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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

Mary – a paradigm for the contributions of older women

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

Part of the Despenser Reredos. circa 1380, Norwich Cathedral

Did you hear the bishop of Manchester, Rt Revd Dr David Walker, musing on the example of Mary yesterday on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day?

Speaking on 15 August’s Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he focused on ‘the legacy of that long devaluing’ of the lives of older women.

If you missed it, the short talk is well worth listening to again at BBC Sounds. David Walker, a BRF author, spoke of how ‘traditional artwork tends to depict Mary near the beginning of her story’ as the mother of Jesus.

He emphasised her ‘joyful acceptance’ of her role and yet how it is the more middle-aged Mary who fascinates him more; in her later post-childbearing years… the more mature, white-haired, wrinkled Mary embracing a life that continues to hold meaning and purpose even beyond the death of her son.

David Walker explained that the Britain he’d grown up in – whether it was airline cabin crew to TV news presenters – ‘tended to move women away from visible roles at an age far earlier than their male counterparts.’

He conceded that while ‘some of the cultural pressures which airbrushed older women out of the picture may have lessened, the legacy of that long devaluing lives on.’

The older Mary, he said, ‘offering the widsom she’s gleaned over the decades and living the values she first instilled, and then observed, in her son’ is what he is focusing on in this season of the Church's calendar.

David Walker concluded his Thought for the Day by paying ‘tribute to the contributions of older women and even’, he added, ‘of us older men.’

Anna Chaplaincy (writes Debbie Thrower) relies heavily on the accumulated wisdom and efforts of so many predominantly (though by no means exclusively) older volunteers; the majority of whom are women. Though, increasingly, more men are discerning a vocation to this ministry as well.

It is so rewarding to see so many people – often having retired from, for example, teaching, the health service and other caring professions – rediscovering meaning and purpose at this more mature stage of their own lives.

Contemporary statue of Mary, Bauchon Chapel, Norwich Cathedral




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