Journeying with Mary Through Lent
A review of A Lenten Journey with Mother Mary by Fr. Edward Looney
+JMJ+ Growing up, I had a very deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. Some of my fondest memories are of First Saturday Fatima devotions at our church, May crownings, and our nightly family Rosaries. I hate to admit it but my brothers and I looked forward to nights when we prayed the Chaplet instead - it's much shorter. Whenever a family friend went on pilgrimage and offered to bring our prayer requests, I always had a page full of special intentions to send along. As I got older (and busier), my prayers became much less frequent. After my rape, I resented the Rosary and pretty much every part of the Catholic faith. Honestly, the only reason I kept going to mass was because it was expected of me by my parents. Though I struggled, a part of me just couldn't give up the faith that had always been so dear to me. Now an adult, I have slowly been finding Mary again and it's been wonderful and refreshing. When I heard about Fr. Looney's new book, A Lenten Journey with Mother Mary, I was intrigued. After all, what better person to journey through Lent with than the person closest to Jesus on earth, Mary His mother?
This book is designed to be used over the course of the Lenten season and into the Easter season. There is one reflection for each day beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Divine Mercy Sunday. For the sake of getting a feel for what this book was all about, I read it over a span of a few days. However, I plan to read through it again (starting on Ash Wednesday) and reflect more deeply on each devotion.
Each week introduces a particular theme and each reflection that follows over the course of that week mirrors that theme. Fr. Looney talks about prayer, conversion, healing, he provides information about various Marian apparitions as well as how the Church determines which ones are worthy of devotion, and offers some practical advice in regards to prayer and other matters. Over the course of the book you are (in essence) taking a spiritual pilgrimage to the places where Mary has appeared.
One of the most important points sticking out to me after reading this is that Mary is our intercessor in Heaven. Honestly, I often forget that! The Blessed Mother prays for us when we struggle. She never forgets us, her children. Over and over again through various apparitions across the world, she invites us to her Son. She doesn't replace Him or try to "take over." Rather, Mary helps pave the way for us so that we may develop a closer relationship with Jesus. Time and time again Mary has come to spread messages of peace, strength, and renewal; always encouraging us to live holier lives and always asking us to come back to her Son. Time and time again, the Blessed Mother speaks to our hearts and shows us her motherly concern. Of course Mary's faith is discussed at length and no wonder. Such a persistent faith she had!
Never once did she give up; never once did she doubt. Her only desire was to do God's will. Her "yes" to God changed everything. It forever changed the course of history and forever changed our very existence. Her "yes" came at a price, however. She suffered greatly but willingly. One of the devotions Fr. Looney explains is that of the 7 Sorrows of Mary and he encourages us to pray this devotion, not only during Lent, but beyond. When you reflect on Mary's 7 Sorrows and all the hardships she went through, it's hard to fathom just how much trust she had in God. But she did trust and, in doing so, she encourages the rest of us to put our trust in him as well.
Throughout the book we are asked to examine our prayer lives just as Mary has asked us to do whenever she has appeared. Prayer is, of course, one of the ways we come to trust in God – it helps to lead us there. Believe me, I know how tough trusting can be! When you've suffered various trials and disappointments, your trust can sometimes falter. On a side note, I want to remind you that struggling to trust doesn't make you any “less” of a person or any less a child of God. In any event, Mary reminds us to trust and to pray. We learn of a story about Juan Diego to whom Our Lady appeared in Guadalupe, Mexico. Instead of going to see Mary as he had promised, Juan Diego was rushing to his sick uncle. He avoided the place where she had appeared many times previously. She found him and asked, "Where are you headed?" "It was as if Mary was saying, 'Why are you avoiding me?'"
Fr. Looney asks, "Could Our Lady say the same thing to us? Could Jesus ask us the same question?" He entreats us to examine our prayer lives. Do we pray often or minimally? Do we turn to prayer only when we are in need? Is it mechanical or more thoughtfully done? Questions like these help the reader to delve deep into their life as a Catholic Christian and help us to examine our lives and reflect on what we can do better in order to reach greater holiness.
