Rosary and other Marian prayers and continue to grow in love of our holy Mother. What I struggle with is the idea of, as St. Louis de Montfort, that seems to make Mary a necessary mediator to Jesus. I can understand a love for Mary and a desire to be close with her, but I don't understand the seeming stern necessity that Montfort makes of devotion to Mary.

And either I don't understand Montfort or I don't understand the Church, but Montfort seems to reinforce the typical misunderstandings of Protestants concerning Marian devotion - not to the extent of worship - but a Marian devotion, fervor, that seems absent to me in the writings and concerns of the early Fathers.

Totus Tuus makes some sense to me, but Montfort does not. Does that make any sense to anyone familiar with these things? Can anyone help me with sorting this out?

Update on the Update: I think I'm beginning to see the light on some of this, thanks to the introduction to and writing of Balthasar in The Threefold Garland. I can understand it more easily through the lens of an icon like the "Panagia" (icon shown) and how the Orthodox and Eastern Catholics speak of the Theotokos. I'm not sure I still understand the expression of "to Jesus, through Mary," but I might be beginning to grasp the mind and heart behind it. The Rosary itself is a kind of "panagia" in words, in prayer.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Come Home

On Suffering

In the last years of Pierre-Auguste Renoir's life, arthritis crippled his hands, making it extremely painful to hold a paintbrush, let alone create something beautiful with it. He continued to paint, however, by strapping a brush to his hand. When asked why he submitted his body to such suffering and frustration, he said, "The pain passes, but the beauty remains."

Friday, April 24, 2009


I just finished Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory. Tremendous book. I don't know what to say beyond that, however. This is one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, even though the Modern Library doesn't list it as such. That's OK, of course, "Opinions are like assholes: everyone has one" (so says my dad).

Currently I'm reading Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. This book has to be a slow read for me, because of its intensity and subject matter. It makes me stand back and question how much I really love God. And wonder at how much I love myself. It also makes me chuckle at the controversy I heard concerning the book and this great woman. So let me just say it now: If Blessed Mother Teresa tweren't a Christian, then you and I got no hope. Fortunately for you and I, we got hope. And our hope is in the great mercy of God that is poured out on us, even in the darkest holes of India. As Fr. Cantalamessa recently said of St. Francis, I would also say of Blessed Mother Teresa (paraphrased): We do not cultivate St. Francis's or Blessed Mother Teresa's charism by looking at them, but by looking at Christ through their eyes. Who did he see when he looked upon our Lord? Who did she see? What would happen to our world if we began to see Jesus in the same way?

Maybe more on these books later.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nothing Gold Can Stay: A Catalog

We've seen crocuses and narcissus come and go here in North Carolina. The hyacinth and tulips too. The yellow forsythia have gone for now and the bradford pears have greened. The apple blossoms, sadly, are gone. The dogwood and redbud - those champions of spring - are fading into anonymity on the side of the road and the edges of our lawns. Still now we can point and recognize and say - that's a dogwood, there's a redbud. But soon my sons and daughters will finger the leaves and trace tortured bark and ask what these trees are, and I will scratch my head and shrug. Summer's amnesia. My memory is floral.

My azaleas, bigger than Toyotas, are teaching me this year, this moment, what an azalea was meant to be. They are dressed in vestments of joy and I must cross myself whenever I pass by them - heavy pink blooms with barely a hint of the green rhododendron leaves beneath.

The crepe myrtles are budding tiny red leaves, tuning up for their mid- to late-summer symphony. The Nikko Blue has two great babies waiting for replanting, leaves are green and fresh and she whispers patience and hope.

I've planted another rosebush and pruned the old one down. Ripped up weeds and pruned and pruned. But there are still weeds in need of pulling, and bushes and trees in need of pruning.

Gerbera line the front steps and balloons of fuschia are brilliantly popping into purple blooms over the porch.

But then, "Leaf subsides to leaf." They all dim and die. That's part of their lesson. The gospel is there, too, and they live it annually, perennially. Resurrection, they sing. They trumpet it. And as they preach, I am changed; and though they die, I am changed. They convert me. In another millennium or two, I shall be a saint.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

That Yellow-Haired Child

Yesterday, shopping in Wal-Mart, the yellow-haired child pointed at a bag of pads (yes, those kind of pads) and started singing, "One little, two little, three little bottom straps, four little, five little, six little bottom straps. ..."