Mary, the Beloved

Mary, the Beloved

Mary, the Beloved 1633371557
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Book Summary:
The Magisterium of the Catholic Church teaches that Mary, the Mother of God, is a grace-filled, flesh and blood woman, who unsurpassingly loves each of us by name. Mary, the Beloved, affirms that teaching, providing a theological and philosophical portraiture of our Heavenly Mother that plunges both heart and intellect deeply into her mystery. It's not simply to teach doctrine that this book was written, but to introduce the reader to a real Lady who will fill their hearts.
About the Author:
Keith Berube

Mr. Berube holds a B.A. and an M.A. in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is currently studying toward a doctorate in Dogmatic Theology with a concentration in Mariology. He and his wife Pamela reside somewhere in the United States with their five home-schooled children, a menagerie of pets, and coffee.

Visit Keith Berube's Author Page

1. What specifically inspired you to write Mary, the Beloved?

The idea for the book initially began when students in my high-school Mariology class told me they wished they had all that I was teaching them in a book. They had their notes, but of course notes are always incomplete, at times hard to read, and are lost over time. A book, however, is something they could keep and refer back to. So I started the project, but I realized very quickly two things... First, out of all the books I have read--I have in my library alone around one hundred books of Mariology and many articles--none of them contained all that I wanted to teach in one book, and some of what I wanted to convey wasn’t to be found in any of sources I’ve read. Of course all teachers have a certain style and certain details they want to teach, and they want to teach them in a certain order and with a certain emphasis; that’s why they write their own textbooks.

But second, the book, at its heart, like my Mariology courses, is about a Woman I love more than anyone after God and who I want others to know and love. I should add it was Mary who brought about my conversion many years ago and who saved me, and she has ever kept me in her arms, though I didn’t realize this in the first part of my life. Well, back to the book, I realized too that, the way life is, not knowing when God will call us home, perhaps this is the only chance I will get to write my ode to Mary, a work that will, I hope, do some eternal good for others, even after I die. My hope is that many souls will come to know and love her deeply by this book.

And actually, that leads to a third reason for the book: to save souls with Mary. True devotion to Mary, St. Alphonsus Liguori teaches, gives one a moral certainty of Heaven! Mary is Jesus’ way of binding us to himself, forming us into himself and nourishing us, the same way that he was formed in his human nature and nourished: By Mary.

Finally, I also realized more fully while writing the book that many priests lack a solid foundation in Mariology. They have some formation in Mariology, but it is limited and at times deficient. Almost always, regardless of the parish, when Mary is mentioned in a homily there are errors (e.g., Mary was an unwed mother; this is totally false, yet oft repeated). So my further hope in this book is that it will be a resource for seminarians and priests, but I wrote it for about 9th grade on up, for everyone.

2. What makes your book unique compared to other books on Marian devotion?

There are several things that are unique in this book. Overall, I tried to capture a sort of portrait of Mary, including her physical and spiritual beauty and goodness, her character and what is on her Heart, what she did for each of us with her Son to save us and what she continues to do. I wanted to put in literary-theological form an image of Mary, a sort of portrait of the Lady on St. Juan Diego’s tilma in words. Within that schema, there is an emphasis on intimacy with Mary. This sweet intimacy is made by God to be necessary for each of us. Consider the key Marian maxim, “No Jesus without Mary, no Mary without Jesus.” We are created to live Jesus’ life, and he himself lived and still lives in total and intimate unity with Mary. And within that emphasis on intimacy there are two further unique elements... One is that the phrase, “To Jesus through Mary” is true, but not the whole picture. We do indeed go to Jesus and are formed into Jesus by Mary, but we don’t leave Mary because of that, and of course she is not an object, something merely to be used to get to Jesus and then put aside. In fact, we are brought into a deeper union with Mary in our union with Jesus. How? God is our primary end, absolutely. But Mary is our secondary end. What does this mean? It means, at least in part, that as we are brought into union with Jesus he gives us his Heart, his mind, his loves...and after God there is no one he loves more than Mary. Out of this incredible union of the soul with Jesus the soul then loves Mary as Jesus does. We go to Jesus through Mary, but then we go to Mary in union with Jesus.

