Remembering Our Lady for Life Today {My October column @TheCatholicPost}

One of the finest documentaries of recent years is “Glen Campbell … I’ll be Me.” The 2014 film profiles the country legend after he is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and how he embarks, with the help of his family, friends, & fellow musicians, on a “Goodbye Tour” in classic smaller venues across the country.

After Glen Campbell died earlier this summer, I re-watched it on Netflix and was impressed anew with the loving and yet unflinching look at memory loss and what that means for the person affected as well as his loved ones.

The moments of his forgetfulness, along with the tender, humorous care from his wife, family members, and friends, make this a lovely film for anyone who’s encountered loved ones with memory loss. That’s almost everyone these days.

One of the most amazing things about this is how Campbell, while gradually losing cognitive function, still maintained top-notch musical skills, from his guitar playing and pure singing ability, on his classics such as “Wichita Lineman,” “Gentle on my Mind,” “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

A neurologist interviewed in the film shared that Alzheimer’s attacks all parts of human function without exception. However, Campbell’s long “memory” of playing and loving music helped him stave off the disease longer, as well as not lose his musical prowess.

Essentially, what you are best at, and what you spend the most time on, is “the last to go” when enduring memory issues.

I noticed that reality at work in my mother, who struggled with a different form of memory loss in her last years. Of course it was heartbreaking to see the disease’s progression, but I was also struck by the things she remembered without trouble. For instance, as long as she could speak, she could say the prayers of the Rosary.

It was comforting to consider that Our Lady was still with my mother because she had stayed close to Mary, especially in later years, and her decades of praying the Rosary. It was also a challenge to me—to focus on the good I’d like to remember —love, gratitude, and prayers—instead of the admittedly many bad things in our culture and world.

That was the primary message from The Marian Option: God’s Solution to a Civilization in Crisis by Carrie Gress, Ph.D. Focus on Mary, despite the troubles and concerns of our modern life.

As I wrote in a column earlier this year, Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option offered an intriguing and yet flawed perspective of living “apart” as Christians in a culture that’s increasingly indifferent and even hostile to Christians. And Archbishop Chaput’s Strangers in a Strange Land offered a refreshing and more open perspective on living a robust Catholic faith fully in the world.

The Marian Option, which I discovered after reviewing both of those books, provides yet another and even more helpful perspective. Its focus on the history and influence of Mary in the world, and how individuals and families can use that to thrive.

The Marian Option is divided into four parts, each to focus on a different aspect of Mary’s influence in the world. Part I, “Mary and Creative Minorities” shows how Mary is present in virtually all aspects of the development of Western culture, and was a distinct element of especially in the rise of a civilized Europe. Part II, “Mary’s Geopolitical Influence,” explores how three appearances of Mary—at Guadalupe, Lourdes, and Fatima, show Mary’s unusual and connected presence to the entire world, and how many of them are strangely connected.

Part III, “Who is This Woman?” answers some of the objections to those who would say that focus on Mary takes away from focus on Jesus. This part especially outlines what a healthy devotion to our Lady looks like. Part IV, “Living the Marian Option,” argues that proper and well-ordered devotion to Mary is a great approach to living in our current world.

In some ways, the heart of the book is a late chapter called “Case Study on Pope St. John Paul II,” in which Gress shows the saint’s savvy and prayerful use of his own “Marian option” to overcome the religious persecution and obstacles he encountered throughout his life.

Gress shares eight tools or strategies that St. John Paul II practiced to do this: be not afraid; learn the enemies’ tactics and adapt; be mindful of who you are and who God is; keep a sense of humor; be vigilant and hopeful; pray; remember that God can work through the enemies’ vices; and build real culture. A thorough study and These tools would be a good focus for anyone seeking to live our Catholic faith in challenging times.

The appendix offers helpful specific ideas, large and small, for individuals and families to “live the Marian option,” such as praying the Rosary as a family; planting a Mary garden; filling your home with beautiful religious/Marian art; and being mindful of Mary’s constant presence.

During this month of the Holy Rosary, and during the 100th Anniversary Year of Fatima, readers will be well-served to consider the many fruitful ideas of “The Marian Option,” to live a healthy spiritual life amid so much confusion in our world.

You might also be interested in:

Recent years have seen a plethora of other different resources for increasing our devotion to Mary & the Rosary. Here are just a few:

*Praying the Rosary Like Never Before: Encounter the Wonder of Heaven and Earth, by Edward Sri, is a lovely and well-written companion to The Marian Option, with information about this powerful prayer. Excellent is a Scriptural Rosary appendix.

*For children, The Joyful Mysteries: The Illuminated Rosary is an excellent prayer aid, with sixty works of art alternated with the prayers of the Rosary to help focus the mind. It is made especially for children, but anyone who struggles with attention during the Rosary will find it useful.

*For those looking for a more physically active way to experience the Rosary, “SoulCore”  is a Catholic workout based on the prayers of the Rosary. I attended a leader discernment retreat in March for this fantastic outreach, and I was impressed by its novel and yet prayerful approach. SoulCore offers a unique and beautiful way to truly experience the Rosary. I tend (understatement) to get distracted while praying the Rosary, but this workout focuses my mind by keeping my body busy.

*Fatima for Today: The Urgent Marian Message of Hope  by Father Andrew Apostoli is a classic . Here is my prior review of this recent classic. Fr. Apostoli’s focus on the hopeful message of Fatima is both refreshing and helpful for those weary of bad news. It’s well worth a re-read this Fatima centennial year.

*When my kids were small, we thoroughly enjoyed the CCC videos of saint stories, several of which have a Marian theme. My all-time favorite of these is the “Our Lady of Guadalupe,” and a close second is “Our Lady of Lourdes.”