In the Arms of Mary
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In the Arms of Mary Foundation
A Catholic Spotlight Interview
By Lisa M. Hendey
With the release of their latest publication, Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock by S. C. Biela, the In the Arms of Mary Foundation continues their worldwide mission of promoting worldwide spiritual renewal. I recently had the opportunity to interview founding board member Claudia Baedeker about the work of the Foundation.
Q: Please begin by telling our readers about the In the Arms of Mary Foundation and its history to date?
A: In the Arms of Mary Foundation was formed on March 14, 2002, to assist with the publishing of spiritual books and the formation of priests in the spirituality of communion of life with Christ through Mary. The president of the Foundation, Very Reverend Jaroslaw Zaniewski, and the board members had experienced a change in their relationship with Christ when a deep relationship with His Mother was adopted.
The source for this deep relationship with our Blessed Mother was books written by Father Tadeusz Dajczer and S. C. Biela. The content of their books is the result of many years of deep reflections and insights regarding the Christian spiritual life.
After two and half years, the Foundation has published and distributed four books with an additional three books being prepared for print. The Foundation has financially assisted priests wishing to attend Formation Retreats in the summers of 2003 and 2004. It also sponsored formation retreats, one for young adults and one for couples, in August of 2004.
This past October, at the International Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, the Foundation's book, In the Arms of Mary by S. C. Biela, was distributed to over 700 Cardinals, Bishops and Priests.
A national distributor was recently contracted to make the materials more accessible to the general public.
Q: What is the mission of the Foundation?
A: In the Arms of Mary Foundation's mission and goal is to promote the worldwide spiritual renewal offered through the spirituality of communion of life with Christ through Mary. This spiritual renewal follows the universal call to holiness as found in the bible and in the documents of Vatican II, the ecumenical council of the Catholic Church and in Pope John Paul II's call to a new evangelization. The foundation accomplishes this through the publication of spiritual materials and formation of priests and lay persons.
All materials published by our authors receive Nihil Obstat and an Imprimatur by a Bishop in the country where the book is being translated and printed to assure the reader that the content of the materials is officially approved by the Catholic Church.
Q: The In the Arms of Mary Foundation has been responsible for the publication of four books. Could you please briefly describe each of the books?
A: The Gift of Faith is the result of 35 years of spiritual direction by Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer. Most of us live very ordinary lives. Fr. Dajczer helps us to see God's extraordinary loving Presence in the midst of our everyday existence. The author reminds us that the sacraments nourish, strengthen and express faith and it is within this context that Christ awaits our response to His love.
God Alone Suffice, by S.C. Biela, is a practical guide to spiritual life. Written like a self-help book, the author explains various ways that an individual can grow in his or her interior life by letting go of the illusions of this world, replacing them with total reliance on God. Biela guides his reader on a path towards complete surrender of self to the God of love.
In the Arms of Mary, also by Biela, is a beautiful reflection on Christian spiritual life. The author explains the various stages of one's interior life and offers a pathway to deepening one's prayer, contrition and gratitude. Step by step, Biela shows the many ways in which God is in love with each of us and awaits our response. In the section entitled Behold, Your Mother, we are given practical ways to imitate Christ's Mother and to discover that in reality she is our spiritual Mother as well.
Biela's most recent work, Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock, just published this January, 2005, teaches us to discover the constant loving and merciful Presence of God. We learn that God never leaves His beloved children alone; that He is always knocking at the door of our hearts, waiting for us to open ourselves to Him. We discover the different ways God knocks, why we hesitate to open the door of our hearts, and what treasure lies ready for us when we finally open the door to our Creator.
Q: God Alone Suffices, Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock, and In the Arms of Mary were written by S. C. Biela. For those unfamiliar with Mr. Biela, could you please describe his spirituality and background?
A: S. C. Biela lives the words our Blessed Mother said to St. Juan Diego, "My smallest child...is it not I your Mother who am here? Are you not protected under my shadow? Am I not the source of all your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, enfolded in my arms? Do you need anything else?" Living in communion of life with Christ through Mary, Mr. Biela imitates Jesus as a baby in the arms of His Mother.
