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HOPE & VISION: Our Premiere Issue…………………………………………………………….3 ESBVM USA: Who are we? What do we do? What is the result?............................4 Letters……………………………………………………………………………………………………………7 Mark Your Calendar: ESBVM Annual Conference…………………………………………….8 ESBVM USA: Building Marian Bridges within a “Melting Pot”………………………….10 Mary in Culture: Catacomb Art……………………………………………………………………….24 Ecumenism at Work: Christian Churches Together………………………………………….27 A Marian Approach to Recovery from Addiction……………………………………………..29 Off the Shelf: The Place for a Good Read……………………………………………………….41 Mary on the Map: Poland-Our Lady of Czestochowa……………………………………….43 Pondering the Bible: Mary in Luke 1:26-35……………………………………………………..48 Registration Form: ESBVM Conference 2014………………………………………………….50 An Ecumenical Meditation: Matthew 13:47……………………………………………………..51 Editor (Acting) – Virginia M. Kimball, STL, STD Assistant Editor – Susan L. Fall is a publication of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary USA (ESBVM USA), which exists to advance the study of Mary, the Mother of Christ, in Christian biblical and spiritual perspectives, and in the light of such study, to promote ecumenical interchange and prayer. Its aim is to show that in Mary, Christians of many traditions may find a focus in their search for unity.



And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. Psalm 39: 7 …Inspired by the vision of all things made new by the mighty Christ, resolve to give yourselves to encouraging a spiritual awakening. John R. Mott, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, 1946 It is with prayer and great enthusiasm that the ESBVM USA publishes its premiere issue of Hope & Vision, an electronic magazine distinctive in its content. It is the only ecumenical publication of its kind, in magazine form, that focuses on the Virgin Mary and how all Christians consider her in Christian life and experience. The ESBVM USA has been publishing a newsletter for many years now, most recently sent to members four times a year. But its scope is limited, and it seemed more was possible to open up a nationwide publication for open ecumenical dialogue on the Virgin Mary.

members will find it interesting, and perhaps use the publication to invite others to join us and become active in Marian ecumenism.

A series of publications by ESBVM USA, titled Hopes & Visions, was begun over ten years ago, distributing reprints of presentations made at our twice yearly meetings. The series was well received and some libraries house them in their collection. However, they were not well disseminated and with a desire to gain more visibility and more participation in the ESBVM USA, the decision was made to establish a new electronic magazine. Our hope is that

In this issue, we include two presentations that were made at recent ESBVM USA meetings. The first, “The ESBVM USA: Building Marian Bridges within a ‘Melting Pot,’” by Dr. Maura Hearden, Vice-President of ESBVM USA, offers the scope and purpose of our American society. In the ecumenical forum, we face challenges that are unique to our country, and Dr. Hearden paints this picture for our members. The second article, presented at the meeting

The new name for our magazine, Hope & Vision, was chosen to represent our goals for the Society – a “hope” for continuing and successful ecumenical dialogue on the Virgin Mary and “vision” that in this Society, our dialogue eventually will bring mutual understanding and Christian unity in faith. It will be the many voices of various Christian traditions that will inspire us all. This is our hope and our vision.



in Washington, D.C. in October, 2013, is “A Marian Approach to Recovery from Addiction,” by member Don U. This article presents a remarkable insight into a real life experience and how Marian spirituality can be dynamic in addiction recovery. This paper has been reviewed outside the ESBVM USA, and has been well received. One priest commented that it touched on very important aspects for helping those in Christian recovery programs. Our new magazine presents various columns of interest including book reviews, finding “Mary on the Map,” and “Pondering the Bible.” Members are encouraged to contribute to future editions of Hope & Vision, either in the categories of our special columns, with an article, or with reports of events and programs. It is hoped that this electronic magazine will be read by all Christians in the same manner as we share at our meetings – with prayer, with listening, and with sharing. If a reader wishes to respond to one of our articles, the “Letters” column welcomes your input. For now, our readership is small. However, the seeds are planted. It will be easy to respond by email and we look forward to hearing from many of you. Friends and colleagues are invited to join us. The subscription, which includes a membership in ESBVM USA, is $30 a year. Send in your ideas. Thank you and welcome.

By Virginia M. Kimball, STL, STD

The Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary (ESBVM) was established in 1967 in England when Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Methodist representatives met with the “conviction that Mary could be the focus of unity for Christians – and become ‘joy rather than a cross.’” Founder Martin Gillett, encouraged by Cardinal LeonJosef Suens and the Anglican Bishop of Winchester, England, began the Society which eventually was established in the US in 1976. ESBVM USA has the stated purpose of engaging in the study of Mary, the Mother of Christ, in Christian biblical and spiritual perspectives, and then in the light of such study, to promote ecumenical interchange and prayer. Its aim is to show that in Mary, Christians of many traditions may find a focus in their search for unity.



What is ecumenism? The term takes on Christian meaning in the first ecumenical councils which were prominent and critical meetings of bishops in the early church to find ways to safeguard the “canon of faith,” that is the Christian teachings as they were handed down from the apostles. The word “ecumenical” in this context meant a meeting of Christian leaders from different places, representing different Christian communities. The word “church” itself in the New Testament is ecclesia, a community called together as followers of Christ. These first ecumenical councils, beginning with the first council in Nicea in 325 AD, served to draw Christians into unity where discord prevailed at the time. Ecumenism in the Christian world today, as we know it, is the coming together of Christians from different locations and different communities. Christ’s command said, “so that they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you” (John 17:21). Today, we speak of unity but … what do we mean by this? Do we wish all churches to be amalgamated into one huge institution? Or … do we mean that Christians will find unity in Christ in ways that do not have to force all members into one worship culture and system of organizational management? Some speak of “unity in diversity,” and this is exactly what they tend to support. There are, we must admit, definite points of different faith expression on important dogmas, or teachings. These are the blockades. However, over the last 50 years, there have been numerous ecumenical dialogues and conversations, some

producing reports and statements of agreement and disagreement. Where does the ESBVM USA fit into the contemporary ecumenical forum? In particular, this society specializes, so to speak, in a Marian dimension to ecumenism. As the years have demonstrated, this is more than just a topical aspect. Dialoguing with fellow Christians about the mother of Christ entails the study of scripture, consideration of Christian tradition, various spiritual experiences, art, music, literature, and more… . The fruits have been phenomenal. Protestants find that there is far more to consider about Mary than the Christmas pageant. Orthodox realize that their traditions and feast days of the Theotokos are brand new revelations for many, including Catholics, which becomes important because it demonstrates traditions that may go back 1500 years! Catholics in the environment of Marian ecumenical dialogue discover that the mother of Christ has universal appeal. As “mother of the church,” many Catholics now have to revisit their understanding of “church.” Recently, there have been more beautiful revelations of the importance of Mary in ecumenical discourse. With all the conflict in the world between Muslims and Christians, it has come to light that both Islam and Christianity share a reverence for the mother of Christ. For Maryam – in Islam – she is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an, and she is the virgin mother of Jesus. For Mary – in Christianity – she is the virgin mother of Christ who



remained virgin, gave birth to Jesus the Son of God, and at the cross became the mother of the fledgling Christian community. Therefore, the work of the ESBVM USA is critical and poignant. The interest in the mother of Christ is vitally important in terms of worldwide peace and understanding. For ESBVM USA, there are not reports but only serious exchange of ideas and beliefs that are respected by all parties. In addition, unique to ESBVM, there is an embrace of community prayer, shared in ecumenical groups. Therefore, as we look forward to the work of Marian ecumenism by the ESBVM USA in the future, we anticipate excitement and joy in the ever discovered universality of Christ’s call to humanity, through his mother. ESBVM is international in its membership and outreach. In 2012, ESBVM USA was invited as an ecumenical representative to the Pontifical Marian Academies International (PAMI) held in Rome. Our president, Dr. Virginia Kimball, was invited to greet Pope Benedict in a group selected from the congress of several hundred mariologists from all over the world. She greeted him with the words, “Holy Father, we pray that all may be one.” He responded with a soft smile and nodded warmly, while squeezing her hand. It was at that PAMI meeting that members of the American Society made presentations in an ecumenical session, shared with Rev. William McLoughlin, Honorary General Secretary of ESBVM

overall. Dr. Maura Hearden, ESBVM USA’s vice president, offered an explanation of the history of ESBVM USA, an article that now appears in this publication.

Dr. Virginia Kimball met with Pope Benedict as a representative of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary USA, in Rome 2012, during the meeting of the International Pontifical Marian Academies.

The international logo of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary



This is our premiere issue and we need response! Please email your suggestions, thoughts, questions, comments and ‌ your hope for this publication. Would you like to submit a full-length article, a column, a book review, a Bible reflection, or even an upcoming event to post in our calendar? Have you written something that could be reprinted in our magazine? Please let us know. We are hoping that for the goal of Christian understanding, this publication can represent the differing ideas and practices of our many denominations, and yet be permeated with mutual Christian love and respect. It will be through this publication that we can connect, communicate, and share. Please join us! Send your email messages to Susan Fall at Send print mail to: Virginia Kimball 4 Wayne Road Westford, MA 01886

Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome: The Annunciation

Share It With Others And Expand The Work Of The ESBVM USA!



The Annual Weekend Conference of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary will take place on August 8, 9, and 10, 2014. The ESBVM will hold its first annual WEEKEND conference beginning Friday evening, August 8, and continuing through Sunday afternoon, August 10, 2014 at Misericordia University in Dallas, PA (near Wilkes-Barre and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.) With this new weekend conference, to be held once a year, the Society hopes that more members from across the country will find it possible to attend. The program for this conference will include:  An ecumenical event will be held on Friday evening. A local Eastern Orthodox Church has invited conference members to attend a Parkalesis service, traditionally held during the two week period before the Feast of the Assumption/Dormition of the Virgin Mary.  On Saturday, there will be four presentations throughout the day, including an afternoon discussion panel:  Dr. Stevan Davies will speak on “Extra-Canonical Reflections on Mary in the Gospel of James.”  Dr. Robert Miller will speak on “Parallels between Queen Esther and the Virgin Mary.”  Rt. Rev. Aubrey N. Bougher will present on the topic of Lutheran regard for the Virgin Mary.  A fourth speaker to be determined.  On Sunday morning attendees will be able to attend local church services or Mass on campus, then gather together for an informal brunch, accompanied by a slideshow presentation by ESBVM USA president, Virginia Kimball on “The Mystery in the Blue Chapel,” on the Assumption (Roman Catholic) and Dormition (Eastern Orthodox) traditions represented in stained glass windows at the Roman Catholic



Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore MD. A board meeting - open to all attendees - will follow. All are encouraged to attend as member participation and feedback are essential to the ESBVM’s growth and development. The fee schedule for the conference is as follows:  Early registration, up to July 15th, 2014: $25.  Registration after July 15th: $35.  Students (with ID): $10 The fee includes a luncheon on Saturday. A registration form for the weekend is included at the back of this magazine. Nonmembers are welcome to register. Please consider inviting others to attend – but please use a separate registration form for each person attending. Attendees may register at the Fairfield Inn and Suites (Marriott), 884 Kidder Street, in Wilkes-Barre at a discounted room rate, which will be in the range of $90 per night. Be sure to mention that you are attending the Misericordia/ESBVM conference in order to get the discounted rate. The Inn’s phone number is: 570-208-4455. The website for the Inn is: There is a free shuttle service between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport and the Fairfield Inn. Those arriving at the airport will have to call the Inn for pickup. And, there will also be free shuttle service between the Inn and Misericordia University, provided by ESBVM members and a university van.



