Friday, August 1, 2014

Mary: A Biblical Walk with the Blessed Mother (Ascension Press)

As a former Protestant, a Southern Baptist to be exact, Mary one was of my biggest hurdles coming into the Catholic Church.  Looking back on it, I feel really stupid having such a hard time accepting her. It's not like she was any less in my Protestant New Testament than in the Catholic New Testament. In fact, the Protestant New Testament has the same number of books as the Catholic New Testament. It is their Old Testament that is lacking sadly, but I digress. Despite my acceptance of Mary as my mother, I unfortunately am not as close to her as I would like to be. The knowledge is there. The prayers are there. But through no fault of hers, the emotional connection and reliance is still lacking. That's why I was very pleased to receive the opportunity to review the latest Ascension Press study program called Mary: A Biblical Walk with the Blessed Mother.

Mary: A Biblical Walk with the Blessed Mother is a 4 disc/8 lesson program led by Dr. Edward Sri. The Catholic Church has a lot of great theologians at the moment. Pope Benedict XVI is par excellence in my mind, but other great ones include Dr. Scott Hahn, Dr. Peter Kreeft, and Dr. Edward Sri. I've only discovered Dr. Sri in the past few years, but he is very approachable in the way he teaches, and I quickly learned that if you want to learn about Mary, he's one of the top sources to go to. This study is based on his 2013 book Walking with Mary. The contents of the 8 lessons are as follows:
  1. Introduction
  2. The Annunciation
  3. The Visitation
  4. The Nativity
  5. The Presentation and The Finding in the Temple
  6. The Wedding at Cana
  7. Mary at the Cross
  8. Mary Crowned with Glory
Each lesson is approximately 30 minutes long and is filmed on site with the exception of her being crowned in glory in Heaven. If that was in this study program, it'd carry a much higher price tag. :) What you do get to see are the place Mary lived before Joseph, the cave where Jesus was born, the place where Jesus was crucified. These aren't grainy videos or videos shot far away behind a chain-link fence. They are high quality, up-close access videos that if you haven't been to the Holy Land (like myself) will take your breath away. They remind me a lot of the Catholicism series in terms of visual beauty, which is the recent gold standard in Catholic DVD study programs. I would argue the material is better, but perhaps I'm biased. The presentation quality also shows how much effort we have made in keeping up with the latest in technology, even in the last 5-10 years, to help with the New Evangelization and spreading the Faith to all corners of the world. You can see the official trailer below.

The material in the DVDs and the Study Binder is top-notch. When you have a brilliant mind, like Dr. Sri, presenting on a topic they are an expert on, you run the risk as a presenter to only reach 1%. By this I mean, you run the risk of alienating 99% of your audience and only the top 1% grasp what you are saying. I had this problem in college with a professor or two. Fortunately, Dr. Sri is not that type of teacher. He is engaging and approachable. He takes you on a journey and shows that he not only has a brilliant mind when it comes to Mary, but a deep devotion to her as well. The binder is very well-organized. The questions in it lends themselves to discussion easily, and it is a perfect complement to the DVD series.

I was highly impressed with this series, and cannot recommend it to you enough. It definitely made me feel closer to the Blessed Mother after completing it, and I hope to continue to grow closer to her still. It also had a grand scale pilgrimage feel to it. Many of us either can't afford to go on one or don't have the time. This was not an exact substitute for one, but it was the next best thing. Looking back at all the topics, it was like walking through the Rosary in some ways, so I have also developed a new appreciation for the Rosary as well. On a scale of 1-10, I give this series an 11, and advise all Bible Study leaders, Pastors, and Directors or Religious Education to purchase this.

This program was provided to me for free by Ascension Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!