It’s not uncommon for converts to Catholicism, especially among some former Protestants, to be very hesitant when it comes to Mary. The feelings can vary wildly from confusion over her reverence to downright hatred of her.
But for my guest on Episode 42 The Catholic Mama podcast, though a Catholic convert from Protestantism, that wasn’t quite the case.
Dr. Rachel Fulton Brown, a convert to Catholicism, associate professor of history at the University of Chicago, and expert in Medieval Marian devotion, came through an unusual route to Mary: Through the study of history, starting in her undergraduate work through postdoctoral. As a student of medieval history, Rachel was drawn to Mary simply because she was everywhere in her studies, guiding her, it seemed, all along.
As a convert myself, I was excited to chat with Rachel and see just how academic and historical the truth about Mary is. And while my studies have focused on modern Marian experts, such as Archbishop Fulton Sheen and Tim Staples, Marian devotion is anything but modern. Medieval Christians, that is to say, Catholics, were deeply devoted to Mary. She was rightly venerated as Theotokos, Mother of God. And it wasn’t until the Protestant Rebellion (yeah, I’m in the camp with those who feel “reformation” is no where near the correct word for Martin Luther’s heresies), that Marian devotion of the kind we see in earlier Christianity begins to dissipate, even among Catholics.
While Mary is misunderstood by many, she is a bridge for many others. Rachel, inspired by her historical studies, was in the latter camp. And during our time together, we got to dive into her conversion story and the marvelously rich history of Marian devotion that would be largely lost if not for work being done by such as Rachel. (Rachel, by the way, has loads of great writing and resources on her blog Fencing Bear at Prayer; definitely check that out, as well as her book, Mary and the Art of Prayer).
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