INTRODUCTION The Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the USA (ESBVM USA) seeks the unity of Christians by means of interdenominational Mariological study and devotion. While the Society has taken great strides toward this noble goal, it has also struggled from its very beginning in 1976 with building membership. This brief foray into the history of the ESBVM USA will review the Society’s American birth and struggles for the purpose of ascertaining possible direction for the Society’s future. The ESBVM USA may need to revise its mission and methods in response to particular exigencies of the twenty-first century. While this essay stops short of proposing a specific plan, it provides the background necessary to such a plan and concludes with some thoughtful suggestions. There are several possible obstacles to the growth of the ESBVM USA. For example, there exists in some quarters of Christianity a certain kind of complacency with the status quo, which may include a persistent distrust of other denominations. Practical factors, such as a lack of budget and/or man-power devoted to advertising meetings and the great distances that members must travel to attend meetings have also, no doubt, posed significant difficulties. Finally, there is one possible obstacle that arguably deserves particular attention: that is the obstacle posed by what Pope Benedict XVI has famously



called “the dictatorship of relativism,” which has gradually influenced the world-views of Christian believers as well as non-believers throughout Christendom.1 There is a growing tendency within the industrialized West to trivialize or “melt” religious differences away as the population seems to unconsciously embrace relativism’s homogenizing effects, rendering all religious doctrines equally valid as mere subjective truths—which is to say not true at all—and clearly subordinate to any number of secular ideologies. Such a philosophical platform renders any kind of ecumenical dialogue meaningless. In addition, many within this relativist, subjectivist milieu think it perfectly justifiable to co-opt religious figures, such as the Blessed Virgin Mary, and invest them with meaning completely unrelated to any historical or doctrinal truth.2 In this way, the Mother of God becomes an abstraction that can be recreated to suit the imagination of any given individual or culture. An Orthodox blogger summarized the situation beautifully when he criticized the conclusions drawn in a 1996 Life magazine article titled “The Mystery of Mary”: [T]hey would have us think that ‘Mary’ is nothing more than a product of each culture and epoch. Every society has the right, under this view, to create Her ‘in their [sic] own image.’ In a pluralistic Western culture, no opinion is permitted to lay claim to absolute Truth. Hence, any opinion is considered valid just as long as it makes no claim to be anything more than a mere opinion. Any view is tolerated except the one which says, ‘This is the Truth.’3 Any kind of dialogue that strives for some common understanding of the objective truth about the Blessed Virgin would, from this perspective, be, at best, futile and therefore a waste of time or, at worst, an attempt to oppress legitimate diversity of thought and therefore a social evil. The first ESBVM USA members received their religious and scholarly formation before this “dictatorship of relativism” had as strong a grip on the industrialized west as it currently does. The interests of the first members focused on finding common ground among the separated members of the One Body of Christ, a goal which has not yet been achieved and is therefore still worthy attention. However, in light of the above developments, the ESBVM USA may need to expand its mission to explore ways in which it might more directly “make disciples of all men” (Matt: 28:19) if it wishes to grow 1

For Pope Benedict XVI’s thoughts about the dangers of relativism, see Pope Benedict XVI, Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times. A Conversation with Peter Seewald (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 50-54. 2

See, for example, the way the Blessed Virgin is used (misused) on the New Age website titled “Sacred Wind”: Accessed 10/8/12. 3

Peter Jackson, “A ‘New Mary’ for a New Age?” Accessed 10/8/12.



and flourish. In other words, the Society may need to engage in a Marian-styled evangelization. There is still much to be done to improve intra-Christian relations, but there is even more to be done by Christians who can stand united as a people who possess something truly DIFFERENT to offer the world: something that cannot be allowed to disappear within the melting pot of relativism. Because one cannot have a clear vision of the future, without an accurate understanding of the past, the current essay will recount the formation and development of the ESBVM USA, taking note of its successes and challenges, and conclude with suggestions for future exploration. THE ESBVM IN ENGLAND Like so many aspects of American history, the story of the ESBVM USA began in Europe, specifically England, with the extraordinary vision of Martin Gillett (1902-1980), an Anglican deacon who was received into the Catholic Church in 1932.4 One year after his reception, in 1933, the Roman Catholic “slipper chapel” on the grounds of the Anglican-run Walsingham shrine was reopened and Gillett became “the chief promoter of public devotion there,” developing an expertise in European Marian shrines that earned him the recognition of Pope Pius XII.5 Throughout his rising career as a Catholic Mariologist, Gillett maintained contact with his Anglican friends, feeling deeply the rift that existed between Christians, particularly the historically Dr. Maura Hearden volatile rift over the subject of the Mother of the Lord. Gillett was, however, inspired by the ecumenical outreach of such organizations as the Legion of Mary and the desire for aggiornomento that led to the Second Vatican Council, seeing in these trends an opportunity to restore Our Lady’s role as a unifying force within the Christian family.6 In 1966, he was invited to attend the fortieth anniversary meeting of the famous Malines Conversations (five ground-breaking meetings, 4

“He later recorded that his decision to become a Catholic had been prompted by a vision he had had of the young Passionist, Dominic Barberi, in the basilica of SS John and Paul, Rome at the place where the saint was buried.” See Martin Gillet’s obituary in the London Tablet, 3 May 1980, Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH. Hereafter cited as Gillett Obituary. 5 6

Gillett Obituary.

An overview of Martin Gillett’s life is provided in Joseph P. Farrelly, “The Origins of Marian Ecumenism and the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary” in Marian Ecumenism Past, Present, Future, Joseph P. Farrelly and David Carter (Wallington, Surrey, UK: ESBVM, 1994).



which took place between Anglicans and Roman Catholics in Belgium between 1921 and 1925). There, Cardinals Leon-Josef Suenens and John Heenan, Anglican Bishop Falkner Allison and Roman Catholic Bishop Gordon Wheeler encouraged Gillett to found the ESBVM.7 He took their suggestion and, with the active support of Suenens, created the ESBVM “to promote ecumenical devotion and the study, at various levels, of the place of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Church, under Christ.”8 Additional founding members included then Anglican bishop, Graham Leonard9; Methodist minister, Gordon Wakefield; Orthodox bishop, Timotheos; and Roman Catholic bishop, Langton Fox. The first of many ESBVM International Ecumenical Conferences was held at Coloma College of Education, West Wickham, Kent, England from April 13 to 17, 1971, featuring presentations by several notable scholars including the American Dominican, Rev. Frederick M. Jelly, who would become one of the strongest supporters of the organization in his homeland.10 A SMALL HOMAGE TO THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE ESBVM The ESBVM became Gillett’s life’s work and its accomplishments in the area of ecumenical Mariological study are worthy of note. The ESBVM has published five books containing the proceedings of International Mariological Congresses—the most recent of which, Mary for the Love and Glory of God, provides the proceedings of the first such international congress to be held in the United States—and numerous scholarly pamphlets, encouraging Marian scholarship within traditions that have neglected the field. I offer as an example of the ESBVM’s influence, the fact that the overwhelming majority of published Methodist Mariology comes from people affiliated with the ESBVM either as members or contributors to meetings and congresses.11 Indeed, members of the British ESBVM can be given much of the credit for the British Catholic-

7 8 9 10

Ibid. Ibid., 5. Monsignor Leonard was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1994. Donal Flanagan, “Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” in The Furrow, vol. 22, no. 7 (July, 1971):

444. 11

These scholars and churchmen include Americans, Rev. Dr. Edward D. Garten and Rev. Donald Charles Lacy, and British members Rev. David Butler, David Carter, Rev. Dr. David M. Chapman, Rev. Dr. Richard Clutterbuck, Rev. Dr. John Newton, Rev. Dr. Gordon S. Wakefield, Rev. Norman Wallwork, Rev. J. Neville Ward, and Rev. Dr. Frances M. Young.



Methodist dialogue statement on Mary titled, Mary, Sign of Grace, Faith and Holiness: Towards a Shared Understanding.12 THE ESBVM TRAVELS “ACROSS THE POND” During the 1950s in the United States, there were fairly clear lines of demarcation separating Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians from each other. These lines arose from ethnic as well as religious differences and contributed to a considerable amount of interdenominational ignorance.13 Individuals from each community mixed with the others for the sake of commerce, but tended to keep to their own schools, churches, families, and friends. Events following the Second Vatican Council shook Catholics in America out of any complacency they might have enjoyed during the preceding decades within the confines of America’s Catholic subculture as their religious world reverberated with changes coming from across the Atlantic. Among these changes was the emergence of a phenomenon sometimes called the “Marian silence.” Although the Council had encouraged properly contextualized Marian devotions,14 many long-held and beloved practices fell into disuse.15 According to Franciscan Father Alfred Boeddeker, then director of the Marian Center Library of St. Boniface Church in San Francisco, the general public in the United States was under the impression that the Council had somehow demoted Mary’s status within the church. Thus, there arose within Catholic circles, a need to reaffirm the importance of the Blessed Virgin within ecclesial life, a need that arguably helped to pave the way for Catholic involvement in the ESBVM USA. Fr. Boeddeker responded to what was perceived as “a crisis”16 by organizing a national tour of Mariological lectures that was to last from February 11 through July 31, 1971, and cover all 50 states so that people might be reminded of the many good things 12

Methodist contributors included ESBVM members, David Butler, David Carter, and Gordon Wakefield.


An excellent account of these lines of demarcation is provided within the context of exploring the history of Catholicism in the United States in Patrick Carey, Catholics in America: A History, (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004). 14

Lumen Gentium nos. 66-68. Available online at Accessed, 10/8/12. 15

For an excellent overview of the post-conciliar “Marian silence,” see Thomas A. Thompson, S.M., “Vatican II and Beyond” in Hilda Graef, Mary, A History of Doctrine and Devotion, Christian Classics, rev. ed. (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2009), esp. pp. 414-17. Also, “Catholics and other Christians are asking: ‘What has become of Mary?” after the changes in the Roman church at the recent Vatican councils.” Anonymous press release, “Where is the Virgin Mary Now in the Catholic Church?” November 23, 1970. [No other publication information is available.] Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH. 16

See section 85 of “Behold Your Mother,” a pastoral letter produced by the United States Catholic Bishops in 1973 in Mary in the Church: A Selection of Teaching Documents (USCCB Publishing, 2003).



about Marian devotions and “to re-affirm Mary’s position as the Mother of God and the spiritual mother of Christianity.”17 The first of the participants in the Marian mission was the esteemed Father Eamon R. Carroll, who took a sabbatical from Catholic University in Washington D.C. “for the purpose of enlarging Mary’s role in the church.”18 Both Boeddeker and Carroll were active in the ESBVM in England and, not coincidentally, would become part of the backbone of the ESBVM USA. Neither were, however, founding members. The American ESBVM was officially founded in 1976 in Washington, D.C. by Monsignor John Murphy, then Director of the Roman Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception; Father Dmitry Grigorieff, Pastor of Saint Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Washington, D.C.; and Drs. Donald Dawe and J. Ross MacKenzie, Presbyterian ministers and professors at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Va. All of these people were active participants in the British Society and had been inspired by its ideals. They also had the advantage of living in close proximity with one another and so were able to form the nucleus of American ESBVM activity. A personal one-on-one method for recruitment among those with similar interests would be the core of recruitment efforts in the decades to come. From the Society’s inception, there was a desire for equal participation from a variety of Christian denominations without domination by a single group. This desire has not yet to date been fulfilled in terms of membership. The group, which received its initial organizational backing from the Catholic Basilica in Washington, would attract more Catholics to its fold than Orthodox and Protestant Christians combined. More will be said about the Society’s demographics presently. ORGANIZATIONAL FOUNDATIONS The American Society, which initially referred to itself as the Ecumenical Conference on Mary, held its first scholarly conference at the College of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate near Catholic University on April 29, 1976. The event was organized by an ad hoc steering committee consisting of founding members Msgr. Murphy, Dr. Mackenzie, and Rev. Gregorieff as well as Dr. John Whitney, of Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria.19 The then Cardinal-designate, William W. Baum, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. offered the welcoming remarks to participants.20 The theme of the 17

“Where is the Virgin Mary Now in the Catholic Church?”


