Imagining the Life of Mary, Mother of Jesus

So little is said about Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the Gospels. We can only imagine her thoughts and feelings as she went from being a simple Jewish girl to the mother of the Son of God. In "Shalom, Mary: Letters the Blessed Virgin Might have Written", Kathleen Culligan Techler has done just that. This is indeed a work of fiction. Obviously, no one but Mary herself (and God above) know what the experience was like for her. Yet, in reading "Shalom, Mary", one gets the sense that it might have been this way. This is a human Mary struggling to make sense of the unusual set of circumstances she has found herself in.

Techler has Mary share her intimate thoughts with Rebekah, a girlhood friend who has since moved away. The letters begin with news of the Annunciation. Here we find Mary not sure how to tell her parents or her betrothed she is pregnant: "Whatever the future brings, I want to do God's will. My son the Son of God! How can I tell my parents? . . . And what of Joseph? . . . How could he possibly accept this news as the truth?" Yes, you can almost see the scared teenager confiding her secret to her dearest friend. Through the years, Mary shares her perspective on her trip to visit Elizabeth, Jesus' birth and the strangers that came to visit them in Bethlehem, their hurried journey to Egypt, and Jesus growing up. She tells of everyday occurrences such as meals made and the joy of watching Joseph and Jesus work together in the workshop. Techler's Mary speaks with a mother's pride: "I know you are smiling, Rebekah, at my pride in Jesus and his accomplishments. We mothers are all alike, aren't we?"

In time, however, their happy life in Nazareth must come to an end and Jesus must go out to spread the message he was born to speak. In these days, Mary speaks with maternal concern for her son: "I worry that he does not get enough rest. I hope that he has some time alone, for he always needed to get away by himself and pray." Mary also must face the loss of her husband: "The Lord has taken my dear Joseph home. I did not know it was possible to miss someone this much!" Finally, she shares her pain at the crucifixion: "I remembered that years ago old Simeon had said a sword would pierce my heart. Believe me, Rebekah, it has," as well as her joy at the Resurrection: "My soul is singing praises to the Lord!"

One knows how the story will turn out, and yet, Techler has managed to make it suspenseful. I found myself wanting to see what would happen next, eager to read the next letter in the collection. This is a wonderful volume, perfect for meditating on the life of Mary.

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Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur is editor of The Spiritual Woman Newsletter ( and author of Letters to Mary from a Young Mother (iUniverse, 2004). She has a Master of Arts Degree in Applied Theology from Elms College

About the Author

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur is editor of "The Spiritual Woman Newsletter" ( and author of "Letters to Mary from a Young Mother" (iUniverse, 2004). She has a Master of Arts Degree in Applied Theology from Elms College