Part 1 Introduction

Chapter m12 Introduction:
Course Method and Assignments

General Introduction to All of the Courses I Teach

Overview of the Course

Focus Feasts of Mary 

Rational for this Course on Mary in the Liturgy

Notes on the Reading Assignments

Notes on the Writing Assignments in General

I would suggest that you first read the pertinent parts of my website at Chapter 11 General Introduction to All of the Courses I Teach

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Overview of the Course

Metaphor:  Building a High-Rise Apartment Building

Picture an apartment building with luxury condominiums on the top floors.  We want to live on these floors with a beautiful view out of the windows.  The middle floors are various shops, offices, parking garage, and utilities.  And the whole building sits on a solid foundation -- which lies unseen, deep in the ground.

The top floors, in this metaphor, are what we want to achieve in this course -- a "beautiful view" of the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church.  To this end, we will study the principal feasts of Mary in the liturgical calendar; examine their history and theology; study the liturgical and the scriptural texts which are proclaimed on these days, and work to come to a point where we can 1) fruitfully celebrate these feasts ourselves (spirituality), 2) explain them to others (catechetics) and 3) preach effectively on these occasions (homiletics). 

The principal feasts which we will study include Mary's conception, her birth, her visitation to Elizabeth,  her maternity, and her assumption into heaven. 

We will also examine the feasts of our Lord in which Mary plays an important role:  his conception, his birth, his presentation in the temple.

Of special interest are the days which celebrate appearances of Mary, especially the appearances at Guadalupe, Lourdes, and Fatima.

The faithful also honor Mary with special titles:  Sorrowful Mother, Queen, Our Lady of the Rosary, etc.

The middle floors, in this metaphor, (the various shops and offices) are the disciplines on which the "top floors" rest.  Without them, we would not have the spectacular view from the upper floors.  Some of them might be of more interest to us than others, but all of them are important in their own way. For example:

Liturgy:  We cannot understand the feasts of Mary without some understanding the liturgy in general.  The nature of the liturgy; lex orandi; anamnesis; mysterion (plan / mystery / sacrament); event feasts and idea feasts; the liturgical seasons, e.g. Advent; etc.  The liturgical texts for the specific days are of special importance: the antiphons, Collect, Prayer over the Offerings, Preface, Prayer after Communion.  The texts for the Liturgy of the Hours are also relevant.   

Scripture Studies:  We cannot understand a feast -- and certainly not give a homily on the feast -- without understanding the scripture readings assigned in the Lectionary.  And this requires a certain, basic, study and understanding of the Bible.

History:  To understand these celebrations we need to know some history; first of all, the history of the life and times of Mary herself; second, the history of the role of Mary in Christianity; and third, the history of the individual feasts and celebrations.

Theology:  We cannot celebrate these feasts correctly without a sound understanding of the theological truths which they express.  This demands a sound Mariology.  And as Mary cannot be understood apart from her Son, a sound Christology. 

Homiletics:  In order to preach well on these days, a solid foundation in homiletics is also required.  [However, we will not directly focus on homiletics during this course.]

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The foundation, in this metaphor, represents the totality of your (often sub-conscious) attitudes, understandings, experiences, pieties, which are "presupposed" in this course.

Like the foundation of a building:  1) the building might fall if the foundation is not sound; and 2) most of the foundation lies below ground, unseen.  However, unlike the case of an actual building, here these "foundational issues" are larger than the building itself.  Just as is the case with an iceberg, the part which lies unseen, below the surface of the water, is the major part of the iceberg; what we see is (literally) the "tip of the iceberg."

As these issues are "unseen" it is difficult (impossible?) to name them.  But from past experience teaching this course, I suspect that we might be watchful for the role certain issues play in our "building" of the course.