Ibid. Anonymous press release “Ecumenical Conference on Mary Announced—First of Its Kind in the United States” sent from The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C., May 6, 1976. Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH. 19





meeting was “The Significance of Mary in the Problem of Christian Unity.”21 Clearly, the American founders were focused on the same issues that captured Gillett’s imagination more than a decade before. By the second meeting of the American Society on October 23, 1976, it was decided that the American organization “would [officially] adopt the title and goals” of the ESBVM in England, which was “Established to promote ecumenical devotion, and the study at various levels of the place of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Church under Christ….”22 Msgr. Murphy added his own thoughts to this official goal in a letter to Rev. Bernard Law, then Chairman of the United States Catholic Conference Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Committee, saying It is the hope of this assembly to form an ecumenical movement that takes Mary as its starting point. There is no question of theological conflicts, but of peaceful meetings and discussions with the aim of getting to know and to revere Mary more; to meet in an atmosphere of prayer and mutual exchange….When family relationships break down, it is natural that reconciliation take place around the mother. It is the hope of ‘The Ecumenical Conference on Mary’ to go on to show the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus and our mother, in the household of the Church.23 Thus, the name and goals of Martin Gillett’s organization travelled across the Atlantic. It should be noted, however, that there also existed a desire to modify organizational structure to suit American contingencies. Donald Dawe stated “We, by no means, feel the necessity of patterning ourselves fully under the rubrics of the English Society. However, their experience can be of help.”24 Close personal ties between the founding members of the American Society and the English Society resulted in a good deal of mutual support during those early years. Both Cardinal Suenens25 and Martin Gillett responded to invitations from the American Society and met with 21

The day’s agenda is recorded in the “Program” for the Ecumenical Conference on the Blessed Virgin Mary, April 29, 1976, Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH. Presentations at this first event were offered by Rev. Frederick M. Jelly, O.P. (Catholic); Rev. John Meyendorff (Orthodox); and Dr. Ross Mackenzie (Presbyterian). 22

Meeting notes attached to the program for the Ecumenical Conference on the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saturday, October 23, 1976. Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH. 23

Letter from Rev. Msgr. John J. Murphy to The Most Rev. Bernard F. Law, D.D., July 6, 1976. Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH. 24

Letter from Donald Dawe to Sr. Virginia Barry in Chicago IL, Nov. 16, 1977. Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH. 25

The Cardinal met with Washington Society members in 1978 to discuss ecumenism. This visit is described in detail in a letter from John Murphy to Martin Gillett, March 20, 1978. Another visit in February of 1980 is recorded in “Cardinal Suenens Challenges Ecumenical Society to Contribute to Christian Unity by 2000” filed among Executive Committee Minutes. Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH.



members in Washington.26 The Americans, for their part, generously supported British initiatives through advertising and participation in a variety of events.27 There were also some sources of tension between the American and English societies, particularly where finances were concerned. This tension was closely associated with some confusion about whether the American Society was a branch or chapter of the English Society or if the American Society was an independent organization. Initially the American Society was referred to as the “Washington Chapter” of the ESBVM of London.28 The terms “chapter” and “branch” were often used interchangeably and were associated with cities rather than larger regions. For example, an article titled “Mary—The Guide to Unity” states “In England there are now seven branches and there is an active branch in Washington, D.C.”29 However, the organizational structure described in the American Society’s first constitution, which was patterned after the English constitution and officially adopted on May 6, 1978, reveals a different understanding.30 According to the first American constitution, the official name of the American organization would “be the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the United States” although most of the correspondence, minutes, programs, and other documents following the adoption of the constitution simply referred to the organization as the ESBVM without the qualifier, “in the United States.” The location of the Society was officially set in the District of Columbia and any branches formed elsewhere in the United States could only be established “with the direct approval of the Executive Board of the Society in Washington, D.C.” This executive board was to consist of a president, three vice presidents, a secretary/treasurer, an honorary president, and “two (2) members of the 26

According to the April 30, 1977 meeting program for the Society in Washington, Gillett spoke on the “Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary in England.” Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH. 27

For example, American support for a major conference in Westminster planned for September of 1979. Gillett’s 1979 conference, which was to precede an international congress being held in Zaragossa, Spain during October of that same year, received American support in the way of sponsorship and speakers. American support for the Westminster conference included fundraising, advertising, participation as speakers, moderators, chairmen and leaders, and the adoption of the conference as an official function of the American Society. The American Society’s official support is outlined in a letter from Ross Mackenzie to Martin Gillett, November 30, 1978. Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH. Details are the subject of several other letters during the months preceding the conference. 28

A press release dated November 2, 1977 from the National Shrine is titled “Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Hold Semiannual Meeting at First Baptist Church of Washington, D.C.” and a press release from 1978 states that “The Washington Chapter is a Chapter of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary of London, England established by H. Martin Gillett in 1964.” (The British Society was actually established in 1967.) The exact month and day of the 1978 press release, which is titled “Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Hold Prayer Service at First Baptist Church,” is not known. Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH. 29

J.E.B. Munson “Mary—the Guide to Unity” in “International Marian Congresses, 1979”:13 Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton OH. [No other publication information is available.] 30

“Constitution of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary” May 6, 1978 is preserved in the Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton OH.



Society in good standing who shall be appointed at large by the president.” Thus, the Society envisioned the Washington branch as the parent organization with branches elsewhere in the United States. There is no mention of organizational dues or ties of any kind with the English Society in the American constitution. A copy of the constitution was sent to Martin Gillett.31 Nonetheless, the English Society continued to refer to the American Society as the American or Washington branch or chapter. Confusion and tensions were exacerbated by the fact that there were several members who were active in both the American and English societies, but only paid dues to one or the other.32 Financial issues revolved around the cost of supplying pamphlets to members. These issues were resolved with transatlantic cooperation in distribution in the mid-1980s. 33 DEMOGRAPHIC STRUGGLES Membership and recruitment have been consistent topics of conversation during ESBVM USA meetings. As stated in the constitution, the founders envisioned a “parent branch” in Washington with other branches springing up in other cities acting in a relatively autonomous fashion. Additional branches did not, however, materialize and therefore membership in the Washington branch included people scattered throughout the United States and as far away as Jamaica34 and Nigeria!35 Distance posed an obstacle to meeting attendance as the years progressed so that by 1986, Dawe observed “One of the interesting things to note is that the majority of our members do not live in the 31


Letter from Dawe to Gillett, March 27, 1978. Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH. A passage from a letter written by Martin Gillett to Donald Dawe summarizes the problem:

As you know or should have been informed, there are in membership with the Society a number of members whi[ch] have been affiliated for several years, in the USA When the production of your invaluable ‘From Dysfunction to Disbelief’ was under way, M[s]gr. Murphy told me that copies would be sent to all members, but I have had enquiries from some…asking why they have received nothing…There seems to be confusion, as some seem to think that being members here, includes membership in the USA Chapter, and/or vice versa. With [the] postage and printing costs where they are, we cannot manage to continue to send free all our English literature to peop[l]e who may be members of neither Chapter or Branch. I think this needs sorting out. Letter from Martin Gillett to Donald Dawe, January 22, 1978. Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH. 33

Letter from Donald Dawe to Mrs. Jill Pinnock, October 30, 1986 and letter from Donald Dawe to Mr. Joe Farrelly, November 17, 1986. Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH. 34

A letter from Eugene Bilski to Rev. Richard Albert, December 7, 1978 welcomes “the Ecumenical Commission from the Archdiocese of Kingston as a new member” in the Society. Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH. 35

Modestus Ekejiuba, Bigard Memorial Seminary, Philosophy Campus, Ikot-Ekepene, Akwa-Ibom State, Nigeria is welcomed as a new member on an undated list of new members in the Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH filed with “Meeting Minutes and Agendas.”



Washington area and are seldom, if ever, able to attend meetings.”36 Correspondence in the 1990s also describes frustration with poor meeting attendance and the obstacle posed by distance.37 Recruitment of new members was always a challenge. Meeting minutes from 1981 already revealed concerns “regarding the loss of the leading members of the Society due to transfers, appointments, etc….” There did not seem to be anyone to take their places. It was suggested that the Society ought to “go forward with massive recruitment policies possibly attracting people from the ‘lunatic fringe’” in order to save “the Society from collapse.”38 The 1983 Executive Committee meeting minutes asked “Is there sufficient interest among the present officers to continue the Society? A decision should be made to either discontinue the American chapter or to make a solid commitment to reorganize and revitalize the chapter.”39 To date, recruitment efforts have met with little success. In addition to concerns about overall meeting attendance, concerns about denominational variety have been voiced from the time of the group’s inception to the present day. A truly ecumenical group should not be dominated by any one tradition and should therefore encourage variety within its leadership and membership. Although denominational variety among officers was not stipulated in the original constitution, those first elected by the Society did indeed represent different traditions. Donald Dawe (Presbyterian) was elected president. The three vice presidents were Msgr. John Murphy (Catholic), Rev. Prof. Reginal H. Fuller (Anglican), and Rev. George DeTrana (Orthodox). Msgr. Eugene Bilski (Catholic) was secretary/treasurer and Cardinal Baum accepted an invitation from Donald Dawe to be honorary president of the Society.40 The fact that denominational variety of the Society’s leadership was not stated within the constitution was quickly recognized so that the 1980 revised constitution, stipulated “a President; [and] not more than three Chairmen, who will belong to different communions….”41 36

Letter from Dawe to Dr. Freda Mary Oben, October 31, 1986. Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton,

OH. 37

Letter from Rev. Robert J. Rokusek to then president, Mary Ann De Trana, Februar 5, 1994. This letter also suggests establishing ties with the Marian Library in Dayton OH, which did occur. Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH. 38

Executive Committee Meeting (minutes) March 27, 1981. Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH.


Executive Committee Meeting (minutes) May 10, 1983. Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH.


The officers are all listed in the Membership and Officer Lists filed with “correspondence” and are listed in several pieces of actual correspondence from 1977. Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH. 41

Section 8 of the revised constitution also expands the officer list to include “a General Secretary, who may be assisted by an Associate General Secretary; a Treasurer.” The revised constitution of 1980 is preserved in the Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton OH.



