Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It's A Shame Protestants Don't Get Mary

By  Pietro Perugino (c. 1446/1450–1523)

John 19:25b-27

25 . . .Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ 27Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Catholics with devotion to the Mother of Jesus, believe fervently that in these most generous words, in the midst of his torment, that Jesus was not merely telling John to take care of Mary because he was dying, but that he was giving Mary to be John's Mother, and our Mother.  That in this action he established her as the Spiritual Mother for all of us that make up his Mystical Body.  Those of us that have experienced her love, her powerful intercession have no doubts whatsoever that this is what he intended, and that any mere literal reading of his words is regretful on the largest scale imaginable.

We know by experience of the love of God expressed through the love of the Mother he gave to us, the rich truth and deep meaning of the following passages:

Luke 1:46-55, 68-75

46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 

Luke 2:33-35

33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34Then Simeon* blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

We know that Mary's soul truly does magnify the Lord.  She is blessed, all generations have called her blessed, not because of a violation of the 1st Commandment to worship none but God, but because God looked with favor on her lowliness, and did these great things for her, and it is part of God's holiness that he did so.  It is part of his mercy to those of us who fear him from all generations that he looked with favor on his handmaid.

Reading scripture alone, we don't know what exactly had all been revealed to Mary about her son, that was also God's beloved Son.  This may have been the first time it was revealed to her in poetic terms the suffering she would bear as part of her vocation.  "A sword will pierce your own soul."  We now know, some helped by the movie the Passion of the Christ, how horrific this soul piercing sorrow was.

There is a promise that comes with that prediction.  "So that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed."  Do you know what this means?  I don't fully.  It is part of the metaphysical realities we will not grasp until we enter in the Glory of Our God after death.  Still, I can't explain it, but I know when I am talking with Mary, without vocalizing or writing my words down that she can hear me.  The thoughts of my heart are revealed to her.  I don't know if this is a gift to her or if it is part of the ongoing relationship between her and the Holy Spirit.  I just know that it is true.  

Some of us have also read the role that Mary played in the lives of our favorite saints, like St. Faustina and St. Therese, who wrote, "Mary, is more mother than queen."  St. Therese knew Mary at the age of 12 as the Mediatrix of all Graces.  She credited her with her healing from a serious childhood illness with a smile from their family statue of Our Lady of Victory.

Part of what drives me to write this post is the sadness I felt when one of the girls I drove to our High School's monthly Witness to Life outside of the Aurora, Illinois Planned Parenthood, made a statement mocking one of the Catholics praying to Mary.

I used to vehemently protest when Protestants, or their school books say that Catholics "pray to Mary".  I would go back to what the priests and nuns told me, "We don't pray to the saints and Mary, we pray with them."  Mary, as Jesus's Mother, is a most powerful intercessor.  He didn't refuse her at the wedding at Cana and he doesn't refuse her now.

John 2:1-9

2On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ 4And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ 5His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ 6Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it.9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine . . . 

Then I started thinking about it, having the benefit of Google that I didn't have as a 2nd grade religion student, I googled pray to Mary and found the criticism stems from praying the words of the Angel Gabriel "Hail Mary, full of grace" 53 times during praying of the rosary, versus 12 prayers addressed to either Our Father, or Glory Be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  

I still prize the simple faith I had as a child and the zeal I defended the rosary along these lines, but I also have to reconcile the truth.

We do pray the rosary.  We do pray the greeting of the Angel Gabriel to Mary at the Annunciation 53 times while praying the rosary.  When we ask Mary to pray for us, isn't that request, reverent and full of confidence a type of prayer?  I think it is.

Still we do not worship Mary.  Mary holds special place of reverence higher than any of the saints or angels and is only second in holiness among humans to Jesus, her Son, who was directly conceived by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.  He is the Son of God.  He is true man, and true God. 

God, inclusive of the three persons of the Holy Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is far above Mary, but Mary is above all of the creation and created spirits and humans.  God created her to be the vessel through whom He became incarnate on his mission to redeem us.  What Protestants do not realize is that in saying those most generous and kind words in the midst of his death agony on the cross, he was also setting up that Mary would be the vessel through whom God's grace would come to us for all time.

One morning when I did not rush off to work, I watched Journey Home on EWTN and saw the testimony of a former Presbyterian who converted to Catholicism at Notre Dame (where I went to school) and also is now serving as a Roman Catholic priest at a parish about 10 miles from my home.  He said many beautiful things about how the Eucharist drew him, but like most Protestants on that show, Mary is usually the final sticking point before their conversion.

