As we prepare to embark upon the journey of Lent and with the dirt of the Holy Land still on the souls of my favorite sneakers, I am pondering now more than ever the amazing role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life and public ministry of her son Jesus. One resource that has helped me vastly in opening my mind to the gift of Mary is the fantastic book Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God by my good friend and CatholicMom.com contributor Ginny Kubitz Moyer. For our male readers, please do not be put off by the words “Catholic Women” in the title of Ginny’s book — this is a resource for anyone looking to better know and love our Blessed Mother, and her son Jesus Christ through her. Compellingly written and with the voices of countless others lending to Ginny’s sincerely honest testimonies, Mary and Me has earned a spot on my “favorites” bookshelf and is one I find myself re-opening time and again. If you are seeking a great book to ponder during the season of Lent, please consider Mary and Me.
I hope you’ll enjoy the following conversation with the lovely and talented Ginny Kubitz Moyer, and that you’ll make her terrific blog Random Acts of Momness one of your favorite destinations.
Thank you so much for having me, Lisa! Like you, I wear lots of hats; I’m a spiritual writer, public high school teacher, and proud mom of two little boys. They’re named Matthew and Luke, which pretty much guarantees that we get lots of evangelist jokes. (The best one came from our priest, who asked, “If you have a fifth boy, will you call him Acts?”). My husband Scott works fulltime in ministry, so I guess you could say we’re a pretty churchy crew.
Q: Ginny, as we prepare to embark on this year’s Lenten journey, I’m reminded of your wonderful book Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God. Could you briefly describe the book for those who may not yet have read it?
For Mary and Me, I interviewed Catholic women about their feelings towards Mary. I asked them things like, What role does Mary play in your faith life? How does she challenge, comfort, inspire you? Do you ever struggle in understanding Mary? Are there certain life experiences that have made her feel especially close to you? I took their stories and reflections and arranged them into various chapters, focusing around certain themes like motherhood, suffering, prayer, community, etc. It was amazing to see how many different ways women answered these questions.
Q: What prompted you to take the approach of asking other women about their relationships with and perceptions of the Blessed Mother? What most surprised you about their responses?
It actually started as an article I wrote for the Paulist website BustedHalo.com, which is geared towards young adults. I invited women in their twenties and thirties to share their thoughts on Mary, and I was so excited by the stories that I decided it would be a great book someday. For Mary and Me, I cast a broader net and included women of all ages, from their twenties to their nineties. There are women from various cultures and from a variety of professions; there are laywomen and religious, cradle Catholics and converts … a big mix. I loved talking to them about their experiences.
It was fascinating to discover how many women had experienced Mary as a “bridge” for them to get to God. Several women talked about how God used to feel distant/scary/remote, for a variety of reasons, but Mary always felt approachable. Nearly all of these women found that Mary eventually led them into a closer relationship with God. There’s the old saying “to Jesus through Mary,” and it was fascinating to see how often that story came up in my interviews.
Q: How did the writing of this book and the subsequent births of your two sons color and change your own perspective on Mary?
I learned so much in writing this book. One woman talked about the death of her husband, and how she really connected to Mary as a widow. To be honest, the idea of Mary as a widow was something I’d never pondered before! I was also fascinated to find that some women who grew up in very non-religious families had always instinctively felt close to Mary, while some women who were raised in very Catholic homes felt that they had to work hard to have a relationship with her. This showed me that it’s really hard to generalize about Mary and her role in women’s lives.
On a personal level, the journey of writing this book really paralleled my journey into motherhood. My first pregnancy (which happened before I started work on the book) was an ectopic, which was devastating. Then, shortly after I started researching the book, I was overjoyed to become pregnant again. Sadly, the pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. That second loss really rocked my relationship with God, and with Mary too, for a time. Eventually, though, those relationships healed and became stronger. And certain aspects of Mary’s story – particularly her role as Our Lady of Sorrows – really hit home for me. (I go into more detail in the book.)
And then, as I was finishing up the manuscript, my son Matthew was born. His arrival gave me an entirely new way to understand Mary’s emotions and experiences. The Epilogue of the book reflects that; it is something I could never have written before Matthew’s birth. I “get” Mary’s love for Jesus in a totally personal way now. And when I see a painting of Madonna and Child, I can so easily picture myself and my boys in that pose.
Q: What advice and encouragement would you offer to women who would like to foster a deeper personal relationship with Mary?
I once jokingly told a friend that if you haven’t found a way to connect with Mary, you just haven’t looked hard enough. I think the great thing about Mary is that she has so many titles and roles that there is literally something for everyone. You can connect with her as Our Lady of Guadalupe, as the Queen of Peace, as Our Lady of the Rosary. You can relate to her as a pregnant woman or as the mother of an adolescent or as the mother who is watching her grown-up child leave home so he can go live the life he was called to live. You can relate to her as a supportive cousin, as a wife, as a daughter. And you can relate to her as someone who dedicated her life to bringing God into the world – which she did, quite literally. There are so many possible points of entry … it’s just a matter of learning more about her, and reflecting on her life, and being open to what resonates with you.
Q: Please tell us about your wonderful blog, Random Acts of Momness. What will readers find at the blog? How has the art of blogging impacted you as a mom and a writer?
Random Acts of Momness has the tagline “thoughts on motherhood and the spiritual life” because those are two things that I love to ponder. Motherhood is a lens through which I am seeing my faith in a new light, and a lot of the blog posts address that connection. I also do interviews and guest-posts (I’m currently doing a series called “The Best Gift My Mom Gave Me,” where other writers reflect on exactly that), and reviews of spiritual books. Sometimes I share quotations and prayers and even images that give this tired mom a shot of inspiration. (Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of Mary on the blog, too.)
I love blogging because it is a chance to work through questions I have, to sit and grapple with what I really think and to put it out there in the chance that it may resonate with other women. And it is such an informal medium that it allows for lots of candor and humor, which are two things I love to find in spiritual writing.
Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?
One of the stories in Mary and Me came from a religious sister, who reflected on her fascinating personal connection with the Visitation. Her story really made me see how important it is that women support and celebrate each other, just as Mary and Elizabeth did. I think that the Internet has provided a new way for women to support one another on the journey – CatholicMom.com does that so well, as do all the mommy-blogs that offer encouragement and advice and prayers. I’m grateful to be a part of it all.