Although the leadership of the American Society would maintain denominational variety and guest speakers were deliberately chosen to reflect the perspectives of a wide spectrum of Christian thought, the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception would become the geographical focal point for the Society and membership would, despite efforts to recruit others, be dominated by Roman Catholics. Concern about denominationally uneven membership was voiced by Msgr. Murphy in 1978—just two years after the American Society’s founding—as he wrote to Martin Gillett, “Any suggestions you have about how to involve more Protestants and Orthodox would be greatly appreciated.”42 They were voiced again by then president, Donald Dawe, during a meeting in 1980 as he stated “the scope of our membership [must be] enlarged. For example, we have made important starts in relationship to Protestant churches but as yet lack active participation from a number of traditions.”43 Of 58 American members surveyed in 1981, there was 1 person with no religious affiliation, 2 Lutherans, 2 Presbyterians, 7 Orthodox, 8 Episcopalian/Episcopal-Anglicans, and 38 Catholics, 2 of whom were Byzantine. By 2010, membership expanded to 132 persons. Of the 107 members who disclosed their religious affiliations, there was 1 “Protestant”, 1 Presbyterian, 3 Methodists, 3 United Church of Christ members, 7 Lutherans, 8 Anglican/Anglo-Catholic, 11 Orthodox, 19 Episcopalian, and 57 Catholics, 2 of whom were “Old Catholics,” 3 of whom were Byzantine, and 1 who described himself as “American Ecumenical Catholic.” Clearly membership has been dominated by those traditions that already engage in Marian devotions, particularly Catholic devotions. The group has a built-in appeal for those already interested in Mary, but it is more challenging to inspire interest where there is very little or none at all. There are other factors at play as well. For example, one would think that there might be more interest in the Society among Orthodox Christians because of their rich history of Marian devotion. However, Mary Ann DeTrana, an Orthodox Christian, former ESBVM USA president, and one of the Society’s most longstanding and active members, observed that people within Orthodox communities were generally not interested in the group unless they were themselves converts to Orthodoxy. The cradleOrthodox were comfortable within their ancient traditions where nothing had changed and, when the ESBVM USA was brought to their attention, would respond with 42

Letter from John Murphy to Martin Gillett, January 25, 1978. Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton,

OH. 43

Donald G. Dawe “Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary Report of the Meeting of the Nominating Committee, April 15, 1980,” p. 2. Filed within “Executive Committee Minutes and Memos.” Marian Library ESBVM USA archives, Dayton, OH.



something akin to “So what?” Presumably, those who had converted to Orthodoxy (such as DeTrana) were more aware of the need for and potential benefits of ecumenism because of their previous exposure to different traditions.44 Lacking such exposure and/or the kind of Marian “crisis” that had motivated some Catholics to engage in a type of Marian evangelization, most Orthodox Christians were not interested in the ESBVM USA. The current ESBVM USA president who is also an Orthodox Christian (but not a “cradle-Orthodox”), Dr. Virginia Kimball, provided some additional insights regarding membership that are worthy of exploration. She observed that Catholics and Orthodox members tend to be motivated by a desire to share their faith and Protestants tend to be motivated by a desire for spiritual enrichment of their biblical faith about Mary.45 This would seem a logical tendency, since embracing Mariology requires Protestants to enter new scholarly and devotional territory whereas the same is not required of Catholic and Orthodox Christians. Furthermore, when discussing the fact that the British Society has counted members in the thousands while the American Society struggles with less than 200 members after 36 years of effort, Kimball noted that the start of the Society “in England had a very different cultural base. In 1967 there was a very firm connection between Anglicans and Catholics.”46 When Mary Ann DeTrana was asked why she thought it had been so difficult to attract new members in general to the American Society, she stated I think it’s because they [young people] see us as old fogies beating a ‘dead horse’ [ecumenism and Marian doctrine]. [Also] Mary has diminished in the consciousness of the Catholic Church. [Because many think that traditional Catholic images of Mary don’t support female leadership.] Mary doesn’t ring anybody’s bell! [People just think] ‘What’s the big deal?’47 Thus, DeTrana alludes to a culture that has lost interest in ecumenism in general and a large segment of the Catholic population that has lost interest in Mary specifically. At this point in the interview, I added my own observations, saying that the majority of my college students seem to have been trained to think that all religions are essentially the same and


Summary of points made during a phone interview of DeTrana conducted by the author on July 9, 2012.


Summary of points made during a phone interview with Kimball conducted by the author on July 7, 2012.


Kimball interview, July 7, 2012.


DeTrana interview, July 9, 2012.



therefore see no need for dialogue. DeTrana agreed, saying that she had observed the same trend among young American adults. To summarize, the particular challenges to membership facing the American Society include 1) a lack of desire for ecumenical discourse fueled either by complacency within the confines of one’s own tradition or the belief that there are no religious differences worthy of dialogue, and 2) a failure, even among those whose traditions embrace Marian devotion to appreciate the importance of Mary in Christian life and the cause of unity. These are indeed daunting obstacles to face. Perhaps the mission of the Society should be altered accordingly. Perhaps, since the pool of Christians who are interested in dialogue in general and the Blessed Virgin in particular has shrunk considerably, the Society ought to move beyond a conversation between already interested parties to the actual promotion of Marian interests where they seem to be lacking. WHAT OF THE FUTURE? To answer this question, I will draw from an address given by an Anglican member of the British Society, Mrs. Margaret Kneebone, at the 1986 Chichester Conference: I feel strongly that our Society must begin to make more impact on the outside world. For twenty years or so we have been getting to know each other, to trust each other, to understand our differing theological points of view; and in this process some wonderful and highly valuable new insights have been gained. But now this understanding should be consolidated, and we should be able, together, to present a more united front to the world, strong in our basic understanding of the importance of Mary and ready to go forward… [W]e cannot go on forever taking in each other’s washing, laundering it, ironing it beautifully and then looking in smug self-satisfaction at the perfectly folded piles of dogmas, doctrines and devotions. Clean linen must be used, or it quickly becomes creased and dusty again in the cupboard; and surely now, as a Society, we need to become more of a force in the world at large, and to make some impact upon it.48 Mrs. Kneebone’s words have an almost poignant ring when spoken in a secularized “melting pot” such as America’s where alarmingly increasing numbers even of the faithful do not understand the relevance of religion in general, let alone the Blessed Mother, to 48

Mrs. Margaret Kneebone, “Thoughts on the future development of ESBVM” in Mary and the Churches: Papers of the Chichester Congress, 1986, of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary, ed. Albert Stacpoole, OSB (Dublin, Ireland: The Columba Pres, 1987), 175.



day-to-day living. Perhaps it is time for the ESBVM USA to look outside of itself and follow Mrs. Kneebone’s now nearly 30-year-old advice. It is certainly possible for the ESBVM USA to have a positive impact on the outside world. One example can be seen in a project put forth by Rev. Jennifer Juliano of the United Church of Christ and Dr. Virginia Kimball. Rev. Juliano was introduced to Mariology through a college course taught by Dr. Kimball. She became increasingly interested in the subject: “The more I learned about Mary, the more I discovered how her life and faith continues to speak to Christians of all ages and backgrounds.”49 Eventually, she and Kimball began an annual ecumenical “Mary Day” hosted by Juliano’s UCC church. The following are Juliano’s reflections about the experience: My hope for the original Mary Day was to introduce Mary to the members of my church and help them recognize how relevant her experiences are to Christians today. It is my experience that many Protestant churches only talk about Mary at Christmas time and I wanted to show how her story speaks to our whole lives as disciples….I think my goals were achieved. Several participants returned each year and were able to deepen and expand their understanding and experience of Mary. Looking back, I am impressed by how the retreats evolved and became more ecumenical in both participation and presentation. I think we dispelled a lot of the stereotypes about Mary, particularly the false idea that “Catholics worship Mary.” Through storytelling, discussion, and art we helped to make Mary relevant to Christians of diverse backgrounds.50 Attendance ranged from 15-20 participants per meeting over a three-year period. It is sadly ironic to note that the general decline of interest in dialogue continuing into the 21st century occurs simultaneously with an apparent increase in violence around the world. One need only read the morning news headlines to know that the human race is in great need of the gentle love found in a mother’s heart. The work of the ESBVM in the USA and in England is far from complete. It is the Society’s task to read the “signs of the times” and respond accordingly. In the words of Martin Gillett, “The harvest is ready… ‘go, teach’ is a command, not a timid suggestion. Our Society is not a timid adventure but one of boldness.”51


Email from Jennifer Juliano to the author, June 26, 2012.


Email from Jennifer Juliano to the author, June 26, 2012.


Gillett obituary.


probably suffered and even died a martyr’s death in their profession of faith in Christ. These images are always related to the biblical origins and, in a sense, portray a kind of scripture about the reality of the spiritual dimension. Images in the catacombs are the earliest images of Mary that have been found.

The catacombs of Priscilla in Rome

Mary, the mother of Christ, is the one woman who has most often been portrayed in art, music, and literature in all of human culture. Magnificent poetry and hymns in ancient languages exist that honor goddesses and the feminine mystique. But Mary is the one truly human woman whose portrayal has been so frequently embraced throughout history. Simply, in an era of history when art had reached a pinnacle of realism in the classic world of Greek and Roman art, she first appears on the hidden walls of underground tombs, roughly painted in frescoes on cold stone walls, depicting a faith of intense hope at the burial sites of the earliest Christians. The story of Christian images begins with what we find in these catacombs as a kind of “graffiti,” so termed by art historians, using a word perhaps derived from the Latin word graphire, meaning “to write.” These images used symbols to relate the profound elements of Christian faith, at those burial sites of individuals who had

Catacomb portrayals of Mary reveal who she was in the understanding of these first Christians, dynamic insights of early Christian regard: she was a mother and her son was the son of God. We find her, for example, in the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome. Evidently, a wealthy and aristocratic woman, Priscilla, donated land outside the city on the “Salt Road,” a major road entering the capital where salt was transported. Priscilla provided the burial area for her fellow Christians. Often, they would return to these tombs of their beloved departed ones, to gather and pray – expressing hope in Christ who was the true God. The frescoes then are not only memorials of the deceased but are the earliest professions of faith of the infant Christian community.

Large fresco in catacombs. See below for an enlargement of the image found in the red box above.


for Christ, the messiah to come. So, looking now at the image in this fresco, we see the two natures of Christ – he is human, held and nourished by his mother; and, he is divine, as the promised messiah. It took four centuries before the early Christian church “defined” Christ as having two natures, human and divine, but this image of Mary as the mother of Christ firmly establishes his true humanity, and the prophecy of Balaam obviously indicates his divinity.

Catacomb image of Mary and her son: she is nursing him. To the left is believed to be a depiction of the prophecy of Balaam in Num. 24:17 (see below).

In the Catacomb of Priscilla, we find several fascinating images of Mary. The first (above) is a rather tiny drawing at the corner of a larger fresco, found up high on the wall of the tomb. It depicts Mary, a mother, holding her son, Jesus, and nursing him. What more human image of a mother could there be? There is no doubt: here is the most important aspect of Mary … she is a mother! To the side of her, is seen a figure pointing up to what looks to some like blossoms on a tree, but actually are stars in the night sky. Most scholars believe this to be a reference to the prophecy of Balaam: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh: a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel (Book of Numbers 24:17 RSV).” In early Christianity, this was a favorite prophecy

Another image found in the Catacomb of Priscilla, portrays the Three Kings coming to give homage to Christ. It is simple in design but again gives us a view of Mary. She is seated, holding her child. Her arm reaches around him, in a protective gesture. Again … she is the mother! Also, the magi bring gifts to the child. Again … he is the messiah!

