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The Roman Catholic Church

The Virgin Mary and the Saints

Why do Catholics worship Mary as though she were a goddess, when it is clear in Scripture that she was not a supernatural being?

Catholics DO NOT worship Mary, the Mother of Christ--as though She were a deity. Of all the misconceptions about Catholic belief and practice, this one is the most absurd. Catholics are just as aware as Protestants that Mary was a human creature, and therefore not entitled to the honors which are reserved to God alone. What many non-Catholics mistake for adoration is a very profound love and veneration, nothing more. Mary is not adored, first because God forbids it, and secondly because the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, which is based on Divine Law, forbids it. Canon Law 1255 of the 1918 Codex strictly forbids adoration of anyone other than the Holy Trinity. However, Catholics do feel that Mary is entitled to a great of exaltation because, in choosing Her as the Mother of Redemption, God Himself exalted Her--exalted Her more than any other human person before or since. Catholics heap tribute and honor on Mary because they earnestly desire to be "followers of God, as most dear children." (Eph. 5:1). Mary Herself prophesied: "For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Because He that is mighty has done great things for me; and holy is His name." (Luke 1:48-49). Catholics know that every bit of the glory they give to Mary redounds to the glory of her divine Son, just as Mary magnified God, not herself, when Elizabeth blessed Her. (Luke 1:41-55). They know that the closer they draw to Her, the closer they draw to Him who was born of Her. In the year 434 St. Vincent of Lerins defended Christian devotion to Mary this way: "Therefore, may God forbid that anyone should attempt to defraud Holy Mary of Her privilege of divine grace and Her special glory. For by a unique favor of out Lord and God She is confessed to be the most true and most blessed Mother of God." Today 75% of all Christians still hold to the same view.

Why do Catholics pray to Mary and the saints when Sacred Scripture states that there is one Mediator between God and man--Christ Jesus? (1 Tim. 2:5).

When Catholics pray to Mary and the other saints in Heaven they are not bypassing Christ, whom they acknowledge as the sole Mediator between God and man. They are going to Christ through Mary and the other saints. They are asking Mary and other saints to intercede for them before the throne of Christ in Heaven. "For the continual prayer of a just man availeth much." (James 5:16). How much more availing is the unceasing prayer of the sinless Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ! St. Paul asked his fellow Christians to intercede for him: "Brethren pray for us." (2 Thess. 3:1). And again: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the charity of the Holy Ghost, that you help me in your prayers for me to God..." (Rom. 15:30). Christ must particularly approve of our going to Him through Mary, His Blessed Mother, because he chose to come to us through her. And at Cana, He performed His first miracle after a word from His Mother. (John 2:2-11).

It is clear in Sacred Scripture that the saints in Heaven will intercede for us before the throne of Christ if they are petitioned in prayer (Apoc. or Rev. 8:3-4), and it is clear in the records of primitive Christianity that the first Christians eagerly sought their intercession. Wrote St. John Chrysostom in the fourth century: "When thou perceivest that God is chastening thee, fly not to His enemies, but to His friends, the martyrs, the saints, and those who are pleasing to Him, and who have great power." If the saints have such power with God, how much more His own Mother.

Is there any evidence in Scripture that Mary was indeed never actually subject to original sin?

Yes. In Gen 3:15, God said to Satan, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman...thou shalt lie in wait for her heel." The radical enmity between Satan and that second Eve, the Mother of Christ, forbids her having been under thedominion of Satan, as she would have been had she ever contracted original sin in actual fact. In Luke 1:28, we read how the Angel was sent by God to salute Mary with these words, "Hail, full of grace." Grace excludes sin, and had there been any sin at all in Mary she could not have been declared filled with grace. The Protestant version translates the phrase as "thou hast been highly favored." But the Greek certainly implies "completely filled with holiness." However, complaints that our doctrine exempts Mary from the contracting of original sin are becoming more and more rare in a world which is tending to deny sin altogether, and which wishes to exempt everybody from it.

Why call Mary a virgin? Seeing that she was a mother, the linking of the two terms is an insult to reason.

