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Sincere look at Mary’s grace

DISCUSSIONS among people devoted to particular religious phenomenon often lead others, who do not share such experiences, into cynical disbelief and doubt, wherein the veracity of evidence is critically questioned and subsequently dismissed.

The youthful author of The Miracles of Mary Bridget Curran, a writer of documentaries for film and television, and a scholar in history and anthropology, knew the struggle to disbelieve and the temptation to cynicism.

Many of her friends were deeply devoted to Mary, mother of Jesus, and had shared with Bridget their experiences of Mary’s maternal solicitude in their lives.

Their participation in devotions to Mary and the reasons behind their beliefs and practices led Bridget to prayerful searching and a deep personal quest.

Among other things, “something stirred within her”, leading her to explore through conversation and discussion with people in different countries and cultures the inexplicable religious phenomenon that Mary is worldwide.

The Miracles of Mary is the culmination of tenacious research across several countries.

In Curran’s acknowledgements, names of bishops, laity and priests provide evidence of her professional data-gathering and her discernment of materials offered to her.

The Miracles of Mary presents no theological arguments. This 200-page collection mostly of narratives is remarkable in exposing the common threads in the tapestry of popular devotions to Mary among groups of people across 21 countries.

There are stories of Mary’s intercession for people or groups of people in difficulties; remembrances of her assuring presences among the distressed and lonely; and witnesses to her consoling maternal love which draws a response when people experience it.

Significantly the story is included that lies behind the icon of Mary chosen by Pope John Paul II to accompany the pilgrimages of the World Youth Day cross.

Mary’s presence to people seems universal.

Among the testimonies gathered by Curran are those of Vietnamese boat refugees, a World Youth Day pilgrim, victims of the tsunami in Sri Lanka, and a Western Australian priest.

Stories old and new reveal deep faith in Mary as leading people to trust in God.

Prayers and mini-stories intersperse the collective corpus of material identified by country.

A pastoral prayer from Pope Benedict XVI is included stating, “May Mary be your mother and guide. May she teach you to receive the Word of God, to treasure it and ponder on it in your heart, as she did throughout her life”.

Bridget Curran’s engaging work gives the reader a sense of her own search to justify, for herself, belief in the claim made by her friends that devotion to Mary forms a necessary and essential faith enrichment which rounds out the individual’s faith experience.

Her gathered material, in essence, supports the teachings of Vatican II (Chapter VIII, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 1964) which state, “She (Mary) shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come, as a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim people of God”.

This small book can stimulate discussion within adult faith-sharing groups especially in relation to the author’s sincere and honest appraisal of her own development in faith.

As Curran explores through many conversations what seemed to her the inexplicable attraction that Mary held as an intercessor and companioning presence for so many people, she began to realise that Mary was to her also a spiritual reality.

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