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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first published July 8, 2017, at Clash Daily.
The Benedict Option has taken up a lot of bandwidth in cultural conservative circles, more than it deserves, frankly. A much better book has come out: The Marian Option by philosophy Ph.D. and homeschooling mother of four, Dr. Carrie Gress.
Before I tell you about the book, let me tell you a joke related Dr. Gress relates. You may have already heard this joke. Bear with me.
A man whose house is flooding is confident that God will save him. As the water rises, a farmer in a truck comes by to offer him a ride. “Oh, no, the Lord will save me!” Next, as the water rises to the first floor of his home, a rescuer in a boat comes by. “Oh, no, the Lord will save me!” he says, again refusing help. Finally, perched on his roof because the water has nearly covered his entire home, a helicopter comes by to pluck him off the shingles. “Oh, no, the Lord will save me!” The man is washed away and drowns. At his arrival at the pearly gates, the man says to God, “Why didn’t you save me?” God says, “I tried. I sent a truck, a boat and a helicopter”.
I’ll come back to this joke.
The subtitle of the book encapsulates Dr. Gress’s theme: God’s Solution to a Civilization in Crisis. Throughout history, Mary has come through during multiple confrontations with Islam. The Christian West won the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, while the entire city of Rome prayed the Rosary. Polish King Jan Sobieski defeated the Turks on September 11, 1683, after asking Our Lady of Czestochowa to intercede with her Divine Son. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.
Then there is the most famous apparition of the twentieth century, Our Lady’s visit to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. She made geo-political predictions the illiterate children simply could not have invented. No less an intellectual than Pope St. John Paul II credited Our Lady of Fatima for her aid in the collapse of communism.
You may think these are all overwrought ravings of hysterical simpletons. You should know that getting Church approval for an apparition is quite rigorous. Hundreds of alleged apparitions have NOT been approved as being of supernatural origin, or worthy of belief.
I recommend Carrie Gress’s book, The Marian Option, if you are looking for simple ways to fight the spiritual battles of our time. Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option is not as useful, principally because people can’t figure out what the heck he is talking about. The Marian Option has no such problem. Anyone can carry out the simple acts of devotion Dr. Gress suggests. Even children. In fact, perhaps, especially children.
I am well aware this is not a Catholic publication. And I am certainly aware that many non-Catholic Christians are fearful about “Mary worship.” When the Gospel of John refers to “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” we might assume he is talking only about himself. But Jesus loves each of us, doesn’t He? So, we can put ourselves into that slot: when John says, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” we can see ourselves. On that perfectly innocent reading, Jesus meant for His mother to be the mother of us all, the entire human race, when He said, “Behold your mother.” (John 19:26-27)
Catholics don’t worship Mary. We never did. No offense, but that is so five hundred years ago. We’ve got other things to worry about. Like the complete de-Christianization of the West.
If you’re a lapsed Catholic, you already know how to talk with the Mother of God. I’ve never heard of anyone who left the Catholic Church over Mary. People leave because they are mad at God, or at a priest, or because they are fed up with the hypocrisy and lukewarm-ness. But I have never heard anyone say they were angry at Mary. In fact, I’ve heard people say that Marian devotions are one of the things they miss about being Catholic. I felt that way when I was away from the Church for twelve years.
Back to the joke I opened with. I can imagine Jesus saying to us:
“I sent my mom to Portugal in 1917. I sent her to Belgium in 1932 and again in 1933. I sent my mom to the Netherlands. (1945) She went to Japan in 1973 and Venezuela in 1976. I sent my mom to Nicaragua in 1980 and to Rwanda in 1981. I sent her to Argentina in 1983, and to Brazil in 1994 and to Egypt 6 times between 1968 to 2009. Her message has always been the same: love God. Do penance for your sins and those of others. Say the Rosary, meditating on her life and Mine. These are simple things anyone can do. Get a clue, people.”
I’m pleading with you, whatever your Christian background may be. Forget The Benedict Option. Pick up The Marian Option. Consider talking with the Mother of God. Talking with her does not equal worshiping her. Trust me: she will lead you closer to her Divine Son. I mean, why would she want to do anything other than that?
Who knows: her intercession may just bail us out one more time.
Image: Square to the Basilica of Fatima; Excerpted from: Neokvp – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10259604