Image of the Magi bearing gifts

Again in Priscilla’s catacombs, we find a grave stone belonging to a woman named Severa which demonstrates the visit of the three kings and also with Mary holding her child. In this image (below),



we again see Balaam pointing to the star. We have to ask ourselves, “Why would a woman choose such an image for her grave?”

We have to ask, “Is Mary praying for the deceased one buried in this grave?”

Gravestone of a woman named Severa, including depictions of the Magi and of Balaam pointing to the star.

Did she merely relate to Mary, mother to mother, or did she sense that there could be protection for her in the afterlife, in relationship to Mary and therefore to Christ?

Mary praying, in what is known as the orans position.

Yet another image, thought by most scholars to be Mary, shows a woman in prayer. Called orant, meaning “a person praying,” she stands with arms extended heavenward. This was the position of prayer in the early centuries.

An image of a praying woman which some believe to be Mary, although she does not have the Christ Child with her. The peacock in the image above the woman is traditionally understood to represent eternal life.

When we reflect on the images found in the Catacomb of Priscilla, and this will be replicated in other catacomb burial sites, Mary is portrayed always in two predominant ways: she is the human mother of Jesus – making him human, and she is the mother of Christ, the promised messiah who is God. It is truly amazing that we have these ancient images in the catacombs. They are merely fresco, probably quickly rubbed onto an underground wall. However, without the exposure to sun and rain, they have endured for nearly 2,000 years to give us our very first insight into the woman and mother, Mary, who will continue to appear over the centuries in a myriad of cultural ways – in the art of



worship spaces, in literature, in chant and music, and in the history of images: from the icons of Byzantium, to the altar décor, statuary, and illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages, to painting and sculpture in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, to contemporary art, and to the folk art of peoples around the world. vk

“Our Lord prayed that all who believe in Him might be one with God and with one another so that the world would believe in Him as God and Savior. We live in a world divided by ideologies, politics, race and religion. Christian Churches Together is the only unity movement in the USA that brings together churches from ALL the theological and ideological spectrum. Christian Churches Together in the USA offers a space that is inclusive of the diversity of Christian traditions in the United States – Evangelical, Orthodox, Catholic, Pentecostals, Historic Protestant, Historic Black churches and Christian organizations.” From Christian Churches Together website:

Perhaps few in the ESBVM USA have heard of this emerging organization, Christian Churches Together. The organization, however, is forging forward in its ecumenical vision. It began in September, 2001, when leaders of many Christian denominations met together, all realizing a critical need in this country for fellowship, unity, and witness among Christians. Primarily, they were motivated by the need for a place where representatives of historic Protestant, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Evangelical, and Orthodox churches could come together officially to strengthen their unity in Christ. Christian Churches Together (CCT) is the first national ecumenical group that Catholics in the US have joined. Since its beginning, the major purpose of CCT has been identified in the following way: 1) to profess common faith in the Trinity, 2) to be aware of the guidance of the Holy Spirit through prayer and theological discourse, 3) to allow fellowship and mutual support, and 4) to foster the better understanding of our fellow Christians by determining what is held in common and what is diverse. After initially meeting in 2001, Christian leaders continued to meet and discuss ways to establish this organization. Meetings were held in Chicago (April 4 – 6, 2002), in Pasadena (January 27 – 29, 2003) in Houston (January 7 – 9, 2004) and in Los Altos (June 1 – 3, 2005). Officially, CCT was formed in Atlanta, GA, on March 30, 2006, with 34 churches and organizations.



CCT has established the concept of “five families or groupings of churches” in the United States. These families include Evangelical/Pentecostal, Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and African American. The experience of Christianity, they discerned, grows out of not only theological diversity, but also social and cultural contexts. In 2002, the forming organization met in Chicago, Illinois, and produced the Chicago Statement, “An Invitation to a Journey.” They combined the following with the “Chicago Statement”: “Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A. gathers together those churches and Christian communities which, acknowledging God’s revelation in Christ, confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the Scripture, and in obedience to God’s will and in the power of the Holy Spirit commit themselves to seek a deepening of their communion with Christ and with one another; to fulfill their mission to proclaim the Gospel by common witness and service in the world for the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Christian Churches Together, in their most recent work, has called for immigration reform. They gathered in Austin Texas for their annual meeting in order to learn about immigration, to read Scripture and pray, and to discern God’s call on the lives of Christians to respond to an unjust immigration system. They call upon people of faith and elected officials in Congress and President Obama to work together to enact just and

humane immigration reform legislation in 2014.

CCT is growing and moving forward. Information about the organization can be found on their website: Rev. Carlos L. Malavé is Executive Director, P.O. Box 24188, Indianapolis, IN 46224-0188 Phone: (502) 509-5168 Email: Valerie Ruess is Administrative Assistant, sf



Presented to the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary St. Paul’s College, Washington, D.C. October 2013

The views expressed in this presentation are those of the author and are not views expressed explicitly by Alcoholics Anonymous or any other twelve-step program. In this article, the author uses the term “addiction” rather than specifically the words “alcoholism,” “drug dependency,” “gambling” etc. which are different symptoms of addiction. The term “substance” is whatever a person puts into his or her body — mentally or physically —that will cause spiritual sickness.



The only way to explain the Marian approach to recovery from addiction is to share my own story. Once one experiences the joy of recovery, it must be shared. In an important way, Mary, the mother of Christ, inspires such recovery by the trust she held in God, and her strength and hope – all of which led to a recovery from the unhappy human condition resulting from humankind’s fall from grace. I don’t know if I was born an addict or if it was something that I became while I was growing up. As a young child I felt uncomfortable and different from others; I never felt part of a community and I couldn’t be by myself. I was brought up as a Catholic, went to catechism classes, and I believed in God. Along with the faith of my Italian stepgrandmother, these were my first introductions to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I learned about Mary, the Mother of Christ. Most kids read comic books or about sports heroes; I read about the lives of the saints. One day, I even whispered to my grandmother that I wanted to be a priest. Yes, I too wanted to become a saint. Something happened to me a few years later—depression had set in. I was twelve years old when I had my first drink, and I fell in love with that glow of what seemed to be an inner well-being, something truly false as I later discovered. Everything was all right with the world. I had always felt that I was searching for “something.” Well, my search was over—I found it at last in a bottle. At least, I thought I had. I was fifteen years old the first time I went to the hospital because of my drinking. After they had pumped my stomach, I swore to my doctor, friends and family that I would never drink again. But then, I went through high school always drinking on weekends and I discovered girls. Needless to say, the thoughts of the priesthood and God left me. I could never really shake that feeling of depression though—it was not so much that I wanted to die, but it was more of a feeling of not wanting to exist at all. To make a long story short, my drinking progressed throughout the years. I not only drank, but I also found drugs. I became an addict. It was as though I was on a search for something greater to fill the emptiness inside me. In my search I destroyed everything around me, especially relationships with friends and family. I hurt those whom I loved the most. My addiction brought me to jails and institutions; it brought me close to death several times. I had become a liar, a cheat, and a thief. One morning, after I had stayed up all night and watched the sunrise, I realized that I was through. I had built my tolerance to such a level that I simply wasn’t getting high anymore. I had been chasing after those feelings I had felt when I first began using—that sense of security and wellbeing. It was all false; it was all a lie. That morning when I surrendered, I looked into the mirror and didn’t recognize the person looking back at me. I had a frightening, crazed look in my sunken eyes; my clothes were soaked with sweat; and I had lost weight. But it wasn’t so much my physical appearance that I had noticed that day as it was what was inside of me that I can only describe as nothingness. It was a dark night of the soul, but



only darker. It was as though I was caught between life and death; I didn’t know whether I wanted to live or die. It was such a feeling of emptiness and total despair—a blackness that I had never felt before and I hope to never feel again. I almost committed suicide on that day, but I didn’t. I don’t know why. Many would probably call it hope, but I don’t even know if it really was that. As I look back on it now -- although I didn’t realize it at the time -- it was simply grace from God. I didn’t do it on my own. Running on my own will power only brought pain and misery to me and those around me. As a result of God’s grace, for the first time that I was going to reach out to other people. I needed help. I went to a hospital and got cleaned up. I started going to twelve-step meetings where I found a community of people who were like me. I started listening to their stories of experience, strength, and hope. I finally felt like I belonged. In 1939, when Bill Wilson penned the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.), he found that they added up to twelve. He then thought of Christ’s twelve apostles and became convinced that the program should have twelve steps. When I walked into a meeting for the first time and read the Twelve Steps, I noticed that the words “God” and “Higher Power” were contained in many of them, and I wanted nothing to do with God because I had stopped believing years before this point in my life. I took pride in being an atheist, although I wouldn’t admit that it had kept me from getting clean. The Twelve Steps are as follows: 1 1. We admit that we are powerless over our addiction, that our lives have become unmanageable. 2. We come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. 3. We make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him. 4. We make a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves. 5. We admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 6. We are entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. See: Alcoholics Anonymous , Fourth Edition (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 2001), 59-60. The steps given here are adapted from the original twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The emphasis is on the word addict and not alcoholic for the purposes of this article. It is also written here in the present-tense. 1



7. We humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings. 8. We make a list of all persons we have harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all. 9. We make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 10. We continue to take personal inventory and when we are wrong promptly admit it. 11. We seek to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him through prayer and meditation, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. 12. Having a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs. I didn’t have much difficulty with the first step. “We admit that we are powerless over our addiction, that our lives have become unmanageable.” In the beginning of my addiction, I had thought that I was like a god, that I was finding immortality through the use of drugs. I thought that I could “eat of it and live forever.”2 But those thoughts and feelings were short-lived. I had fallen. As Adam and Eve had eaten of “the fruit in the middle of the garden,”3 I, too, had rejected God each time I took a drug. I knew of many addicts who died as a result of their addiction, but I didn’t think that applied to me. “You shall not eat of it or even touch it, lest you die.”4 I had come close to a physical death, but I felt as though I had already died inside. I didn’t realize it then, but Mary, the New Eve, would soon come to my rescue and show me that salvation and life were indeed possible. St. Ambrose once wrote, “It was through a man and woman that flesh was cast from paradise; it was through a virgin that flesh was linked to God.”5 It was around this time that I picked up Thomas Merton’s autobiography, Seven Storey Mountain. The way he describes it when he was at the crossroads, before his conversion, was similar to what I felt after just getting clean:

New American Bible, The Catholic Study Bible, Second Edition, eds. John J. Collins and Donald Senior (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), Gn 3:22. 3 NAB, Gn 3:3. 4 NAB, Gn 3:3. 5 St. Ambrose, Epist. LXIII, 32. 2



