Monday, 25 January 2010

Why bother with Mary.



The first “Any Questions” session held by Father Ignatius in the church center proved so successful that some members of the congregation asked him to hold another one. They enjoyed asking questions about church matters in general and the Catholic Church’s teachings in particular, and learning from both Father Ignatius and Father Donald answering honestly rather than “toeing the party line”; as one parishioner called it.

“Are you sure that the hot chocolate drinks and free cakes aren’t the real attraction here?” asked Father Ignatius.

He was assured that this was not the case and it was agreed to hold another meeting at which parishioners could invite guests.

The night in question was well attended with about sixty people packing the church center and sitting cinema style facing the top table. Father Donald was not available and he was replaced by the Reverend Harold Barnstable, the vicar from a neighbouring church. He knew Father Ignatius well as the two priests were members of the Area Ecumenical Council, a body set up to encourage contact and co-operation amongst churches from various denominations. The Reverend had brought a few parishioners from his church to the meeting with him.

After the first few questions about the benefits of church unity and what obstacles lay in the way of such a goal a young man stood up at the back of the room and said:

“Father Ignatius, I do not attend your church. One thing I can’t understand about you Catholics is your devotion to Mary. Granted, she was the Mother of Jesus, but no more than that. Yet you Catholics pray to her all the time and ask her for favours.

"Christ said ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me.’ What can be clearer than that? Paul re-iterates this message in his letter to Timothy when he says, ‘there is one God, and there is one mediator who brings God and mankind together, Christ Jesus.’

"I consider devotion to Mary as blasphemy to God. What do you have to say about this?”

The Reverend Barnstable shuffled uneasily in his chair as he recognized the questioner as one of his parishioners. However, he politely looked sideways at Father Ignatius and said nothing.

Father Ignatius smiled and said calmly “I agree …”

This silenced the audience who knew him too well and expected a rebuttal of the points made by the visitor. They were not disappointed. Father Ignatius continued:

“Viewed from you perspective, and considering the Bible quotations you mention, it can be seen as blasphemy to pray to Mary and ask her to mediate for us and present our needs to Jesus, and to God. So let us see your point from a different perspective.

“Let me ask you something first. Have you ever prayed for a sick relative or friend to get better?”

“Well … yes …” hesitated the young man.

“That’s good …” replied Father Ignatius gently, “it shows charitable loving intentions from you towards those people. You didn’t say ‘let them pray for themselves to get better’ but you prayed for them. You mediated on their behalf, or, to put it in more common parlance, you put in a good word for them.

“You said to God ‘Dear Lord … you know my friend is a good chap … please heal him from his illness!’ ”

The audience laughed.

Father Ignatius continued, “By praying for your sick friends you mediated on their behalf. And if it is God’s will, He sometimes answers our prayers.

“In the same way, there’s nothing wrong in my opinion if the Virgin Mary puts in a good word for me with Jesus when I ask her. God knows I need it!”

The audience laughed again.

“You see …” went on the priest, “at the wedding in Cana when the wine ran out, the servants went to Mary for advice and guidance. She was a guest at the wedding, no more. They didn’t go to Jesus direct, or to the bridegroom, or to the best man, if they had such a thing in those days … but they went to Mary.

“She interceded on behalf of the married couple; and Jesus at her request performed His first miracle.

“I believe this to be very significant … is Jesus encouraging us here to ask Mary to mediate for us?

“Some may not agree, but I personally see nothing wrong in asking the Virgin Mary to intercede on my behalf, and I ask her often to do so.

“But let me answer your specific point as to whether my praying to her is blasphemy … as you called it.

“God saw fit to choose this young lady to be the Mother of His only Son. Obviously He holds her in high regards.

“I too … hold her in high regards. This is why I recite the Rosary daily.

“Do you honestly think that when I get to meet God face to face He will punish me for daring to love Mary, the Mother of Jesus? Will God view my honouring her as blasphemy? I think not.

“By praying to her, takes nothing away from my reverence to God and Jesus. Like you, I accept God as my Creator and Jesus as my Saviour; and I also pray to Mary to mediate on my behalf.

“Nothing wrong with that … and certainly no blasphemy intended!”

“I understand …” replied the young man sheepishly.

“It was a good question,” continued Father Ignatius, “but let me get back to your two quotations from the Bible.

“When Jesus said He is the way to God, and when St Paul re-affirmed this, they were referring to Christ as being the Son of God and our Saviour through His sacrifice on the Cross.

“They were not saying that we should not honour the Virgin Mary who holds a high place in Heaven. And no where in the Bible are we told not to pray to her or ask her to mediate on our behalf.

“We’re all sinners, and we need as many friends on the other side as we can muster. I also pray to Saint Ignatius of Loyola after whom I was named.”

18 comments:

  1. You have done a wonderful bit of writing here to explain a complicated question! Well done! Cathy

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  2. What would we do without the powerful intercession of our mother Mary? I was always taught that we did not pray to Mary, but that we asked her to pray for us.

    Very nice Victor. You have done a good job explaining our devotion to Our Lady. May she hold you close to her heart today and always.

    God bless.

