(America’s In All Things Blog) Michael O’Loughlin—Considering Mary’s Humanity

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[Irish author Colm Toibin]'s novella [The Testament of Mary] offers a deeply, if at times painfully, human portrait of Mary, tearing asunder the robes of red and blue that envelop her in paintings and sculptures, pointing to her unique role as Theotokos, mother of God. Instead she is cast as a character more akin to Becca, the protagonist from the film Rabbit Hole, a good but broken woman whose son dies tragically, and as a result, is unable to cope with life in ways that would seem normal to those who haven’t suffered through such a liminal experience....

For some, Toibin’s work might be scandalous. Those like my preaching instructor might think Catholic reverence for Mary would compel us to dismiss this story outright. But for many Catholics, while The Testament of Mary might be challenging, it shouldn’t be upsetting. Our saints are indeed holy, but they must always remain fully human. That is how they have value for us, serving as models for our own journeys. That we might be compelled by Toibin to recall and reflect on Mary’s humanity rather than her seemingly quasi-divinity is a welcomed challenge.

I finished reading this short book just as news of Dorothy Day’s possible canonization hit the papers. Day’s path to sainthood, should she attain it, is not typical. Her story is a reminder of the beautifully messy tableau created by life’s many experiences. There is saintliness in all of it, and Mary’s life, a fully human experience encompassing joys and pains, extremes many of us will not be asked to endure, is worth considering in full.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsAdvent* Culture-WatchBooks* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyAnthropologyChristologyTheology: Scripture

4 Comments
Posted December 4, 2012 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Br. Michael wrote:

On book on Mary by a gay lapsed Catholic.  I think I’ll pass.

December 4, 7:41 am | [comment link]
2. Dan Crawford wrote:

For the very same reason, I think I’ll read it.

December 4, 10:04 am | [comment link]
3. Phil wrote:

OK - there’s no question that the path of many of the saints has been messy.  Consider another Mary, St. Mary of Egypt.  The problem is, this wasn’t the path of the Theotokos.  By the logic of this book, because some have come to faith in Christ after broken lives, we could “reimagine” Jesus as a drug user and abusive husband.

I can’t know the author’s heart, but, following Occam’s Razor, the high probability is that the point of the book is to be scandalous.  I’m sure there are high-brow explanations for why Christians should embrace and learn from Serrano’s “P%&* Christ,” too, but, at the end of the day, they’re justifications for blasphemy.

December 4, 12:24 pm | [comment link]
4. driver8 wrote:

I should say it’s just too vague to know whether it’s worthy of attention. Broken woman who can’t cope? It might be Days of our Lives any time in the last 40 years. My concern would not that it’s scandalous (we’re not in 1950s Ireland any more Toto) but that it’s mind numbingly cliched.

December 4, 2:07 pm | [comment link]
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