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BOOK REVIEW1



      CAROLINE RENEHAN, I am Mary, I am Woman. Theological and
Anthropological approaches to the Peoples’ Mary, The Columbia Press, Dublin
2010, 145 pages, 21 cm.


         The author of this book, Caroline Renehan, is Head of Religious Studies at St. Patrick’s
College, Drumcondra, a College of Dublin City University. She holds a PhD in Divinity
(University of Edinburgh) and a PhD in Education (University of London). In this book, she
presents the ways in which Mary, Mother of God has been understood in the Catholic Church
throughout the centuries. She utilizes a threefold approach in her study: the theatypical,
christatypical and ecclesiatypical approaches.
         In her introduction to this book, the author mentions the objectives of this small volume:
“Firstly, the primary objective is to propose a new methodology in order to categorise the
complex nature of some of the material as it is found in the long centuries of Marian tradition.
The methodology does not aspire to a definitive categorization of Mary’s role and function.
Rather it suggests that the constant, eternal presence and figure of Mary for Catholic Christians
may be subsumed into three broad Marian typologies […].The second objective of this volume
is to show how the Marian types have the capacity to generate substantial theological agreement
between traditional Catholic Church teaching and Christian feminist hermeneutics” (pp. 7-9).
This book is divided into five chapters. The first three chapters deal with the three broad Marian
typologies, namely Mary as Theatype, Mary as Christatype, Mary as Ecclesiatype. The fourth
and fifth chapters deal with the anthropological and feminine aspects of Marian theology.
         In her first approach the author depicts how Mary was elevated to a place close to the
Godhead in the tradition of the Catholic Church. Imaging of Mary to such excessive extent is
referred to as the theatypical approach to Mariology. She gives many examples from the early
church fathers and from ancient and modern theologians with respect to Mariology in the
Christian tradition. The practice of ‘deification’ of Mary began with various interpretations of
the Scriptures and Marian doctrines such as Mary’s virginal conception, perpetual virginity and
the title Theotokos. She is convinced that such a deification of Mary in the Church tradition is
an undeniable fact though we can find many counter-arguments to claim that the phenomenon
of Mary as Theatype never existed.

1
    Published in: Marianum 73 (2011) 533-535.
The second category of the three Marian types that the author deals with in this book is
Mary as Christatype. This Mariological approach places Mary almost on a par with Christ. She
says that the Christatype imaging of Mary emerged at a time when the early fathers were trying
to fathom more profoundly Christ’s role and function in the mystery of salvation. It is very
interesting to see how the author refers to the early sources to show the gradual development of
this Marian concept in Church history. She writes that though the Church teaches that Mary is
inseparably linked with her Son’s saving work, Mary cannot be and should not be placed on a
par with Christ in the mystery of salvation. Mary’s role in redemption was one that serves
‘under and with him’. The teaching relating to Mary as Co-Redeemer should not be
misinterpreted. The author summarizes her ideas in the following words: “Not only does she
[Mary] perform miracles and offer much needed hope, but she also has the ability to co-redeem,
co-mediate and to act as intercessor between humankind and God. In this way, she is imaged as
the Christatype” (p. 67).
       In the third chapter, the author turns to a more contemporary understanding of Mary as
Ecclesiatype and her association with the church. She places the emphasis on her humanity and
identifies Mary as ‘one of us’. The earliest biblical source quoted by the author to support this
point is Gal 4.4: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman,
born under the law”. She bases her arguments on chapter eight of Lumen gentium and on the
writings of Pope Paul VI and John Paul II. Mary symbolizes the Church. She is ever present in
our midst. According to the author, we must understand Mary as Ecclesiatype within the
context of her eternal presence in the Church. This understanding of Mary as Ecclesiatype
paves a way for ecumenical dialogue and fraternal communion among the various Churches. In
this regard, the author particularly mentions the Anglican/Roman Catholic International
Commission’s document “Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ”. In line with the teaching of the
Catholic Church, the author is very clear in explaining how Mary and the Church are
inseparable.
       Having reflected upon these three types, the author dedicates the last two chapters to
some important Mariological themes such as: the womanhood of Mary, Christian Feminism and
Patriarchy, Mary’s personhood as a model for the dignity of every woman, etc. In these last two
chapters, the author analyses the problems faced by some women, such as the ordination of
women, theological disquiet about the patriarchal structures of the church and so on. She
explains how Marian theology could help us understand these problems and draw inspiration
and strength from Mother Mary to overcome them and live in harmony with the divine plan for
humanity.
This book offers new ideas about the person of Mary and her womanhood in the light of
Church teaching. The sources and quotations that the author makes use of in order to support
her ideas range from the earliest Biblical and Patristic writings up to the scholarly works of
modern authors of our times.
       The author is very precise and coherent in expressing her theological ideas in a simple
but profound style of language. Though she is critical in presenting the various Marian images
that are found in the history of the Church, her ideas are perfectly in accordance with the
teachings of the Catholic Church. It is an original contribution to Mariology. Scholars and
students can find plenty of valuable and appropriate references and an exhaustive bibliography
(pp. 139-145) for further research on the universal mediation of Mary. This book is a must for
all those who want to know about the historical images of Mary in the history of the last two
millennia and who search for the correct Marian teaching of the Catholic Church.


