WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

From Mary to Paul with admiration

In this year devoted to Paul the apostle, it is fitting that Mary the mother of Jesus should have an opportunity to question Paul, whom we know through the letters he wrote to the churches he established around what we now know as Turkey and Greece.
Here, Sr Elizabeth Julian imagines an epistolary conversation between Mary and Paul.
( See also Br Kieran Fenn’s analysis of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, to which Elizabeth refers .)

ElizabethJ.jpg Dear Paul
Congratulations on having a whole year to celebrate your birth 2000 years ago. What a party you must be having!
Regards
Mary

Dear Mary
Thanks for that. Yes, I’m really enjoying myself and millions of people throughout the world are marking the occasion very creatively.
I am very happy with the beautiful little book Grace and Peace Brother Kieran and Father James published last month. Of course, you know all about celebrations — you’ve had two Marian years in 1954 and 1987.

Dear Paul
Yes, I enjoyed those special years. And of course this year marks the 150th anniversary of my appearances to Bernadette at Lourdes. I was thrilled that Pope Benedict visited there recently. I find it quite overwhelming that millions of people continue to visit the shrine. I like what Tina Beattie wrote in the London Tablet about what draws people to Lourdes: it’s a place where ‘the imagination is kindled into new ways of seeing and understanding’. Beautiful!

Regards
Mary

Dear Mary
Yes, Lourdes is a very interesting phenomenon. I think you’re very fortunate. I certainly don’t have your pulling power especially with women. Sadly, some have written me off without really understanding what I was on about. That business about women having to wear veils has been totally misunderstood. What I was trying to say was that baptism eliminated all social distinctions among women themselves.
As you know, women without veils were outcasts at that time, while those with veils were respectable (who actually decided this is not the issue here). Laws about veiling were actually meant to stop outcasts wearing them, as well as to make sure that respectable women did wear them. So I saw wearing a head covering as a physical sign that baptism had eliminated all class distinctions among women.

Regards
Paul

Dear Paul
Yes, the fact that some women have found your message unhelpful has been a sad misunderstanding. But let’s hope that this year’s celebrations will sort out some of the confusion. Your explanation really helps. In the meantime, I have a question—it’s a bit of a niggle really: Why didn’t you include anything about me in your letters? I can find only one reference (‘God sent his son born of a woman’). And it’s in that rather angry letter to the Galatians. You could have chosen a better place! I suppose I should be grateful that you didn’t use my name!

Regards
Mary

Dear Mary
Please don’t feel left out. You’re right, of course, I was really annoyed at the Galatians’ stupidity. A few interfering busybodies from Antioch insisted Christians had to be circumcised! Peter, James and I had already sorted out this issue in Jerusalem (perhaps you were there?). Gentiles like the Galatians didn’t need to be circumcised. They didn’t have to become Jews first.
Besides, I’m sure women felt left out of the equation, too. Baptism was all that was required. You will remember that verse: ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal 3:28).
In fact it was this same verse that I had in mind when I wrote to the Corinthians about the veils. I was trying to be consistent. Baptism eliminated all distinctions. The Christian community was a new creation where alienated social groups could come together.
Now about the fact that I didn’t use your name—neither did John, remember? (He called you ‘woman’ and ‘the mother of Jesus’.)
Of course Mark, Matthew and Luke used your name but Mark was far from complimentary. Matthew and my friend Luke painted a much better picture of you.

Regards
Paul

Dear Paul
Yes, I’m disappointed with Mark (but that’s another story and I’ll take it up with him). Matthew and Luke included Jesus’ birth so I got a big part to play there especially in Luke’s account.
But even though John didn’t use my name he wrote beautifully about me. I’m there at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry when we all went to that wedding in Cana and towards the end John includes my presence at the foot of the cross. Why, then, did I slip off your radar?

Regards
Mary

Dear Mary
Well that’s a bit harsh! As you know, my Damascus Road experience changed everything for me. It was totally overwhelming and just too difficult for me to put into words. (It was Luke, not me, who gave three accounts of it in Acts.)
Some people say it was a conversion experience but, to be honest, I really felt called by the risen Lord to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Something in me had been so captured and fascinated by him that I could do nothing else. So off to the Gentiles I went! The rest, as they say, is history.

Regards
Paul

Dear Paul
BUT YOU STILL HAVEN’T ANSWERED MY QUESTION: WHY AM I NOT IN YOUR LETTERS?

Regards
Mary

Dear Mary
As you will recall I didn’t actually meet you or your son while he was alive. However, I certainly knew Peter, James and John and they told me plenty. But I didn’t write about the earthly life of Jesus—his birth, the miracles he worked, or the parables he told.
For me the cross and the resurrection were central so I concentrated on them. In the first part of my letters I usually tried to explain the salvation, grace and peace that came to us through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus (with varying levels of success, I might add) while in the second part I tried to spell out the implications for human behaviour. These letters were usually written in response to a particular issue/crisis that had been brought to my attention. None of the communities ever mentioned any problem concerning you so I saw no need for you to be part of the solution. It was basically as simple as that. Does that make sense?

Regards
Paul

Dear Paul
Indeed it does! I should have worked it out for myself. I suppose my popularity today, after 2000 years, is proof enough that I really didn’t need any endorsement from you.
Enjoy the remainder of your celebrations! I’m off to get ready for December 8. It’s the patronal feast of this archdiocese—a great chance for all Wellingtonians to celebrate and give thanks for God’s grace in their lives.

Regards
Mary

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