Author Interview with Laura Wells, A Marian Bible Study
Visitors to my web site frequently write with queries about finding trustworthy Catholic bible studies. With the recent publication of A Marian Bible Study (Our Sunday Visitor, September, 2006), Laura Wells provides readers with a bible study experience that is both orthodox and inspirational. The study, which carries both the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, examines scriptural connections between the Blessed Mother, Old and New Testament characters, and our own lives. Author Wells credits her own study of Marian related scripture to developing a stronger relationship with Mary and encourages others to take up bible study as a means of supporting their own vocations as parents.
Helpful aspects of A Marian Bible Study include its succinct and easy to read format, study of relevant Old and New Testament passages, memory verses, and an inspirational closing prayer for each chapter. In addition, each study segment commences with a personal story by Wells that is designed to relate the scripture topic to today's "real world" predicaments. The book opens with a comprehensive guide filled with suggestions for holding a bible study. Appendices to the book contain answers for all of the study questions and a section of frequently asked questions about the Blessed Mother.
I look forward to gathering with friends to undertake A Marian Bible Study and am pleased to offer the following interview with study author Laura Wells.
Q: Laura Wells, congratulations on the publication of your book, A Marian Bible Study. Would you please briefly introduce yourself and your family to our readers?
A: Thank you, Lisa, for conducting this interview. I am the wife of a Marine (Dave) and we have been married for 15 wonderful years. I have 3 children; John is 7, Megan is 12, and Erin is 14. My husband has been in the Marine Corps for 18 years and we have lived in 8 duty stations from CA to our current duty station, Okinawa, Japan. My children, husband, and military life provide fantastic stories for my book.
I love adventure and the military life with children has been a great way for me to grow in my trust of the Lord as we move every 2 to 3 years (our shortest tour was just 10 months!). I love to read, write, teach, sew, make crafts and Japanese dolls, sing, garden, and spend time with my family. Most of my stories come about because I have a great knack for getting myself into the most comical binds like backing into my husband's parked car, my own mailbox, and a fence in the same week (of course while my husband is deployed). I also have cooking fiascos, goofy kid experiences, and huge spectacular messes. Of course this is all in good fun. I'm kind of like an I Love Lucy show right in my own house! (My poor husband never knows what to expect). Some of these stories even made it into my study.
Q: What is your background with Bible Studies and what prompted you to write this study?
A: I have always loved writing, teaching, and theology ever since I was a child and I thoroughly enjoyed college where I delved into these areas. I earned a degree at Immaculata University in Elementary Education/English with a certificate in Theology but at the time had no idea how God would use all of this experience later in my life to write this study. (God is amazing because he knew even back then that he would inspire me to write this study)
After college, I married my wonderful husband and moved to our first duty station in California. My friend Janice invited me to attend my first bible study, but I was too nervous to be in a big group so she did the study with me in her house. I really liked that I could have my small children with me while I studied the bible. I fell in love with bible studies and joined an ecumenical bible study at our next duty station at the base chapel in NC. This study also allowed me to bring my children, and we took turns watching the children in the nursery. I loved the fellowship of the women, the singing, prayer, and bible study. I just wished that the bible study had the Rosary, Catholic instruction, and mass as the closing instead of just a brunch. I felt inspired to start my own Catholic Bible study in North Carolina with two of my friends in my house with a Catholic bible study text. At our next duty station in Virginia, I again started my own bible study and held it for 3 years in my home. I made it Catholic because I used a Catholic bible study for women, prayed the Rosary at each meeting, and made the closing brunch with a Mass also. We held a spring and fall session. Unfortunately, we quickly ran out of Catholic Women's bible studies. The women in my bible study group really wanted to complete a study on the Blessed Mother but we could not find any so they suggested that I write one. The idea kept nagging at me — the Holy Spirit is a great nag! So I started to write the study. It took me two years to write because we moved twice. My bible study groups in Rhode Island and in Maryland helped me revise it and they provided me with great feedback.
Q: Please briefly describe the study. How is the study organized? How does it differ from other bible studies currently available for Catholics?
A: The study follows the life of the Blessed Mother from the Annunciation through the Coronation with each chapter focusing on one aspect of her life, a few examples of women in the Old Testament and the New Testament, quotes from saints, suggestions for further study in the Catholic Catechism, and some stories from my life as a mom. The study opens with a section that describes how to start your own bible study with the rosary, secret prayer pal, snacks, child care, music, guest speakers, and closing brunch. I understand what it is like to have small children so I also provide suggestions on how to watch the children during the study and encourage moms to bring their children. I suggest that the group complete one chapter each week for 12 weeks with the 13th week having a closing mass and brunch. There are answers in the back of the book with suggestions for the leader and a "Frequently Asked Questions about the Blessed Mother" section.
This bible study differs from other Catholic Women's bible studies because it connects the experiences of the Blessed Mother with the experiences of mothers in the Old Testament, New Testament, and today. I make connections in my life as a mom with the Blessed Mother's experiences such as losing my son in the grocery store with the finding in the temple. Then I show the incredible faith and trust of Mary and how her perfect example has helped me in my role as a mom, wife, daughter, friend, etc. The goal of my bible study is for the reader to form a relationship with the Blessed Mother.
Q: I noted that your materials carry the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur. What effort went into ensuring that your study was in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church? What type of research did you have to undertake to write the study?