“I sat there in the dark, unhappy room, unable to think, unable to move, with all the innumerable elements of my isolation crowding in upon me from every side; without a home, without a family, without a country, without a father, apparently without any friends, without any interior peace or confidence or light or understanding on my own—without God, too, without God, without heaven, without grace, without anything.”6 At this point, I had been staying clean out of fear, but this fear was slowly transforming into hope. The second step was probably the most difficult one for me. “We come to believe that a Power greater than us can restore us to sanity.” How could I possibly do this step? I didn’t believe in God anymore, nor did I really think that I was insane. Merriam-Webster defines insanity as “such unsoundness of mind or lack of understanding as prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship.”7 By that definition, I was truly insane. Not only was I unable to enter into a relationship with others, but I was unable to enter into a union with God, to really participate in a relationship with Him. I believe that every human being is born with an inherent belief in God, and that rejection of God is in actuality an insane action. As I kept going to twelve step meetings and listening to people share their experience, strength, and hope, I began to notice that those who were not only clean, but had joy in their lives, had something that I didn’t have. They had a faith in God. How could I possibly come to believe in God? When I told another about my dilemma, he suggested that I get down on my knees, become open and willing, and just simply pray. I was so desperate to stay clean that I became willing to try anything. After a few weeks of asking God to help me to believe and thanking Him at night for another day clean, I began to notice a change within my soul. Although at the time, I didn’t attribute it to God, in the simple act of prayer, the obsession to use drugs was eventually lifted. A couple of months later I left for few days to go to a Catholic retreat center in Mystic, Connecticut—to read, write, and to practice prayer as others had suggested. I basically went to get away from it all for a while. One day, as I was walking by the gift shop, I noticed a simple wooden rosary for sale. I used to say the Rosary sometimes as a teenager, and I still remembered most of the mysteries. I hesitated for a bit, made sure 6 7

Thomas Merton, Seven Storey Mountain (New York: Mariner Books, 1999), 79. Merriam-Webster, (accessed on February 16, 2014).



no one was looking, took the Rosary off the rack, dropped ten dollars into the honor box, and went back to my room. I began to pray the Rosary. While I was on retreat, reciting the prayers of the Rosary, something else began to change—I began to develop a belief in my Higher Power -- or God. I now realize that what I received was the gift of grace. The early patristic father, St. Irenaeus, once wrote that “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosened by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.”8 I began to ask Mary to help me to get to know and love her Son, Jesus. Through meditating upon the Sorrowful Mysteries, on the passion of Christ, I came to know Him. He died for my sins and gave me, an addict, salvation in His death on the cross and hope through His Resurrection. Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam, said that “Mary, in the work of Redemption was by God’s will, joined with Jesus Christ, the cause of salvation, in much the same way as Eve was joined with Adam, the cause of death.”9 Christ loved me. Mary, the Mother of Christ, brought me to her Son. In Mary I had found faith, hope, and recovery. Adrienne von Speyr, in Handmaid of the Lord, says about Mary that “her motherhood becomes a key to all of Mary’s other mysteries. It contains them in itself, as the Mother has the Son in herself; for all her mysteries have their essence, their core and their solution in the Son.”10 Mary was my mother also, and in imitating her I came to realize that I could also imitate and live in Christ. I had found the solution. In the words of St. Jerome: “Death through Eve; Life through Mary.”11 In other words, like Mary, when we choose God, we choose Life. After I got back home and continued to pray and go to meetings, others began to notice a change in me. They said that I looked different…that I looked happy. I began to smile more. I was experiencing something that I hadn’t felt in a long time—it was the experience of joy. In “Ave Maria’’ or “Hail Mary,” when translated from the original Greek word chaire, in the New Testament, the greeting that the angel spoke to Mary, takes on a different meaning in the narrative of the Annunciation—it means “rejoice.” This is how it is used by the prophets of the Old Testament such as in Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: Behold thy king will come to thee, the Just One and the Savior.” The next word the angel uses in greeting Mary in Luke’s account, kecharitomene, means “highly favored one.” If translated this way, during the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel said to Mary, “Rejoice highly favored one!”12 I rejoiced because God had touched me. William Rambaut and Alexander Roberts, trans., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, eds. A. Cleveland Coxe, James Donaldson and Alexander Roberts (Buffalo, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1885), revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight, (accessed on February 20, 2014). 9 Pope Pius XII, Ad Caeli Reginam, (accessed on February 12, 2014). 10 Adrienne von Speyr, “Handmaid of the Lord,” in The Beauty of Mary, compiled and edited by Rosemary Vaccari Mysel, Andrew J. Vaccari, and Peter I. Vaccari (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2008), 35-36. 11 Pope Paul VI, Lumen Gentium (1964), 56. 12 Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion (Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, Inc., 2009), 5-6. 8



I was now ready to take the third step—to make “a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood Him.” I was a little fearful by the prospect of turning my will and life over to the care of God, to let go and surrender my entire being to Him. I found consolation in these verses from Luke: “[Mary] was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”13 I hesitated and thought about what I was about to do. I again related to the words of Thomas Merton: It was a moment of crisis, yet of interrogation: a moment of searching, but it was a moment of joy. It took me about a minute to collect my thoughts about the grace that had been suddenly planted in my soul, and to adjust the weak eyes of my spirit to its unaccustomed light, and during that moment my whole life remained suspended on the edge of an abyss: but this time, the abyss was an abyss of love and peace, the abyss was God.14 I knew that I needed to say “yes” to God to stay clean, to find love and peace, to keep that joy that I had been given. Justin Martyr explained in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew the consequences of Mary’s “yes” after Gabriel told her that she was going to become the mother of the Son of God. That He [Christ] became Man by the Virgin so that the course which was taken by disobedience in the beginning through the agency of the serpent, might be also the very course by which it would be put down. For Eve, a virgin and undefiled, conceived the word of the serpent, and bore disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced to her the glad tidings that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her and the powers of the Most High would overshadow her, for which reason the Holy One being born of her would be called the Son of God. And she replied: “Be it done unto me according to thy word.”15 I remember one day when I prayed with my spiritual director…we were sitting on a piece of driftwood near the shore under a gray sky. It was cold and windy. We both asked God to take my will and my life—to take it all. I was done living under my own volition. I couldn’t do it anymore. I had enough … and finally surrendered. After we had prayed, a feeling of emptiness came over me. When I told my friend this, he said that being empty was a good thing because now I could fill it with God. “May it be it done to me according to your word.”i16 I can learn so much from Mary’s example on how to NAB, Lk 1:30. Merton, 279. 15 Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, (accessed on February 27, 2014). 16 NAB, Lk 1:38. 13 14



follow her Son and do His will. During the wedding feast at Cana, “when the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ [And] Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servers, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”17 Mary asked and Jesus granted her this miracle. Mary has interceded for me so many times during my life. I know that she prayed for my recovery. The fact that I am here today is a miracle. In the fourth and fifth steps, “we make a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves;” then “we admit to God, to ourselves and to another the exact nature of our wrongs.” In working these particular steps it is absolutely necessary to develop a spiritual friendship with another. The “other” becomes a sacrament or a sign of God to the one who is revealing himself completely. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”18 It is in steps four and five that we begin to see where we are at fault in our relationships with others. As Christ said, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?”19 It was in writing and sharing on these two steps that I began to see Christ in others. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”20 It is in sharing these steps with another person that I often experience the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit. It reminds me of the meeting in the “Upper Room” in the Acts of the Apostles: “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” 21 The founder of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, St. Peter Julian Eymard, who considered the possibility of opening one of his religious houses at the Cenacle in Jerusalem, wrote: Let us follow our Mother to the Cenacle and listen to the lessons that she there teaches us, lessons that she has received from her Divine Son, with whom she conversed day and night. She is the faithful echo of His Heart and of His Love. Let us love Mary tenderly; let us labor under her maternal eye, and pray by her side. Let us be her truly devoted children, for by so doing, we shall honor Jesus who has given her to us for our Mother, that she may teach us how to love Him by the example of her own life.22 Steps six and seven are sometimes taken together: “We are entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character”; and “We humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings.” These are the steps in which we become ready to let go of anything that NAB, Jn 1:3-5. NAB, Mt 18:20. 19 NAB, Mt 7:3. 20 NAB, Mt 25:40. 21 NAB, Acts 1:14. 22 St. Peter Julian Eymard, “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament,” in The Beauty of Mary, compiled and edited by Rosemary Vaccari Mysel, Andrew J. Vaccari, and Peter I. Vaccari (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2008), 65. 17 18



keeps us separated from God. At the center of these steps is humility in which I can look to the Virgin Mary as the perfect model. St. Alphonsus Liguori, in The Glories of Mary, writes about the humility of Christ’s mother. This beautiful and so necessary virtue was unknown in the world; but the Son of God Himself came on earth to teach it by His Own example, and willed that in that virtue in particular we should endeavor to imitate him: “Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart.” Mary, the first and most perfect disciple of Jesus Christ in the practice of all virtues, was the first also in that of humility, and by it merited to be exalted above all creatures.23 It is in humility that Mary went out to a hillside to an animal stable in a cave, near the hills of Galilee where shepherds drove their flocks. There, in that humble place, Mary gave birth to the Son of God, our Savior. In the Canticle of Mary, she sang, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.”24 By being humble before God, as Mary was, God can perform his miracles. Steps eight and nine are about making amends. In Step Eight, “We make a list of all persons we have harmed and we become willing to make amends to them all.” Step Nine requires us to make “direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” These steps remind me of the words of the prayer of St. Francis, “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” St. Francis was a great saint who was an ardent devotee of the Mother of God. The praises he sang to her are called “A Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” He composed this salutation to greet her by recalling the mighty deeds that God had wrought in her and for her: Hail, holy Lady, most holy Queen, Mary, Mother of God, ever Virgin. You were chosen by the Most High Father in heaven, consecrated by Him, with his most Holy Beloved Son and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. On you descended and still remains all the fullness of grace and every good. Hail His Palace. Hail His Tabernacle. Hail His Robe. St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary, (accessed on February 18, 2014). 24 NAB, Lk 1:46-48. 23



Hail His Handmaid. Hail His Mother. And Hail, all holy Virtues, who, by grace and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are poured into the hearts of the faithful so that from their faithless state, they may be made faithful servants of God through you.25 Step nine and the act of making amends is an act of the heart. I am reminded of the presentation of Jesus in the temple. [Simeon] took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many will be revealed.”26 Several times in the Gospels it is written that Mary “pondered these things in her heart.” Christ knew Mary’s thoughts — so pure and lovingly — that their hearts were joined to each other as Mother and Son. It is in Mary that I can confide and find refuge and be led to her Son; it is in Mary that I can reveal myself, too, for she ponders “these things in her heart.” Since she is also my Mother, I can give my heart to her because her heart is in Christ’s heart, and she directs me to her Son. “We continue to take personal inventory and when we are wrong promptly admit it.” The Tenth Step reminds me of the need for vigilance and the constant reliance upon God. It demonstrates love for my neighbor, to see that everyone is a child of God. As Christ taught us, “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”27 In the Second Letter to the Corinthians, Paul says, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in faith. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?”28 This step also teaches me about charity. In Mary, I can find the example of the virtue of charity when she visited her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. St. Francis of Assisi, St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer praising Mary the Mother of Jesus, (accessed on April 1, 2014). 26 NAB, Lk 2:28-35. 27 NAB, Mt 5:23-24. 28 NAB, 2 Cor 13:5. 25



When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.29 In the Eleventh Step we “seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.” In working this step, we see the need for “unceasing prayer.” We may even sometimes experience what Teresa of Avila describes in her writing on the four stages of prayer: “The will alone is occupied in such a way that, without knowing how it has become captive, it gives simple consent to become a prisoner of God.”30 For Teresa, progress in prayer is identical with the advance to deepening union with God. When we progress in prayer, we progress in a union with God who is Life and gives us life and joy. Origen gives one of my favorite examples of living a prayerful life. I found that it is through prayer that I can live my life in Christ through the Spirit. He “prays without ceasing” who joins prayer to works that are of obligation, and good works to his prayer. For virtuous works, or the carrying out of what is enjoined, form part of prayer. It is only in this way that we can understand the injunction, “pray without ceasing,” as something that we can carry out; that is to say, if we regard the whole life as one continuous prayer.31 We see this life as one continuous prayer exemplified in the life of the Virgin Mary, from the moment she said “yes” to God and the Word became Incarnate in the fullness of time, to that moment at Calvary when she was at the foot of the cross and witnessed her Son’s suffering and death. She was also there during the Resurrection when her Son brought us Life. Mary continues to live her life in ‘unceasing prayer” as our helper or intercessor, as she brings us closer to her Son as His mother and as our mother. It is in “unceasing prayer” that I meditate upon the life of Christ through the life of Mary. It is in this meditation and imitation that she teaches me that I can also live my life as prayer in Christ.