And all the Saints, some more obviously and more particularly than others of course, were on fire with love for Mary! Why? Because of their union with Christ. We never leave Jesus, we are ever one with her. This leads to something I have termed the alter Sacra Familia: “another Holy Family.” In union with Jesus we are each an alter Christus (priests become this in a qualitatively different way than lay people, but it is a reality for both in their own ways). But when we go to Mary, and she forms us into Christ, there results in our lives, in a spiritual way, the life of St. Joseph for each of us: The soul, like St. Joseph did on earth (with some obvious differences of course), lives in union with Jesus and Mary in a spiritual, “supernatural holy family.” In fact, were it not for Mary, Joseph would not have been in such union with Jesus, and so he is the greatest model of intimate union with Jesus and of Consecration to Mary. This relationship of Jesus, Mary and the individual soul is also unique: My relationship with them will be completely unique to yours, we will each with Jesus and Mary form a unique Sacra Familia. This notion of the soul, Mary and Jesus as “another holy family” is not something I have, as yet, read anywhere.

There are also unique emphases concerning Consecration to Mary, but I don’t want to give away everything that’s in the book, so I’ll leave it at that.

3. What kind of challenges did you come across in writing a book on Mary?

One of the biggest challenges was the amount of time required. I am not a morning person, but I make myself get up to go to Mass every day, usually about 7:50 AM for the 8:15 Mass, because Mass is where the greatest union with Jesus and Mary happens on earth. We often think, “If only I could see Mary and Jesus, I would be more in union with them.” And who of us would not want to see them with our waking eyes! Someday we will see them, but in this world the greatest union with them takes place at Mass and at the reception of Holy Communion. Now for this book, I had to go a step further, getting up some days between 4:00 or 5:30 AM so I could work for several hours before Mass and before my family woke up, and that gave me for about two months about 5 hours of sleep on average. That was daunting, and it took a big toll.

One other challenge: The devil. He hates anything that brings a soul closer to Mary, because he knows once she captures their hearts, he has probably lost that soul for eternity. He was a pest in various ways during and after the writing of this book. To name a few things, I had more than a few times a strong temptation that all I was writing was useless and I would be better to just delete it all and stop wasting my time. So a temptation, so to speak, to burn it all. Then, prior to a visit to EWTN for an interview on the “At Home with Jim and Joy” show about Mary, the Beloved I had various health problems and the like, and several times these pains, sometimes many and strong, made me seriously consider cancelling the trip. But it was odd timing, I thought in the midst of this, all these things happening just prior to the trip. I did finally make it to EWTN, and very soon after the trip, the health issues faded away or else became insignificant. But God uses these things for good and my little Mother got me through; she even makes crosses sweet.

4. What are some of your favorite paintings or images of Mary?

This is a tricky question! I’ll start by saying that there are no pictures of Mary that capture her beauty, not by any stretch of the imagination. St. Bernadette and others talk about this. She can’t be captured in an image. There is the tilma--that is a truly miraculous self-portrait (also that of Las Lajas), but even then one needs to actually go to Mexico City to see the tilma--no reproduction captures it. And even then, Our Lady is not there in all her beauty. That being said, I do have some favorite images! One of them is the painting on the cover of the book. I picked all the images for Mary, the Beloved myself. I am very particular when it comes to images of her; like St. Gabriel Possenti said, pictures of Mary that are beautiful stir up affection and devotion in the heart, while those that are not dampen affection and devotion. Images move us, in one way or another. So all the images on the book (the hardcover version has a few more) are some of my favorites. Others are the miraculous portrait of Las Lajas, Mary and Jesus by Bernadette Carstensen, the painting of Mary as Consolatrix Afflictorum b y Dagnan-Bouveret, the Annunciation by Swinstead, and the statue of Our Lady at Fatima--the statue in Fatima that has the bullet from St. John Paul II’s shooting in the crown. Not to mention Michelangelo's Pieta. But there is another image of Mary that will surprise some: Walt Disney’s movie, “Snow White.” There are many implicit references to Mary in Snow White’s character, though Disney himself did not seem to intend that. Whatever happened with that movie (a Catholic fellow was involved in fact, though I haven’t been able to discern how much), they picked various Marina images to show forth Snow White’s character, for instance images from the Song of Songs (e.g. “the enclosed garden”) and her supernatural influence and love of all God’s creation.

5. What is your approach toward the various Marian apparitions approved by the Church? How have they impacted your worldview?

That Mary appears to us in this world is completely in line with who Mary is: She is our Mother. She is not a holy soul in Heaven--she lives now in body and soul, glorified, completely alive. Thus she is close to us physically and spiritually, even while we are on earth, just as any true mother is totally present to her child body and soul.

