Mary is the most important woman in world religion, a cult figure in the Catholic Church who relates to the big questions in our lives - sex, politics and religion. She is a symbol of maternity, hope, faith, superstition, feminism and beauty. She arouses both fervent devotion and deep scepticism.
Presenter Rosie Goldsmith, who has a life-long fascination with the Virgin Mary, asks why she is so important in today's world and whether this Modern Mary is a force for good or bad. She explores the origins of Mary and asks how this one woman can be not only a model of submissive womanhood but also a feminist icon and a Jungian female archetype.
She talks with Richard Dawkins, Ann Widdecombe, Marina Warner author of Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary and Miri Rubin author of Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary about why they believe in or reject Mary. She visits the shrine of Our Lady in Walsingham and meets a group of children who tell us simply that she's the most beautiful woman in the world.
Update: The first programme has three cameo appearances from Miri Rubin (focusing on the 12th and 13th Century wherein Mary is re-invented in western Christianity) and goes to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, "alive and buzzing with pilgrims." Ann Widdecombe opines that Mary has a role for women today in her unexpected pregnancy and uncomfortable place of birth. Mary the woman also watches her son die. Marina Warner, the author of a thirty year old book on Mary published in 1976, is interviewed. The myth of Mary has not disappeared. Miri Rubin proposes that interest in women in the 21st C is connected with the sustained interest in Mary.
Other programmes for the rest of the week include:
- 8 Jun 2010 15:45–16:00 BBC Radio 4 (FM only) Mary in Religion A pregnant Muslim student at Oxford enthuses about Mary's mother role.
- 9 Jun 2010 15:45–16:00 Mary in Politics Rosie asks whether modern Mary is a progressive or reactionary figure in society.
- 10 Jun 2010 15:45–16:00 Mary in Art Rosie Goldsmith investigates the power of Mary as a subject of art.