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8.25.2016

Looking for Mary by Beverly Donofrio

Really surprised by Beverly Donofrio's book Searching for Mary.  After reading Donofrio's memoir Riding in Cars with Boys I'd safely put her into an I-hate-religion-and-Catholicism-in-particular box.  I guess because she's wildly promiscuous and a staunch feminist, it seemed she'd find a religion that teaches chastity and is (perceived to be) sexist viscerally repulsive.  Oh, and her experience of losing her childhood due to motherhood at the age of 17 seemed to have turned her off of God entirely.


And yet she swallowed it!  The whole mouthful!  I could hardly believe it.  In this spiritual memoir, Donofrio Confesses her sins, receives Communion, attends daily Mass, prays rosaries constantly,  and visits Medjugorje, that haven for the most saccharine of all the Marian fanatics.  Almost hilarious, honestly.   To read on the one hand her experiences of working with NPR and the on the other miracles associated with her crying statue of the BVM!


I can hardly put my head around Donofrio.  She seems so upper-crest, having attended Columbia and Wesleyan, hosting dinner parties  on Long Island attended by atheist Jewish doctors--seems so much a part of an "I'm too intelligent and left-leaning to believe in God" mentality.  She seems to be the kind of person, I mean to say, who, if she ever did find herself turning onto Catholicism, would become interested in Teresa of Avila, or Edith Stein, or, even more likely, Jesuits  (that kind of person who loves Jesuits but who otherwise dismisses Catholicism)--snottily erudite, is what I mean to say.

Not the person who she does become; amassing a suitcase full of relics that have been 'blessed' by the BVM in Medjugorje (when the BVM 'appears' to one of the seers, all of the relics of the people standing around are immediately blessed!), fasting on bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays.  It's almost hokey.  But somehow genuine at the same time!

Anyway, yes, this book I found to be a breath of fresh air.  Made me see Catholicism in a new light, to hear about her experience of going to Mass, her impressions of various priests, and the Medjugorje pilgrimage.  Also, it interested me to see that conversion doesn't come in a single instant; for example when she confesses her abortion she admits to the priest that she might, in certain circumstances, have another one, and that she'd never discourage another woman from having one!

It's also bearable to hear Donofrio talk about her life and relation to God and religion.  Written by another woman, I could see this being the kind of memoir that I'd shut with disgust after the third paragraph. (ie some coddled middle-aged stay-at-home-mom who's "spiritual crisis" entailed a remodel to her $500K home going awry, her husband of 26 years getting cancer and then her son totaling their third car--that woman is a dime a dozen, heading over to Medjugorje.  And don't tell me she isn't, because I have met her!)

I guess that Donofrio is different because she genuinely has had a battered life; marrying and having a son at the age of 17 (marrying exclusively because of the son), divorcing because the husband was a junkie, living off of welfare for years, and in dire poverty afterwards, and then in early adulthood enduing a series of worthless abusive men.  I guess that this kind of a woman doesn't make my skin crawl.  Very much the victim of her own repeated poor choices, this memoir seems to be relating her effort to crawl out of this pattern.

In fact, I'm really interested in reading her third book, Astonished: A Story of Healing.




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