Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 24, 2000
A refreshing look at Mary in Canada
Under Mary's Mantle: Our Lady's Love for Canada by Fr. Emile-Marie Briere, Madonna House Publications: Comber-mere, Ont., 2000. 203 pp.
Review by GLEN ARGAN
Part of being Canadian, it would seem, is to engage in a never-ending discussion about what it means to be Canadian. Often this discussion focuses around our political and economic history, sometimes around our geography. Our wrenching debates over the Constitution in recent decades have assumed that we need to be able to put into law what makes us Canadian.
Father Emile-Marie Briere, an Alberta native who has long been a priest of the Madonna House apostolate, doesn't directly confront these questions in his book Under Mary's Mantle. But he certainly broadens our view about what it might mean to be Canadian.
Briere believes that Canada is a country that is religious in origin and which has been, to a notable extent, driven and motivated by love for Mary the Mother of God.
He writes that "The Catholics of France and New France were aflame with the idea that the new country would be Christianized through Mary." He tells of the Marian devotion of the founders of New France such as Samuel de Champlain, Jeanne Mance and St. Marguerite Bourgeoys.
He goes on to briefly tell the stories of 34 Canadian Catholics - several of them founders of religious orders and almost all of them Quebecers - whose strong devotion to Mary spurred on their worthy accomplishments. The stories are fascinating and ought to be better known by Canadian Catholics.
There is, for example, the story of Pauline Landry, who died in 1951 at age 21. The last three years of her brief sickly life were given over to helping a Montreal group publish and distribute a small journal, The Marian Digest.
Her life was unremarkable except for the radiant joy that emanated from her devotion to Mary. After her death, many people who prayed to her for favours have had those prayers answered.
One would not call Pauline Landry the creator of a nation. But without her and people like her, our national life would be much poorer.
At the opposite end of the spectrum were very public figures like Gov. Gen. Georges Vanier and Cardinal Paul-Emile Leger. They too had an intense devotion to Our Lady that lifted their lives above the ordinary and that did have a palpable effect on Canada.
Unfortunately, however, all these stories don't come near to providing much support for Briere's thesis that "Mary has done everything for Canada."
Perhaps this is a quibble because Under Mary's Mantle is a popular work, not an academic study. Its purpose is as much to tell some inspiring stories as to establish a thesis.
On that more modest level, Briere has produced a little book that is a breath of fresh air. It is enjoyable to read, a book that can inspire and focus Catholics as we strive to deepen our own love for the Mother of God, the mother of Canada.