2017 is a special year for celebrating the Blessed Virgin Mary. Among other causes for celebration, this year marks the centennial of the first of a series of Marian apparitions in Fátima, Portugal, beginning May 13, 1917. At the same time, this is unfortunately an era of great difficulty and discord, on an international scale. The world needs the love that only Our Mother’s heart can provide, especially since Mary’s sole interest is in uniting her will – and ours – to her Son, Jesus Christ. The following are recent (although some from a few years ago) Marian titles, listed alphabetically by title, that should be on the bookshelf of every twenty-first century Catholic. Read one or read them all (I suggest the latter), finding at least one that will revitalize your spiritual resolve in order to deepen your veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is steadily drawing us closer to the Lord.
33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Marian Consecration by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC (Marian Press, 2011)
Although a little over five years old at this point, this book is already considered a modern Marian classic. It has led many to devote themselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Fr. Gaitley provides summaries of the writings of four figures who have mastered Marian veneration: Saint Louis de Montfort, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Saint Teresa of Calcutta, and Saint John Paul II. This book is designed for those who are seeking an enriching spiritual encounter, even in the midst of a very busy schedule.
Champions of the Rosary: The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC (Marian Press, 2016)
In this book, Fr. Calloway, a bestselling author on books of Marian devotion, details the history of the Rosary and twenty-six figures (some well-known and others less so) who have championed it since the better part of the twentieth century. This book is particularly fitting, given that Marian devotion is on the rise around the world, and today’s “champions of the Rosary” will hopefully be some of tomorrow’s saints. This book has been endorsed by prominent figures in the twenty-first century Church.
The Contemplative Rosary – with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila by Dan Burke and Connie Rossini (Sophia Institute Press / EWTN, 2017)
This forthcoming text from seasoned authors Dan Burke and Connie Rossini promises to delight those who already have a strong devotion not only to the Blessed Mother, but likewise to two spiritual greats from two different eras: Saint Teresa of Ávila, one of only four female Doctors of the Church, and Saint John Paul II, easily one of the popes most dedicated to Mary throughout Church history. A compelling feature of this book is that it contains the National Catholic Register’s “New Guide to the Rosary.”
A Heart Like Mary’s: 31 Daily Meditations to Help You Live and Love as She Does by Fr. Edward Looney (Ave Maria Press, 2017)
Fr. Looney’s A Heart Like Mary’s is for anyone interested in enhancing his or her devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This can be either the novice devotee or the more “experienced” devotee of Our Lady. An interesting feature of Fr. Looney’s book is that it is comprised of a daily devotional designed to last for a month. Your prayer life will be deepened both during this month and beyond. After all, it is by fashioning our heart to be more like Mother Mary’s that it beats ever greater for the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Marian Devotion: Firm Foundations by Cardinal Francis Arinze (Ignatius Press, 2017)
This book was a delight to read. Already a short book, it was a quick read, due to Cardinal Arinze’s characteristic style of clarity and cohesion. However, this is not to indicate that the book somehow lacks profundity – quite the opposite! As we endeavor to venerate Mary to an appropriate extent, Marian Devotion provides an overview of the underpinnings of Marian devotion. It is rife with Church history, scriptural references, and magisterial documents on Marian devotion, to name a few aspects.
Meet Your Mother: A Brief Introduction to Mary by Dr. Mark Miravalle (Lighthouse Catholic Media / Augustine Institute, 2014)
In the interest of full disclosure, this past summer, I took a course (THE 655: “Mary in the Modern World”) through Franciscan University’s distance learning MA in Theology program. I waited until I got my grade back from Dr. Miravalle prior to compiling this list; fortunately, I did well (although Dr. Miravalle is a tough grader)! This book introduces us to Mary as Mother to Jesus, our Brother, and Mother to us by extension. This humor-laden work reminds us of why Mother Mary is such a unique saint.
Mother Mary: Inspiring Words from Pope Francis edited by Alicia von Stamwitz (Franciscan Media, 2017)
Saint John Paul II is often regarded as the pope of modernity with the greatest devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. While this is a worthwhile assessment, we cannot pretend that Benedict XVI and Francis have not likewise made frequent recourse to the vital role of the Blessed Virgin Mary within salvation history. This book, as its subtitle implies, features various categories of inspiration that Mary can provide to everyone of good will. Perhaps you can enjoy this book by reading one reflection per day for a few weeks.
