Posts Tagged ‘Mary’

Hickem, Catherine. (2012). Heaven in Her Arms: Why God Chose Mary to Raise His Son and What It Means for You. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. ISBN 978-1-4002-0036-8.

What do we know of Mary?

 What we know of Mary’s family is that she is of the house of David; it is from her lineage Jesus fulfilled the prophecy. Given the archeological ruins of the various places thought to have been living quarters for their family, it is likely the home was a room out from which sleeping quarters (cells) branched. As Mary and her mother Anne would be busy maintaining the household, with young Mary working at her mother’s command, it is likely Anne would be nearby or in the same room during the Annunciation. Thus Mary would not have had a scandalous secret to later share with her parents but, rather, a miraculous supernatural experience, the salvific meaning of which her Holy parents would understand and possibly even witnessed.

 Mary and Joseph were betrothed, not engaged. They were already married, likely in the form of a marriage contract, but the marriage had not yet been “consummated”. This is why he was going to divorce her when he learned of the pregnancy. If it were a mere engagement, he would have broken it off without too much scandal.

 Married but not yet joined with her husband, her mother would prepare her by teaching her all that she needed to know. This is further reason to assume that Mary would be working diligently under her mother’s eye when the Annunciation took place.

 We know that her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy was kept in secret for five months, and not made known until the sixth month when the Angel Gabriel proclaimed it to Mary. We know Mary then rushed to be at her elderly cousin’s side for three months (the remaining duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy), and that this rushing appeared to be in response to Elizabeth’s pregnancy (to congratulate her), not an attempt to hide Mary’s pregnancy. Note how all of this is connected to Elizabeth’s pregnancy rather than Mary’s circumstances. As Mary was married to Joseph, he likely would have been informed of the trip. Had the intent been to hide Mary, she would have remained with Elizabeth until Jesus was born, not returned to her family after the first trimester, which is just about the time that her pregnancy was visible and obvious.

 So we these misconceptions clarified, we can put Mary’s example within an even deeper context and more fully relate to her experience. We can imagine living in a faith-filled family who raises their child in strict accordance of God’s word. The extended family members may not understand, and certainly their community will not, so Mary, Anne and Joachim, and Joseph face extreme scandal as well as possible action from Jewish authorities. But they faced this together steep in conversation with God, providing a model for today’s family.

 Although sometimes scriptural interpretations are flavored with modern-day eye, overall this book will be more than just a quick read for a young mother (or new bride, or teen aspiring to overcome the challenges of American culture, or single parent losing her mind). It is a heartwarming reflection with many examples that open up conversation with God. As an experienced psychotherapist, the author’s examples are spot on and easy to relate to. We do not need to have had the same experiences to empathize, reflect, and pursue meaning; we see it around us in everyday life. As such, a reflective look upon these examples can help one overcome an impasse in their own relationship with God and also open the reader up to self-knowledge as His child. In the lifelong quest to see ourselves as He sees us so that we can better serve Him in loving others, this book can be a helpful step.

 The format of the book early on tends to present scripture + client example side-by-side. However, further on the personal meaning attributed to Mary’s experiences are deeper and more poignantly associated with the real-life examples given. Not only is Mary’s example explored, but the importance of women supporting one another and true community is also emphasized. Practical chapters such as the proper questioning of God are instructive. The best part is the manner in which the study guide at the end is designed, which helps to really make this an experience and not just reading.

 Occasional criticism in my mind arose in early chapters. For example, the author gives her own experience of questioning God as to “why” (regarding adopting, then conceiving, children). Later, a chapter devoted to Mary’s example of the proper questioning of God (and the healthiness of any proper questioning) is fruitful but I found myself wondering why she did not tie back to her own misguided “why”. Proper questioning of God, as we see in Mary’s Fiat, is “What” (what do you want of me?) and “How” (how can I do this for you?), never “Why”. Nonetheless, by book’s end I was moved :>)

 With subtlety, Hickem brings out important questions to ask, gently explains functional and dysfunctional behaviors (that bring us to or separate us from God), and talks about important truths that too often go unrealized. An excellent book for:

  •  Mothers of any age, particularly new mothers or single parents without a strong support network (family, friends)
  • Mothers of children who present additional circumstances such as gifted or disabled
  • Mothers who grieve the loss of a child
  • Teens still learning the beauty of their authentic femininity and fighting a culture bent on destroying it
  • Women who simply aspire a deeper understanding of their own Created beauty as mirrored by the Mother of God

 Pick up a copy for yourself or someone you love at our bookstore.

