Welcome to the My Queen, My Mother Book Club! We're reading My Queen, My Mother by Marge Steinhage Fenelon. Scroll to the bottom of this post for information on how to order our Book Club selection. I remember the day in junior high when I found out that the Immaculate Conception was the patroness of the Americas. I also remember finding that fact boring. Disappointing. Pathetic. “Mary is our patroness? I mean, isn’t she everybody’s patroness? Why couldn’t it be some obscure, way more fascinating saint?” I hadn’t thought of that sentiment in ages — not until I cracked open Marge Steinhage Fenelon’s My Queen, My Mother: A Living Novena. This book takes readers on a journey across the United States, peeking in at nine of our nation’s many Marian shrines. Each of these shrines holds a piece of a story: the story of a people striving to keep faith and hope across an often stark wilderness, the story of priests and families turning to heaven with core needs for survival, of a nation growing into fruition in the arms of the Queen of Heaven. I saw these faces of our nation especially clearly in Chapters Four, Five, and Six of My Queen, My Mother. In these three chapters, Fenelon invites us to walk in the footsteps of German, Belgian, and even Luxembourgian settlers as they found new homes for themselves in the heart of our ever-growing country. As they struggled with the challenges of frontier life, they also invited Mary into their communities in unique and powerful ways. The devotion of these Americans invited Mary into the very heart of our nation itself. Knowing that our nation is often compared to a salad bowl of cultures and customs (an image Fenelon even uses in My Queen, My Mother), I was absolutely charmed to see how each of the shrines Fenelon visited in these chapters offers its own flavors of healing and service to the human soul, providing a sort of salad bowl of spirituality. For instance, when the residents of Starkenburg, Missouri saw that the needs of their community today were no longer the needs of the German settlers who’d built their shrine to Our Lady of Sorrows, they used the opportunity to capture a snapshot of Catholic immigrant life before those image and practices of the past faded entirely away. In Carey, Ohio, where immigrants from Luxembourg built the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, I learned about the practice of clothing Marian statues as a sign of gratitude for how she clothes us with the graces she shares. Then, in the home of the only approved Marian apparition in the United States at The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin, I discovered layers of meaning in Mary’s choice to appear between two trees to give a mission of faith to a simple Belgian immigrant. Through all nine shrines explored in My Queen, My Mother, but especially in these three shrines, I found myself in awe at how God uses the poor and hungry (spiritually and otherwise) to work miracles of healing, feeding, peace, and life. Most of all, I grew in wonder at how God uses Mary to reach the needy — and even in America, what has since become the wealthiest country in the world, we are all needy. By experiencing Marian America through Fenelon’s eyes, thoughts, and prayers, I revisited my first childish thoughts years ago about how “unremarkable” it was to have Mary as the patroness not just of my country but of two whole continents, only one of which I call home. Being able to call My Mother not just My Queen but Queen of all this land, I am humbled. I am grateful — to God, to the people he sent to build shrines to our Queen, and to Mary herself for her humble service to each of us, her children.
Copyright 2019 Erin McCole Cupp
Questions for Discussion:
- What feelings do you experience when you consider that Mary is the patroness of the Americas? How do you see her hand at work in our nation?
- What are some faith customs from your cultural heritage that your ancestors brought with them to where you live now? How do those customs connect you to the communion of saints?
- What do you think of the idea that you are a subject of Mary, Queen of Heaven? How does this affect the way you see yourself as a free person?
Copyright 2019 Erin McCole Cupp