Friday 19 May 2023

Behold Your Mother - Peter Kahn - CTS Books

Behold Your Mother
ISBN 9781784697563
eISBN 9781784697082
CTS Booklet D847

Behold Your Mother - Dr Peter Kahn

This is the first volume I have read by Dr. Peter Kahn. I have a few others I had already picked up in my to be read list. However I started this book the day it released. And I could not put it down.

The description of this volume is:

“This book tells stories about ways the saints encountered Our Lady, not necessarily through the miraculous, but rather as their spiritual mother in everyday life, showing that any growth in our awareness of Mary’s presence and care for us deepens our relationship to Christ.

What is it like to have a close relationship with Mary, the Mother of God? Our Lady is the spiritual mother of all Christians, but it is the saints who know her best.

This book tells stories about ways the saints encountered Our Lady, not necessarily through the miraculous, but rather as their spiritual mother in everyday life.

The saints’ experience shows us that any growth in our awareness of Mary’s presence and care for us deepens our relationship to Christ. It is their testimony that an ever-deepening relationship with the Mother of God is a path to sanctity.

Reflecting on the wisdom of the saints who so loved Our Lady shows that this path through Marian devotion to holiness is one open to all Christians. She is our mother and she seeks always to lead us to her beloved son, Jesus.”

The chapters in the volume are:

Such a good friends of ours
The first word comes from God
Call me blessed
Asking for her assistance
Pondering on the events of life
Taking her to our own
The Memorare

I highlighted numerous passages my first time through this volume. Some of them are:

“In 1950 when the Venerable Pope Pius XII defined the dogma of Our Lady’s Assumption, there was a great deal of enthusiasm in the Catholic world. The devout faithful were jubilant; priests were vying with each other to preach more eloquently on the privileges of our heavenly Mother; and theologians were delving deeper into the writings of the Fathers to discover perhaps still further treasures of grace that Divine Providence might be holding in store for future dogmatic definitions. The titles “Co-Redemptrix” and “Mediatrix of All Grace” were on the lips of many.”

“Less than two decades later, after the Second Vatican Council, things had changed. When I was young, I can remember an older gentleman telling me of how, one day after the Council, a priest held up a rosary from the pulpit and said: “We don’t need this anymore!” Like so many other areas in the life of the Church, Marian devotion was entering a long, dark winter from which it has not yet recovered.”

“This amazing little book by Peter Kahn encourages us all to ask Our Lady for the grace to become one of those saints. Let us not be afraid to take up the challenge of promoting her honour and leading souls to her. And should there be anyone infected with that unhealthy fear of taking away from Jesus by praying to Mary, let us reassure them that Jesus is no unnatural Son and that any prayer we make to Mary, any honour we give to her, does not decrease, but rather increases his own glory. Jesus and Mary are one. Let us not separate what God has united.”

“All of us would do well to remember those words. As the battle for the Church, which is really a battle for souls, intensifies, let us have ever greater recourse to our Mother, the Virgo potens–“Virgin most powerful”–confident that under her immaculate mantle we will take part in the victory.”

“The inspiration for this book stems in part from a comment that Dom Pius Mary Noonan (see the foreword on pages 8-9) made to me many years ago during a retreat which comprised of five days of spiritual exercises. He observed that I had not said much to him about Our Lady in my reflections on my life. His remark stayed with me long after other memories of the retreat faded, influencing my ongoing relationship with Our Lady.”

“As noted below, the aim of this book is to help readers come closer to Mary, and thus to live more profoundly with Christ’s own life. The book mainly consists of stories from the lives of the saints, stories that tell of ways in which the saints were connected to Mary.”

“Mary is not a myth: she is a living person. The saints are those who have known her well. Even if the book does not directly offer a life of Our Lady, an account of the saints’ experience of Mary as their mother has a great deal to offer in biographical terms. Mary’s incredible tenderness shines through again and again, for instance, as does the utmost care she takes for all her children. She remains ever responsive to her son, Jesus.”

“The aim of this book is to help readers come closer to Mary, and thus to live more profoundly with Christ’s own life. The book mainly consists of stories from the lives of the saints, stories that tell of ways in which the saints experienced Mary as their mother. It is true, of course, that Mary is one of the saints as well, but she is nonetheless set apart from the rest of the saints as the Mother of God, as the mother of the one who is to rule all the nations.”

“The earliest account of an apparition of Mary comes from Gregory of Nyssa in 380. He wrote a biography of St Gregory the Wonderworker, who had been born in 213. At that time, visions were primarily conceived of as dreams, so the apparition is described as a “waking vision”. Sleep eluded Gregory one night in his worry about the state of the Church.”

“A characteristic feature of any apparition of Our Lady, including this one to Gregory, is that she takes the initiative. Whatever one makes of any specific apparition that is claimed to have taken place, the graces that have come into the world through Fátima, Guadalupe, Lourdes and other places have been staggering. The apparitions at Fátima, for instance, have led to a worldwide movement of prayer, while the apparitions at Guadalupe contributed decisively to the conversion of the peoples of South America.”

“Our Lady subsequently referred to Juan as her “dearest and youngest son”, even though he was over fifty at the time of the apparitions. She went on to refer to herself as Juan’s “dear mother” (inantzin) and as a “compassionate mother” (nohuacanantzin). Juan’s uncle was close to death when Mary appeared to Juan for a fourth time. Juan asked for permission to break off from the apparition to go to call a priest to hear his uncle’s confession and prepare him for his death. Our Lady’s response was to say to Juan that his uncle had already been healed and that there was no need for Juan to be worried or to grieve over his uncle’s illness. Our Lady anticipated Juan’s request with her own motherly care for his uncle.”

