Growing to Know and
Love Mary from a Worldwide Perspective
Author Interview with Ann Ball,
The Other Faces of Mary
Many of us have an
“image” of Mary that comes immediately to mind when we offer prayers to
the intercession of the Blessed Mother of Jesus. In my mind, Mary looks a
lot like a younger version of many of the important women in my own life.
For many, images of classic Madonnas by Rafael or sweet holy card
remembrances are the face of Mary. Despite her “look”, worldwide devotion
to Mary remains constant.
As distant lands
have come closer through the wonder of air travel and the Internet, new
doors have been opened and many of us seek to learn more about the
practice of Catholicism in other parts of the world. Watching the sea of
humanity present at the recent events at the Vatican, I marveled at the
flags and faces representing so many fellow Christians from around the
globe. The universality of our faith struck me as I watched an Italian
mother, a young Caucasian and an African gentleman all clutch their
rosaries in the moments leading up to the announcement of Pope Benedict
Thanks to a
wonderful new book by Ann Ball, we can learn more about stories, devotions
and images of Mary from around the world. In
The Other Faces of Mary (Crossroads, December 2004, paperback, 160 pages), Ball
introduces us to Mary through the eyes of our fellow Catholics in places
such as Vietnam, Nigeria, India, Japan and more. Ball and the many
contributors to this book share with us a beautiful gift - the wonderful
pictures that accompany the stories and reflections in this book left me
wanting to travel to these places and see my own Faith through fresh eyes.
I spoke recently
with Ann Ball about
The Other Faces of Mary.
Prayer to Our
Mother, as I gaze on your wounded and mutilated image, I humbly beg your
pardon for the grievous insults to you, great Mother of God. Help me to
notice the wounded children of the world, and see your beauty in the faces
of the poor and disfranchised. Let me love them better, as your Son
commanded. I praise you through the faith, loyalty and blood of the
missionaries who prayed for courage before your image, and I ask you to
keep today’s missionaries in your loving care as they, too, carry the Good
News throughout the world.
The image of Our Lady Vulnerata (the “Wounded
One”), is venerated at the Royal English College of St. Albans in
Valladolid, Spain. Originally a beautiful medieval image of Our Lady and
the Christ Child, it was horribly mutilated in 1596 by the swords of
English soldiers during the 16th century persecution of the
Catholic Church. Many of the English martyrs prayed in reparation before
this image before returning to their hidden ministry and death in
England. Today, the image continues to be venerated with great love, pity
and devotion in a spirit of spiritual reparation for all insults to the
Mother of God and her Divine Son, and for the courage of missionary
Q: Ann Ball, author
The Other Faces of Mary and numerous other wonderful Catholic
resources, thank you for your time and participation in this interview.
Could you please begin by telling us a bit about yourself and your own
A: Lisa, I am a
convert. I grew up in a small town in an area which was still mission
territory for the Catholics when I was a child so there was a lot of mis-information
about the church. As an adult, through an unusual set of circumstances I
wound up teaching at a Catholic school. My dad always had a St.
Christopher medal on his keychain and I found a book in the library of
that little school about St. Christopher. I read it and got hooked on
reading about the saints – finished reading an entire series of children’s
books on the saints that year. The following year, we moved and I taught
at another Catholic school. One day when I was having the children
decorate a bulletin board for Our Lady, one of the sisters saw what we
were doing and whispered to me, “She’ll get you – just wait and see.”
Some years later when I announced my intention to join the church, that
sister’s response was simple “I told you Our Lady would get you.”
Q: Ann, you've written on such a broad array of subjects. Please
briefly describe this book and tell us what prompted you to take on the
topic of lesser known visions of Mary.
The Other Faces of Mary is really a book of little known images and titles, not visions,
of Our Lady. I have always been interested in other cultures, and Mary is
the great “inculturator” of our faith. She comes to her people as one of
them, in a form they can most readily understand. Gently she draws them
with her maternal love to her Divine Son. We are all familiar with the
main titles of Our Lady – Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe. But there are other
beautiful devotions to Mary throughout the world.
Q: When watching recent events at St. Peter's during the death of Pope
John Paul II and the election and installation of Pope Benedict XVI, I was
struck by the universality of our Catholic faith as evidenced by the many
faces and flags represented in Rome. While the ethnicities varied,
devotion to Our Lady and the Rosary seemed to be a common thread. Could
you say a few words about Mary's place in our world today as a unifying
A: Mary represents
the twin jewels of our faith: cultural diversity and universal sameness.
