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Mary in Books, Films and Music
Book Review (by Matt Page) - The Nativity Story: Contemplating Mary's Journey of Faith
Whilst the stories about the birth of Jesus are celebrated by Christians of all denominations, the Roman Catholic church has a particular affinity with them due to the special prominence they give to Jesus' mother, Mary. Thus many Roman Catholic believers, particularly women, have spent much time contemplating her story, and, more importantly, her faith. It is fitting then that a collection of essays by different authors outlining some of their own reflections on Mary has been put together to accompany the film The Nativity Story. Such a compilation is hardly novel, I'm sure many similar works have been created celebrating Mary's faith, but this book's link to the movie is something new. And for those of a Catholic persuasion, it's a rather good idea, putting a fresh twist on a much loved, time honored, practice. The Nativity Story will undoubtedly encourage Christians of all persuasions to consider the faith of Mary afresh, and one would expect that this book would be able to facilitate exactly that.
That said, other than the front cover, the photographs that introduce each chapter and the introduction by Sister Rose Pacatte, the book doesn't have a great deal to do with the actual film. Hardly any of the essayists even mention the film. (It is, of course, fairly well known that the film was rushed through production in less than a year, suggesting that publication dates which would be incredibly tight. It would seem likely then that few of the authors would have even seen the film at the time of their writing). That's not a criticism of the book as such. It had a clear remit, which it fulfils well, but potential buyers should be clear that this book does not really contain any analysis of the film itself.
The 11 essays look at a number of the different facets of Mary's spiritual journey. Indeed the title of each essay begins "Mary's Journey of/to…" and they take the reader through such topics as faith, love, surrender, fear and doubt, and everyday life. The first page of each chapter has a photo from the film, before giving a brief biography of the author. The essays start with a section of one of the gospel accounts before 10 or so page mix of commentary, story, reflections on the author's own life, and relevant anecdotes. Each chapter concludes with a number of questions "To Ponder."
Overall the various chapters make fairly interesting reading for a lay audience, with some insightful comments about the story and what we can learn about life through reflecting on it. Judith Ann Zielinski's essay "Mary's Journey to Elizabeth" was a personal highlight. Rose Pacatte's introduction also contains a couple of interesting points such as a quote from André Bazin. That said, much of it is common to her other Pauline Books and Media publication on The Nativity Story, "A Film Study Guide for Catholics."
One of the difficulties about compiling a book like this is avoiding too much common material. Overall the book does this reasonably well, although there are a few times that it repeats particular details that ideally should have been edited out. It becomes a little tiresome, for example, to be informed a number of times that Mary could possibly faced being stoned.
Those who found The Nativity Story inspired them to find out more about Mary will enjoy this book. The relatively brief chapters (approx. 10 pages), and simple language will mean even reasonably young teens will find it readable. As teenagers are perhaps the age group most likely to be inspired by this film's portrayal in particular, then this is certainly a good thing. It is, of course, difficult for a male, 30-something, British, non-Catholic male reviewer to really know the impact a particular book could have on the average teenage Catholic girl. Perhaps what we would have in common would be our relative inexperience at learning from Mary. This book and the film helped me in that respect, and I at least suspect that it will help many others too.
Radio Maria From The Marian Library
Francesca Franchina, long time member of the Marianist Family, will be doing a series of Marian broadcasts through the local station for Radio Maria WHJM (FM 88.7) in Anna, Ohio. Called "Francesca AND Friends: WHY MARY?" the program airs every Wednesday from 11:30 AM-12:30 PM EST focusing on: What in the world is going on about Mary; how to speak with others about Mary; and Mary in Scripture.
On January 10, Francesca Franchina continues her talk with Brother Donald Neff, SM and is joined by Dr. Elisabeth Hangartner-Everts, Early Childhood Educator, on the Role of the Lay Person in the work of the Church, focusing on the work of Marianist Lay Volunteers.
