New 'Mary, Explained' video series helps Catholics discover, embrace Jesus' mother as the 'model disciple'
OSV News – She has been called history's most famous woman. But the average Catholic may nonetheless find their theological knowledge of Mary, the mother of God, slightly rusty.
"Mary, Explained", a new, seven-part video series from the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, tackles this catechetical gap, offering an engaging refresher course in who the Blessed Mother is, what the church teaches about her, and why all Catholics should be close to her.
The website where the videos are hosted (arlingtondiocese.org/maryexplained) explains that Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, who leads the Arlington Diocese, invites the faithful "to look at Mary and imitate her example of receiving the Word and bearing the Word into the world."
Through monthly video releases, a variety of questions are addressed, including who is Mary? (May); was she the mother of God? (June); was she immaculately conceived? (July); was she assumed into heaven? (August); was she ever virgin? (September); why do Catholics pray and have devotions to Mary? (October); and how can we embrace Mary as our model disciple? (November).
"What we tried to do in this series," said Kerry Nevins, multimedia producer for the Arlington Diocese, "is provide a thumbnail sketch of the richness of the church's Marian theology."
Referring to Mary as a model of discipleship, Nevins told OSV News, "Mary provides the template for us for when the Lord enters into your life – she shows us how we ought to respond. It's not fear; it's not rejection – it's to rejoice, because we know if God's entering into our life, he's got great plans for us, even if it's confusing."
Nevins hopes viewers will not be simply entertained. "At the end of the day, we want them to take what they've learned, and incorporate it into their own prayer life; into their own spiritual life," he said.
Throughout the series, priests, religious, and laypeople from the Arlington Diocese analyze all things Mary – theology, traditions, devotions – and share their own personal reflections, with a joyful emphasis on what God has done through her.
"So why is it important to have this 'Mary, Explained' series?" asked Father Christopher Tipton, chaplain at St. John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Potomac Shores. "One of the things that is generally misunderstood about Catholics is the fact that there's this idea that we worship the Blessed Mother."
While the videos explore both doctrinal truths and misconceptions, Father Tipton told OSV News the series also is "a kind of a tapestry of those who have a love for the Blessed Mother." Father Tipton invites viewers to "to reflect on where they stand with the Blessed Mother, as that perfect disciple. She's that icon of the perfect disciple – the one who says 'yes' to the will of God, which is what we are challenged to do as disciples."
Father Tipton also emphasized the need for a robust spiritual relationship with Mary.
"If we want to grow closer to Christ, we're going to meet his family members. Which dating couple doesn't meet their (prospective) in-laws as they grow closer together? And so too with Christ," he said. "We enter into his family; we enter into his relationships. And he shares this beautiful relationship with his mother."
The richness of that bond can have unexpected depth. "Pope St. John Paul II said he loved how studying and praying and walking with Mary led him to her Son, Jesus," Father Tipton said. "But one thing that he was surprised to find is that the reverse was also true. The closer he was drawn to Christ, the more Christ drew him to his mother."
"Devotion to Our Lady – it's not optional," said Sara Pecknold, a professor of music at Christendom College in Front Royal, which is within the diocese's borders. "Jesus comes into the world through Mary, and God chooses her to bring him into the world."
Mary is encountered throughout Scripture and tradition, Pecknold told OSV News. "The Holy Scriptures, the church fathers, and then all subsequent saints who write about Mary after the patristic period – it's unanimous that one cannot be close to Jesus without being close to Mary, and really invoking her intercessory role," she said.
"It's all in the Bible," Pecknold added. "Mary fulfills all of these Old Testament aspects of the anticipation of the Messiah – which are not superfluous to the narrative of salvation, but are really essential."
Kimberley Heatherington writes for OSV News from Virginia.