On Barb’s Bookshelf: Forgiving Mother

Barb's Book shelf blog title

Born of a mother-daughter relationship that goes way beyond “it’s complicated,” Marge Steinhage Fenelon’s Forgiving Mother: A Marian Novena of Healing and Peace (new from Servant Books) speaks to the heart of those who carry the burden of wounds from the past.

forgiving mother

I need to state right up front that I have a good relationship with my own mom. But this book about healing touched me deeply — because there are relationships in my life that have been difficult and hurtful, and I’ve hung onto those hurts for too long.

Citing the Gospel story where Jesus heals the blind, crippled man at the Sheep’s Gate (John 5: 2-9), Marge shares this thought that anyone who’s holding onto old hurts can relate to:

Do you want to be made well? Believe it or not, for a very long time, my answer to that question was no. I was afraid of what it would take to be made well, so I preferred to stay just as I was, ignoring my pain and hiding my past. (Chapter 1)

Healing is hard. It takes work. Jesus isn’t going to wave a magic wand and make everything better. We have to want it, and we have to work for it.

Marge’s experience of healing hinged on developing her relationship with the Blessed Mother, noting that

God decides and provides the means by which you eventually can let go of the past, live in the present, and look to the future with hope and confidence. There are two keys to attaining this: trust in God and love of Mary. … Our Lord Jesus Christ is the ultimate healer; he will mend your wounds and restore you to health and vibrancy. Mother Mary will nurture and protect you. In her tender, loving way, she will accompany you each step of the way. She is, and wants to be in every way possible, truly your mother. … [Mary] is anxious to fill the void that has been left in you. She hears—has heard and will hear—your cries of distress, and she anxiously waits to answer them. (Chapter 9)

Marge’s book is a primer on forgiveness. It’s not easy to forgive, especially those hurts we know we’ll never be able to forget. Quoting St. John of the Cross, she notes in Chapter 3 that “the devil can use our memories to gain influence over our souls.”

Healing our hearts, healing our memories, healing our relationships (when possible) is at the heart of this book and the novena prayers accompanying it. The titles of the novena prayers speak to the essence of this book:
Day 1: Lord, give me the grace to want to heal
Day 2: Mary, let me grow closer to you
Day 3: Mary, help me look back
Day 4: Mary, let me see myself as a child of God
Day 5: Mary, let me see my mother as a child of God
Day 6: Mary, let me be transformed in the Spirit
Day 7: Mary, draw me into your heart
Day 8: Mary, let me grow
Day 9: Mary, let me be healed

Marge’s honesty and courage in sharing the harrowing details of the abuse she suffered from her mother as well as the redeeming power of the relationship she developed with Mary, Mother of God and Mother to us all, will encourage any reader who needs to find healing, forgiveness and hope in a difficult relationship. Forgiving Mother is not easy to read. The prayers are not easy to pray — but God’s mercy, freely given, becomes easier to accept as healing begins.


Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book via Netgalley, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

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Tuesdays with Martha

That’s SAINT Martha, not Martha Stewart.

The ladies at Suscipio have learned that Tuesday is the day traditionally associated with the devotion to St. Martha, patroness of stressed-out homemakers everywhere.

I’ve got a soft spot for her myself. And I think it’s neat that Tuesday is “her” day, because in my house, Tuesday always seems to be that tough day in Homemaking World. (On Monday, everyone is off to work and school and the house is quiet and I quietly putter around here getting all sorts of things done. On Tuesday…well, Tuesday is always another story with its special brand of crazy, especially during soccer season and even more especially when you have failed to plan ahead because you got caught up reading Catholic sci-fi…but I digress. Time to hide the Kindle until after dinner.)

Click on over to Suscipio if you, too, have a soft spot for St. Martha. Pray the novena for your intentions and for those of all the other women who seek strength, encouragement, and support.

image credit

Novena to St. Francis of Assisi

Novena to St. Francis of Assisi

Pray once a day for nine days, beginning on 25 September and ending on 3 October, the eve of the Feast of St. Francis.

Glorious Saint Francis, who voluntarily renounced all the comforts and riches of thy home to follow more perfectly the life of poverty and abnegation of Jesus Christ: Obtain for us, we pray, a generous contempt of all things in this world, that we may secure the true and eternal things of heaven.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever, world without end. Amen.

O glorious Saint Francis, who during the whole course of thy life continually wept over the passion of the Redeemer, and labored most zealously for the salvation of souls: Obtain for us, we pray, the grace of weeping continually over those sins by which we have crucified afresh Our Lord Jesus Christ, that we may attain to be of the number of those who shall eternally bless His supreme mercy.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever, world without end. Amen.

O glorious Saint Francis, who, loving above all things suffering and the Cross, merited to bear in thy body the miraculous stigmata, by which thou became a living image of Jesus Christ crucified: Obtain for us, we pray, the grace to bear in our bodies the mortifications of Christ, that we may merit one day to receive the consolations which are infallibly promised to all those who now weep.

“If we be dead with Christ Jesus, we shall live also with Him,” says the Apostle; “if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.”

Pray for us, Saint Francis, that we may obtain the graces and favors we ask for in this novena; pray for us, especially, that we may obtain the grace of perseverance; of a holy death and a happy eternity.

Pray an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be five times.

Novena to St. Katharine Drexel

Barbara pointed out that it’s time for the Novena to St. Katharine Drexel.

I’ll be joining her in prayer. Will you join us?

Compassionate God, who in your Son Jesus Christ healed the sick, touched the hearts of the troubled and sent disciples to announce good news to the poor, we offer this novena for peace and for the intentions of all those who are praying with us.

Ever Loving God, You called St. Katharine Drexel to teach the message of the Gospel and to bring the life of the Eucharist to Black and Native American peoples.

By her prayers and example, enable us to work for justice among the poor and oppressed.

Draw us all into the Eucharistic community of your Church that we may be one in you. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Our Father , Hail Mary , Glory Be

St. Katharine Drexel is the patroness of my “region” of Secular Franciscans. I will be praying this novena for the intention of continued spiritual growth among the members of our region, and in particular for the members of my own fraternity as we go through some changes in leadership.

Novena Time


It’s time to begin your novena to St. Gianna Beretta Molla.

Saint Gianna is an example to all mothers for the sacrificial love she demonstrated, refusing medical treatment that would have killed her unborn child. On her beatification on Mother’s Day, 1994, Pope John Paul II observed:

“A woman of exceptional love, an outstanding wife and mother, she gave witness in her daily life to the demanding values of the Gospel. By holding up this woman as an exemplar of Christian perfection, we would like to extol all those high-spirited mothers of families who give themselves completely to their family, who suffer in giving birth, who are prepared for every labor and every kind of sacrifice, so that the best they have can be given to others.”

The Novena Prayer can be found here.

This prayer of St. Gianna can be used anytime:

Jesus, I promise You to submit myself to all that You permit to befall me,
make me only know Your will.
My most sweet Jesus, infinitely merciful God, most tender Father of souls,
and in a particular way of the most weak, most miserable, most infirm
which You carry with special tenderness between Your divine arms,
I come to You to ask You, through the love and merits of Your Sacred Heart,
the grace to comprehend and to do always Your holy will,
the grace to confide in You,
the grace to rest securely through time and eternity in Your loving divine arms.

H/T to Suzanne for the reminder!