Mary and the Saints
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is actually a saint, so we will start by discussing saints. The Catholic Church teaches a communion of saints that unites the faithful on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven, all under Christ, who is the head. The angels, though not redeemed, are also in the communion of saints because they too are under Christ. All the people on earth, even though not members of the true Church, also share in this communion according to their union with Christ. Those not included in the communion of saints are the damned, such as the fallen angels of Satan and those who have died and do not merit redemption.
As well as the communion of saints, the Catholic Church gives special status to beatified and canonized saints. These individuals are nothing more than friends and servants of God whose holy lives have made them worthy of His special love. It is believed that these saints are not in purgatory but in heaven, and therefore in perfect communion with God. The process of beatification or canonization is a lengthy one that investigates the reputation, miracles, and possible martyrdom associated with the individual. Confirmed miracles must have been worked through the intercession of this individual after their death.
Catholics worship pictures and statues
This is completely untrue. The pictures and statues of Jesus and the saints are only reminders of those who have pleased the Father. It is no different then having pictures of loved ones, especially those that have passed away. Particular honour and respect are given to the cross and to the crucifix for what they represent, the ultimate love and sacrifice of Jesus.
We cannot deny that abuses occur among people that are not knowledgeable of their faith. Superstition has led some to use religious objects as charms. This is condemned by the Church as a violation of the First Commandment of God. Practices such as voodoo are not Catholic, but are practices of people that mix Catholic beliefs with pagan beliefs. This is strictly forbidden by the Catholic Church.
There is one object that is worshipped and adored by Catholics, the Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Because the Catholic Church takes Christ's words literally, they believe that when the bread and wine are consecrated they become the Body and Blood of Christ. If this is the true Body and Blood of Christ, the First Commandment of God is not violated; Christ, who is true God, one with the Father and Holy Spirit, should be worshipped.
Catholics worship and pray to Mary, angels, and saints
This is true; however, the definition of worship and pray must be explained. The word pray has two main definitions: to ask for something; and to address a divinity. When Catholics pray to Mary, the angels, or the canonized saints, they are not addressing a divinity but a fellow saint. This is not much different then asking a fellow saint on earth to pray for you, except Mary, the angels, and the canonized saints are in heaven, and therefore in perfect communion with God. Since these saints are closer to God because they have received redemption, their prayers are more powerful then us saints still on earth, who are working out our redemption. The only time Catholics address a divinity when they pray, is when they are praying to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The word worship is especially hard to define. Many people worship famous people such as Lady Diana, or Elvis Presley; as well, it is a British title for people of importance, such as judges or mayors. This is clearly not the same as when we worship God. Catholic theologians give a clear definition of the different types of worship: latria, the adoration due only to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; dulia, the respect and honour given to the angels and canonized saints; hyperdulia, a higher honour given to Mary because of her special role in God plan of salvation; and civilitas, the respect and honour given to individuals in our society. With these definitions we can see how worship can be applied to different beings without violating the First Commandment of God.
RJ's Weekly Thought for June 29, 2007 covers the word worship in greater detail.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the mediator of prayer
There is only one word wrong in this statement. Mary is "a" mediator of prayer, just like the saints in heaven or on earth. The prayers of Mary, like the prayers of all the saints, go through "the" mediator of prayer, Christ. In Acts 4:12,, 1 Timothy 2:5, and Hebrew 7:25 we read that Christ is the only mediator between God and man; however, these verses describe Christ as the redemptive mediator. Mary is a non-redemptive mediator, which means that her mediation is only petitionary like all other saints in heaven or on earth. Unlike the prayers of any other saints, Mary's prayer are particularly powerful because of her unique relationship with her son Jesus, who is also the Son of God.
An excellent explanation of this was given by Pope John Paul II during his General Audience of January 12, 2000:
In order to complete our reflection on Mary, at the end of the cycle of catechizes dedicated to the Father, today we wish to underline her role in our journey towards the Father. He himself willed Mary's presence in the history of salvation. When he decided to send his Son into the world, he willed that he should come to us by being born of a woman (Cf. Gal. 4:4). Thus he willed that this woman, the first to welcome his Son, should communicate him to all humanity. Therefore, Mary is on the road that goes from the Father to humanity, as the mother who gives everyone her Savior Son. At the same time, she is on the road that men must take to go to the Father through Christ in the Spirit (Cf. Eph. 2:18).
In order to understand Mary's presence in the journey toward the Father, with the whole Church we must acknowledge that Christ is "the way, the truth and the life" (Jn. 14:6) and the only Mediator between God and men (Cf. 1 Tm. 2:5). Mary is inserted in Christ's unique mediation and is totally at his service. Consequently, as the Council emphasized in "Lumen Gentium", "Mary's function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power" (N. 60). We are very far from assigning a role to Mary in the life of the Church outside of Christ's mediation or next to it, as though it were a parallel or concurrent mediation.
As I said expressly in the encyclical "Redemptoris Mater", Mary's maternal mediation "is mediation in Christ" (N. 38). The Council explains: "The Blessed Virgin's salutary influence on men originates not in any inner necessity but in the disposition of God. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. It does not hinder in any way the immediate union of the faithful with Christ but on the contrary fosters it" (LG. 60). Mary herself was redeemed by Christ and thus is the first of the redeemed, because the grace given her by God the Father at the beginning of her existence is due to the "merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human species," as Pius IX's bull "Ineffabilis Deus" states (DS 2803). All Mary's cooperation in salvation is based on Christ's mediation which, as the Council specifies again, "does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source." (LG. 62). Considered from this point of view, Mary's mediation appears as the highest fruit of Christ's mediation and is essentially oriented to making our encounter with Him more intimate and profound. "The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary, which it constantly experiences and recommends to the heartfelt attention of the faithful, so that encouraged by this maternal help they may the more closely adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer" (Ibid.).