The assertion that an omnipotent God is limited by the natural laws, which He Himself established, is an insult to reason. Jesus, the child of Mary, was conceived miraculously without the intervention of any human father, and was born miraculously, Mary's virginity being preserved throughout. I do not claim that any natural laws were responsible for this event. I claim that God was responsible, and the only way you can show that the doctrine is not reasonable is by proving that there is no God, or that He could not do what Catholic doctrine asserts.

Where does it say in Scripture that Mary was ever a virgin?

Isaiah the prophet (7:14) certainly predicted a supernatural and extraordinary birth of the Messiah when he wrote, "The Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son; and his name shall be called Emmanuel." St. Luke says, "The angel Gabriel was sent from God...to a virgin...and the virgin's name was Mary." When Mary was offered the dignity of becoming the mother of the Messiah, a privilege to which any Jewish maiden would ordinarily look forward with eager desire, She urged against the prospect the fact that She had no intention of motherhood. "How shall this be done, because I know not man." She does not refer to the past, but by using the present tense indicates her present and persevering intention. The angel assured Her that Her child would be due to the miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit, and that She would not be asked to forfeit the virginity She prized so highly, and then only did She consent.(Luke 1:26-38.) When Jesus was born, Mary had none of the suffering usually associated with childbirth. The child was born miraculously. Mary Herself in no way incapacitated. She Herself attended to Her own needs and those of the child. "She brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger." (Luke 2:7.) The Virgin Birth means that Mary had at one and the same time the privilege of Motherhood and the privilege of Maidenhood.

Didn't Mary have other children? Matt.13:55-56 says, "His brethren James and Joseph, and Simon and Jude: and his sisters, are they not all with us?" Protestants everywhere believe this.

The Jewish expression "brothers and sisters of the Lord" in Scripture merely refers to relationship in the same tribe or stock. Cousins often come under that title. In all nations the word brother has a wide significance, as many a fraternal group's members will call each other a brother without suggesting that he was born of the same biological mother. The same St. Matthew speaks explicitly of "Mary, the mother of James and Joseph" in 27:56, obviously alluding to a Mary who was not the mother of Jesus but who was married to Cleophas, the brother of Joseph. Protestants embrace this false belief because they are not inspired by love of Christ, or for the M7other of Christ, or for Scripture in their doctrine. Their main desire is to maintain a doctrine differing from that of the Catholic Church. But it is a position which is rapidly going out of fashion. Learned Protestant scholars today deny as emphatically as any Catholic that Mary had other children. When Our Lord, dying on the cross, commended His Mother to the care of St. John, He did so precisely because He was Her only Child, and He knew that Mary had no other children to care for Her. The idea that Mary had other children is disrespectful to the Holy Spirit who claimed and sanctified Her as His sanctuary. It insults Christ, who was the only-begotten of His Mother even as He was the only-begotten of His Heavenly Father. It insults Mary, who would have been guilty of a great ingratitude to God, if She threw away the gift of virginity which God had so carefully preserved for Her in the conception of Christ. It insults St. Joseph. God had told him by an angel to take Mary to wife, and that the Child to be born of Her had no earthly father but was the very Son of God. God merely gave St. Joseph the privilege of protecting Her good name amongst the undiscerning Jews, and He chose a God-fearing man who would respect her. Knowing that Her Child was God Himself in human form, Joseph would at once regard Her as on a plane far superior to that of any ordinary human being, and to him, as to us, the mere thought of Her becoming a mother to merely earthly children would have seemed a sacrilege.

What is the Rosary and why do Catholics repeat the same prayer over and over again when they pray it? Is this not the vain repetition condemned by Christ in Matt. 6:7?