Gender:  What does it mean to be male? female? human?  Is Jesus the ideal male?  Is Mary the ideal female?  Is God male?  Is Mary the feminine face of God?  Is Mary a model for women only?  How can a female be a model for males?  Is the Church masculine or feminine or both or neither?  Are books written by women different from books written by men?  How do [did] you relate to your biological mother?  How do you relate to women in general? 

Theology:  What is your image of God?  Why did God Create?  Is creation fallen?  Why did Jesus suffer on the cross?  Is Jesus really God?  Is Jesus really human?  Is Jesus the mediator between God and the human race?  Is Mary the mediator (i.e. mediatrix)?  Do all graces come through Mary? What is Grace?   Are the liturgical movement, the ecumenical movement, and the Christological movement in opposition to Mariology?

Scripture:  Is the New Testament historically accurate?  What do we really know about Mary of Nazareth?  Did Mary compose the Magnificate?  What about Adam and Eve?  Is Genesis 1 & 2 about Original Sin?  What does it mean to be conceived without Original Sin?  Did Mary suffer the results of original sin i.e. concupiscence?  Death?  Can Mary weep (be sad) in heaven?   Did Mary have other children besides Jesus, her firstborn?  Was Joseph the father of Jesus? 

Philosophy / Psychology:  Can history be objective?  What is truth?  Are books about women written by men different from books about women written by women? 

Ecclesiology:  What is the Church?  Are we Church?  Is Mary Church?  Is Mary Mother of the Church?  Is Mary a disciple?  Is Mary your mother? Is Mary your sister?  Is advent the "season of Mary"?  What is the role of authority in the Church? the role of ministry?  Is Mary a priest?  Is Christ a priest?  Is a priest Christ?  Can the pope be wrong?   What is the relationship between theologians and the magisterium? 

Piety:  Is there a crisis in Marian devotion?  Did the Second Vatican Council discourage devotion to Mary?  What happened to devotion to Mary in the United States?  Are traditional devotions out of touch with the signs of the times? 

This course does not set out to answer, or even to ask, any of these questions.  This is not what the course is about.  However, it is important to know, realize, and to take account of the fact that in your subconscious you have already asked these questions AND HAVE ALREADY ANSWERED THEM.  And these "answers" are the foundation upon which you will build the course. 

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Writing: There are 10 written assignments, each comprising 1/10 of the grade. I have selected the assignments with a view to "helping you think critically" about the topic of the course and with a view toward practical use in your future preaching and teaching.  In general, the assignments are to be about 500 words in length (would fill one side of one page, single spaced).

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Focus Feasts of Mary  

For this presentation of the seminar (Spring 2012) I thought it might be interesting and helpful for each of the 9 participants to focus on one of the Marian celebrations in the calendar.   The principal celebrations are: 


1.  January 1 Octave Day of the Nativity -- Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God  --  John Honiotes
2.  August 15 The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary -- Peter Bucalo
3.  December 8 The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary -- Br. Thomas Faessler, O.S.B.
4.  March 25 The Annunciation of the Lord (Feast of Our Lord) -- David Curtin


5.  December 12 The Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe (Feast in the USA)  -- Jamie Dennis
6.  February 2 Feast of the Presentation of the Lord -- Kyle Rodden
7.  May 31 The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary -- Todd Nance


8.  September 15 The Blessed Virgin Mary of Sorrows -- William Burmester
9.  October 7 The Blessed Virgin Mary of the Rosary -- Fr. Hai Nguyen

During our first class meeting (Thursday February 2, 2012) there will be a chance drawing and students will select which feast they will research for assignments 1, 2, 8, and 10.  The results of this research can then be posted on this website for the pastoral assistance in the future.  -- Consequently, in is especially important to cite sources accurately -- the web is a public document. 

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Rational for this Course
"Mary in the Liturgy"

There are several reason why I am eager accompany you as together we explore Mary in the Liturgy:

1)  Mary and the Liturgical year  Each time that I teach the "Liturgical Year Course" there is not enough time to adequately treat the Marian feasts in the new Roman Calendar.  This course gives us an opportunity to focus on this aspect of the Liturgical Year.