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  3. +JMJ+

    Victor, I actually just had a similar conversation with a Protestant lady--except that I didn't have Father Ignatius' success. ;)

    After several days, the basis of her convictions came out: she doesn't believe that anyone in Heaven but God can hear prayers!

    Well, if someone thinks that, then love for Mary is one thing and prayer to Mary (or any of the saints) is quite another! (I admit I was taken by surprise. She is the first of our "separated brethren" I've met who doesn't think that the souls in Heaven can know what is going on, on earth.)

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  4. Hi Cathy, Daily Grace and Enbrethiliel,

    It's so kind of you to take the trouble to write in. Thank you.

    I really can't see why some non-Catholics have difficulties about asking the Virgin Mary to mediate for us; and the Saints too.

    God bless you.

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  5. Thank you for explaining this so well. I have to admit, as a Protestant, that I have been under the impression that Catholic believers actually pray to Mary. It's good to learn that I was mistaken.

    I certainly revere Mary as one who was highly favored by God. I suppose I wouldn't have a problem with asking her to intercede. I do believe, though, that I can go straight to Jesus with my needs:

    Hebrews 4:14-16
    14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
    15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
    16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.


    Also, Romans 8 tells us that Jesus is at the right hand of God, interceding for us. It's good to know that we are not alone!

    God bless you for your many enlightening and uplifting posts.

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  6. Hi Sarah,

    Thank you so much for writing in.

    You're right. When we pray to Mary (or any of the Saints) we do not pray in the sense that we worship them, as if we were worshiping God. That would be wrong. There is only one God to whom we pray and worship.

    When we pray to the Saints, like Mary, we pray in the sense that we ask them to mediate for us, to pray on our behalf, or as Father Ignatius put it "to put in a good word for us".

    There are many instances where people have prayed to Mary and received miracles (e.g. Lourdes, Fatima etc ...). And they've prayed to Saints and received miracles (e.g. Padre Pio, Pere Charbel Makhoulf etc...).

    In these cases it is not the saint in question who performs the miracles but God/Jesus who responds on behalf of the Saints and performs the miracles for us. Just like at the wedding in Cana.

    God bless.

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  7. Great post about the intercession of Mary. My husband came from a Pentecostal/Baptist background and converted to Catholicism. He was blessed to have a great priest in the RCIA program that took great care to cover all these issues with him.

    Thank you for all your funny comments on my blog :) They make me laugh every time!

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  8. Hi Mary,

    Thank you for visiting my Blog again and for your comments. You have a great Blog and I like what you write. Keep up the good work.

    God bless you and yours.

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  9. Many protestants challenge the Catholic practice of asking saints and angels to pray for us. But the Bible directs us to invoke those in heaven and ask them to pray with us.
    Thus in Psalm 103, we pray, "Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will!" (Ps. 103:20-21). And in Psalm 148 we pray, "Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!"
    Not only do those in heaven pray with us, they also pray for us. In Revelation, John sees that "the twenty-four elders (the leaders of the people of God in heaven) fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints" (Rev. 5:8). Thus the saints in heaven offer to God the prayers of the saints on earth.
    Angels do the same thing: "An angel came and stood at the altar (in heaven) with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God" (Rev. 8:3-4).
    Jesus himself warned us not to mess with small children because their guardian angels have guaranteed intercessory access to the Father: "See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 18:10).
    Because he is the only God-man, Jesus is the only Mediator between man and God (1 Tim. 2:5), but this in no way means we cannot or should not ask our fellow Christians to pray with us and for us (1 Tim. 2:1-4), including those Christians in heaven, who have already had their sanctification completed, for "the prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects" (Jas. 5:16).
    Also the early Church Fathers clearly recognized the Biblical teaching that those in heaven can and do intercede for us, and they applied this teaching in their practice.

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  10. Thank you Gabriella for such a good and well researched reply. I really appreciate your input. It is very helpful.

    God bless you.

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  11. 1 Timothy 2:5 KJV
    For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;


    John 14:6 KJV
    Jesus saith unto him, I am the way , the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.


    Abandon the ROMAN whore of Babylon, and accept what was preached and taught by `the good shepherd`

    Jesus did not teach any `Mary /mediator` doctorine.
    You`ve all been deceived.
    Woe to the whore of babylon.

    Revelation 18:4 KJV
    And I heard another voice from heaven, saying , Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

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  12. Thank you Anonymous for your comments.

    God bless.

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  13. What a great post I really really enjoyed this

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  14. Thank you so much Jo-Anne for taking the trouble to write in.

    God bless.

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  15. Wonderful, though why have Fr. Ignatius say "I agree" that it was blasphemous at the beginning? It's not blasphemous to ask our Blessed Mother or the saints or angels to pray for us. I know he rebutted it, but why acknowledge it in any way?

    By the way, you were so courteous to that Anonymous fellow. I would have probably sinned and replied something nasty, which shows you how far I have to go to be a saint...lol. You're certainly were a good exemplar for me. God bless.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Manny. Perhaps instead of "I agree" I should have written "I understand". Your comment is very valid.

      Sorry late replying. Verry ill at monent. See today's posting.

      God bless you.

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