US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Full of Grace

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Full of Grace
By Judith Dupré
Random House, 2010

Books about Mary often become a cover for a particular ideology. If the devil can quote scripture, then any writer can build a case for a particular shade of belief using the Mother of God. Refreshingly, with Full of Grace no label came to mind.

Author Judith Dupré admits all points of view. Rather than sorting through the stories associated with Mary, styles of biblical interpretation, and various histories, she allows her essays to hold devotion and doubt, academic analysis and intuition, personal anecdotes and dogma.

In writing about the "Holy House of Loreto," for example, Dupré recounts the shrine's art and architecture but allows that the house itself could have been transported by angels or moved by Crusaders. She considers how Loreto, once "the foremost Marian shrine in Christendom," served to "underscore the authority of the Roman church" and "focused its viewers on the theological mystery of the incarnation."

In addition to her essays, Dupré has assembled quotes from other authors, scripture, prayers, and even a biscuit recipe. The full-color pictures of artworks spanning 21 centuries make this book a visual delight.
While writing about Mary as "A Girl from Galilee," Dupré notes that "Mary's slender biographical bits . . . have been magnified exponentially over the centuries in popular culture and pious tradition." Rather than trying to distill a Marian essence, Dupré tracks down the dramatis personae that culture and tradition have spawned, examines their motives, and measures them alongside current ecclesial and social concerns.

"By dismantling the idealized, patriarchal trappings that have effectively removed Mary from the real world and by acknowledging her existence in an impoverished, agrarian, and politically oppressed society, women as well as men are finding in her a guidepost in their own quest for wholeness and full human dignity." Full of Grace does just that.

This articel appeared in the December 2010 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 75, No. 12, page 43).