The broadcast may also be heard on-line at radiomaria.us [Click on the BVMary photo ... Scroll down to RADIO MARIA USA (English) ... Click on the windows icon or which ever media program you have on your PC.]. The web site also provides access to some previous broadcasts. We'll keep you informed about future programs. Encores of each show are broadcast Monday nights from 8:30-9:30 pm EST two weeks after the original.
Her new series, which started January 9, 2007, Through The Tummy To The Heart will air every Tuesday except the First Tuesday from 5:00-5:45 PM on RADIO MARIA WHJM and also online. Francesca Franchina stirs up good things to "Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord" addressing The New Evangelization as promoted by Pope John Paul II and the United States Bishops while cooking and sharing recipes for living and nurturing the spreading of the Good News and family recipes pertaining to wheat, bread and pasta dishes. The first program was an introduction to Evangelization, examining the resources available on line to study. Francesca will focus on how to share the good news in every day kitchen language covering the documents used as resources from the Holy Father and the Bishops while cooking up a big pot of Italian Minestrone. Francesca will share her famous family Italian Bread Recipe in Session II (on 1/16/2007) which will focus on Mary, The Star of Evangelization,: How to talk about the Blessed Mother to bring people to Jesus. What did the Blessed Mother feed Jesus, The Bread Come Down From Heaven and Saint Joseph?
The Marian Library is hosting The Nativity Through Children's Eyes, a display of children's art in our Gallery through January 28, 2006, on weekdays from 8:30 am - 4:30 pm or by special arrangement [call 937-229-4214]. The art was created by children in the local Dayton area as well as children from Germantown and Xenia Over 500 pieces of artwork were received. Judging took place last week and a total of twelve cash prizes were distributed to the top winners. Click here to see the virtual exhibit.
Creches as well as Quilts from Saint Simon's Quilting Group in Cincinnati are also on display in our museum. Patrons with RealPlayer may also view a streaming video showing the sets which were on display during the 2005 Christmas season. Creches will be on display 8:30 am to 4:30 pm now through Jan. 28 in The Marian Library Gallery; noon to 4 pm now through Jan. 31 at Gallery Saint John at the Bergamo Center; and 10 am to 4 pm Saturday through Wednesday and 10 am to 8 pm Thursday and Friday now through Jan 1 at the Dayton Art Institute. Admission is free at each location.
Creches from the Marian Library Collection are also on display at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester, New York. Booklets showing photographs of the pieces displayed along with descriptive text are available at The Marian Library. Ask for the title: A Celebration of Nativity Creches 2006.
Additional Web Addresses for The Mary Page
In order to make our web site more accessible, The Mary Page may now be reached at the following URLs: lapagedemarie.org; lapaginademaria.org; marypage.org; themarypage.org; marypage.udayton.edu; campus.udayton.edu/mary; and themarypage.net. The original address on the University of Dayton site, campus.udayton.edu/mary, remains active as well.
Two important Catholic websites have added The Mary Page to their list of Media Partners. CatholicWeb.com highlights items from The Mary Page in their section on Catholic News. Catholic.net includes a Mary Channel on their navbar with Mary Page articles. Please visit these sites in return. We expect continued collaboration with them in the future.
Also, the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) has added the Gallery section of The Mary Page to the Exhibits section of their on-line museum, the Plethoreum.
Radio Maria broadcasts from Milan Italy, heard in 49 countries; WHJM broadcasts out of Louisiana across USA, including FF 88.7, an affiliate station in Anna, Ohio (north of Dayton) which airs regular Marian talks from UD's Marian Library every Wednesday at 11:30 am EST.
International Marian Research Institute Course ScheduleIMRI courses for the Fall 2006 semester will commence on February 19. The course schedule for the Spring 2007 semester is now available.
We have posted our answer to the following reader's question, What to think about Mary of Agreda's Mystical City of God?, and also updated Marian Thoughts of Benedict XVI through December 31, 2006.
