Tuesday 7 June 2022

Mary Potter - Elizabeth Gilroy - CTS Saints of the Isles

Mary Potter
Founder of the Little Company of Mary
Her Life and Vision - and Beyond.
CTS Saints of the Isles
Sr Elizabeth Gilroy LCM
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860826672
CTS Booklet B729

The CTS Saints of the Isles Series is one of my favourite series. Each of the books in the series is a biography. Most, like this one, are biographies of specific individuals.  Also most in the series are biographies of martyrs, but not this one. Over the last several years I have read over 275 books from the Catholic Truth Society. This was the fourteenth I have read in the Saints of the Isles Series since 2018. I have read all that are readily available and now tracking down those that are harder to find. I only have 2 left that I am aware of after having read this volume. I have also read many in the CTS Biographies and also Great Saints Series. There are many great stories about the lives of the saints. I believe I have a complete list of the volumes in this series, and this is the thirteenth I have read from the fifteen I have discovered so far. The description of the series is:

“The Saints of the Isles series brings together telling accounts of the extraordinary lives of men and women from the British Isles - lives of holiness, courage and true discipleship to Christ and the Gospel message.”

And of this specific book:

“Mary Potter, was born in 1847 and grew up in a single-parent family. She endured a life of suffering from ill health and misunderstanding from those who opposed her, yet her vision lives on in the work of her congregation, helping many in the last and most difficult moments of their life. The Little Company of Mary is an international religious congregation whose main ministry is to pray for and assist the sick and dying throughout the world.”

The chapters in this volume are:

Early Life
A Time of Discernment
Little Company of Mary
Expansion of the Little Company of Mary
Little Company of Mary in the 20th and 21st Century
Prayer for Beatification

This was an extraordinary read. As mentioned Mary Potter was not a Martyr. But she did live a life of great suffering, physical, spiritual, and emotional. Yet through it all she lived to serve and follow God. In many ways her story is a precursor to Mother Theresa, and it is easy after reading this volume to see how some draw parallels. I highlighted several passages while reading this volume they were:

“Then in 2008. A patient ill in a Little Company of Mary Hospital in the Mid-West of the USA, was experiencing pain and became worries. She also thought she was going to have a panic attack as she felt she could not breathe.  She closed her eyes to try to relax and the felt someone (she thought it was a nurse) lift her chin and hold her hand. “I opened my eyes and saw it was a lady dressed like a nun. She had a blue ‘cloth’ on her head, not black. She was so gentle looking and I felt so safe.””

“There were also major changes happening in the Church (the established Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church), as well as in the State and society. This included the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act of 829 and the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in 1850. Until that time, Catholics had kept the faith by family traditions, in seclusion and through centuries of persecution. The Catholic Emancipation Act allowed Irish potato famine immigrants to have places of worship for the first time, without which they refused to work.”

“From this time, there were many converts to the Catholic Faith, including John Henry Newman, H.W. Wilberforce, H.E. Manning, N.P. Wiseman and many others. This changed the face of the newly restored Roman Catholic Church. Some of the converts to the Roman Catholic Faith following the Oxford Movement influenced Mary Potter later in her life, including Cardinal Wiseman, and Cardinal Manning who were both Archbishops of Westminster.”

“Mary Potter was born in a rented house at 23 Old Jamaica Road in Bermondsey, South London, which was a poor area not far from the docks.  Mary was the fifth child, and only girl.  Her brothers were William, Thomas, Henry and George.”

“As Mary was growing up she developed into a bright teenager who had a personality full of fun and good humour.”

“Even though Mary was an attractive young woman she was unsophisticated. She captivated people though by her warm manner and good looks.  She was fair with a mass of golden curls and her penetrating blue eyes remained her most striking feature to the end of her life.”

“Looking back over her life, one wonders how much this attempt to cover over her own suffering with a determined attitude of sociability and attractiveness to those around her, would set in motion patterns of interior struggle which would remain a feature of her spirituality.”

“During her time with the Sisters of Mercy, Mary was known to have a great spirit of joy and an insatiable desire for perfection. She was introduced to the life of prayer as well as the works of the Order. This special time of learning self-discipline and introducing method into her prayer life had implications for her future.”

“Eventually Mary became stronger and was able to visit the mission chapel not far from her home for Mass and Benediction. She also started to visit the lonely, poor and sick in the area and regularly walked around the wharf near the Garrison with her mother and brothers.”

“People began to carp about her excessive kindness to all and she earned for herself the names ‘madcap’, and a religious ‘fanatic’.  Yet the poor seemed to love her and welcome her into their homes.”

“She spent hours in prayer and reflection before a crucifix; in particular she focused on the Passion and death of Jesus and it was at this time she was drawn to pray for the dying.  She started to think of the possibility of founding in the church a group of religious Sisters dedicated to the spiritual, and, where possible, the physical assistance of those who were sick and dying. By 1872 she became more and more convinced that this is what God was asking her to do.”

“Mary Potter’s many writings over the span of her life were Mariological and those who read them are directed toward a relationship with Mary, and as quoted so much by de Montfort, devotion to Mary is “To Jesus through Mary.”  Mary Potter’s theology therefore was bound in Christology as well as Mariology.”

“The more we read and understand the depth of the courage, vitality and sanctity of Mary Potter, the more we realise how much more there is to know.  What she accomplished in her life, particularly in the light of her frailty, physical pain and terrible opposition from people, even those closest to her, is in fact a miracle in itself.  Her inspirational example of calmness and peace in the light of these sufferings is something only those who reflect carefully would understand.”

The final passage I highlighted was this prayer:

Prayer for the Beatification of Venerable Mary Potter

O God to whose glory the Little Company of Mary was founded by Venerable Mary Potter, grand that she may be beatified soon so that her work and spirit may benefit still more the suffering members of Jesus Christ. Amen

Mary, Mother of the Church may this ardent apostle of your Maternal Heart be more widely known by special favours granted through her intercession. Amen.”

Not being a martyr this biography was very different than most in the Saints of the Isles Series from the Catholic Truth Society. It is however still a very powerful story. A great witness to faith, love and service. It is a story that can move the hearts of readers. Another excellent biography from the CTS it is a great read! 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books in the Saints of the Isles Series:

Edmund Arrowsmith - John S. Hogan
Margaret Clitherow - Jean Olwen Maynard
Edmund Campion - Alexander Haydon
John Southworth Priest and Martyr - Michael Archer
Saint Thomas More - Alvaro de Silva
John Ogilvie - Eleanor McDowell
Frances Taylor - Eithne Leonard
Mary Potter - Elizabeth Gilroy
John Fisher - Richard L. Smith
Robert Southwell - Fiorella Sultana De Maria
Ignatius Spencer - Fr. Ben Lodge
Sr Elizabeth Prout - Dominic Savio Hamer
Forty Martyrs of England and Wales - James Walsh
Thomas Becket - J.B. Midgley


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