2)  What happened to devotions?  Frequently these days I read and hear that "the Second Vatican Council discouraged devotion to the Blessed Mother."  This is far from the truth.  I studied the Liturgical Year and the Roman Calendar and Lectionary under Msgr. Pierre Jounel at the Institut Catholique in Paris.  Jounel served the Church in the re-invigoration of liturgical prayer from the time of Pius XII (e.g. the reform of Holy Week in 1950-1955) until his death in 2004.  Jounel was one of the principal authors of the Calendar and the Lectionary.  His love for Mary and devotion to Mary is a matter of record.  To imply that Jounel (and his colleagues) set out to deliberately discourage devotion to the Blessed Mother in the current Calendar, Missal,  Lectionary, and Liturgy of the Hours is simply not substantiated by the facts -- and it is these facts that we will explore in this seminar.  We will study carefully the way in which the official prayer of the Church honors the Mother of Jesus.

3)  Authentic devotion   Unless you have been living in a cave or under a rock, you are aware that there is a wide range of practices honoring Mary.   Is Mary Theotokos or Christotokos?  Is Mary a member of the Church or the mother of the Church?  Is Mary Christ's mother or Christ's disciple.  [In my experience the emphasis has always been placed on the role of Mary as Christ's mother, the mother of Jesus, the mother of God -- Saint Augustine, on the other hand (see Johnson, p 119) argues that it is "an altogether greater blessing to have been Christ's disciple than to have been Christ's mother."]  What criteria can we use for judging the value, usefulness, and authenticity of these practices?  In this seminar we will explore these criteria both by way of the liturgy itself (Lex orandi) and by way of magisterial statements. 

4)  The Iceberg Metaphor   Many former students have found the iceberg metaphor helpful in understanding the "feelings" that sometimes arise during the study of theology.  Applying the iceberg metaphor to this course, the top of the iceberg refers to those things we know about Mary -- Mary in the Christian Scriptures, the historical facts of her life, magisterial teachings regarding Mary, etc.  The bottom of the iceberg embraces our devotion, feelings, attitudes, experience, and a multitude of other "unconscious" and "un-examined" data.  Under the iceberg are our attitudes toward women in general, our understanding of sexuality and gender, our attitudes toward gender specific roles in society, our feelings toward marriage, sex, virginity, celibacy, etc.    Close your eyes and "picture" Mary.  What does she look like?  Describe this picture.  [Repeat this exercise at the conclusion of the course.]   --  One thing that I have discovered is that about 80% of what I thought I "knew" (facts / top of the iceberg) about Mary is based on devotional piety (under the iceberg) rather than historical fact.   Try this experiment:  if your only source of information was the Bible, what would you know of Mary's life? 

3)  Cultural context   Does a fish know that it's wet?  We often are not aware that we live in a cultural context which influences and shapes our faith and devotional practices.  As this context changes, so do our devotional practices.  This seminar will attempt to see how this context has changed and why our devotional practices might be different from those of our grandparents.  In the background lurks the differences between the generations in general and the generational attitudes toward religion in general and organized religion ("Church" and "going to church").   It is important for the" I-Gen" generation that our religious explanations match their actual experience. 

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4)  Parable of the Jacob the Tailor   (Note:  I have heard this parable in many different versions and contexts; the following is adapted from the telling by Dr. Scott Alexander, summer CTU 2006.) 

Once upon a time there was a tailor in Krakow, named Jacob.  Jacob was a poor man; his wife was ill; and he had three daughters.  He worked his fingers to the bone, sewing, making dresses and suits for the rich people in Krakow.  Each night however, he had a haunting re-occurring dream.  In the dream he saw a castle in Prague that contained a wonderful treasure. 