At her apparitions, Mary speaks to us, her precious children, with tender, loving care and encourages us to ask for her intercession. Our Lady of Guadalupe asked, "Am I not here, I who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more?"
Such a comfort it is to know that we are not alone! Even in our suffering and pain, even in dark times, Our Lord and the Blessed Mother are with us. Fr. Looney reminds us that, just as Mary journeyed with her Son on the long road to Calvary, she offers us consolation on our journeys and as we carry our own crosses. Mary offers us comfort and hope. She helps us to unite our sufferings to that of her Son's. Mary is a mother - to Jesus and to all of us. On the cross, Jesus gave her to us. Wow! Think about that for a moment: the Son of God gave us His mother! Should we not, then, follow her example? Is that not what Jesus asks us to do?
Most of us probably recognize that this world is in need of healing - physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological. In her apparitions, Mary always brings a message of healing for us. We are reminded that Mary seeks to bring healing to us, especially that which is needed as a result of personal sin. She encourages us to examine our consciences and to delve deep into whatever things might be holding us back from following Jesus. Fr. Looney tells us that, like a good mother, she tells us things that challenge us – things we may not want to hear – and she does it for our own good. There is no better time to listen and to cleanse our souls than during the Lenten season.
Jesus gives us His mother so that we may follow her example and be led to greater holiness. Remember, Mary never replaces her Son and Fr. Looney is very clear about this. Some of you may be asking, “Why do we have devotion to the Blessed Mother anyway? Can't we just go directly to God with our love, praise, devotion, and prayers?” Personally I look at this this way: we ask our friends and family to pray for us sometimes, don't we? If you ask the people around you to pray for you, why not ask the Mother of God to pray for you and with you? Jesus should be our best friend. Mary is our best friend's mother! Why wouldn't we want a relationship with her?
I'm always a little surprised when people underestimate Mary's role in, not only the life of Jesus, but in the life of the Church. I mean, out of every person to have ever been created, God chose her to be the mother of our Redeemer. She carried Jesus, gave birth to Him, raised Him, taught Him, and followed Him. That's got to count for something! If Mary is "good enough" for the Son of God then she's good enough for you and me! We are right to look up to her with love, respect, and devotion.
This is a beautiful devotional and I highly recommend it! Thank you, Fr. Looney, for gracing us with such a remarkable and eye-opening book! I truly felt as though I was being led through Mary's life and into the messages of her apparitions and, in doing so, I was led closer to her and to Jesus. Whether you are someone who has a relationship with Mary already or someone looking to develop a relationship with her, this book is full of rich tidbits of information and powerful reminders of how Mary brings us closer to her Son.
May we all strive to follow Mary and learn from her example so that one day we can say without hesitation (as she said at the Annunciation), "May it be done unto me according to your will." This Lent, I encourage you to journey through lent with Mary the mother of Jesus. A Lenten Journey with Mary is a perfect way to do just that. Just as she journeyed with Jesus through His life, she also wants to accompany us. She gives us the grace to say "yes" to God just as she said "yes" so long ago. Mary desires that we find peace. Invite her into your life and into your areas of brokenness, and she will help lead you to greater peace and healing.
Suggested practice: if you're not already doing so, try praying the Rosary. The lives of Jesus and Mary are intertwined and you see this especially through the prayers and mysteries of the Rosary. Make it a goal to say the Rosary (5 decades) daily for a week, reflecting on each mystery and each prayer as best as you can. I know it's tough for those of us who are parents with little ones running around or those of us who have busy minds, but just do your best! Invite the Blessed Mother (and even a favorite saint) to pray with you. Through the power of the Rosary, God will do great things in your life! Try it and see where it leads you.
Disclaimer: this post is in no way sponsored by Sophia Press. I received a copy of the book in exchange for my honest feedback and am simply sharing my thoughts in this blog post.