Writing Bible Reflections

From Prayer to Pen: Interview with Mary Ortwein

Published on January 18, 2022

"And so I struggle with it every week. How do I, how can I be Ezra letting people know the beauty and the wonder and the glory of Catholic teaching and do it in such a way that people want to listen and they want to respond..."

Mary Ortwein writes Bible reflections for A Catholic Moment and in this episode we discuss her approach, challenges and history in trying to write about God's message in scripture.

Mary inspires us to continue serving Jesus in different capacities in life and be open to follow the Lord. The following are edited short excerpts and an outline of the conversation from this podcast interview.

[00:00:17] A Catholic Moment is a website that has been posting daily reflections on the scripture readings of the day since 2013. Mary, what made you want to start writing a reflection on a weekly basis for A Catholic Moment back in 2015?

…Carolyn Berghuis who was maybe part of the original team…she and I were students together at St. Meinrad and we were in a theoligical reflection discussion group and one night when I went to reflection group she said, “Mary, would you like to write?” And so, I never done anything like that…but I said sure. And so it started every other week…

[00:01:24] What was your initial feelings when you were asked? What was going through your mind? Were you open to it?

…I decided that I wanted to spend my retirement, whether I was employed or not, working for the church. And so I was kinda looking, “well, how is this going to be?” and so this was an opportunity and at the time it wasn’t what I had in mind at all but I thought well this will be good experience and so I tried it and it actually has turned out to be a significant part of how I work through the church…

[00:01:24] What is your approach as you begin writing a reflection? What is the process and your mindset as you begin writing?

When I started I was trying to write just like I would write anything…a lot of my professional career has been writing curriculum either for schools or for adult education. Not in the religious world at all but in the secular world. And so I started approaching it like that…that was very laborious…then I began to use it, to use my prayer time to do the main work of it and that worked much better…Over time readers have informed me what they seem to like…

[00:07:01] How comfortable were you in opening up to the public about your personal life? And how conscious are you of the readers, most of whom you do not know, as you write your reflections?

Well, that has been a growth. I mean, first of all, A Catholic Moment has really grown. There were like 700 subscribers which I thought was an awfully lot when I started and now there’s like 3 thousand, almost 4 thousand…as a therapist I always learned never tell a client something that you didn’t want on the front page of the newspaper because clients aren’t held to confidentiality like therapists is. So I had lots of experiences of choosing what I want to share. But in general I’m kinda okay with it…

[00:11:15] When were moments that you understood the impact of your writing? When did you start noticing that your writing actually impacted people and how?

…Laura Kazlas was the coordinator of the website when I started…but Laura had to write to me one day and say “you know, you’re getting comments from readers” and I had never even seen the comments…and so it’s been very interesting how readers have impacted me…

[00:15:41] What are the challenges you face that readers may not be aware of?

…the readings this coming Sunday include when Ezra the priest had found the scrolls of the Torah and was now reading to the people who had returned from Babylon and they stood there from six in the morning until noon and listened to it and began to cry at the beauty and the wonder of what God had in mind for them and how they should live their lives.

I really believe to the core of my soul that we the church today are in a very similar situation. That people do not know our faith and in the process of not knowing our faith, we’re very educated otherwise, but we very often have a second grade or eighth grade religious education. It’s easy for the world to overcome it. And if we knew our faith we would relish it. At the same time, there seems to be all these divides…and if we’re not careful we bring the prejudice of where we are into our reading and if it’s too far off from where we are we begin to discount the writer.

And yet there is the need to express the truth of our faith. And so I struggle with it every week. How do I, how can I be Ezra letting people know the beauty and the wonder and the glory of Catholic teaching and do it in such a way that people want to listen and they want to respond…

[00:19:36] I would say writing scripture reflections is a form of evangelization. What advice would you give to others as they are starting out in their ministry of scripture reflections/writing?

My number one advice would be if you’re writing from scripture take the scripture to prayer and see what God does with it for you…

[00:21:07] Because the readings are ordered, there are certain themes and scripture that get repeated, is it a struggle to write on a bible verse that you wrote on before?

…I have yet to have not been able to say something different…The Word of God is the Word of God and it’s always fresh.

[00:23:39] Before we wrap up, I want to ask some short questions that I’m asking all my guests at the end of the interview. The first one is, what is one scripture verse, or part of the bible, that really resonates with you and why?

…the reading of the story of Ezra reading the Torah…it’s my favorite piece in the Old Testament…

[00:25:02] What is one word, or couple of words, that you would like God to use in describing you?

Faithful. Enthusiastic.

Tags: Bible, Reflection, Writing
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