Our Lady of Fátima: 100 Years of Stories, Prayers, and Devotions by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle (Franciscan Media / Servant Books, 2017)
Our Lady of Fátima’s message of love, peace, and reconciliation is one that the weary world of the twenty-first century greatly requires. Practically every corner of the globe is mired in some challenge of one type or another, many more severe than others. As alluded to within its subtitle, in Our Lady of Fátima, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle delights us with an array of anecdotes and opportunities for prayerful experiences as we meditate on the wonder that surrounds Our Lady of Fátima one hundred years later.
Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena by Marge Fenelon (Ave Maria Press, 2015)
In only a couple of years, Marge Fenelon’s Our Lady, Undoer of Knots has already had a profound impact on many of the faithful who thought that dilemmas in various aspects of their lives were somehow insurmountable. The text is focused on the Holy Land, the place of Christ’s birth that unfortunately continues to be torn by such malice and tumult. Our Lady, Mary of Nazareth, wants to heal this land and bring it to the very peace that Christ yearns to bestow upon us (see John 14:27).
Praying the Angelus: Find Joy, Peace, and Purpose in Everyday Life by Jared Dees (Ave Maria Press, 2017)
This book by masterful catechist Jared Dees has the capacity to remind the world that the brevity of the Angelus prayer should never suggest that it is anything other than potent when it comes to directing our day. The approximately three minutes of the day that the Angelus occupies is something that everyone can spare, and it has the potential to reintegrate the faith lives of Catholics, for the wellbeing of broader society. Praying the Angelus is a resource for those who need to recall Mary’s desire to accompany us.
The Marian Option: God’s Solution to a Civilization in Crisis by Dr. Carrie Gress (TAN Books, 2017)
This is an era in which various “options” have been proposed regarding how to live your faith in a culture that is increasingly alienating to those whose Christian convictions guide their lives. In The Marian Option, Dr. Carrie Gress provides the scope of the book via the subtitle: God’s Solution to a Civilization in Crisis. Let us recall that Jesus came into a world of turmoil and chaos, and every epoch has had its fair share of discord. Let us likewise recall that Mary, who always accompanied the Lord during his earthly ministry, knows how to direct our focus toward him.
The Rosary: Your Weapon for Spiritual Warfare by Johnnette Benkovic and Thomas Sullivan (Franciscan Media / Servant Books, 2017)
Johnnette Benkovic and Thomas Sullivan give us a book about the Rosary whose description on Franciscan Media’s website is as sobering as it is thought-provoking: “The Rosary is much more than an optional Catholic devotion for the old and dying. In fact, it is a vibrant and powerful intercessory tool in the hands of valiant spiritual warriors.” In this book, Benkovic and Sullivan remind us that the Rosary is the most effective “weapon” for waging peace in a world that longs for Mary’s maternal embrace and Christ’s abiding love for us, whether or not it realizes it.
Vision of Fatima by Fr. Thomas McGlynn (Sophia Institute Press, 2017)
Fr. Thomas McGlynn, O.P., was a Dominican priest who died forty years ago this year. Part of his ministry was as a sculptor, as detailed within this book that describes how Sister Lucia (the last survivor of the witnesses to the Fátima apparitions) guided his fashioning of the now famous statue of Our Lady of Fátima. This book is far more than a description of an artistic rendering; it is a meditative journey through the sequence of the apparitions that gives us a glimpse into what the experience was like for the children.
Why the Rosary, Why Now? by Gretchen Crowe (Our Sunday Visitor, 2017)
The last book mentioned in this list of reviews should hardly imply that it is least in terms of consideration. In fact, as Gretchen Crowe indicates with its title, we are more in need of devotion to the Rosary now than ever before. However, Crowe’s book is not “alarmist”; rather, she guides us to a deeper understanding of how various prominent Catholics throughout history have relied on the Rosary for spiritual support in the midst of any number of cultural and societal perils. And our modern circumstances require the same resolve.
These have been only a few of the multiple Marian titles that are [fortunately] available in modern times. On that note, if you are a Catholic author and do not see your book listed, please message me via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter (@McClainJustin), and I will share your book in a future version. As we continue to celebrate the centennial of the Fátima apparitions, we likewise are approaching October (commonly recognized by the Church as the “Month of the Holy Rosary”). Similarly, Advent and Christmas – when we consider Mary’s role (of course, along with Joseph’s) in heralding Christ’s Incarnation – will be here in no time. Read one or many (or even all) of these Marian titles, and get them for loved ones, in order to better fathom how our proximity to the Blessed Mother will subsequently approximate us to her Son, who wants to draw us ever heavenward.