Book Review: The Woman: The Mystery of Mary as Mediatrix in the Teaching of Fulton J. Sheen by Dr. Peter J. Howard
The Woman: The Mystery of Mary as Mediatrix in the Teaching of Fulton J. Sheen
by Dr. Peter J. Howard
Publisher: Leonine Publishers
Price: $14.99 Kindle version
Reviewed by Joseph Tuttle
The Woman is a beautiful summary and exploration into the Mariology of Fulton Sheen. Sheen had a great devotion to Mary as is evidenced by the fact that every book he ever wrote was dedicated to her. This book is the fruit of Dr. Howard's doctoral research. Although geared toward scholars and students, it is very readable for everyone dedicated to studying Sheen and his teachings on Mary.
The first section of the book serves as a brief biography and introduction to the life and times of Fulton Sheen. Howard gives particular emphasis to Sheen's devotion to Mary recounting how his mother consecrated him to Mary when he was born, how he re-consecrated himself to Mary at his First Holy Communion, and how after he was ordained a priest, he offered Mass every Saturday in honor of Mary in order that she might protect him in his priestly ministry.
In the second chapter, Howard introduces the reader to Sheen's belief in Mary's maternal mediation between God and people and her role in their Redemption. He also mentions the many topics he will discuss throughout his book.
The third chapter deals with Sheen's view of Mary as the new Eve. Sheen's examination of Mary is thoroughly biblical and therefore Howard follows suit. Since Eve had an instrumental role in the Fall of all humanity, so too, Mary, the new Eve, would have an instrumental role in humanity's redemption. Howard, following the writings of Sheen, points out that Christ's victimhood began with the Incarnation and therefore Mary consented to partake in the victimhood of Christ with her fiat which initiated the Incarnation. The culmination of Mary's victimhood takes place at the foot of the Cross.
Howard proceeds to go through an in-depth analysis of all of the biblical references to Mary in the New Testament. He highlights Mary's mediatory role in each of the occasions like when Mary goes to visit Elizabeth and the Wedding Feast at Cana.
The fourth chapter of Howard's book examines Mary as mediatrix in continuing the Incarnation in the Mystical Body of Christ. Mary was made the Mother of the Church (The Mystical Body of Christ) while standing at the foot of the Cross when Jesus made her the mother of St. John who represented the Church as a whole. The Church's mission as the Mystical Body of Christ is to prolong the Incarnation in which Mary has a very central role. Howard points out that Sheen had a devotion to Mary as the Mediatrix of all graces as is evidenced by his writings. Sheen's argument is as follows: Jesus is the source of all grace, this grace is passed down to Mary, the mother of the Mystical Body of Christ, and then distributed to its members (us).
Finally, in the fifth chapter, Howard turns to discussing Mary's mediation in the modern world, particularly through Marian apparitions. Sheen's view was that Mary was not only the mother of the Mystical Body of Christ but also a mediator for those who were potentially in the Mystical Body, i.e., those who are not baptized.1 Howard also presents Sheen's argument that Mary will help in the conversion of Islam through her title “Our Lady of Fatima.” Concluding, Howard recapitulates and summarizes Sheen's core Marian teachings.
Included at the very end of the book is an appendix dealing with the current state of the question regarding Mary's mediation and her seemingly controversial title as the “co-Redemptrix” which is very insightful for those interested in the topic.
Dr. Howard has given the Church and the world a valuable resource not only on the importance of Mary's maternal role in salvation but also a much-needed scholarly approach to the Mariological works of Fulton J. Sheen. The Woman is a must-read for any Mariologist or Sheen lover.
Those who are baptized are incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ and are in actuality its members. Those who are not baptized have the potential to be baptized until their death. Thus, those who are unbaptized are potential members of the Mystical Body of Christ and not actual members.