Category Archives: Question Box


Oh, I could not wait to sink my teeth into this question:

“Was Mary quiet and submissive, or very assertive?”

You can read my answer at







The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner

Birthgiver of God or mother of God?

I get some fascinating questions through the BustedHalo Question Box, and this one was no exception:

“Shouldn’t the proper term for Mary be the ‘birthgiver of God’ instead of the ‘mother of God’?”

What do you think?

Because of the format, I have to keep the answer short, but believe me,  I could have written volumes about this. There are a few ways to approach this question, and I tried to touch on all of them, but for me, the answer really comes down to this:  Anyone who has been in the mothering business knows that “mother” is a verb as well as a noun.  It’s a state of being, of doing, of acting.  And mothering doesn’t stop when the kids are old enough to dress themselves, to fix their own meals, to strike out on their own.  At the age of thirty-seven, I still rely on my mom to prop me up through the bad times and celebrate with me in the good.   At the age of thirty-three, Jesus relied on Mary for the same things.

Yes, Mary gave birth to Jesus … but she was also, memorably and beautifully,  His mother.

Image: Madonna and Child by Giulio Romano

Ask and you shall receive!

Have you ever wondered:

What is a Marian apparition?

When Joseph decided to “divorce  Mary quietly,” why didn’t she get mad?

What does the Council of Ephesus have to do with Mary?

Click on the links to get the answers!

And if you have a question about the Blessed Mother, submit it to the BustedHalo Question Box! I’ll answer any Mary question, even if you feel stupid asking it (and remember what your elementary school teachers always said:  There is no such thing as a stupid question.)  And if you have questions about other areas of faith (Catholic tradition, history, ethics, etc.), you can submit those, too.  I won’t tackle those, but other writers will.

And just to brighten your day, here’s a lovely picture of the Madonna and Child.  I don’t know about you, but I always find that a great moodlifter.

Our Lady of Japan holycard from HolyCards for your Inspiration

Freezing-cold summer evening grab-bag of randomness

(How’s THAT for an unwieldy title?)

1.  Yes, it’s still chilly here. I have worn flannel pajamas every night since returning from New Hampshire, and from the way the wind is howling outside, I will not be breaking the trend tonight.   The cold summer is a major topic of conversation around here these days.   I don’t think anyone  settles in crowded overpriced earthquake country for weather like THIS .

2.  I think Matthew is starting to understand the concept of states, and countries, and distance.  This morning we were talking about New Hampshire.  ”It’s really far away,” he said.

“That’s right,” I told him.

“If you walked there,” he observed seriously,  ”it would take a really really long time.”

Thank God for air travel.

3.  I’m currently gloating over the fact that I bought a dress at J C Penney’s today for the paltry sum of $29.99.   It’s really cute, and fits amazingly well, and has enough coverage that I can wear it teaching.  Plus it is washable (huzzah!) and dark enough not to show sweat stains, which, I have learned over the years, is a prerequisite for most teaching attire.   No matter how chilly it has been all summer, it is guaranteed to become sweltering hot the minute that school starts again.   That is how it works.

4.  If you want a little dose of Mary today, you can check out my latest answer on It’s all about being a good son, and about having a great mom.

Off to make some tea (hot — not iced).

Question for the day …

Is it bad to pray to Mary more than Jesus?

What do you think?

I weigh in on

Mid-week grab bag of randomness

1.  Okay, I know I’m an English teacher, and therefore I pay obsessive attention to things like punctuation.  But I find it empirically odd that the label for Luke’s current prescription says  GIVE “LUKE” 4 MLs TWICE A DAY FOR TEN DAYS.    What’s with the quotation marks ?   Am I calling him by the wrong name?  It’s like the Walgreens people are saying,  “Well, go ahead and CALL him “Luke,” if that makes you happy.  We know better.”

2.  I’ve been pretty remiss about linking to my BustedHalo Mary questions.   If you would like to know how many times Mary talks in the Bible, or how she relates to the communion of saints, or how she was treated after Jesus died, then click away.

3.  I absolutely adore lilacs.  It’s weird and primal and totally beyond any semblance of control.  I see a lilac bush and I stop dead in my tracks, sniffing and gazing in rapture, like some sort of botanical maniac.   (They are not very common here in CA, alas, though I have spied a few in my neighborhood, which gives me hope that one day I can have a lovely lilac of my own.)  So imagine my emotion when my friend Lisa posted a link to the Rochester, NY Lilac Festival.   I look at their photos and my heart beats faster.  Yes, I am a freak — a freak who is getting a great new idea about taking an impromptu cross-country trip.

Happily, there are no volcanic ash clouds between here and Rochester.

Snow White = Mary?

When I was a kid, I always identified with Snow White as a character. Maybe it’s the fact that she was one of the few brunette heroines in the fairytale book, so I instinctively related to her on that level (my blonde sister, on the other hand, could claim a kinship with Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty … proof that when it comes to fairytales, blondes DO have more fun).

Anyhow, in spite of that, I had a whole lot of fun researching this question:  “Are there Marian themes in the story of Snow White?” Check it out!

Indian Madonna and Child

Beautiful, isn’t it?  I just love this picture.

(Oh, and if you’ve ever wondered where the term “Madonna” comes from, there’s a brief explanation here.)

Image from Holy Cards For Your Inspiration

Revisiting the Visitation

I got a great question through the BustedHalo Question Box a while back:

“Why does Mary go to visit her cousin Elizabeth?  It doesn’t make sense for a pregnant woman to make such a long journey.”

Honestly, I could write volumes on this!  I love the Visitation, mostly because of the role it’s played in my own life at a crucial moment (I go into detail in Mary and Me),  and also because of what I learned about it while talking to other women.  The Visitation is more than just a nice subject for artists to paint; it’s a powerful statement of the way we are called to support each other in good times and in bad, in joyous times and in confusing times, and, frankly, in every kind of time there is.

But enough of that.  I’ll let my Question Box Answer say the rest.


Is it or isn’t it?

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.

Is this nursery rhyme about the Virgin Mary?  Find out at!


Illustration by Jessie Wilcox Smith, courtesy of Project Gutenberg