Q: I found the stories and images of your book to be fascinating! How
did you research the book and recruit the various contributors?
A: God bless the
internet! When writing my first books, my postage bill was enormous and
it sometimes took months to get a response. The internet has made it
vastly easier to communicate with others overseas. For some of these I
appealed to friends. For example, my friend and long-time correspondent
Leo Knowles (r.i.p.) traveled in England to bring the story and picture of
Ladyewell. Leo was also a Catholic writer, and his essay in this book is
the last he wrote. A Vietnamese Buddhist friend from Houston was going to
Vietnam and looked up a Catholic friend of his there who found the
informatioin on Tra Kieu for me. I knew of the three handed icon and own
a lovely copy of it written by my friend Mary Talamini. Naturally I asked
her to comment on why she picked that particular icon to write. The one
from Japan I saw myself on a trip there and it immediately reminded me of
a lovely song I remembered from the 1960s. The author of that song was
gracious enough to write a comment for me. For others I appealed to
dioceses and priests all over the world. Actually, the stories behind the
stories are all interesting. As a researcher who loves Our Lady, this was
sheer pleasure for me.
Q: Is there any one "face" of Mary that holds particular devotion for
you? Which of the images in the book did you find the most compelling,
surprising or interesting?
A: I have two
favorites in that book. First, because I am of English extraction, I love
the Vulnerata. She is a figure of reparation and her story made me weep.
I work with the Basilian mission fathers and I wrote a special prayer to
Our lady Vulnerata which we shared with our missionaries and
co-missionaries last Christmas. My other favorite is Tra Kieu because she
shows the love Our Lady has for her persecuted peoples. As far as I know,
her story was previously unknown in the United States, even by our many
American Vietnamese Catholics. The picture was brought by Dung’s friend
from the North part of Vietnam. Later I was able to be in contact with
the priest from the shrine there via the internet. I also love Chapi from
Peru, especially when she has her hair braided and wears a Peruvian hat
like the people of her area when she goes on pilgrimage. I treasure a
little statue of her sent to me by the rector of her shrine.
Q: In his introduction to your book, Bishop Gregory John Mansour
speaks of Mary as a "common bond" between Muslims, Christians and Jews in
today's world. Given the global uncertainties that face us in this time,
I cling to my family's daily prayers to Mary for peace and reconciliation
as a sign of great hope. How can Our Lady help us explore and appreciate
the cultural diversity of today's world?
A: If you get to
know and love Our Lady, you can’t help but catch her love for all her
children! I think Rev. Stephen Doyle, O.P., in his comments on Divina
Pastora says it best: “Here, respect for the faith of others and an
acceptance of the shared common values inherent in all genuine faith
expressions has been pursued.” In particular, this image in the West
Indies like Our Lady of Lebanon is revered by many of other faiths.
Q: I know that you are busy at work on your next project. Can you
share a preview with our readers?
A: My friend Father
Damian Hinojosa, c.s.b. and I just finished the research on a book about
the Holy Infant Jesus. Many people are familiar with the Infant of
Prague, and my own family has always honored the Christ Child under the
title of the Holy Child of the Atocha, but there are hundreds of images
and devotions to the Christ Child under these titles throughout the
world. We wanted to trace the historical background of devotion to Christ
as a child, and to tell the stories of some of these images which are
still popular today. This subject has never really been explored
completely before. There is one out of print German book and a lovely
book, also unavailable in the U.S., on the infants honored in the
Philippines. So again, another project of pure pleasure for a
researcher. And, hopefully, also a great book for readers who love the
Holy Child. It will be out this fall from
Crossroad. The book has the
cull background on the images you may know like the Infant of Prague, and
the Divino Niño from Colombia, and many you don’t know but will fall in
love with. We found a tiny baby Jesus from El Salvador which was “clothed”
by seashells when it fell in the ocean, a Little Blind Jesus from Mexico,
the Holy Bellringer in Austria, and the image so loved by St. Therese of
Lisieux along with many others.
Q: Ann Ball, author of the great treasure
The Other Faces of Mary,
thank you for another wonderful book and for your time. Are there any
additional thoughts or comments you'd like to share?
A: Just my thanks to all those of you who have read what I write because
that is what makes it possible for me to have the fun to continue
writing. And an invitation to visit my own website at
www.annball.com to see the other projects I am working on as well as
find activities and stories for children as well as articles for adults.
For more information
The Other Faces of Mary visit
CatholicMom.com Book Club
Additional Catholic Book Spotlights