A: I put great effort into ensuring that my study was in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church by using traditional material and a Catholic commentary on Holy Scripture. I also asked two bible study groups and a very knowledgeable priest to proof read it in addition to Our Sunday Visitor's proof reading. I always check books before I read them to make sure they have the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur — especially if they are teaching material. If they don't, I read them with great caution and may even refer to my Catholic Catechism to make sure that they are true to Catholic teaching. I wanted to make sure that my book is a good teaching tool and in line with Catholic teaching so I chose my resources carefully. I also put the answers to the questions in the back of the book and added the section; "Frequently Asked Questions about the Blessed Mother" in my book to make sure that the reader is taught properly.
Q: I loved the personal stories you share in the book! Do you have a favorite story or chapter in the book?
A: I'm glad you liked the personal stories in my book because I want the reader to be able to relate to my life as a mom and also the Blessed Mother's life as a mom. My favorite story in the book is when I lost my son John in the grocery store when he was 2 years old. He LOVED to play hide and go seek and decided to play the game without telling me when we were in the commissary. I looked up from writing my check at the cashier and he was gone. The entire commissary was looking for him. I just remember feeling like time had stopped and I was in a panic. My friend found him in about 3 minutes but it felt like an hour. He was back by the meat and jumped out as soon as I ran up to him. He said, "BOO!" He couldn't understand why I was crying and said, "I just wanted to say ‘Boo' to you Mommy!" Then I connected that story with how Jesus stayed behind in the temple and Mary and St. Joseph looked for Him for 3 days! I can't even imagine how the Blessed Mother's heart must have grieved when she was searching for Jesus because she was so close to Him since she was without sin. In addition to the pain of separation, she and St. Joseph knew how special Jesus was because of the Annunciation and St. Joseph's dream when Jesus' life was in danger, so the stress of losing him must have been even greater. Yet the bible never says that Blessed Mother panicked but just shows her diligently searching for Jesus with St. Joseph. When they found Jesus, they only asked Jesus "why". When I found my son, I cried hysterically and put him in time out while I put away my groceries! Every example shows the great humility and faith of the Blessed Mother and her example inspired me in my role as a mom.
Q: What did you gain from your intensive study of Mary's life?
A: Before I started studying Mary's life, I found praying the rosary a chore and couldn't relate very well to her as my mother. I loved her but she just seemed unapproachable. When I started studying her life, I began to appreciate all that she went through and found a great comfort in her because she has been through very similar "mom experiences" that I have. I now feel very close to her and run to Mary when I'm having "one of those mom days." I know that she understands the trials of motherhood and that makes me feel so much better. I also frequently reflect on her trials when I struggle and I am always inspired and helped by her holy example.
Q: What will busy moms gain from undertaking this study? What would you say to women who may feel that they are too busy to participate in a bible study?
A: Being a mom means you are busy — I think it just comes with the territory! This study provides a nice two hour break in the week where women get to share fellowship, support, mentor each other, and learn about Mary too. It is like a big motherhood support group with the Blessed Mother as a role model.
I would say to women who feel that they are too busy to participate in a bible study to try their best to even make one or two sessions. I've had women only be able to make a few of the meetings but they were still blessed by the friendship of the other moms. It's so important to make connections with other moms to know that we are not alone and to share what we are learning. We all learn from each other about how God works in our lives. In addition, the women who only attend a few meetings still have a secret prayer pal, are being lifted up in prayer each week, can call in their prayer intentions if they can't attend for the group to pray the rosary for them, and they can attend the final mass and brunch. They can even do the study at home on the weeks that they can't attend the study.
Q: Could you please discuss the merits of group study vs. individual study and the resources you provide in the book for forming and leading a bible study group?
A: The merits of group study are the added experience of other moms. Every bible study that I have participated in has women of all ages involved! It's as if God knew that the young moms needed the mentoring from the grandmas. I never planned who would attend or who would be secret prayer pals, but by the end of the study beautiful friendships were formed. Group study is so important because we all need the support of others who have been through what we are experiencing.
My study can also be used as an individual study for those who are unable to attend a group study because the answers are in the back of the book. I always liked the answers in the back of books because I could peek if I wasn't sure if my answers were correct. My study also provides many resources for further reading in the back of the book. I cite every quote with end notes, so if the reader especially likes a quote, they can easily find the book to read it.
I also provide a section with directions on how to form and lead a bible study group with great details, publicity suggestions, a sample study class, leader suggestions, childcare pointers, secret prayer pal instructions, and mass and brunch explanations. You could say that my bible study provides a "how to" manual in the front!
Q: Laura, thank you for your time and participation in this Catholic book spotlight. Are there any additional thoughts or comments you'd like to share with our readers?
A: I would like to encourage the readers of this study to continue to form a friendship with the Blessed Mother even after they are finished with the study through prayer and further reading of scripture and books. I included a "where can I read more about Mary" section in the back of the book for future reading. The more I learn about the Blessed Mother, the more I am comforted in knowing that I have a heavenly Mother who understands every single trial and joy I experience because she has been through it too.
I would also like to point out that my email address is mentioned at the end of my study because I would love any feedback about the reader's likes and dislikes. You can all help me when I write more bible studies. For example, as my group in Rhode Island completed the study, my friend Barbara suggested that I take out the huge chart in the chapter on the Crucifixion because it made it impersonal. She was right and I think taking that chart out made the chapter better. I am always looking for new ideas – I just joined a new bible study at my friend's house here in Okinawa where they put their memory verses on magnets – I really like that idea and will use it in the study I'm starting at the chapel! So your readers can email me and let me know what they might like to find in the next bible study and what they liked and disliked in this one. I'll be praying for them as they complete this study.
May God bless you and Our Lady keep you in her care.