Tuesday 24 July 2018

Keeping Mary Close Devotion to Our Lady through the Ages - Mike Aquilina and Frederick W. Gruber

Keeping Mary Close
Devotion to Our Lady through the Ages
Mike Aquilina
Frederick W. Gruber
Servant Books
Franciscan Media 
ISBN 9781616368746
eISBN 9781616368753

I read this book about six months ago. It was an excellent read. But to be honest I have found it hard to approach reviewing this volume. In part I am a huge fan of everything I have read from the pen of Mike Aquilina, and I did not want this review to come across as just a fan boy. There are many great contemporary authors in Catholic Tradition today: Scott Hahn, Taylor Marshall, Kevin Vost, Amy Welborn and many more. But there is something about the books by Aquilina that really stick with me, for weeks, some like this one, for months. This was one of those books. I have always had a devotion to Mary, it was instilled by my Anglican grandmother. Even in my years away from the Catholic Church I always felt a closeness to Mary and prayed to her. This book helped me understand that more and helped me commit even more to helping my children always draw near to Mary. This volume focuses on Marian devotion from the time of Christ through to the council of Ephesus.

The chapters in this book are:

From Jerusalem to Ephesus 
Mary in the Bible 
Other Sources of Marian Devotion 
Her Name 
The Virgin 
The New Eve 
Mother of God 
Conceiving Her Conception 
Assuming Her Assumption 
Star of Evangelization 
The Illuminated Gospels 
 John Henry Newman, "The Dignity of Mary" 

In the introduction to this book James L. Papandrea states:

"You hold in your hands a great treasure: a window into the world of early Christian devotion. And when you look through that window, what you will see is a deep and enduring love and appreciation for Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Mary was the first Christian, the first to say yes to Jesus, when the angel presented her with the divine plan of the Incarnation (see Luke 1:26-38). Or to put it in popular evangelical terms, she was the first person ever to accept Jesus as her Savior.

In this way, and in many others, Mary is our prototype-the first one like us who welcomed Jesus into her life and walked the path of discipleship. Just as she received Christ into her body, in her womb, so we also receive Christ into our bodies when we take his Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist.

Mary's importance for the Church, and for history, cannot be overestimated. She is as important as Jesus's inner circle of disciples: Peter, James, and John. She is as important as Paul. Graffiti in the Roman catacombs record the prayers of second- and third-century Christians-prayers asking for the intercession of Peter, Paul, and Mary. When the chi-rho monogram of Christ became a popular Christian symbol in the fourth century, it was often embellished to include the initials of Peter and Mary. And Mary is the only one of Jesus's followers to be mentioned in the creeds."

This historical focus of this book, is a counter to the tradition of the last 150-200 years to minimize, ignore or even supress Marian devotion. As such this book is desperately needed today. The first chapter of this book begins with a quote from the book of Acts 1:12-14:

"Then they returned to Jerusalem…. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers."

Thus we see, from days after Christ's death and resurrection, the early church had a close relationship to Mary and she played such a key role that she frequently appears in the early Christian writings, including those that made it into the canon and those that did not. But the book always ties it back to today. As Mary was central in the beginning, she is considered central to the new evangelization. If anything after reading this book, I believe we need more of a focus on Mary, her role, and her example. The authors state:

"Mary always stands in the midst of that Church. That is what we learn from the constant witness of the Fathers.
She is in its Scriptures.
She is in its preaching and proclamation.
She is in its poetry and songs.
She is in its creeds.
She is in the catacombs in Rome and the cemeteries of the Fayoum.
She is in its mosaics, frescos, and sculpture.
She is in graffiti at the Church's pilgrim shrines.
She is in the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha.
She is in the Church's calendar, on her feasts and those of her son.
She is burnished onto oil lamps and minted in coins.
She is ever among her fellow disciples. She is a mother to them, because she mothers her son, in whom they live."

This book was a phenomenal read. It looks back and shows us where we come from and can be used as a guide to plot the course forward. As I stated we need more of Mary today, in our lives, in our Parishes and in our world. This book is an excellent tool to remind us of that history and to help us on our way. Another incredible read by Aquilina! 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Mike Aquilina:
A Year with the Angels: Daily Meditations with the Messengers of God
A Year With The Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living
Angels of God: The Bible, the Church and the Heavenly Hosts
Companion Guide to Pope Benedict's 'The Fathers' 
Faith of Our Fathers: Why the Early Christians Still Matter and Always Will
Fire of God's Love: 120 Reflections on the Eucharist
Good Pope, Bad Pope: Their Lives, Our Lessons 
Love in the Little Things: Tales of Family Life
Ministers & Martyrs: The Ultimate Catholic Guide to the Apostolic Age
Praying in the Presence of Our Lord: With St. Thomas Aquinas
Roots of the Faith: From the Church Fathers to You
Sharing Christ's Priesthood: A Bible Study for Catholics
Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols
Sweet Gridlock: Selected Love Poems 
Terms and Conditions: Assorted Poems
The Apostles and Their Times
The Church and the Roman Empire
The Fathers of the Church Bible
The Fathers of the Church: An Introduction to the First Christian Teachers
The Mass of the Early Christians
The Resilient Church: The Glory, the Shame, & the Hope for Tomorrow
The Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church
The Way of the Fathers: Praying With the Early Christians
The Witness of Early Christian Women: Mothers of the Church
Understanding the Mass: 100 Questions, 100 Answers
Why Me? When Bad Things Happen
Yours Is the Church: How Catholicism Shapes Our World

Books co-written by Mike Aquilina:
A Pocket Catechism for Kids - Fr. Kris Stubna
Dion: The Wanderer Talks Truth - Dion DiMucci
Keeping Mary Close: Devotion to Our Lady through the Ages - Fr. Frederick Gruber
Living the Mysteries: A Guide for Unfinished Christians - Scott Hahn
Praying the Psalms the Early Christians - Christopher Bailey
Saint Monica and the Power of Persistent Prayer - Mark W. Sullivan
Seven Revolutions: How Christianity Changed the World and Can Change It Again - James Papandrea
Something More Pastoral: The Mission of Bishop, Archbishop, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl - Ann Rodgers
Take Five: Meditations John Henry Newman - Fr. Juan Velez
Take Five: Meditations Pope Benedict XVI - Fr. Kris Stubna
Take Five: On the Job Meditations With St. Ignatius - Fr. Kris Stubna
Talking to Youth About Sexuality: A Parents' Guide - Fr. Kris Stubna
The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today - John Michael Talbot
The Church: Unlocking the Secrets to the Places Catholics Call Home - Cardinal Donald Wuerl
The Doubter's Novena: Nine Steps to Trust the Apostle Thomas - Christopher Bailey
The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as Catholics - Cardinal Donald Wuerl
The Grail Code: Quest for the Real Presence - Christopher Bailey
The Great Life: Essays on Doctrine and Holiness in Honor of Father Ronald Lawler, O.F.M. Cap. - Kenneth Ogorek
The Holy Land: A Guide for Pilgrims - Fr. Dave Halaiko
The How-To Book of Catholic Devotions - Regis J. Flaherty
The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition - Cardinal Donald Wuerl
The World's First Christmas: Jubilee 2000 - Regis J. Flaherty
Weapons of the Spirit: Selected Writings of Father John Hugo - David Scott
What Catholics Believe: A Pocket Catechism - Fr. Kris Stubna

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