After he had the dream for 30 nights Jacob went to his wife and told her about the dream.  His wife said that indeed it must be a sign from God and that he should go to Prague.  So, Jacob packed up a few things for the journey and went to Prague.  There he found the castle that he had seen in the dream -- but, alas, it was in the Christian quarter and he was but a filthy Jew.  How could he dare go into the Christian quarter!  But knew he must enter this castle he had seen in his dream in order to find the treasure.  And so, in the dead of night, he entered into the Christian quarter, found the castle, ... but, alas, he was intercepted and arrested by the guards who drug him off to jail. 

When Jacob was brought before the head jailer, he knelt down before the him and begged for mercy. Jacob explained that for 30 nights he had been having this dream ...  and he described the dream to the Christian jailer.  In amazement the jailer replied:  "I too have had a dream."  The jailer explained that he too had a dream for the past 30 nights.  In the dream he was told to go to Krakow and find the house of a tailor named Jacob.  There he was to go into the kitchen, move the stove and under the stove he would find an immense treasure.  But the jailor said, "How could I do this?  How is it possible?  There must be five dozen tailors in Krakow named Jacob.  How would I find the right house?  It is a silly dream."  And then he said to Jacob:  "Go on your way and forget these silly dreams.  Go back home; kiss your wife; greet your daughters." 

So Jacob returned to  Krakow and went back to his house.  He kissed his wife and his daughters and then he ran into the kitchen.  With the help of his daughters he picked up the stove and moved it aside.  And there under the stove was a flat stone, and under the stone, he found an immense treasure ... and Jacob and his family lived happily ever after. 

What is the meaning of this story?  The rabbis explain the story in this way: the treasure was in Krakow, but the knowledge of it was in Prague.  You have to go outside of yourself to understand who you are. 

For example:  This course is about the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Yet, each time I teach the course I find that I am learning new things about the role of Christ as mediator; the feminine face of God; the role of gender differentiation; patriarchy, etc.  The iceberg metaphor can be helpful here.  While our study of "Mary" takes place "above the waterline" we might find things shifting in that mass of experiences, presuppositions, fears and desires that lies hidden below the surface.  (This "shifting" can make great material for your concluding essay!)   

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Notes on the Reading Assignments

One:  In order to understand "Mary in the Liturgy" we will begin this course with a quick, "condensed version" of 12:615 The Liturgical Year  The two basic documents for this course are the Calendar and the Lectionary.

Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy.  Norms Governing Liturgical Calendars.  The Liturgy Documentary Series, Number 6.  Washington DC: Office of Publishing and Promotion Services, USCCB, 1984. Publication number 928-9.  $6.95 paper.  The first half of the text is available online at   For the corrigenda to the Calendarium Romanum, see Notitiae 47 (1969) p. 303.

This document contains the current legislation and rational for the arrangement of the liturgical year.  Anyone planning or preparing liturgical celebrations should be familiar with this document.

Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy.  The Lectionary for Mass, Second Typical Edition. Introduction. The Liturgy Documentary Series Number 1.  Washington DC: Office of Publishing and Promotion Services, USCCB.  Publication number 5-245. ISBN 1-57455-245-7.  $6.95 paper.  The entire text is available online at

This document contains the current legislation and rational for the arrangement of the lectionary.  Anyone planning or preparing liturgical celebrations should be familiar with this document.

Two:  In order to understand "Mary in the Liturgy" we will need to know something about Mary herself.  To this end we will read together

Elizabeth A. Johnson.  Truly Our Sister:  A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints.  The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc. 2003.  ISBN 0-8264-1473-7

"Karl Rahner noted that the image of Mary in the church has always been closely tied to the image of women at any given time.  ...  'Mariology today and in the future still has a great deal to do if it wants to have an image of Mary that will really be true for the religious existence of woman as such.  It is an image that can perhaps be produced authentically today only by women, by women theologians."  (Quoted in Johnson, p. 17) 

Three:  Johnson distinguishes between 1) popular devotion, 2) reflective theology, and 3) official doctrine.  (Johnson, p 114).   To examine critically devotion to Mary we will read together