Not posted this week.
The director and editors of Mary Page under the auspices of the International Marian Research Institute do not necessarily endorse or agree with the events and ideas expressed in this feature. Our sole purpose is to report on items about Mary gleaned from a myriad of papers representing the secular press.
Ohio Family: Virgin Mary Image
Appears on Tree
An Ohio homeowner might have the ultimate Christmas decoration for his house. It’s a tree stump that he says resembles the Virgin Mary.
Matt Miller of Columbus says the figure appeared after he removed part of the stump with a chain saw.
From the rear it just looks like an average jagged tree stump, but from the front, Miller says, a unique image can be seen--an image of the Blessed Mother and possibly a nativity scene. He says it looks like Mary leaning over a cradle.
So along with the man-made Christmas decorations, Miller now has a natural one, which is best viewed from a distance.
The Millers say they feel extra blessed this holiday season.
Protestants find room in faith
Growing up in a Lutheran church, the Rev. Roger Prehn rarely heard about the Virgin Mary, except during Christmas.
Now a pastor in Orlando, Prehn preaches in a sanctuary with a nearly life-size bronze statue of Mary and the baby Jesus. During advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, he leads his congregation in singing the Magnificat--a prayer Mary sings in the Gospel of Luke.
Until fairly recently, devotion to Mary would have caused a scandal in most Protestant churches. Many Protestants still reject Mary's exalted status within Catholicism and worry that honoring her will put her on par with Jesus. But in recent years a growing number of mainline Protestants and evangelicals have started to rethink their centuries-old opposition to revering Mary.
'We've ignored Mary, and now we're recovering her place in salvation history,' said Prehn, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church.
This Christmas, many Protestants are looking at Mary in a new light, inspired in part by growing dialogue with Catholics, the influence of Latin American immigrants who bring strong religious traditions of honoring Mary and a recent explosion of Mary-themed books, websites, popular songs and movies such as The Passion of the Christ and The Nativity Story.
'Protestants and Catholics can agree that Mary was a great woman, a woman of faith and that she was the God bearer,' said theologian Scot McKnight, author of The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus. 'You can talk about Mary for a long time before you have to ask whether she was immaculately conceived, sinless and perpetually a virgin.'
While Catholics and Protestants still clash over Mary's role as a mediator between humanity and God, the devotion gap appears to be closing, said Timothy Matovina, director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame. Growing numbers of Hispanic converts to Protestantism have a strong connection to Mary that they carry over into their new denominations, Matovina said.
At the Church of the Redeemer, an Episcopal Church in Sarasota, congregants have celebrated the Virgin of Guadalupe's feast day as part of their Hispanic outreach for the past three years. Earlier this month, parishioners honored the patron saint of Mexico with a special Mass, an altar adorned with candles and an image of Guadalupe and a festival, said the Rev. Dick Lampert.
Bringing icons of Mary into Protestant settings has stirred controversy elsewhere. In Chicago, some members of a United Methodist Church caused an uproar when they placed a statue of Guadalupe in its sanctuary.
Mary's recent emergence as a pop culture icon has helped boost her appeal among Protestants, pastors and scholars say. This December, dozens of churches around the country held discussion groups about Mary tied to The Nativity Story, a New Line Cinema film that chronicles Jesus and Mary's journey to Bethlehem, and McKnight's book The Real Mary. Several South Florida congregations, including Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale, Christ Fellowship in West Palm Beach and New Birth Baptist Church in Miami, attended advanced screenings for The Nativity Story.
Rick Reynolds, executive producer for the Active Word television programs at Calvary Chapel, said the film's version of Mary departed from earlier cultural images of her as meek and passive. 'Here's a young woman who loved God and was willing to say, God, you chose me,' he said.
Leaders of local Catholic organizations dedicated to Mary say they've seen growing devotion to the Virgin among both lay Catholics and Protestants.