                                            Denis Kulandaisamy, ( denisosm@yahoo.com )
                                            Pontifical Theological Faculty “Marianum”
                                              Viale Trenta Aprile,6. 00153Rome, Italy.

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I am Mary, I am Woman

  • 1. BOOK REVIEW1 CAROLINE RENEHAN, I am Mary, I am Woman. Theological and Anthropological approaches to the Peoples’ Mary, The Columbia Press, Dublin 2010, 145 pages, 21 cm. The author of this book, Caroline Renehan, is Head of Religious Studies at St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, a College of Dublin City University. She holds a PhD in Divinity (University of Edinburgh) and a PhD in Education (University of London). In this book, she presents the ways in which Mary, Mother of God has been understood in the Catholic Church throughout the centuries. She utilizes a threefold approach in her study: the theatypical, christatypical and ecclesiatypical approaches. In her introduction to this book, the author mentions the objectives of this small volume: “Firstly, the primary objective is to propose a new methodology in order to categorise the complex nature of some of the material as it is found in the long centuries of Marian tradition. The methodology does not aspire to a definitive categorization of Mary’s role and function. Rather it suggests that the constant, eternal presence and figure of Mary for Catholic Christians may be subsumed into three broad Marian typologies […].The second objective of this volume is to show how the Marian types have the capacity to generate substantial theological agreement between traditional Catholic Church teaching and Christian feminist hermeneutics” (pp. 7-9). This book is divided into five chapters. The first three chapters deal with the three broad Marian typologies, namely Mary as Theatype, Mary as Christatype, Mary as Ecclesiatype. The fourth and fifth chapters deal with the anthropological and feminine aspects of Marian theology. In her first approach the author depicts how Mary was elevated to a place close to the Godhead in the tradition of the Catholic Church. Imaging of Mary to such excessive extent is referred to as the theatypical approach to Mariology. She gives many examples from the early church fathers and from ancient and modern theologians with respect to Mariology in the Christian tradition. The practice of ‘deification’ of Mary began with various interpretations of the Scriptures and Marian doctrines such as Mary’s virginal conception, perpetual virginity and the title Theotokos. She is convinced that such a deification of Mary in the Church tradition is an undeniable fact though we can find many counter-arguments to claim that the phenomenon of Mary as Theatype never existed. 1 Published in: Marianum 73 (2011) 533-535.
  • 2. The second category of the three Marian types that the author deals with in this book is Mary as Christatype. This Mariological approach places Mary almost on a par with Christ. She says that the Christatype imaging of Mary emerged at a time when the early fathers were trying to fathom more profoundly Christ’s role and function in the mystery of salvation. It is very interesting to see how the author refers to the early sources to show the gradual development of this Marian concept in Church history. She writes that though the Church teaches that Mary is inseparably linked with her Son’s saving work, Mary cannot be and should not be placed on a par with Christ in the mystery of salvation. Mary’s role in redemption was one that serves ‘under and with him’. The teaching relating to Mary as Co-Redeemer should not be misinterpreted. The author summarizes her ideas in the following words: “Not only does she [Mary] perform miracles and offer much needed hope, but she also has the ability to co-redeem, co-mediate and to act as intercessor between humankind and God. In this way, she is imaged as the Christatype” (p. 67). In the third chapter, the author turns to a more contemporary understanding of Mary as Ecclesiatype and her association with the church. She places the emphasis on her humanity and identifies Mary as ‘one of us’. The earliest biblical source quoted by the author to support this point is Gal 4.4: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law”. She bases her arguments on chapter eight of Lumen gentium and on the writings of Pope Paul VI and John Paul II. Mary symbolizes the Church. She is ever present in our midst. According to the author, we must understand Mary as Ecclesiatype within the context of her eternal presence in the Church. This understanding of Mary as Ecclesiatype paves a way for ecumenical dialogue and fraternal communion among the various Churches. In this regard, the author particularly mentions the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission’s document “Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ”. In line with the teaching of the Catholic Church, the author is very clear in explaining how Mary and the Church are inseparable. Having reflected upon these three types, the author dedicates the last two chapters to some important Mariological themes such as: the womanhood of Mary, Christian Feminism and Patriarchy, Mary’s personhood as a model for the dignity of every woman, etc. In these last two chapters, the author analyses the problems faced by some women, such as the ordination of women, theological disquiet about the patriarchal structures of the church and so on. She explains how Marian theology could help us understand these problems and draw inspiration and strength from Mother Mary to overcome them and live in harmony with the divine plan for humanity.
  • 3. This book offers new ideas about the person of Mary and her womanhood in the light of Church teaching. The sources and quotations that the author makes use of in order to support her ideas range from the earliest Biblical and Patristic writings up to the scholarly works of modern authors of our times. The author is very precise and coherent in expressing her theological ideas in a simple but profound style of language. Though she is critical in presenting the various Marian images that are found in the history of the Church, her ideas are perfectly in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church. It is an original contribution to Mariology. Scholars and students can find plenty of valuable and appropriate references and an exhaustive bibliography (pp. 139-145) for further research on the universal mediation of Mary. This book is a must for all those who want to know about the historical images of Mary in the history of the last two millennia and who search for the correct Marian teaching of the Catholic Church. Denis Kulandaisamy, ( denisosm@yahoo.com ) Pontifical Theological Faculty “Marianum” Viale Trenta Aprile,6. 00153Rome, Italy.