Stocki Novena 5

As a 17 year old I had a Damascus Road conversion. An atheist for about 10 years I realised that not only did God exist but that he loved me. Knowing God existed, creator and sustainer of the Universe, I wanted some of that. Yet, when I said to God, “take my life and do with it what you want,” I never thought I would be speaking at a Clonard Novena… on Mary!!!

Fr Gerry Reynolds has to take much of the blame.

I was brought up to be suspicious of Catholicism and Catholic priests. I saw Fr Gerry one day in Fitzroy, ten years before I became their minister, I walked across the room wondering if I should shake his hand or keep my spiritual distance. When I shook his hand his Christlikeness simply eroded that gap that I had set up.

I am deeply honoured that I and my family got to spend so much time with him.

Many times we debated our differences. He was deeply hurt that he couldn’t offer me communion But Janice and I are Presbyterians who don’t take communion as seriously. We were just so happy to receive his blessing.

About Novenas I used to tell him that I struggled with Mary as the mother of perpetual help. That isn’t how us Presbyterians see her described in the Bible. I told him that  in all these prayers to Mary I change the name to Jesus!

So I wonder if Fr Gerry was walking around heaven and noticed a Suggestions Box and suggested that Stockman would speak about Mary at a Novena! 

Now let me balance this out. I used to stand at Windsor Park, watching Northern Ireland, and hear sectarian songs that said horrible things about Mary.

Whatever way we look at Mary we need to see that she was the mother of Jesus. It was Luke not the Catholic Church that called her “Blessed among women…”

Let’s take a look. For 400 years God had been silent.. Then God interrupted time and space. 

Luke chapter 1 tells us that an angel appears, first to a man named Zechariah, and then to a teenage girl called Mary. 

The angel uses a phrase that repeats itself throughout the Gospels - “Do not be afraid!” Really! Easier said that done! Imagine that you are heading home on the Glider and a big white angel wings and all sits down beside you. “Do not be afraid?!?!?!”

For Mary the appearing of an angel is not the most frightening bit. The angel tells her that she is going to become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and give birth to the son of God; the Messiah! 

I’d be frightened. Mary takes it with a deep spiritual maturity for one so young and heads off to her cousin Elizabeth also miraculously with child. 

I have to say that when I ponder the words of an angel, a pregnant teenager and a supportive cousin, I find myself unsettled on the fault line between earth’s expectations and the strange and mysterious ways of heaven. 

Mary lived the rest of her life being misunderstood. The neighbourhood’s most loved girl became the biggest scandal and disappointment. Pregnancy outside marriage was not the respectable way but, in adding to a million mysteries, that is the way God chose for his son to be born - the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the Saviour of the world.. 

Mary responded to God with a huge life changing “yes”. Maybe we should have that up over City hall at Christmas. “Mary says Yes!”

Mary gave herself back to God. She took the rumour and gossip and carried the defamation of her character; in the name of God and for our salvation. Elizabeth’s words jump out, transcending the human cost to Mary with her heavenly accolade; “Blessed are you among women.”

Our Gospel reading today touches on this but gives us the main thing we should learn from Mary whatever our theology of her. 

Jesus is dealing with demons and he is being accused of being demonic.

Out of the blue someone shouts:

27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”

28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Mary is blessed because she heard God speak to her and obeyed. She believed. She trusted. She committed. She sacrificed. She gave back to God all that God had given her.

Mary’s obedience calls to us all. We can all be blessed as those who hear the word of God and obey it. Maybe after nine days of Novena. Of hearing God’s word and remembering Jesus death. Maybe on the way home on that Glider, without angels, we should ask how the Novenas have changed us.

Like he did Mary, is God asking us to do something transformational for him? It might cost. It might destroy our reputation. It might help in God’s work of salvation. Will we respond like this most remarkable teenage girl? 


Cursed for the life that’s befallen you

Mary, Blessed among women

Cursed for what neighbours are calling you

Mary, Blessed among women

Cursed that no one believes in you

Mary, Blessed among women

Cursed that the holy men grieve for you

Mary, Blessed among women.


Blessed for giving back to God

All that God had given you

Blessed that you no matter what

Did all that he asked you to

Blessed by ending up in doing

What you were born to do

Blessed for giving back to God

All that God had given you


Cursed by what your future serves

Mary, Blessed among women

Cursed for always living on nerves

Mary, Blessed among women

Cursed that you would suffer loss

Mary, Blessed among women

Cursed by the shadow of that cross

Mary, Blessed among women.


Blessed for giving back to God

All that God had given you

Blessed that you no matter what

Did all that he asked you to

Blessed by ending up doing

What you were born to do

Blessed for giving back to God

All that God had given you.



Thank you! You gave such a wonderful and heartfelt talk on Mary! Walking away from the novena I felt it deepened my understanding and strengthened my love for our Blessed Mother Mary. Thank you Reverend Stockman.🙏🏻

David Anketell

Dear Steve
Having read and thought about your address I do not understand perhaps you placing so much emphasis on Mary.

Given that Mary gave birth to the most important person in the history of the world without exception, surely the emphasis should have been placed on the life of Jesus rather than Mary.

In support of this, God having sent the most precious gift he could give by sending his son down to earth, therefore the emphasis should always be placed on Jesus.

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