NAB, Lk 1:41-45. Teresa of Avila, “Life,” in The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism, edited and with an Introduction by Bernard McGinn (New York: Modern Library, 2006), 114. 31 Origen, “Prayer,” in The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism, edited and with an Introduction by Bernard McGinn (New York: Modern Library, 2006), 84. 29 30



“Having a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” It is in Step Twelve that we carry the message of the experience, strength and hope of recovery to others. In order to keep what we have been given, we must give it away. I can only stay clean by helping another addict. We show others that there is another way—that another life, of faith and joy, is possible. Miracles abound. I have seen people from all walks of life and in impossible situations stay clean for just one more day, one day at a time. That is really all we have—this day, this moment. I need to live this moment right now in Christ. It was on the cross when “Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”32 Yes, it is in Christ’s giving his mother to us, that she becomes our mother, and we are able to know and come to her Son. It is in Christ that ultimately I am able to be relieved of my addiction and to help other addicts. It is in giving away what has been freely given to us, that we are able to keep this freedom from addiction and new way of life. The journey for me began with asking Mary to show me the path. It is through meditating upon her life and virtues of humility, love, charity, and the obedience of the Word of God, that I was able to realize Christ as my Lord and Savior. To fully know and love Christ is the destination. Christ is the answer.


NAB, Jn 19:26-27.



A Reader’s Companion to Crossing the Threshold of Hope Sixteen Writers on the Pastoral Writings of Pope John Paul II Charla H. Honea, Editor Paraclete Press, 1996 One might ask, why review a book published in 1996? The answer is almost foolish at first … the book fell into the hands of the reviewer by chance, while sorting through a sale table in a bookstore. But there is a justifiable reason why this particular book is important to bring to the attention of ESBVM USA readers. It represents an ecumenical response to the writing on interreligious and ecumenical considerations as composed by Pope John Paul II, in his book, Crossing the

Threshold of Hope. The history of this document written by John Paul II is fascinating. The pope was given a collection of questions by Italian Journalist Vittorio Messori, intended to be the basis for a live television interview. However, it turns out the pope had to cancel the interview but still wanted to respond to the questions. Indeed, he answered every question and delivered them to the

journalist in 1994, giving him permission to use them as he wished. Immediately, Messori began to compile a book, also conceiving more questions for the pope which were, in fact, answered. The questions posed by the journalist were the questions about which many in the world wondered. When the book was finally published, as the editor of the Reader’s Companion notes, 80,000 nonCatholics eagerly got the book and read it. These questions included such ponderings as: “Does God really exit?” “Is there really hope in the young?” “What is the role of women in the faith today?” And it is on this last question that we find Protestant queries about Mary, the mother of Christ being raised. Lynne Mobberley Deming, publisher for the United Church Press, of the United Church of Christ, in her chapter in the Companion on “A New Theology of Women,” writes several paragraphs on Mary, linked to the pope’s thoughts on the “dignity and respect” due women – a constant theme in many of his writings. Deming writes: “Mary also serves as a good example of self-awareness. When she calls herself ‘a handmaid of the Lord’ she exhibits an enlightened awareness of what it means to be a servant in faith.” Deming also picks up on the “poignant scene with Mary at the cross.” She sees the motherhood of Mary as the “motherhood of every woman.” And she notes that “for Protestants, Mary has long been a model for what it means to be a woman of faith.” She is quick to notice John Paul II’s rather refreshing regard for women in the Church and notes Mary’s role of courage in biblical times among



the community of male disciples: “In a context in which all twelve of the disciples of Jesus were male and most of the women of the Gospel stories are not even named, Mary stands out as a woman who takes up a challenge in courage and faith.” One of the most difficult questions articulated by the pope in Crossing the Threshold concerns salvation and the church. Stephen W. Brown, in his chapter in the Companion, refers to Pope John Paul II’s chapter “Is Only Rome Right?” He quotes John Paul II: “Although the Catholic Church knows it has received the fullness of the means of salvation, it rejoices when other Christian communities join her in preaching the Gospel.” Concerning this statement and the meaning it holds, Brown says there is a “winsome quality about [the pope’s] answer,” meaning the pope answers his own question himself, refusing to “equivocate.” Translator Messori relates that he maintained underlined phrases made by the pope by placing them in italics in the published edition of Reader’s Companion. We see it here in the pope’s quotation that Brown gives. This italicized quotation is followed by, “The Church, precisely because it is Catholic, is open to dialogue with all other Christians, with the followers of non-Christian religions, and also with people of good will.” So how does Stephen Brown, a professor of Preaching and Pastoral Ministry at the Reformed Theological Seminary, respond? He writes: “Thus, a Protestant is faced with a very real problem; to wit, we are accepted and loved as friends, we are referred to as

fellow workers in God’s vineyard, but we are not accepted as family in the sense that we are part of Christ’s church. It is one thing to be called ‘Christian communities’ or to be seen on an equal basis with those who are ‘followers of non-Christian religions’ and ‘all people of good will,’ but it is quite another to be accepted as members of the universal church of Christ.” This was written in 1996. Today, much the same question can be asked, but great strides have been made in understanding the unity of Christians in Christ. And, perhaps, just as the Virgin Mary from the earliest of ages is understood to be pointing the way to her Son, taking us to Him, we have found that she will soften these hard questions and lead us to resolve. The Reader’s Companion is not a deeply theological read, but does represent a strong Protestant reply (and in one case a Jewish response) to thoughts of the pope soon after Vatican II. It is a good little volume to have on your shelf of ecumenical books. There are lessons in it to open up the kind of dialogue that can take place, with great respect, and yet good questions. It definitely demonstrates that in this earlier period of “crossing the threshold” between believers, that Mary is not yet holding any significant amount of consideration. But, the book launches for us the ecumenical process. Perhaps, if you are lucky, you can find it on a sale table like I did and then make a valuable little addition to your knowledge of ecumenical dialogue, especially as it transpired at the end of the 20th century.



However, tradition holds that the story begins at the cross: in order to fulfill her dying son’s words (see John 19:2627), Mary went to live in the home of St. John, the beloved disciple. She took with her from Nazareth a table which Jesus had made there. It was on the tabletop that St. Luke, the evangelist, is said to have painted the image that has come down through history to us as Our Lady of Czestochowa. It is said that the image was discovered in the Holy Land by St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, who, in 313 issued the Edict of Milan, legalizing Christianity. Constantine built a church in Constantinople to house the image. It remained there for five centuries. “…[they] show a picture of Mary, the most glorious and the most venerable virgin, the queen of the world and of the Poles, which has been executed with a strange and extraordinary skill, with a serene expression on Her face from whatever direction you look at it. They say it is one of those [pictures] painted by St. Luke the Evangelist himself … Looking at this picture one is pervaded with a sense of peculiar piety, as if looking at a living person.” - Canon Jan Dlugosz of Cracow, 15th century historian

ORIGINS & EARLY HISTORY Much of the early history of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa is shrouded in mystery and legend.

In one account, it is said that in 803 the painting was given as a wedding gift from the Byzantine emperor to a Greek princess, who married a Ruthenian nobleman. The image was then placed in the royal palace at Belz (in modern Ukraine, near the Polish border), where it remained for nearly 600 years. According to one popular account (and there are variations), the picture arrived in Czestochowa in August 1382. It was brought there by Ladislaus of Opole, a palatine for Ruthenia, who resided in Belz between 1372 and 1378.



The image had been damaged in an attack by the Tartars (an arrow in the throat), and Ladislaus was moving it to his more secure hometown of Opole. While journeying there, he and his company – which included monks of the Hungarian Order of St. Paul the First Hermit - rested in Czestochowa for the night, placing the image in a church at Jasna Gora (meaning “bright hill”). When the image was placed in its cart the next day, the horses refused to move. Taking this as a sign from heaven, Ladislaus returned the image to the church, the Church of the Assumption. RESTORATION The Jasna Gora Monastery that arose around the church to become home to the icon quickly became a place of pilgrimage. But it was not always safe. In 1430, a group of robbers connected with the Hussite reform movement raided the monastery, which was believed to hold great treasures and money. Finding no such treasure, they robbed the monastery of its sacred objects, including chalices and crosses. They stripped the icon of the precious stones and jewels that pilgrims had left for it. They took the icon as well. However, when the Hussites put it in their wagon, the horses refused to move. They threw the icon to the ground and slashed the face of the Madonna twice with a sword and broke the panel on which the icon had been written. The monks brought the damaged image to Krakow to show it to King Ladislaus Jagiello, who was a supporter of the

shrine. The assistance of court painters was sought to restore the image. It took three years for the restoration to be completed. Two attempts were made by court painters to repaint the image in the original Byzantine style, but they failed when the paints ran. A third attempt was made by European artists who, although they faithfully copied the Madonna and Child from the damaged original, created an image that was softer and more tender. The sword slashes on Mary’s cheek, according to one account, were preserved by the restorers, since pilgrims had grown accustomed to them over the three year period it had taken to restore the painting. Others believe that, though repaired, the slashes reappeared on the image by miraculous means. And so the image that emerged is both eastern, Byzantine in its contents, and western, European in its form. It has been written that Poland is neither east nor west, “just as if you were standing on the threshold.” The same could be said of this icon. THROUGH THE YEARSTO TODAY The miracle for which Our Lady of Czestochowa is most famous occurred during the Swedish Invasion of 1655, known as The Deluge. In the winter of 1655, Jasna Gora was under siege. Under the heroic leadership of the Prior of the Monastery, a small group of monks supported by local volunteers, mostly from the Polish nobility, prayed fervently before the icon for deliverance. They



fought off the numerically superior enemy, who then retreated. The icon was saved, and the entire course of the war

In 1920, when the Soviet Army gathered on the banks of the Vistula River, preparing to attack Warsaw, the citizens and soldiers of the city prayed to Our Lady of Czestochowa, and on September 15, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, it is said that she appeared in the clouds above Warsaw. The Russians were defeated in a series of battles later dubbed the "Miracle at the Vistula." During the Nazi occupation, Hitler prohibited pilgrimages to the shrine, but many still secretly made the journey. In 1945, after Poland was liberated, half a million pilgrims journeyed to Czestochowa to express their gratitude. On September 8, 1946, 1.5 million people gathered at the shrine to rededicate the entire nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. During the Cold War, Jasna Góra was a center of anti-Communist resistance.

was changed. This was a great victory for Poland, and, in 1656, King Jan Casimir made a solemn vow, proclaiming the Mother of God to be the “Queen of the Polish Crown” and the Shrine of Jasna Gora to be the “Mount of Victory.”

