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Sr. Julia Darrenkamp, FSP, reviews Beholding Beauty, a book that invites the reader to contemplate Our Lady in a new way.

Beholding Beauty: Mary and the Song of Songs by Cleveland Gregory, OMV

I like the Songs of Songs, one of my favorite books in the Bible, and I love the Blessed Mother. So, to come across a book that puts the two together was a pleasant surprise for me. The connection that Fr. Gregory makes between this beloved book in Scripture and Our Lady is one that I’ve heard in passing in church teaching, but not something ever fully developed as he does here.


Beholding Beauty


In Beholding Beauty, he introduces each chapter with a passage from the Song of Songs and then a corresponding passage from the New Testament showing how Mary reflects the role of the Bride. The meditation that follows the two Scripture passages includes stories that explain and illuminate the connection between the two. This book is definitely meant for reflective spiritual reading and not a quick read. That being said, it but it would be a perfect way to understand and read the Song of Songs with the Blessed Mother. Or, if you’ve made the consecration to Mary, it would be a good way to deepen that connection with her.

The Questions for Discussion and Reflection also make it a great choice for a book club. My preference would be to take it along on retreat, using the Prayer Exercises that come at the end of each chapter. I especially like what the author does in chapter 2, showing how Mary is the antithesis of the seven capital sins (which makes for a good examination of conscience!). In any case, it’s pretty versatile. 

Beholding Beauty is a good title for this book because beholding Mary, contemplating Our Lady, is to do just that. Most of us would not describe ourselves as mystics or saints. Plain old ordinary would be more accurate, right? But we’re called to be like our Mother, which means we ARE called to be mystics, saints, and the beloved of God, as she was. As Father Gregory says, not only are we born with an empty space in our heart that only God can fill – He, too, has an empty space that only WE can fill. Step by step, Mary shows us how.

Copyright 2021Sr. Julia Darrenkamp, FSP
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About the author: Sr. Julia Darrenkamp has been a Daughter of St. Paul for 47 years. She was a young convert at the age of 14 after reading lives of the saints and then discovering they all came from the same place: the Catholic Church! After briefly considering the Poor Clares, she’s convinced that God pulled her into the Daughters of St. Paul, giving her the mission of spreading the Gospel in the same way that it reached her: through good books. Currently writing and working in the Pauline Book and Media Center in Charleston, Sr. Julia also shares her love of the true, the good, and the beautiful through Catholic Art, great books, favorite quotes, stories of saints, each day with 50,000 people through her Instagram page @srjulia