Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur reviews Marge Steinhage Fenelon's book Forgiving Mother: A Marian Novena of Healing and Peace.
May is a month dedicated to Our Blessed Mother as well as to remembering and appreciating our earthly mothers. Yet, mother-child relationships can often be fraught with difficulty. While I firmly believe the vast majority of mothers get up every day and try to do their best for their children, mothers are human and have their own wounds and sins. Despite our best efforts, we wound our children.
One of the tasks of growing up is to forgive our mothers for their flaws and failings. Forgiving Mother: A Marian Novena of Healing and Peace by Marge Steinhage Fenelon can help us do that. Fenelon had a great deal to forgive with her own mother. Her mother had been raised by an alcoholic father and gambling-addicted mother. While Fenelon’s mother was very involved in the Church and charitable activities, she abused her own children and had a volatile temper. It was a classic instance of hurt people hurting others.
Fenelon moved out of her home as soon as she was able and had many years when she did not speak with her mother in order to protect her own family. They reconnected late in her mother’s life. Through it all, Fenelon sought refuge in Mary as her true mother, one who would never abuse or abandon her.
In Forgiving Mother, Fenelon shares her own painful story with remarkable honesty. She acknowledges the great pain that mothers can cause their children and emphasizes the importance (and difficulty) of forgiveness. She encourages us to surrender our wounds and painful memories to Jesus and to look to Mary as our heavenly mother. “No matter what you lack from your childhood, it can be recovered with the Blessed Virgin’s help.” Fenelon also reminds readers that both they and their mothers are children of God. We should always pray for our mothers that they might also have healing and peace. When we can’t find it in our hearts to forgive them, we can ask God for the grace to want to forgive.
The second part of Forgiving Mother includes a novena. Each of the nine days features a Scripture passage, a reflection by Fenelon, questions for personal reflection, and prayer. While healing will most likely not be instantaneous, the process of going through these prayers and reflections can do a great deal to help with beginning that journey to wholeness.
Forgiving Mother is a great blessing to anyone who feels that they need to work through painful childhood memories and forgive their mothers. It also serves as a great reminder that Mary is always with us. She is the perfect mother who always loves us and wants to bring us closer to Jesus.
Copyright 2021 Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur
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About the Author
Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur has a Master’s Degree in Applied Theology and is the author of The Catholic Baby Name Book, The Power of Forgiveness, and Our Lady of La Salette: A Mother Weeps for Her Children. A mother of three, she is the editor of TodaysCatholicHomeschooling.com as well as a freelance writer and editor.