(A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher through BookSneeze®. No remuneration has been received for this review.)



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Cangilla McAdam, Claudia. (2009). Awakening. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press.  ISBN: 10: 1933184612. Author and recommend age 12+.

Publisher description:  Fear drives me forward as I rush down a rocky path in Jerusalem, trying to sort things out even as dusk makes it harder to hurry.

Am I really an American girl, cast back to the time of Jesus? Or a delusional Jewish teen, plagued with visions of a place called America, thousands of years in the future? I don’t know anymore. But I do know that something awful is about to happen to my Jesus: they’re going to arrest him tonight, and kill him. No one believes me; they think I’m crazy. So it’s up to me to save him, hurrying down this dark path toward Gethsemane, toward the turning point of all history, the attempt to kill Jesus . . . toward the uncertainty of whether I can actually manage to change the future.

Our thoughts:

“We walked in silence for many moments while thoughts collided inside my head. Was I a first-century Jew named Seraphina who dreamt she had lived two thousands years in the future? Or was I a twenty-first-century American girl called Ronni cast back into the time of Jesus? My temples ached from trying to sort it out.” (p. 31).

With that said, the crux of the challenge lies before the reader. The manner in which the story is told leaves it clear to the reader that she is a 21st century teenager—she slips-up too often with use of modern slang and phrases to be a confused 1st century child. However, the author has done well in creating the feeling and frustration of a parallel existence for Ronni, our main character. Added to that are the occasional references to Frank L. Baum’s the Wizard of Oz. Yes, Ronnie is definitely not in Kansas anymore!

Our character, Ronni, is an 8th grader, alter server and actively attending Catholic school and church. She is also a budding teen more focused on fun with friends and being cool. Her Faith can wait until she’s old and boring like her mom. And she is trying to cement those friendships based on the “cool” factor, which alter serving definitely is NOT, so she plans to quit and just hasn’t told her mom yet.

And so we meet the main character who, in spite of parental efforts to prepare her for life through solid faith formation and family values, is still facing the same inner conflicts of all kids her age. Raised in a mixed marriage of a Catholic mom and non-Christian father, her brother and father were killed the previous year, leaving a heart-hole that still needed mending. Trying to fill part of that void with new cool friends, she’s taken to her study partner Tabby. Certainly she is a nice enough kid. But without a solid faith belief, Tabby’s morals are relative to the situation, and so she doesn’t hesitate to devise ways for Ronni to defy her mother, like sneaking out of her bedroom window.

Ronni is suffering an interior crisis, perhaps one she recognizes because she has been raised with strong faith beliefs. No beliefs, no crisis, at least to people like Tabby. She is then transported back in time to 1st century Jerusalem to experience the events that will ultimately answer her question: “Why would anybody die for somebody they didn’t know? I mean, I got the whole bit about salvation. Forgiveness of sin, getting to heaven. It was the sacrifice part that didn’t make sense to me.” She wondered why Jesus had to die and no one tried to stop it.

So now she has the chance to do just that. But should she?

There are certainly plenty of books available that transport us to biblical times. Yet this story is one of the most realistic I have read while being entertaining, not preachy or academic. The main character is perfectly explained and a very typical girl experiencing a crush on Mark, a desire to hang with the cool crowd, and the rejection of her own upbringing. Once transported to the past, her attempt to fit in as a Jewish girl is told to us in a manner that creates a most authentic presence, given to us in motion by motion detail, and allows us to feel we are present in the scene.

Now this typical teen has a new challenge. Cast back in time to the week of the crucifixion, should she alter history and save Jesus? At times, the story is a well written travelogue from a teen perspective, thanks to the description given. And there certainly is no lack of action either with Ronni/Seraphina running for her life early on.  For Christians, the story provides interesting faith lessons as well. As a non-believer, Tabby, now a Roman girl, intrigues Mark but we can see how different the two really area when a person of deep faith is contrasted to one with none. Non-Christians can also enjoy the book from its historical perspective, easily projecting themselves into the situation. All readers will feel uplifted by a story in which the characters are presented with choice after choice and take the “high road”, demonstrating virtue, dignity and honour. And since books form our thoughts and transform our own character, gives Awakening high recommendations!

Once again, I recommend families, homeschool groups and youth groups form book clubs as a means of bonding spiritually and socially. The author of Awakening has provided an excellent, chapter-by-chapter guide for book clubs AND chapter exams for teachers at . You can also direct your reader to the website of the Custodians of the Holy Land Friars to see videos of the real site: . Wow, what a great addition to your homeschool curriculum!

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