Monique Telson, who lives in Davie and attends St. Bernadette's Catholic Church, said she hopes to help correct misconceptions about Mary. As a volunteer with the Legion of Mary, Telson visits retirement homes and prisons to talk to people about the benefits of praying to Mary. She said not only Catholics but Protestants, Jews and Muslims responded positively to her message. Muslims also honor Mary, who has an entire chapter in the Koran named after her.
'In following Mary, we learn to know Jesus more,' Telson said.
Sister Juana Maria of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a Catholic religious community in Miami, said many non-Catholics--including Baptists and Pentecostals--attend their weekly prayer services. Sometimes, newcomers express reservations about worshiping Mary, she said.
'There are those who will come with the question, 'What's the basis of your faith to Mary? How is it that you can love Mary and not be unfaithful to God?' ' she said.
That question has vexed Protestants for centuries. Mary's hallowed place in Christian theology became official doctrine in the 5th century, when a church council pronounced her 'Theotokos,' or Mother of God. But as Marian devotion grew more elaborate in the Middle Ages, some Christians began to worry that she was replacing Jesus. After the 16th century Protestant Reformation, Marian worship was shunned by non-Catholics and treated as a threat to Jesus' place as mankind's sole redeemer.
The theological gap between Protestant and Catholic views of Mary deepened in the 19th century, when the Catholic Church formally established the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception--the belief that Mary herself, unlike other humans, was conceived without original sin. In 1950, the Catholic Church further elevated Mary when Pope Pius XII approved the doctrine of Mary's Assumption, or bodily ascent into heaven.
Most Protestants reject these beliefs, arguing that they confer a divine status on Mary that has no foundation in scripture. But at the same time, many Protestants have dismissed what the scriptures do say about Mary, says Beverly Gaventa, professor of New Testament literature at Princeton Theological Seminary and co-editor of Blessed One: Protestant Perspectives on Mary.
While Mary's part in the nativity story comes up at Christmas, few Protestants discuss her appearances in the Gospel of John, which describes how Mary urged Jesus to perform the miracle of turning water into wine, her triumphant song in the Gospel of Luke, or her place at the foot of the cross. There are more than 20 references to Mary in the New Testament, but these rarely come up in Protestant sermons, prayer circles or Bible studies, Gaventa said.
'Protestants who place such a high value on scripture have largely ignored them, except at Christmas time,' she said. 'Any interest in Mary was perceived to be kind of scandalous because Mary was Catholic.'
Now many prominent theologians are making the case for a Protestant 're-appropriation' of Mary. Protestant publications and news organizations such as Christianity Today, the Associated Baptist Press and The Lutheran have all featured articles in recent months calling for Mary's restoration.
Some pastors and theologians have warned that elevating Mary too much could provoke another backlash among evangelicals who still hold deep reservations about worshiping Mary. But Notre Dame's Timothy Matovina argues that honoring Christ's mother has always been central to Christianity.
'By leaving her out,' he said, 'we're missing something that's integral to the faith.'
What's Wrong With Cinderella?
I finally came unhinged in the dentist's office--one of those ritzy pediatric practices tricked out with comic books, DVDs and arcade games--where I'd taken my 3-year-old daughter for her first exam. Until then, I'd held my tongue. I'd smiled politely every time the supermarket-checkout clerk greeted her with 'Hi, Princess'; ignored the waitress at our local breakfast joint who called the funny-face pancakes she ordered her 'princess meal'; made no comment when the lady at Longs Drugs said, 'I bet I know your favorite color' and handed her a pink balloon rather than letting her choose for herself. Maybe it was the dentist's Betty Boop inflection that got to me, but when she pointed to the exam chair and said, 'Would you like to sit in my special princess throne so I can sparkle your teeth?' I lost it.
'Oh, for God's sake,' I snapped. 'Do you have a princess drill, too?'
