by Murray Bodo, OFM
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
On the feast of Mary, Mother of Church, this is a great book to read. The writing in the book comprises three different genres: meditations, poems and reflections. The meditations come from a Franciscan way of praying that the scholar Ewert Cousins called “the mysticism of the historical event” which consists of taking a scene from Scripture and putting yourself into the scene, imagining that you are one of the characters, and letting the scene opening itself up to you. It is not just an intellectual exercise. It is a dimension of prayer in which you are open to grace and to the spiritual energy that derives from that particular scene or event in Scripture. It is like a pilgrimage to a geographical place where an extraordinary spiritual event took place. The pilgrims that make their way there don’t just seek an intellectual experience of the event but pray that the grace of that particular place will be given them to live it out in that day and every subsequent day of their lives.
The meditations in the book are focused on the last year of Mary’s life when she is living with John, the Beloved Disciple, in Ephesus. It was Jesus himself who gave them to each other as mother and son when he spoke to them from the cross thus: When Jesus saw his Mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said: “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciples, “Here is your mother” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (John 19:26-28)
The poems the author offers us are a collection of his poems about Mary from the time he was an adolescent boy to the present again revealing how the imagination works as a knowing faculty of the mind and heart, revealing to us in the imagining what the author did not know we knew. The reflections the author offers us explore the meaning of Mary: she is both in the theology and tradition of the church and, more specifically, who she is in Franciscan Mary Miscellany, a collection of writings that strive to do homage to the Blessed Virgin Mary whom St. Francis made the Advocate and Protectress of the Franciscan Order, under the title of Our Lady of the Angels.
There is something about a nourishing love that was central to the spirituality of St. Francis. He used to say to his Brothers that they were to love one another, as far as grace enables them to do so, the way a mother loves and nourishes the child of her flesh. And for st. Francis, Mary was the mother because of the way she loved and nourished Jesus. St. Francis had a deep and lifelong devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, committing his order to her care. Franciscan Murray Bodo explores that relationship in this evocative and deeply spiritual encounter with Mary. At the heart of the book, Fr. Murray gives us a glimpse into all that Mary treasured in her heart during her extraordinary lifetime. He shares poems and stories of his own complicated relationship with Mary. He examines Marian devotion through the lens of Franciscans such as Blessed John Duns Scotus and St. Bonaventure.
This is a thoughtfully meditative book that will provide many hours of prayer.