At a class at Acton University, Dr. Carrie Gress was lecturing about the Benedict Option and somewhat informally proposed a Marian option. She said she was impressed by the interest the proposal sparked. I happened to be in the class and remember thinking at the time about how well her message resonated with everyone. I thought to myself this is something that should be discussed and further developed. It was a pleasant surprise to see in print one year later, Dr. Gress’s new book, The Marian Option: God’s Solution to a Civilization in Crisis.
Dr. Gress addresses one of the most blatant omissions in the controversy around Rod Dreher’s book, The Benedict Option. Many are talking about ways to give birth to a new Christian society in the midst of our decadent world. There are all sorts of discussions about the details of this Christian birth. The debate is more or less like a medical crew in a maternity ward discussing the coming child but… without inviting the mother to join the birthing event.
Indeed, the Blessed Mother is not mentioned at all as part of the solution in Mr. Dreher’s book. Likewise, others involved in the debate, perhaps thinking it too anti-ecumenical, have neglected to mention her. Dr. Gress’s book invites the Mother to the new society’s birth.
She Should Be Present
After all, this is a Christian option that is being discussed. It is all about her Son. So it makes sense she should have a say in the matter. In fact, Mary should be at the center. Also unmentioned in The Benedict Option is Fatima, the most important historical and religious event in the twentieth century. It is an event that is particularly focused on this rebirth of Christian civilization.
Thus, Dr. Gress strikes a chord. A Marian option is needed. As she correctly notes, it is not an option at all but a necessity; a last great hope in a decadent world. She is a powerful intercessor against a disproportional adversary that we have no means to engage successfully.
A Proven Track Record
The Blessed Mother has a proven track record in resolving crises in society. She specializes in doing what appears to be impossible. She is a mother for every emergency. Even cases of invasion and military assault, Our Lady is “the most powerful woman in the world” and has turned the tide of the battle in astonishing ways and given victory to those Catholics who confide in her.
And so that there could be no doubt that all this is possible, Dr. Gress recounts the times in history when Our Lady intervened. In an age when many care little to know about history, the listing is necessary. It is also impressive. These are marvelous tales that enthrall the reader by their innocence and beauty. They are also very timely because some of the same battles still threaten us today.
Dealing With Islam
For example, the Blessed Mother has long addressed the great problem of Islam in a manner that is refreshingly politically incorrect. The story of the Reconquest of Spain is a chronicle of many centuries in which the Spanish people gradually reconquered their occupied land from the Islamic Moors. There are many accounts of Our Lady’s help in the 781-year struggle that finally ended in 1492. She would appear in battles, go to prisons to unshackle and free captives. She would even be instrumental in converting Moors to the Catholic Faith.
In 1571, Our Lady turned the tide at the great naval battle of Lepanto. Pope Saint Pius V instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victories on October 7 to commemorate this great event. In 1683, the Polish King John Sobieski lifted the siege of Vienna with his winged hussars who prepared “for battle with their rosaries in one hand and weapons in the other.”
Such examples should fill us with confidence that no case is too difficult for the Blessed Mother.
Overcoming Indifference and Hostility to the Faith
Today we face the indifference and hostility of much of the population to the Catholic message. We are at a loss as to how to evangelize them. Our Lady also dealt with this problem.
When the Aztec Indians, who sacrificed massive numbers of humans to their gods, were conquered by the Spanish, they did not convert to the Faith. However, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to the Indian Juan Diego. Her miraculous image shows her dressed and positioned in a symbolic manner that was entirely understandable to the Aztecs. Between four and ten million Indians asked for baptism and became fervent Catholics. Once again, Mary proved herself a mother by changing the hardened hearts of a whole people.
Likewise, the problem of nations turned against God finds a solution with Our Lady of Fatima. She came in 1917 to address a world that had abandoned God and was starting to embrace communism. Many of her predictions happened as she said. Others are waiting to occur. Dr. Gress notes that Our Lady of Fatima’s mission is still unfinished, but we have every reason to believe in the promise of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Explaining Devotion to Mary
The second part is aimed at those who are unfamiliar with devotion to Our Lady and the reason for our veneration of the Mother of God. Again, this is necessary not only for those outside the Faith but also for so many Catholics who have neglected to learn about their faith.
Dr. Gress explains the consecration to Our Lady according to the method of Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. She proposes other devotions and practices that readers might adopt. She invites us to childlike confidence in Our Lady who “prepares us for anything” in the midst of these dark and uncertain times.
Of course, there are many concrete details about the birth of a new Christian society that need to be worked out. The author does not deny the urgent need to discuss them. Hers is, however, an essential contribution: she invites the Mother.