Smile of Joy: Mary of Nazareth



by Thomas Casey, S.J.

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism


My son’s house has a statue of Mother Mary in the backyard. When my son’s child, Matthew (3), feels he has gone over the line with his behavior he says: “I am going to the backyard to give Mary a hug!” He also likes the rosary and how it works. He has a statue of Mother Mary in his bedroom. He has developed a child-like love of Mother Mary. This book calls us to that magnificent love written by Jesuit Thomas Casey. As with most Jesuits, the purpose of the book is in the Introduction. “This book looks at Mary, the extraordinary woman who is ‘the cause of our joy’. She is the cause of our joy because she brought us the greatest joy of all: Jesus. Mary was full of joy because she was full of gratitude, gladly acknowledging the fullness of grace that God had given her. Her deep joy overflowed when she visited her cousin Elizabeth: ‘my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit exults in God my Savior.’ Mary’s usually way of praying was gratitude as she continually and constantly thanked God for the gifts He gave her. The author continues by referring to the fact that we often look for joy in food or drink or riches and reputation. Mary found an inner joy that came from encountering God. By giving Mary a place in our hearts, we can find true joy in God as well. This book helps us keep in mind the fact that Mary entered zones of suffering that most people can’t even envisage. As Jesus died his agonizing death, most of his disciples had fled out of fright and bewilderment. Mary stood next to Jesus, surrounded by sneering voices that ridiculed all her hopes: “Likewise the chief priest. Elders and scribes mocked him saying, “He saved others but he cannot save himself”.


Many of the chapters of the book accompany Mary on her journey with Jesus, culminating in the tenth chapter when she says her painful ‘yes’ to giving him back to the Father on Calvary. In the second-last chapter, we join Mary and the apostles as they pray for the descent of the Holy Spirit. In the final chapter, we turn to the vision of the woman clothed with the sun from the Book of Revelation. The kind of Mary you’ll encounter in these pages is someone full of God, and not of herself, someone who made God’s dream her own. Mary said an enormous “yes” to God, It was only when God’s son took on human flesh that our salvation became possible.


Near the end of the book, the author states that Mary is lovingly present at these two watershed moments: when Jesus makes the best wine flow at Cana, and when his blood and water flow on the cross. He offers us this prayer: Lord Jesus, your first miracle took place because of Mary. You wanted to show us how you can never refuse your Mother’s requests. She still has this power over your heart. Her requests are like commands to you. And thanks to your goodness, she still notices our needs. Mary, please ask Jesus to draw us closer to Him so that like we can be God’s humble servants and joyful surrender ourselves to the divine will. Amen.

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