The Rosary is a special form of devotion to Mary. It is a string of beads by which the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be are prayed and is divided into different sections (mysteries). Catholics DO NOT just repeat the same prayer over and over again when they pray the Rosary. The Rosary is a progression of many prayers such as those mentioned--the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Gloria, the Hail Mary and the Salve Regina--and these prayers are accompanied by many holy meditations. As the Rosary progresses, Catholic meditate on the joyful, the sorrowful, and the glorious mysteries of the life of Christ and His Mother. True, the Hail Mary is repeated many times during the course of the Rosary--the entire Rosary consists of 150 Hail Marys to commemorate the 150 psalms of the Old Testament--and some of the other prayers are repeated several times, but this is not "vain" repetition, certainly not the repetition condemned by Our Lord. The vain repetition He condemned is that of people who pray standing "in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men."

No prayer is vain, no matter how often repeated, if it is sincere, for Christ Himself engaged in repetitious prayer in the Garden of Gethsemani ("...he went again: and he prayed the third time, saying the selfsame word" --Matt. 26:39, 42, 44), and we are informed in the Apocalypse (Revelations) 4:8 that the angels in Heaven never cease repeating, night and day, the canticle: "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come." The publican humbly repeated the prayer: "O God, be merciful to me, a sinner," and he went away justified; whereas the pharisee went home unjustified after his long-winded extemporaneous prayer (Luke 18:9-14). God was likewise pleased with the repetitious prayer of the three young men in the fiery furnace, whom He preserved miraculously untouched by flames (Dan 3:52-90). Protestants also engage in repetitious prayer: the same prayers at mealtime grace, the same prayers at their services, etc. The time lapse is factor; it is still repetitious.

Why are Catholic Churches and homes decorated with images and statues, in direct violation of the the Second Commandment? And why do Catholics pray to statues?

The Second Commandment is, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." Protestants, of course, call that the Third Commandment. But they are wrong in doing so, having taken that part of the First commandment which refers to images as the second of God's Commandments. But do those words forbid the making of images? They do not. God was forbidding idolatry, not the making of images. He said, "Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image of anything in the Heaven above, or in the earth beneath. Thou shalt not bow down to them nor worship them." God deliberately adds those last words, yet Protestants ignore them. He forbids men to make images in order to adore them. But He does not forbid the making of images. You will find the commandments given in Exodus 20. But in the same Book, 25:18, you will find God ordering the Jews to make images of Angels! Would you accuse God of not knowing the sense of His own law? He says, "Thou shalt make also two cherubims of beaten gold, on the two sides of the oracle." In other words, the Jews were to make images of things in the Heaven above. And if the Protestants' interpretation is true, why do they violate God's law by making images of generals and politicians in our parks? Why photographs of friends and relatives? On this account, it would even be unlawful to take a picture of a tree--you would be making an image of a thing in the earth beneath. No, God does not forbid the making of images; He forbids the making of images in order to adore them.

Catholics DO NOT pray to statues. You have seen Catholics kneeling at prayer, and perhaps kneeling before an image of Christ, or of Our Lady. But if you concluded that they were praying to the statues that was not the fault the Catholics. It was your own fault in so far as you judged them according to your own preconceived ideas. Before an image of Mary, Catholics may go on their knees and pray to God through the intercession of that Mother of Christ whom the statue represents. But you are wrong to accuse them of praying to the statue. Were you kneel down by your bedside at night for a last prayer, could you be regarded as adoring or praying to your mattress? A Catholic reverences images and statues only in so far as they remind him of God, of Christ, or of Our Lady and the Saints. If someone kisses a photograph of his mother, he does not honor the piece of developing paper but offers a tribute of love and respect to his mother. A Catholic kisses the cross not because it is a piece of wood or metal, but because it stands for Christ and His sufferings on my behalf.

Why pray to Saints? Is it not better to pray to God direct?

Not always. The same answer applies here as in the case of prayers to the Virgin Mary, who after all is the greatest of the Saints. God may wish to give certain favors through the intercession of some given Saint. In such a case, it is better to seek the intercession of that Saint as God wishes. I can decide to give you a gift myself, or to do so through a friend. In the latter case you do me a great honor by accepting it from my friend than by refusing my way of giving it to you, and insolently demanding it directly from myself in person.

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Excerpted from "The Catholic Church has the Answer." by P. Whitcombe