As far as I recall, no one has ever coerced me to do a book review. I write reviews of books that interest me, and as a way to give back, especially to the Catholic writers’ community, which has been good to me in my own time of need.
This read was no exception, save the rapidity at which I pulled it near and consumed it. For I’ve been known to put off a review when my “to-read” list has grown too daunting. But this time, it grabbed me — in the gentlest of ways, of course — whisking me off to a quiet corner, where I absorbed each page attentively, marking pen near.
To be honest, “Mary’s Way: The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God”, had me at the title. I happened to be in just the right place (spiritually) and the right time (phase in my life as a parent) to appreciate it. In fact, it felt more like a need than anything.
Author Judy Landrieu Klein and I have a few commonalities as well, including being mothers of five children. Since she’s a few years ahead of me on the journey, I looked to her as a mentor. And she came through.
My marking pen emerged at the introduction chapter, “Saving Motherhood.” I first came across this Scripture passage several years ago, and it held me in awe. This time, I was once again struck by its truth and power.
“[Women] will be saved through motherhood, provided [they] persevere in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” – 1 Timothy 2:15
It’s part optimistic and part tall order. Pondering the possibility of the first part brings goosebumps. But then there’s that second part. In order for that to manifest, we must persevere in faith, love and holiness.
I’m all in for trying. But how do we do this? What can Klein teach us about the road to salvation?
“The life of a praying mother often involves two specific types of prayer: the prayer of petition and the prayer of surrender,” Klein notes.
The former type seems the common default. It’s the latter sort we often bypass, and yet it’s true: there’s no salvation without surrender. In the life of the mother, surrender is absolutely required — anyone with teens knows this — and here we discover the life-giving connection:
To be saved, one must surrender. The life of a mother requires surrender. Therefore, being a mother (so long as all of the other qualifications are in place) will in fact save us, bringing us into the Father’s embrace forever.
If only it were so easy. Klein’s journey has been anything but that.
Raised Catholic, she ended up leaving the faith for a time, eventually returning after some years identifying as an evangelical Christian. She was drawn back largely through the doctrine that had once repelled her most as a feminist — the Marian beliefs.
Klein’s eventual transformation ultimately led her to write: “We are tempted…to reject the Marian stance of active abandonment to God in favor of Eve’s posture of grasping to get what she wanted.”
Can’t you just see Eve flailing about? Haven’t you done so at times when control seemed elusive in your life? I know I have.
Motherhood, Klein continues, “helps us conform ourselves to the reality that we are not in control and facilitates us in learning the truth that God is in control.”
Aha! The surrender…to God’s will not ours. If we could learn this lesson early in our mothering, it would save us so much heartache. Like Klein, I’m one who seems to have to learn the hard way, and am still learning.
Only when surrender happens can we “behold the deeper miracles that happen when we pray,” Klein says, such as “the miracle of learning to trust God and capitulate to him, resting in the knowledge that he loves us tenderly and particularly.”
Surrender leads to love.
Klein says that when we see and appreciate events in our lives through the eyes of faith, we see this life for what it really is: a preparation for heaven and an opportunity to embrace human and divine love.
Motherhood prepares us to relinquish our will to God’s like perhaps nothing else. And lest anyone thinks Klein doesn’t know what relinquishment requires, know that within the pages of this beautiful book will be found a precious transparency as Klein opens up her life, telling of the tragic death of her husband that left her widowed while still in the midst of raising their family, and of the many trials she’s been attached to through her children; situations that would bring any of us to our knees.
Lisa Hendey writes in the forward, after noting the “excruciating challenges” Klein has faced, “When you’re in Judy’s presence, you can’t help but be entranced not only by her physical beauty but even more so by the deep well of spiritual wisdom that exudes from her.” And so we are assured that this is a woman who can guide us deftly, for we are keeping company with a mother who has suffered, and through that, learned how to, through Mary’s gentle leading, draw closer to our Lord.
To help us better understand this great surrender, Klein brings us through the Joyful Mysteries, naming each chapter thus: The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Birth of Jesus, The Presentation, and The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. Once she’s explored all of those scenes through her modern-day mother lens, illuminating with such phrases as, “…saying yes to God is a continual practice, a habit of the heart and mind that stretches us in the art of assent to God’s will,” Klein brings us to the critical end of Jesus’ life — The Crucifixion and the Resurrection.
Klein’s life stories ideally should be experienced firsthand through her own telling, so I won’t spill any beans here, but I will share that this book evoked strong emotions in me, and even caused moments of willed pause to hold back tears while reading in public.
Thankfully, my state in life prepared me to receive Klein’s stories and insights with keen attention and an open heart. I could relate better than I wanted to at times with her descriptions of how the cross has led her into a deeper trust with our Lord. Her transformation didn’t come easily — most don’t. For years, she held fast to the world, insisting that as a contemporary woman, she’d do things her way, thank-you-very-much.
But what a miracle, what a remarkable testament to Truth, to witness her weaving through her options, and finding that as they became fewer, her faith increased more and more, to the point at which she was made new. And so we are, in a sense, through her story.
For any mother who has ever cried a river while watching her child suffer, Klein will be a welcomed friend, helping you see the hope in each teardrop. For those who have not experienced the kind of trials that can bring one to her knees, her stories will encourage and enlighten nonetheless as you learn from a fellow mother and sister in Christ who has deep and knowing insight into God’s heart.
As a bonus, at the end of each chapter, Klein offers a point to ponder, as well as a prayer. I’ve dog-eared a few of those prayers, with the intention of making them part of my weekly prayer life. This one especially stands out, in part because of its retroactive power, but also its simplicity. It hadn’t occurred to me before that we can pray for wounds our children have already experienced, trusting God with healing from their very onset. God, after all, is outside of time and can do anything we ask that He wills. We are the ones bound to and limited by time. Of course, this can be said for a child of either gender with just a little tweak:
“Lord Jesus, I thank you for [child’s name] and for the gift of her life. I plead in your precious blood over [child’s name] and ask that you heal her from the moment of her conception until today. May you bless her and may your angels guard over her all the days of her life.”
In addition to her work as a mother, wife and grandmother, as well as author and speaker, Klein is founder of Memorare Ministries. She has a master’s in theological studies and has conducted a post-graduate doctoral studies in biothics at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athanaeum in Rome, and has served as an adjunct professor of theology at Our Lady of Holy Cross college in New Orleans for seven years.