But in addition, we are living in what I do not hesitate to say is the darkest time in the history of the Church. The roots of this go far back and were becoming evident in the early 1800’s when Mary appeared to St. Catherine Laboure. Since that apparition in 1830, Mary has appeared many, many times (I speak of approved apparitions). We are in danger, especially in danger of Hell--worldly dangers will pass, the danger of Hell is an eternal threat--and so she comes to us now more than ever. She shows her passionate, intimate love for each person in particular and tells us what to do to save ourselves and others.

So this is how I approach Marian apparitions. It’s not surprising that she comes to us, both in public apparitions and in the private lives of Saints (Padre Pio, John Vianney) and even sinners (Alphonse Ratisbonne, Bruno Cornacchiola); it would be utterly surprising and incongruous if she did not! Strictly speaking--and there is a strong caveat to this--one need not believe in such visits; one does need to believe all public Divine Revelation. But it’s honestly silly and contrary to who God is and who Mary is to refuse to believe in her visits or listen to Mary when a bishop states that he has approved an apparition as supernatural and thus worthy of belief.

As for a world view, Mary’s visits set into sharp relief an objective view of the world. We need this, because the devil is so very subtle, by various means causing us to view this world in terms of the material only: jobs, money, earthly successes, earthly relationships, physical pleasure, and to such an extent we forget that this world is a) not as real as the supernatural and b) incredibly short and, taken on its own, absolutely dis-satisfying. Mary dispels these demonic illusions. Worldly things are only important insofar as we do them with supernatural love, with humility and out of loving obedience to God who is our loving Father, and to save souls. We put far too much importance on things of this world, while that which is truly important takes second place, and often gets no place at all. The main object of each day should be Jesus and Mary: Mass and the Rosary. If a person does not have time for those two things each day (if it’s possible, that is, but one decides not to rearrange their schedule) then that person’s life is out of whack. In her apparitions Mary usually emphasizes the building of a chapel (for the Mass and other Sacraments to take place) and the Rosary. So, on earth, we suffer and work; but it’s short!--then we rest forever in Paradise. Most people want paradise now, and now and later on their own terms. Again, Mary rids us of that illusion: she tells us about Heaven and Hell, that souls do go to Hell, and what we need to be about in this very short life.

6. What is the most important takeaway you’d like your readers to get from the book?

Intimacy with Mary is the way to Heaven because it is only by her we come into union with Christ. By her we are formed into Christ, and truly live his life, and truly living his life means a life of intimate union with Mary, just like Jesus. This is perfect imitation of Christ, and is more than imitation--we truly do live his life and we truly are in him brought into the closest bonds of loving unity with Mary. This is not merely a devotion among other devotions. We can pick and choose a Saint as a friend, we can pray this chaplet or that novena, but we cannot say, “Mary is not for me.”

We should remember that Mary said at Cana, “Do whatever he tells you,” but that needs to be linked to the last, dying words of Jesus to each of us; and what’s the last thing he tells us? At this point his words take even more import, because they are the words of God and also the words of Jesus dying in terms of his human nature--as man, he really dies. The last words of the dying are a sort of key to their heart. He didn’t say, “Go preach, or exorcise demons, or baptize, or be kind, or heal the sick,” but his last command was the most fundamental and necessary thing without which we will do nothing: “Woman behold your son; behold your mother.” His last command! We tend to forget this when we quote Mary at Cana saying, “Do whatever he tells you.” Are we doing what he told us with his last tortured breaths? He gives each of us in John to Mary, and Mary to each of us in particular in the person of John. Just as the Eternal Son only became man in Mary, so we will only become Christ in Mary. How did Jesus love and live with Mary? With all his Heart, his affections, his love, his attention. “For each of us,” said Monsignor Knox,” she is a personal romance.” She is a personal romance for God, and so she is for each of us. Let’s not fool ourselves or fall into the non-Catholic/Protestant trap: We cannot say we are like Christ or living his life if Mary is not an integral, intimate, substantial aspect of our lives. We tend to put people in our lives in the wrong order. For all of us, married or religious, the order is first God and then Mary, and then everyone else in their proper order. Given that, how much time and love do we give to God and to Mary, whom he so wants us to love? Mary is the Beloved of God, and God made her to be our Beloved too. Let me end with this: If you go to a great artist, a friend of yours say, and he wants to show you his masterpiece, what will happen if you say, “No, I don’t want that, I just want to see you”? He would be incredibly offended. He wants you to admire his masterpiece, praise it, love it, look at it, want a copy of it, tell your friends about it. What of God’s masterpiece, who is not a painting, but a person, and our Mother besides? As Sheen said, for each of us she is “The Woman I love.” God created us this way, to be one with Jesus and one with Mary in him, and we won’t be happy without her.