Behold Your Mother: Priests Speak About Mary

Edited by Stephen J. Rossetti
Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1991

 

Stephen J. Rossetti, editor of a new inspiring book for priests, Behold Your Mother, starts off with a confession. “In this modern era, I think many priests, including myself, viewed a Marian spirituality as something optional.” He admits that after listening to scholars and the priests who have authored the chapters of this book, he unabashedly affirms: “a Marian spirituality is not an optional, private devotion.  God wills this woman to be an integral part of our Christian spiritual lives.”  These are potent words that our modern church and particularly faithful priests need to hear.

            This book includes the heartfelt and honest words of ten priests who know the truth themselves of Mary’s importance to one's spiritual life.  It is not for priests alone to read.  Every Catholic is aware of the contemporary crisis in the Church, understanding the loneliness and challenge that the faithful remnant of priests now serving the Church face in their lives every day.  However, the insight into Mary’s importance of Mary that comes in the words of these faithful servants who have contributed to this book helps to heal the fear and doubt plaguing many in the laity. 

 

            Rossetti himself contributes a powerful chapter entitled “She will crush his head.”  He addresses the often unspoken reality that Satan is the source of attack on the priesthood and the church. He shares insights from his own ministry with troubled priests noting that anger grips the society, a sign of Satan’s work. “Satan is an enraged being.  He is consumed with a pervasive inner rage; it is perpetually eating him up from the inside.”  Rossetti’s sound training in psychological counseling balances his words of caution to priests that there is a spiritual battle that is real and can be devastating to each man’s personal priestly life.  He describes priests who have been consumed with “a cocaine addiction, alcoholism, internet pornography and/or a long series of sexual contacts.”  Sinking to these lifestyles introduces, in the words of one priest he quotes, a “real ontological evil.”  It is a battleground, he writes.  “I believe that the spiritual battle is particularly important and waged with a special intensity in our priests.” The solution he finds is turning to Mary, the woman who can strike at the heel of Satan.  It is more than assuming a personal devotion. He points out that Christ, himself, commanded us to turn to Mary, saying: “Behold, your mother.”

            Many of the chapters recount personal experiences of Mary’s presence offering a human side to the priestly life.  Many of the priests recall their mothers teaching them in childhood about Mary.  But these early lessons are confirmed in later moments when the reality of Mary’s touch is realized in their priestly ministry.  Fernando Ferrarese recalls one stormy night when he attempted to help a distraught wife deal with a miscarriage that threatened her marriage.  Searching for ways to comfort her he thought of Mary and the pain of her loss at calvary.  “As I was encouraging her to confide in this special, loving woman I felt a presence enter my office, a presence of ineffable sweetness.”  At this moment, he sensed that “Mary was real.”  The priests writing these chapters relate much of the church’s compendium of wisdom and writings on Mary, but balance it with a lived and acknowledged awareness of her reality.

            Another strong chapter is offered by Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.  He took the opportunity in this collection of priestly thoughts about Mary to offer suggestions to the contemporary profusion of people who claim personal revelations.  Referring to his own book on the subject, A Still Small Voice, he chooses a few succinct ideas to offer for priestly readers here. He warns that priests should be sure they are not too skeptical to expect the hand of God in people’s lives, yet at the same time suggests caution in handling the enthusiasm of “those who are intrigued or even mesmerized by a report of a private revelation. 

            Each chapter is unique.  The interesting aspect for all readers is to see how priests can come to Mary through diverse paths.  Some are more theological and systematic.  Others, like the editor Rossetti, bring pastoral experiences to the discussion which are dynamic and sensitive. In conclusion, Rossetti gathers all the priests’ words into one basket of  insights: it is time to re-energize Marian spirituality, remembering that important gifts of God come through the hands of Mary; she is the one who can bring us closer to her Son; she is the woman clothed with the sun whose heel strikes at the serpent and is our protector against evil; she is the unique mother who gives grace and strength to live out a celibate life; and she gives priests the feminine side of God showering them with loving, feminine tenderness. This is a fine read for all who care about the Church today and the spiritual strength that comes through Mary.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
--Dr. Virginia Kimball, S.T.D.

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