“Before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger noted in his book Daughter Zion that by incorporating the phrase “For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed” within the Magnificat, Luke knew that the Church of his day praised Mary and that this praise would continue for all time. Luke thus saw devotion to Mary as a core feature of Christian practice.”

“The name of Jesus has been described as a hinge that joins together the two parts of the Hail Mary, so that the prayer as a whole focuses on Jesus. When the prayer is said in Latin, the word “Jesus” occurs right in the middle, as the sixteenth out of thirty-one words! The second part of the Hail Mary, of course, constitutes a prayer for her intercession, as we shall shortly further explore.”

“The saints show us that calling Mary blessed leads directly to growth in prayer. We shall see in the chapters that follow that the possibilities for this growth are truly astounding. What we do not want to see, though, is any parallel between our own response to Mary and the disdain that David’s wife, Michal, expressed at seeing him dance before the Ark of the Covenant in what is imagined to be a loincloth. One can respond to Mary by leaping or crying out with joy–or by being filled with contempt for those who show her heartfelt devotion.”

“She almost always held a set of rosary beads in her hands, even when physically caring for someone’s pains. People would ask her why she held onto the beads when she was obviously not praying them. In response, she said it was a way of holding onto Our Lady’s hand, as her child. The Virgin Mary was a familiar companion to Mother Teresa.”

“Requests for Mary’s assistance are closely aligned with the act of calling her blessed. Hand over the challenges that you face during the day to your heavenly mother by praying for her help! The saints often reached out to Our Lady when facing specific needs. It was in this way that they were able to develop a close bond with their dearest mother.”

“For the saints, prayer to Our Lady involved far more than repeating the words of prayers in a detached fashion.”

“The suffering that Maximilian experienced in Auschwitz was a reminder for him of the goodness and great love of God. If we undertake Mother Teresa’s examen each day, then there is every reason to expect that we, too, will be able to perceive how Mary is close to us in the events of our lives.”

“One of the things that convinced St Maximilian that the Immaculata was at work in his life was noticing that he often received unexpected favours on Marian feast days. Everything that occurred on these days in particular was for him an opportunity to accept the will of the Mother of God, united as her will is with that of her Son.”

“If I no longer live but Christ lives in me, what depth of love for Mary should be in place within my heart!”

“St Bernadette, meanwhile, was particularly attached to the grotto at Lourdes where Our Lady appeared to her, shown in the image left. She wept frequently during the first few days after arriving as a novice at the mother house of the Sisters of Charity in Nevers, France. One of the other novices assumed that she missed her family, but Bernadette told her that it was the separation from the grotto at Lourdes that pained her. She would forevermore have to accept that she could no longer visit it. In time, she found consolation in praying in the garden of the convent, before a statue of Our Lady of the Waters.”

“Why not find a way to become attached to sites that are associated with Mary, whether these are nearby or far away, following something of St Bernadette’s path to sanctity? This could be made possible by occasionally booking time off work to celebrate a Marian feast day or by using some of your holidays to undertake pilgrimages.”

“By staying in prayer with Our Lady we prepare to receive the Holy Spirit. Our Lady’s presence hailed the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, just as her presence hailed the arrival of Christ for Elizabeth, and as St John the Baptist was moved by the Spirit in his mother’s womb.”

“An icon or painting of Our Lady should not simply be background art in one’s home or place of work: it is something to be noticed whenever one is around it, something to remind us of our mother.”

“If there is a need for each individual Christian to take Our Lady to his or her own, there is also a need for a renewed appreciation of what it means for Mary’s role as a mother across the entire life of the Church.”

“The notion that one can never fully sing Mary’s praises is a refrain of the saints across the ages. We hear Origen embellishing the words of Elizabeth in order to refer to Mary as “my Lady”: “It is I who should have come to visit you, because you are blessed above all women, you are the Mother of my Lord, you are my Lady.” In his sermon on the Feast of the Purification, Bishop Methodius in the early fourth century recognised that he struggled to give Mary her due, in that the “remembrance of this holy virgin far transcends all words of mine”. The first ever complete biography of Mary, The Life of the Virgin, was probably written by St Maximus the Confessor in the seventh century. It starts out: “The praise and glory, laud and honour of our all-holy, incorruptible, and most blessed queen, the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary.” One can hear the way in which he struggled to find words that do justice to the Mother of God.”

“And if theological study of Mary suffered after the Council, so too did the willingness of Catholics to join with each other in their devotion to Our Lady, lest they be led astray. What a need there is in the Church of today for Christians to connect to each other in their love for Our Lady! Every single family, association, order or movement in the Church that has not yet dedicated itself to Our Lady should consecrate itself to her. Just as the Trinity incorporates within it interpersonal relations, so Christianity is a companionship and not simply a set of practices and ideas. This companionship includes not only those fellow Christians who live alongside us, but also angels, saints and Our Lady, as well as the Holy Trinity.”

This book is very accessible. It is easy to read but deep and profound in meaning. It is a book I know I will return to and read again. Dr Kahn writes in a clean crisp style. The volume is very well researched. It was a pleasure to read, and it has challenged me to grow in my devotion to our mother. This volume could easily become a spiritual classic on Mary.

Over the last few years I have read over 350 books from the Catholic Truth Society. This may have been my first by Dr. Kahn but it will not be my last. This is an excellent volume that every Catholic should read. It should be in every church, school, and home library. My son who is fifteen saw me reading it and he is reading it now. This is a great resource growth in our spiritual life. I can easily recommend this volume.  

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Dr. Peter Kahn:
Facing Difficulties in Christian Family Life
Passing on Faith to Your Children
Work and the Christian Family
Catholic Student Guide: Essential Reading for Life at University

Facing Difficulties in Christian Family Life - Dr Peter Kahn

Passing on Faith to Your Children - Dr Peter Kahn

Behold Your Mother - Dr Peter Kahn

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