The Book of Mary: A Novel.
Casually, I leafed through the free publications in our public library in Millwoods, Edmonton. Ah, here's one with a veneer of innocence, I thought. There was a green, smiling, Disney-like bug on the cover of Prairie Books Now.
No sooner had I relaxed with the smiling, green bug, when I discovered page 6. "In His Mother's Arms: Mary Gets A Voice," proclaimed, "The Book of Mary is a fictional account of the teenaged Mary's pregnancy and how she copes in a society where unmarried mothers were the subjects of scorn and stonings: by making up the story of immaculate conception." (1)
I am reading a review of Canadian author Gall Sidonie Sobat's new book of fiction, The Book of Mary published by Sumach Press.
"I wanted to give (Mary) her full humanity, to take her out of the symbolic and the sanitized," (2) revealed Sobat, who says The Book of Mary is the result of seven years of research and work. "I even watched The Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus of Montreal, and Jesus Christ Superstar again," she says. (3)
The result of such a scholarly work of fiction? Mary had an illegitimate son named Jesus. Mary made up the story of the immaculate conception. No, let's be quite clear: Sobat made up the story of Mary making up the story of the immaculate conception. I closed the newspaper. The smiling, green bug now looked like a determined demon in a Halloween disguise.
In her strong deception, Sobat candidly confesses, "At some point, I attended the United Church. For a short while as a child, I was a born-again Christian, but my mother snatched me away from that, and I resumed my wayward career as a pagan and a heathen with fleeting Buddhist sympathies," she says. (4)
This Canadian author overlooks the centuries-long intrinsic sanitization and symbolism of Mary ... and starts anew, treating Mary as "an overlooked figure of motherhood, feminism, and history." (5)
The idolatry of Aaron showed us the misuse of art. Feminist idolatry--an idol is anything put in importance over God and His Word--chronically communicates the misuse of artistic fiction. We dare not despise art. But there is art which liberates, and art which puts into bondage. The Book of Mary easily falls into the latter, as does The Da Vinci Code. These are clear displays of serious misuse of God-given talents.
What Dietrich von Hildebrand defined concerning liturgical innovators is true, in principle, for The Book of Mary. He wrote: "The basic error of most of the innovators is to imagine that the new liturgy brings the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass nearer to the faithful, that shorn of its old rituals the Mass now enters into the substance of our lives. For the question is whether we better meet Christ in the Mass by soaring up to Him, or by dragging Him down into our own pedestrian, workaday world. The innovators would replace holy intimacy with Christ by an unbecoming familiarity." (6)
Hildebrand could have easily commented on The Book of Mary, "Notwithstanding that author Gail Sobat has turned our precious Lord into an illegitimate child, the basic error of this innovator is to imagine a feminist Mary brings her nearer to feminists, that shorn of her status as the venerated and honoured Mother of God, this substance enters into the lives of bitter lesbian, liberal, single-mother feminists. For the question is whether we better meet Mary by soaring up to her, or by dragging her down into our own pedestrian, workaday world, where the moral sense is conspicuously absent."
For too long, the feminists have attempted a primacy in the spiritual world. This is "supportive" for millions of women. We now need to humbly but determinedly regain this spiritual primacy, with compassion. Or the strong deception will remain, where feminist, liberal, New Age women--seeking support from each other, for a poor substitute of what the church should be proffering--will continue to invade Catholic schools, convents and retirement homes. In this sense, Catholic evangelization, more than ever, is in an intensely spiritual and social offensive and defensive focus.
Do we throw away the baby with the bathwater? Do we scorn all fiction? No. Fiction is valuable because it is powerful. Fiction worked to convict King David when nothing else would (2 Sam. 12:1-3). Fiction helps us communicate and contemplate ideas. It is a vehicle for examining life vicariously. Fiction reaches people who would never open a Bible, catechism or book of non-fiction. Good fiction is enjoyable! God gives us our talents, helps us develop them, and is kind enough to even reward us for using them! This is true of all the wholesome arts, including fiction.
But not so with Gail Sidonie Sobat and The Book of Mary. A vital and crucial difference exists between the communication of ideas, in tandem with the moral sense and God's revealed Word, and lies from the pit of hell. Too many children, of all ages, will read The Book of Mary review ... and see no metamorphosis in the green, smiling bug.
(1.) Paula E. Kirman, "In His Mother's Arms: Mary Gets A Voice," Prairie Books Now, Summer 2006, p. 6.
(2.) Kirman, p. 6.
(3.) Kirman, p. 6.
(4.) Kirman, p. 6.
(5.) Kirman, p. 6.
(6.) Triumph Magazine, October 1966.
Stephen Volk is an author of literary and historical fiction. This article above may also be found on his blog at http://heresywatch.blogspot.com
REVIEWED BY STEPHEN VOLK