She stared at me as if I were an evil stepmother.
'Come on!' I continued, my voice rising. 'It's 2006, not 1950. This is Berkeley, Calif. Does every little girl really have to be a princess?'
My daughter, who was reaching for a Cinderella sticker, looked back and forth between us. 'Why are you so mad, Mama?' she asked. 'What's wrong with princesses?'
Diana may be dead and Masako disgraced, but here in America, we are in the midst of a royal moment. To call princesses a 'trend' among girls is like calling Harry Potter a book. Sales at Disney Consumer Products, which started the craze six years ago by packaging nine of its female characters under one royal rubric, have shot up to $3 billion, globally, this year, from $300 million in 2001. There are now more than 25,000 Disney Princess items. 'Princess,' as some Disney execs call it, is not only the fastest-growing brand the company has ever created; they say it is on its way to becoming the largest girls' franchise on the planet.
It's hard to imagine that girls' options could truly be shrinking when they dominate the honor roll and outnumber boys in college. Then again, have you taken a stroll through a children's store lately? A year ago, when we shopped for 'big girl' bedding at Pottery Barn Kids, we found the 'girls' side awash in flowers, hearts and hula dancers; not a soccer player or sailboat in sight. Across the no-fly zone, the 'boys' territory was all about sports, trains, planes and automobiles. Meanwhile, Baby GAP's boys' onesies were emblazoned with 'Big Man on Campus' and the girls' with 'Social Butterfly'; guess whose matching shoes were decorated on the soles with hearts and whose sported a 'No. 1' logo? And at Toys 'R' Us, aisles of pink baby dolls, kitchens, shopping carts and princesses unfurl a safe distance from the 'Star Wars' figures, GeoTrax and tool chests. The relentless resegregation of childhood appears to have sneaked up without any further discussion about sex roles, about what it now means to be a boy or to be a girl. Or maybe it has happened in lieu of such discussion because it's easier this way.
Easier, that is, unless you want to buy your daughter something that isn't pink. Girls' obsession with that color may seem like something they're born with, like the ability to breathe or talk on the phone for hours on end. But according to Jo Paoletti, an associate professor of American studies at the University of Maryland, it ain't so. When colors were first introduced to the nursery in the early part of the 20th century, pink was considered the more masculine hue, a pastel version of red. Blue, with its intimations of the Virgin Mary, constancy and faithfulness, was thought to be dainty. Why or when that switched is not clear, but as late as the 1930s a significant percentage of adults in one national survey held to that split. Perhaps that's why so many early Disney heroines--Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Wendy, Alice-in-Wonderland--are swathed in varying shades of azure. (Purple, incidentally, may be the next color to swap teams: once the realm of kings and N.F.L. players, it is fast becoming the bolder girl's version of pink.)
It wasn't until the mid-1980s, when amplifying age and sex differences became a key strategy of children's marketing (recall the emergence of 'tween'), that pink became seemingly innate to girls, part of what defined them as female, at least for the first few years. That was also the time that the first of the generation raised during the unisex phase of feminism--ah, hither Marlo!--became parents. 'The kids who grew up in the 1970s wanted sharp definitions for their own kids,' Paoletti told me. 'I can understand that, because the unisex thing denied everything--you couldn't be this, you couldn't be that, you had to be a neutral nothing.'
You are invited to help us pray for our Prayer Corner intentions. Please take a look! This site has been updated and enhanced and now allows users to directly submit prayer requests or to volunteer as a prayer partner for these intentions!
Marian Commemoration Days
Mary Page offers a variety of resources inviting study, reflection and meditation. We also list important Marian dates for each month of the year. Please see Marian Commemoration Days for the month of January.
Marianist Heritage Events at the University of Dayton: Multicultural Rosary
Date: 4:30 pm on Monday February 5, 2007
Place: Artstreet Amphitheatre at UD
For more details call the office of the Rector at 937-229-2409.
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