Smile of Joy: Mary of Nazareth

by Thomas Casey SJ

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.


In the introduction Casey tells us that the 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 She was full of joy because she was fill 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.’


The author extols us – “In reading this book, we must keep in mind 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. Many stood next to Jesus, surrounded by sneering voices that ridiculed all her hopes: ‘Likewise the chief priests, elders and scribes mocked him saying, “he saved others but he cannot save himself’” (Mt. 27: 41-42)

The kind of Mary you’ll encounter in these pages is someone who is 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. But it was only because Mary said ‘yes’ that God’s son could take on flesh in the first place. God would never have forced a pregnancy upon Mary. Gladly for us, she gave her free and full assent.

Even though none of us can make sense of the utter mystery that God is, at least by saying a full-blooded ‘yes’ we will uncover neglected layers of our own humanity, and discover that this ever-mysterious God is already present and at work within. The welcome surprise of this discovery may just inspire us with something like the grateful trust that Mary had, and which kept her always open to God’s unexpected ways.


In Smile of Joy Thomas Casey SJ reintroduces us to Mary, explaining the source of her strength and grace; bringing us to stand with her as she ponders the stunning words of the angel Gabriel, to mourn with her in exile in Egypt, worry with her as she searches for her son in Jerusalem and to face with her the enormous sacrifice of Calvary. The author emphasizes that it was Mary’s complete trust in God that carried her through, and shows us what she has to teach us about life, and what God wants for us. Of all the images of Mary we might have, from bending over the manger to standing at the foot of the cross, Casey turns our attention to that of her smile. Her smile reflects her inner joy, her profound gratitude to God. Her smile tells us who she was.