Slawomir Biela was born in Poland in 1956. He studied at the Warsaw University of Technology, where he earned his doctorate in physics. He also studied at the Papal Faculty of Theology in Warsaw, with emphasis on the Theology of Spirituality.
Since 1977, Slawomir Biela has been working in conjunction with the Rev. Tadeusz Dajczer, a Professor of Theology, who is also the founder of the Families of Nazareth Movement. Together, through countless and laborious efforts, they laid the foundation for the spirituality of this worldwide movement.
Consequently, since 1986 Mr. Biela has been a member of the team responsible for editing various publications pertaining to the spiritual formation of the members of the Movement. Because of their timely issues, these publications have been translated into fourteen languages.
Q: What can Catholic parents do in their own homes to foster the work of spiritual renewal in the world?
A: Catholic families are the foundation for the work of spiritual renewal in the world. Each parent that chooses holiness witnesses to his/her children that God's love and mercy are the only source of happiness. We cannot pass on to our children what we ourselves do not whole heartily embrace. We cannot show the world love and mercy if we are not filled with the Spirit of love and mercy ourselves.
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Parents that help their children to have a deep, loving relationship with Jesus Christ enable their children to be rooted in peace and trust. This fosters the work of spiritual renewal in the world because the world longs for this peace that is beyond human understanding.
Q: I have read that your aim is to assist "each individual's conversion to follow Christ through Mary." What role should the Blessed Mother play for those looking towards a deeper relationship with God?
A: On the Cross, Christ said to His mother Mary and to St. John the Evangelist: "Woman, behold, your son...Behold, your mother" (Jn 19:26-27). Mary is our spiritual Mother, too. This is her special role in our lives. If we have the grace to choose the way of communion with Christ through His mother, we can share all of our experiences with her.
A child imitates its mother consciously or unconsciously. From In the Arms of Mary:
This is precisely what must happen in the case of a child of God. A child, in entrusting itself filially to its spiritual Mother, begins to share with her its whole life, forming a communion of persons. A child has its eyes fixed intently on her, and without even knowing when, tries to imitate her fully: in her way of looking at the world, in her way of thinking, in her values, in her prayer and in her life. By imitating Mary, we unite ourselves with Christ and it is no longer ourselves who live but Him who lives in us (page 163).
Q: What are the future goals of the Foundation? How can Catholic families support your work?
A: The Foundation was established to promote the spirituality of communion of life with Christ through Mary, not only in the United States but around the world. The Foundation will continue to provide formation for priests and translations of our materials in different countries.
Recently we have started putting together Reflection Series that contain sections from our books along with Catechism and Scripture references. These reflections can be used in home faith-sharing groups, parish-based prayer groups, or any group of people who want to come together to help each other grow in holiness. Our 6-week series, from the book God Alone Suffices, has been used in parishes across the United States during Lent. Our recent 4-week series, entitled Awaiting Pure Love, uses passages from The Gift of Faith. It was used in parish and home faith-sharing groups during this past Advent.
These reflections can be used any time of the year. We hope to have reflections for each of the books we publish and make them easily accessible. If someone would like a copy of our reflection series they can contact us through our website or write us directly at the address below.
Catholic families are encouraged to visit the Foundation's website at www.inthearmsofmary.org and register to receive the daily quote from one of the Foundation's books. Families are encouraged to use the Foundation's materials, which can be purchased through the website or at local bookstores, for spiritual reading and meditation, so that their hearts may be open to Christ and His will for them. The Foundation's work is funded entirely through donations. Families or individuals wishing to help may send contributions to: In the Arms of Mary Foundation, P.O. Box 271987, Fort Collins, CO 80527-1987, or see the website for more information.
Q: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to share with our readers?
A: From In the Arms of Mary:
In knowing the love of Mary, you will know very well that God loves you - because it is He who shows you His love through her. God communicated His love to us through the intercession of Mary. In discovering this unfathomable love you will want to respond to Him, and then you can reach full union with Christ.
This is the greatest grace which you can be bestowed with here on earth (page 179).
For more information visit the Foundation's website at www.inthearmsofmary.org
Lisa M. Hendey is a mother of two sons, webmaster of numerous web sites, including www.catholicmom.com and www.christiancoloring.com, and an avid reader of Catholic literature. Visit her at www.lisahendey.com for more information.
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