He said that what was incongruous with what he was taught about Mary, that she was an idol worshipped in place or alongside of Jesus, a clear violation of the 1st Commandment, was that those he knew with devotion to Mary were the same individuals that he knew to be most strongly and passionately devoted to Christ.  This common sense observation led him to understand the truth that Mary leads us deeper into a saving, and life-giving, transforming relationship with her Son, through the Holy Spirit, to the Glory of God the Father.  She does magnify the Lord to us.  

Personally I have faith in Mary's intercession as strong as my faith that the sun will rise tomorrow in the east, and set in the west, and that Sunday will be the first day of next week, and Saturday the last.  I credit this most loving, most tender, most compassionate, and most efficacious of all mothers with the fact that my husband and I are still married 22 years now, despite what at times has experienced the intense lows, and periods of emotional pain that would no doubt have ended many other marriages that did not have the benefit of recourse to Mother Mary.

Father Corapi said in one of his televised talks that Mary is like EF Hutton.  When she talks the Lord listens.  He said further that she is like the world's best stock broker.  We can take our little intercessory prayers to her with what little merit we might have and she takes them and leverages her great standing with the King so that we gain the help we need because of her.  This is similar to what Scott Hahn teaches about Mary being similar to the "Queen Mothers" of the kings of Israel, whom the Bible records had great influence with the king.

St. Kolbe talked about it being God's will that his awesome presence enter the world and mankind through his vessel, the lowly, beautiful handmaid, Mary, Israelite descendant of King David.  He said it is still his good pleasure that our prayers go through her to him and that his graces pass through her to us.  

This is again metaphysical territory that I am no expert in, and am happy going back to my 2nd grade nun's explanation of "mystery".  I just know I love her, and I know how much she loves me, and all of us . . . having seen the terrible price her son suffered to open the gates of heaven to us, and that she will do everything to aid us . . . in the most important things . . . . following the will of God in our lives so as to follow Christ's command to be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect by pursuing holiness, and in the more temporally important things like the sickness of a child, the brokenness of a marriage, the wayward son or daughter or husband.  She loves us and IS our mother.  We should expect no less and go to her with confidence.

Mary is also our example as we also hear from her son!  She isn't just the example to women, or to virgins, or to mothers like me, she is the example and role model for all of us.

She treasured, and pondered in her heart every word of God that came into her life . . . not just what Simeon said to her above, but also what Jesus, at the age of 12 said to her when she and Joseph found him after three days of searching, in the temple.

Luke 11:27-28

27 While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!’ 28But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!’

Mary heard the word of God and obeyed it.

Luke 1:38
38Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the handmaid of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

I don't know how to say a couple sentences to persuade the girl in the back of my van, the daughter of a Baptist pastor to give Mary a chance.  I should ask for Mary's intercession on that one too.  What a shame she has not been taught how Mary's soul magnifies the Lord for us.  Instead many Protestants emphasize the other part of that passage, when Mary rejoices in God my Savior.  They say that proves she was not sinless because she was in need of a Savior.  If they go the sola scripture route, as illogical and non-scriptural as that is:  

2 Thessalonians 2:15

15So then, brothers and sisters,* stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.

. . . then they cannot believe the dogma that Mary was Immaculately Conceived without the stain of original sin due to the merits of the Son she was designed by God to carry in her womb, and raise as her little boy.  The emphasis on that untruth, hides the beauty of the actual truth, Mary's role is to give us the graces to grow in holiness and in a loving relationship with her Son, Our Redeemer.  He is Our God, and she helps us to rejoice in Him along with her!

When my parish priest prays over me sometimes after giving me absolution, he sometimes prays, "Lord, here is your handmaid."  I don't deserve to have that name handmaid applied to me since it is the name Mary used for herself in response to the angel, but it is very powerful to me when he does.  He reminds me that I am to follow in Mary's path of humility and obedience.  It helps that I also get the message when the penance he gives me involves several Hail Mary's because it is through the grace she releases to me that I manage any trace of humility and express any semblance of love and tenderness toward her Son and to those he suffered and died to save.

God Bless You!  Mary, Our Lady of Victory, pray for us, pray for our children, and for our country!

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorite characterization of Mary: like the moon under her feet, she reflects the Son.