Marge Fenelon is a Catholic wife, mother, author and journalist. Her latest book “Forgiving Mother: A Marian Novena of Healing and Peace” (Servant) was released on Oct. 27.
What led you to write this book?
Primarily, it was my siblings. They had been encouraging me for years and years to write my story. I didn’t want to put that much of myself out there. Through their encouragement and support, and through my spiritual director who told me I would know when the time was right, I knew the time had come with the closure and peace that came from my mother’s death.
Marge Fenelon talks about her book “Forgiving Mother: A Marian Novena of Healing and Peace.”
The purpose of the book is to glorify our Blessed Mother and to show that she is everyone’s mother, waiting to cure all the wounds in everyone’s hearts.
Who is your audience?
The people who pick it up first will be those who suffer from what I call “the mother wound.” This is the woundedness we experience when we haven’t been raised with genuine maternal love. It may [seem to] lean toward women, but it wasn’t intended that way. You can replace the word “mother” with father, spouse, teacher and anyone else who has wounded you.
The title of your book “Forgiving Mother” has some basis in personal experience. How has our Blessed Mother helped you to forgive your own mother for the abuse you suffered as a child?
Mary was there for me as a mother, helping touch my heart and lead me to other human mother figures in my life. She led me slowly—it was a step-by-step process. If you talked to me 30 years ago, I might feel differently, because I wasn’t this far along on the process. Mary led me very gradually.
You offer a “Marian Novena of Healing and Peace” as a way to heal the wounds we suffer from our mothers. How can nine days of prayer heal lifelong wounds from early childhood?
It’s a two-part book. The first part is memoir, the hard part of looking at the situation, what needs to be done and heal for peace. The second part is this novena.
Mary was there for me as a mother, helping touch my heart and lead me to other human mother figures in my life.
You’re right: It might not take nine days. It might take nine months or nine years. It’s a novena because that’s a strong Catholic tradition. We usually go to a novena when we are really deeply in need. It’s an instrument that can help us in a variety of ways.
Other than prayer, what are some resources which help us to heal these wounds?
Frequent reception of the sacraments, to be sure: We need the Eucharist and confession—reconciliation—in particular.
It could be that professional help is also needed, and there’s no shame in that. There are all kinds of counselors and even psychologists. I don’t want to discount the value of prayer, but prayer can only go so far without outside help from people who professionally handle these issues. They can give us insights to incorporate into our spirituality.
Spiritual direction is also helpful. We need God with skin on—we need a human experience to better be able to grasp the divine.
Who is Mary to you?
Mother, in all possible ways, and that’s been since I was very young. I don’t really know her in any other way. I know her by studying her, but she is a mother, counselor, companion to me. I feel very comfortable talking to her. She doesn’t always talk back the way people sitting across from me do, but she’s always there.
How do you pray, and how has that prayer affected your healing process?
Many ways—sometimes I scream and rant! I try to keep a regular schedule, but I think that’s an especially important part of the healing process and acknowledgement of the woundedness, because it’s very easy for us to slip into a dark place. A spiritual schedule will help tremendously, that you commit yourself to saying certain prayers every day. Eucharistic adoration is good, although I don’t have time to go every day. Sometimes I just sit before an image of the Blessed Mother and soak up her presence and consolation.
How has your Catholic faith changed or evolved over the years?
My trust has deepened. That’s part of growing older and seeing, time and time again, how our Blessed Mother and Lord have come through for me. I’m far more devoted to the sacraments than I was when I was younger. I’m a cradle Catholic, but I’m far more patient with myself and with God today.
You wrote an earlier book about Pope Francis and his devotion to Mary as undoer of knots. If you could say one thing to Pope Francis about the knots of wounds received from our mothers, what would it be?
I would thank him for pointing to that devotion because it’s very lovely. I would like to see more acknowledgement and support, somehow, for people who have been so very wounded by their moms and their dads. Those parental wounds can be so destructive, and that’s why I wrote the book, to let people know the healing process is possible. A lot of people stuff it down. I would ask the Holy Father if there’s some dicastery that could look at this issue, because I really think it’s an epidemic, and there are many more situations like mine.