Saint John Paul II, a native of Poland, was a fervent devotee of the Virgin Mary and of her icon at Czestochowa. As pope, he made pilgrimages to pray before the Black Madonna in 1979, 1983, 1991, and 1997. In 1991, he held his Sixth World Youth Day at Czestochowa, which was attended by 350,000 young people from around the world.

During the years of Poland’s partition (1772-1918), the Shrine of Jasna Gora became an important link for the Polish people with their homeland. The holy icon at Czestochowa shone as a lighthouse of hope during these difficult years of hardship and defeat.

Other popes have honored the "Queen of Poland" as well. Pope Clement XI officially recognized the miraculous nature of the image in 1717 and in 1925 Pope Pius XI designated May 3 a feast day in her honor. Pope Benedict XVI visited the shrine on May 26, 2006.

The Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa




Approaching the Monastery

Dominating a hilltop in Czestochowa is the large baroque monastery of Jasna Góra. As pilgrims approach the monastery via a tree-lined street, the most striking sight is the 106-meter bell tower, reconstructed in 1906 (the bottom part dates from 1714).

The Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa, Poland

The second level of the bell tower contains four clocks, one on each side, that mark the passage of each 15 minutes with Marian music. Inside the third level are statues of St. Paul the Hermit, St. Florian, St. Casimir and the Saint-Queen Hedvig; the fifth level has statues of the church fathers St. Leo the Great, St. Gregory, St. Augustine and St. Ambrose. The focus of pilgrims to Jasna Góra is not the monastery, but the icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa, which is displayed

in an altar in the Chapel of the Black Madonna. The icon shows Mary holding the infant Jesus on her left arm and gesturing towards him with her right hand. This is the Hodegetria, meaning Mary is “showing the way” to her son. The Virgin's robe and mantle are decorated with fleur-de-lis, the symbol of the Hungarian royal family. The infant Jesus is dressed in a red tunic and holds a Bible in his left hand and makes a gesture of blessing with his right. The Virgin and Child are dressed in bejeweled velvet robes and gold crowns for special occasions. The altar with the icon is separated from the rest of the Chapel of the Black Madonna with a floor-to-ceiling iron screen. The large Gothic chapel includes five other altars, the most notable of which is the Altar of the Crucifix, to the right of the icon. Its cross dates from 1400. The walls of the chapel are full of votive offerings left by grateful pilgrims. Attached to the Chapel of the Black Madonna is the baroque basilica, named the Church of the Holy Cross and Nativity of Mary. Rebuilt between 1692 and 1695, it has three aisles and ceilings decorated with accounts of the miracles of Our Lady of Częstochowa. The main altar was designed by the Italian artist Giacomo Antonio Buzzini between 1725 and 1728. The monastery's treasury is a rich storehouse of votive offerings given to the Black Madonna over the centuries, from the 14th century to the present. Gifts



range from swords and scepters to rosaries made of dried bread in concentration camps. Also donated to the Virgin are tear-gas cylinders used by the Communists against Solidarity protestors in the 1980s, as well as the Nobel Peace Prize won by Solidarity leader (and later Poland’s president), Lech Walesa in 1983. Around the perimeter of the basilica are the fourteen Stations of the Cross, represented by bronze statues sculpted by Pius Weloński in 1913. Nearly every pilgrim group prays at the Stations of the Cross; some move from one station to the next on their knees. PILGRIMAGES AND FESTIVALS Every day, from early morning to late evening, a steady stream of pilgrims approaches the shrine. Groups often leave a some distance between them, so as not to disturb the others as they pray the rosary and sing hymns. The preferred days to make the pilgrimage are Marian feast days, especially the Feast of the Assumption on August 15. On this day, up to 500,000 people crowd the city. Since 1711, a pilgrimage has left Warsaw and 32 other towns to walk in procession to Czestochowa for up to 21 days. Four other national pilgrimage days bring thousands of visitors: the Feast of Mary, Queen of Poland (May 3); the Feast of Our Lady of Czestochowa (August 26); the Feast of the Nativity of Mary

(September 8); and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8). CONCLUSION The following is taken from a paper delivered to the London branch of the ESBVM on October 5, 1996. The paper is titled, “Mary, Icon of the Covenant, A Methodist Perspective” by David M. Chapman, and seems to be an appropriate conclusion, with food for thought. “Whatever we make of the legend, the exact origin of Our Lady of Czestochowa is of secondary importance in comparison with her present devotional impact and ability to image the divine as a sacramental sign of salvation or icon. While an icon is far from being an idol, neither is it merely a religious work of art to be received and appreciated as such – though clearly a measure of artistic skills is involved in iconography. Praying before an icon actually mediates some aspect of the Trinitarian mystery in a way which cannot be confined within the original vision of the iconographer. Accordingly, whereas the passage of time generally detracts from the quality of any work of art, thereby obscuring the original artistic vision, this is not so with an icon whose own history may enhance its capacity to image the divine. Invested with the prayer of the faithful down the ages and fashioned in the crucible of history, through time an icon may assume new ways of acting as a window onto the divine. In this regard, Our Lady of Czestochowa possesses a quality unique among icons of Mary.” sf



Icon of the Annunciation

The phrase, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you” is contained in a well-known prayer for Roman Catholics. It is familiar to Protestant and Independent Christians when it is read from the account of Christ’s nativity in Luke’s Gospel at Christmastime. And, for Orthodox, the phrase is repeated many times in the ages-old and beloved hymn of the Akathistos, prayed throughout Lent. But what does this short little phrase, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you” as it is prayed in the Rosary, or “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you,” as it reads in the Catholic translation of the New American Bible, really mean?

It takes a little exegesis … that is to say biblical expertise to look into the original Greek words of Luke’s text to get a deeper and more mystical meaning of this phrase (we should note that the original language of the New Testament is Greek). In Luke 1:28 (NAB), the verse is actually rendered, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you!” The key words, “hail” and “favored one,” are actually, in the Greek, formed in a very unusual word, composed by the evangelist Luke for just this account of the Annunciation. The Greek word kecharitomene is a combination of some interesting participial forms surrounding the central root word charis, meaning “joy” and mene, meaning “remaining in.” In Luke 1:28 in the New American Bible (NAB), we find a deeply profound thought in “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you!” The word “hail” is translated from the Latin, ave, which in turn is a translation of the original Greek text, chaire. The Greek word, chaire, means “rejoice” and is derived from the same word at the core of kecharitomene. But then the angel goes on to say: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God (Luke 1:25 NAB).” The word “favor,” here, is the Greek word, chairin, which is also derived from the same root word, and means joy. Therefore we find kecharitomene translates more accurately “having been and remaining in joy.” Mary was a young Hebrew woman with great faith and trust in Yahweh. She treasured God in her soul (as we see in the Magnificat she sings in her visit with her cousin Elizabeth). Mary’s deep faith has brought her joy. And the joy will increase when she conceives the Son of



God in her womb. It is certainly then when we can pray, “Rejoice (or Hail), Mary, the Lord is with you.” As almost anyone would be confused by this greeting, Mary questioned the angel when she was told she was going to conceive a son. Mary asked, “How shall this be, since I have no husband? (Luke 1:34 NAB)” Another interesting point to consider, here, and somewhat related, will be Mary’s ongoing relationship to Joseph and whether he truly would be her husband. This raises important and frequent questions in the ecumenical forum, concerning not only Mary’s relationship to Joseph at the moment of the Annunciation, but her relationship to him as a husband in the Hebrew world which meant the God given responsibility to bear children for a family. As a holy and faithful Hebrew young woman, waiting for marriage to “be with a man,” Mary had to ask the initial question of how she was to conceive without coming together with Joseph, her betrothed. In Jewish culture of her day, it was the physical coming together of man and woman that was, in fact, “marriage.” Perhaps, as some scholars claim, Mary and Joseph were never “married.” We know that early Christian teaching established that Mary was always a “virgin.” Could it be that she and Joseph never came together but continued in their relationship as “betrothed,” with Joseph only as the protector of Mary and her son? In the ecumenical forum, another issue, Mary’s “ever virginity,” is constantly discussed.

Are the brothers and sisters of the Lord, the grown children of Joseph the widower as attested in the non-canonical Proto-gospel of James? Or … are they cousins, or did Joseph the young man father the other children with Mary, or was he the young man, not the widower, who pledged his celibacy for the Lord and the Lord’s will? (As Bishop Fulton Sheen thought.) In any event, it is inspiring to think of Mary as the young Hebrew woman whose faith in God, and the promise of a messiah, brought her great “joy.” In this graced attitude, Mary was called to be the mother of the Son of God. There is great benefit in studying the key passages that relate to Mary in the Bible, using the aid of an interlinear translation from the original languages and the use of good bible commentaries and lectionaries. In the ecumenical forum, we most often return to the biblical texts together, to find out how they can illumine our questions. We find this in the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) report and the Evangelical–Catholic dialogue. Kecharitomene rose to the center as a key phrase in their considerations. We can only pray that the Holy Spirit will aid us all in engaging the truly mystical aspect of Mary’s life. Some will be surprised at this new meaning for “Hail, Mary.” But in truth, we have to stay faithful to the biblical texts and remain open to their meaning. vk



REGISTRATION FORM: ESBVM CONFERENCE 2014 Misericordia University 301 Lake Street, Dallas, PA 18612 August 8-10, 2014 Information: Call Virginia Kimball at 978-692-4661 The first annual weekend conference of the ESBVM-USA will be held on the campus of Misericordia University in Dallas, PA. The fee schedule for the entire weekend is as follows: Early Registration, up to July 15th: $25 Registration after July 15th: $35 Student Registration (with ID): $10 The fee includes a luncheon on Saturday. Please make checks payable to ESBVM. Directions to the college are available on the university’s website:

REGISTRANT INFORMATION Please print or type Name_____________________________________________________________ Address___________________________________________________________ City/State/Zip______________________________________________________ Telephone No. _________________ Email ______________________________ PLEASE fill out a separate form for each person that will be attending and submit the appropriate fee. Checks should be made payable to ESBVM. Thank you. I will attend: August 8 _____ (evening only) August 9 _____ August 10 ____ I will stay: Fairfield Inn ____ Elsewhere ____ Religious affiliation: ________________________________________________



“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind.” Matthew 13: 47

In Christ’s parable of the net cast into the sea, we learn that the fish will be taken to shore and then divided – good ones which are gathered and collected, and bad ones which are thrown away. We can ask, “Were all the good fish alike?” Of course, Christ does not just mean one kind of fish. No fisherman hauls in only one species of fish. We must remember – Christ calls all Christians and like the good fish which are caught, we are ready to love Christ and serve Him. In our Christian diversity, Christ calls us all to unity – a unity with and in Him. That is the mission of our ecumenical hearts. Beyond all disparities, God has sent us His Son: What is man that You remember him, or the son of man that You visit him: … You subjected all things under his feet, … the birds of heaven and the fish of the sea, and the things passing through the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how wondrous is Your Name in all the earth. Psalm 8:3-10



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2014 Hope and Vision, Vol. 1, No. 1  

2014 Hope and Vision, Vol. 1, No. 1  

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