I recently had the opportunity to ask fellow author Marge Fenelon some questions about her newest book, Forgiving Mother: A Marian Novena of Healing and Peace (Servant Books, 2017). Marge is a prominent Catholic media personality who has contributed to the global Church in a variety of capacities over the decades. The following are Marge’s responses to my interview questions. Hopefully, they will inspire you to get a copy of Forgiving Mother (perhaps copies for loved ones as well). This book will encourage you as we prepare our minds and hearts for the New Year, allowing Mother Mary to draw us steadily closer to her Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
1) In what ways do you find joy from living the Catholic faith?
I believe that there’s a vast difference between being happy and being joyful. Happiness is fleeting and usually in response to some kind of stimuli. For example, we’re happy when someone gives us a nice gift or we bump into an old friend. Joy, on the other hand, is deeper and longer-lasting. Joy is contentment in a great good, and there is no greater good than God. When things get tough, we might not be happy, but we still can be joyful. In that respect, I find joy every day in living my Catholic faith, even if I end up doing a crummy job of it – as long as I’m trying my hardest. My joy lies in the hope of eternity, and the Catholic faith is the surest way to get there.
2) What ministries have you been involved in throughout the years?
For the first couple of decades of my adult life, my primary ministry has been my husband and children. For most of my life, I’ve been an active member of the Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt, a lay ecclesial movement in the Catholic Church, and have taken on a number of leadership roles within the movement. My husband and I are consecrated members of one of the Schoenstatt communities and are educators for new couples entering the community. For the past many years, I’ve been an instructor for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Deacon Wives Program. My writing and speaking is a ministry, too, as I strive to lead others to greater love for the Church and into a deeper love for Mary.
3) Why did you write Forgiving Mother; how did it come about?
Forgiving Mother was on my mind and in my heart for many years before it came to fruition. God asked me to endure some pretty severe trials over the years, but along with those, he sent me abundant gifts of grace through the Church and her sacraments, people who nurtured and guided me, and especially with an ever-growing relationship with the Blessed Mother as mother, intercessor, educator, and protector. I knew that one day I would have to share the gift I’d been given so that others could experience the same forgiveness, healing, and peace. My siblings strongly urged me for years and years to write my story, but I kept putting it off. My spiritual director was in agreement with them, and told me I’d know when the right time came. Admittedly, I was scared to share that much of myself and in such an intimate way even though I knew it needed to be done for the sake of others. Beyond that, it just never seemed like the right time. The right time finally came after my mother passed away and I discovered that she had turned to God on her deathbed. That was the sign from heaven that the time had come!
The actual writing of Forgiving Mother was difficult, as I had to sort through decades of awful memories, deciding what and how to present my experiences, and discerning what direction God wanted me to take with the project. I wanted to share enough that readers would realize that I really know what I’m talking about, because I’ve lived it and so that they could see a part of themselves in me and be able to relate. That took lots of time and frequent “prayer breaks” in my prayer corner at home and before our Lord in Adoration. All told, it took me about two years from concept to completion to produce the manuscript itself. I was under serious spiritual attack the whole time, with the “nasty guy” digging his mitts into just about everything, from my equipment, my home and car, to my personal life and family. The spiritual warfare was no fun, but it was certainly an affirmation for me of the importance of Forgiving Mother!
4) What is your favorite scriptural passage, and why?
Hands down, it’s the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12). In that passage, we see Mary and Jesus in their divine mission and humanness all rolled into one. On the human level, we see our Blessed Mother doing what she does best – bring attentive and intuitive, and dedicated to the needs of others. She sees the wedding couple is in a tight spot and she wants to save them embarrassment. We see Jesus as a typical son who is reticent to grant his mother’s request, but does it anyway because, well, she’s the mom. On the divine mission level, we see Mary gracefully stepping into her role as Mediatrix and Advocate. She perceives a need and immediately takes it to her Son. Jesus is Lord, and accepts Mary’s role and its importance. True, his time has not yet come, but he also sees the value of what Mary has been called to do. And so, he performs his first miracle. ?o this day, Mother and Son are playing the same roles, having the same conversation over and over and over – for our needs!
5) Why is devotion to Mary especially needed in the modern era?
That’s a loaded question! We could start with all of the amazing Catholic doctrine on Mary and then look at the number of Marian apparitions over the centuries and the messages she relayed at each one. They all point to Mary’s importance in the plan of salvation. On a simpler scale, it’s because Mary so clearly and directly leads us to Jesus. She is our Lord’s first and most perfect disciple. It’s from her that we best learn how to truly live Christianity and seek Eternity.
Women are so undervalued and misrepresented today. Men do this, but women themselves do it as well. Women aren’t seen as the beautiful creatures God created them to be. Our view of them has been distorted and twisted. In Mary, we see the genuine model of motherhood and the most exquisite example of womanhood. I’ve always taught my sons that, in every girl or woman they encounter, thy must see the Blessed Mother and treat her accordingly. I think my advice to my sons is the same advice that every single person on this earth must adhere to!
6) How does Mary bring us closer to the open arms of her Son, Jesus Christ?
Mary has one purpose only – to lead others to her Son. The Manger scene in Bethlehem replays itself again and again and again. You might say that it’s been set on auto-replay! Mary gave birth to the Son of God and then showed him to the shepherds and eventually the Magi. She didn’t keep him for herself, but rather gave him to the world. The shepherds and Magi were mere representatives of all humankind. Mary has given birth to Christ and looks to give him to us. If you notice, that night in Bethlehem was a quiet one. There was no fanfare at all, and the Christ Child was born in the most humble of surroundings. Mary’s way is subtle and tender. She wants to give birth to our Lord in our hearts and to continuously show him to us throughout all our lives. She gave birth and followed him so that we would one day find and follow him as well.
7) Do you have any parting words for your readers?
Yes, thank you for asking. I’d like my readers to know four things: 1) You are not alone; 2) You have recourse and reason to hope; 3) My parish pastor and Archbishop have extended their blessing to everyone who reads Forgiving Mother – that includes you!; 4) I am praying for you and will continue to do so.
Start 2018 right by reading Forgiving Mother. You can find a copy via Franciscan Media or on Amazon. You will greatly enjoy this book, which will provide you with an insight into Mary’s mercy-imbued heart, which is entirely oriented toward professing the Good News of Christ.