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Benedict and Adrian Walker, Mary: The Church at the Source Ignatius Press, 2005. ISBN-13: 978-1586170189

James O'Toole (editor). Habits of Devotion: Catholic Religious Practice in Twentieth-Century America (Cushwa Center) ISBN 0801442567. Chapter 1 Joseph P. Chinnici, O.F.M. "The Catholic Community at Prayer, 1926-1976" pp 1-88; and Chapter 2, Paula M. Kane, "Marian Devotion Since 1940: Continuity or Casualty?", pp 89-130.

Four:  And in order to review the "official doctrine" we will study the texts of the Second Vatican Council concerning Mary and we will study

Pope Paul VI,  Marialis Cultus, Apostolic Exhortation for the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. (February 2, 1974)  Text available in English on the Vatican web site.

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I would also recommend:

Foley, Leonard O.F.M. (Editor) Saint of the Day:  Lives and Lesson for Saints and Feasts of the New Missal.  Saint Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati OH.  ISBN 0-86716-134-5

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary:  Sacramentary.  The Liturgical Press.  Collegeville, Minnesota.  ISBN 0-8146-2051-5

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary:  Lectionary.  The Liturgical Press.  Collegeville, Minnesota.  ISBN 0-8146-2052-3

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline for the Sacraments. The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy: Principles and Guidelines, December, 2001.  Text available in English on the Vatican web site.   Available in book form from Pauline Books & Media (2003).  Paperback.   ISBN   0-8198-1881-X   $9.95

Peter Phan (editor).  Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy:  Principles and Guidelines,  A Commentary.  Collegeville:  Liturgical Press, 2005.  ISBN  0-8146-2893-1

Adrian Nocent.  The Liturgical Year. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1977. ISBN:  0-8146-0963-5. 4 volumes. Paper. $35.00. [Saint Meinrad Library: BV 30 N6213 1977 -- two copies in library.] [Before the Johnson anthology was published, I used this series as a text.  I believe that it still remains an excellent reference book which would be useful in anyone's liturgical library.  Again, it is especially important because it is written by one of the principle author's of the reformed liturgy.]

James O'Toole (editor).  Habits of Devotion: Catholic Religious Practice in Twentieth-Century America (Cushwa Center) ISBN 0801442567.  Chapter 1 Joseph P. Chinnici, O.F.M. "The Catholic Community at Prayer, 1926-1976", pp 1-88; and Chapter 2, Paula M. Kane, "Marian Devotion Since 1940:  Continuity or Casualty?" pp 89-130.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Catechism, "Born of the Virgin Mary" numbers 487-507

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Notes on the Writing Assignments in General

1.  The grade for written assignments is based on both content and style. Typing, grammar, spelling, sentence structure, readability, etc. are a part of the grade. A standard, accepted typing style [e.g. The Holt Guide to Documentation and Writing in the Disciplines by Kirszner and Mandell] is expected.

2.  When quoting someone give the source of the quote and indicate by quotation marks where the quotation begins and ends. The "Statement on Plagiarism" in the Student Handbook is to be followed.

Saint Meinrad School of Theology is committed to creating an intellectual environment in which both faculty and students participate in the free and honorable pursuit of knowledge.  Therefore, all work submitted by students is presumed to be their own.  Any violation of academic integrity - cheating, plagiarism, or collusion - is considered a serious offense.

The penalty for cheating, plagiarism, or collusion will be an "F" for the test, paper, or assignment involved.  Multiple infractions may result in dismissal from the school.  Infractions are reported to the academic dean.  Students are responsible for familiarizing themselves with the section, "Avoiding Plagiarism," in the Holt Handbook. - Taken from Student Handbook, rule of Life, Intellectual Formation pg. 6.

3.  The "Statement on Non-discriminatory Language" in the Student Handbook is to be followed.

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 02/16/12 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at