In fact, Mary does not wish to draw attention to her person. She lived on earth with her gaze fixed on Jesus and the Heavenly Father. Her strongest desire is to make all turn their gazes in the same direction. She wishes to promote a look of faith and hope in the Savior sent to us by the Father. She was a model of the gaze of faith and hope above all when, in the tempest of the passion of the Son, she kept in her heart total faith in him and in the Father. While the disciples, greatly distressed by the events, were profoundly shaken in their faith, Mary, also tried by sorrow, remained integral in the certainty that Jesus' prediction would come true: "The Son of Man ... will be raised on the third day" (Matt. 17:22-23). This certainty did not leave her even when she took the lifeless body of her crucified son in her arms.
With this gaze of faith and hope, Mary encourages the Church and believers to always do the Father's will, manifested to us by Christ. The words spoken to the servants at the miracle of Cana reecho in every generation of Christians: "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn. 2:5). Her advice was followed when the servants filled the jars to the brim. Mary makes the same request of us today. It is an exhortation to enter into the new period of history with the determination to do all that Christ has said in the Gospel in the Father's name, which at present is inspired in us through the Spirit who dwells in us. If we do what Christ asks us to do, the millennium that is approaching will be able to have a new face, more evangelical and more genuinely Christian, and so respond to Mary's most profound aspirations.
The words: "Do whatever he tells you," with reference to Christ, also recall us to the Father, toward whom we are journeying. They coincide with the Father's voice that resounded on the Mount of the Transfiguration: "This is my beloved Son... listen to him" (Matt. 17:5). With the word of Christ and the light of the Holy Spirit, this Father himself calls us, guides us, cares for us.
Our holiness consists in doing all that the Father has said. Here is the value of Mary's life: fulfillment of the divine will. Accompanied and sustained by Mary, by way of acknowledgment let us receive the new millennium from the Father's hands and be determined to correspond to his grace with humble and generous devotion.
Mary is the mother of God, therefore she is not a created being
This is half right and half wrong. Mary is a created being; however she is unique among created beings. Mary was given the honour of being the mother, and therefore was for nine months in physical union, with Jesus who is true man, and true God. It was through Mary that Jesus became true man, but through his own divinity that he remained true God. It was through Jesus that Mary was created, and through the Holy Spirit that she conceived Jesus, and by her submission, fulfilled the will of the Father. Because Mary is the mother of Jesus, and Jesus is true God, Mary is given the title Mother of God. This title does not put her above Christ, but testifies to the divinity of Christ, and the fulfillment the prophecy which Mary spoke, "Behold, generations to come will call me most blessed." (Luke 1:48)
Mary was born of a virgin and conceived by the Holy Spirit
There is no truth in this statement at all. In fact, we know the names of Mary's mother, and her father. Mary was the only child of Anne, and her husband Joachim. The confusion of the above statement probably stems from a misunderstanding of what Immaculate Conception means. Mary was born of an Immaculate Conception, which means she was born without the stain of original sin.
So Christ could be conceived without sin, Mary was conceived without sin
This statement shows an attempt to explain Mary's Immaculate Conception; however it is wrong. If this were the case, Mary's parents, Anne and Joachim, would both have to been born of an Immaculate Conception. And like wise, their parents, and their parents, and so on. This is defiantly not the case. The conception of Jesus was the Miraculous Conception, which means he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and by virtue of his divinity was kept free of original sin. Mary's conception was the same as any other conception except she received God's gift of being preserved from all stain of original sin. God, who is not limited to time, willed that the mother of his son would receive the gift of salvation from the time of her conception. Others could only receive this gift after the Son of God completed his mission of salvation.
The reason God did this is quite easy to understand. If you were the ruler of a country, and your only son was about to take a tour of your country, what type of vehicle would give him for this tour? Suppose there were only two vehicles to choose from: a luxurious, chauffeured limousine with every conceivable convenience; or a rusted out pickup truck with no muffler, and a clutch that is worn-out from using the reverse gear to stop because the breaks do not work. The answer to this question is obviously the limousine. So it is with Mary, only on a much grander scale.
There is another reason that is even more important. When the angel Gabriel greeted Mary, he called her "Full of Grace." This means exactly what it says, Mary was without sin, and therefore full of God's grace. Why was it important that Mary be full of grace and with out sin? The Catholic Church has another title for Mary, the Ark of the Covenant, this is because for nine months Christ, who is true God, dwelt within her. Her womb was like the Holy of Holies of the old covenant. Those who walked in the presence of the Holy of Holies did so in fear and trembling, if they were not worthy they would be killed. This is why, before they went into the Holy of Holies, they would put bells on and ropes, if they were struck dead, the others would hear the bells and pull the body out with the ropes. The others would not dare to go in to retrieve the body for fear they too would be killed. So it is with the human body that became the Holy of Holies, if she was not without sin and full of grace, she would have died.
Mary ascended into heaven just as Jesus did
The confusion here is with the words ascension and assumption. There is an important difference between how Jesus went to heaven and how Mary went to heaven. Jesus ascended into heaven with the power given to him by the Father, but Mary was assumed into heaven. This means that Jesus took Mary into heaven by his power, not hers. Since she was conceived without sin, and received salvation at the time of her conception, she did not lie in an earthly tomb, but was taken into heaven.
Jesus is king and Mary is queen, therefore they must be married
This shows an attempt to understand something using solely a modern, and western manner of thinking. In older cultures, and some modern ones, polygamy was practiced, this was so with the Jews. In this setting, the queen was not the wife of the king because the king had many wives. The queen was the mother of the king. When we compare this to Jesus, he is the king, the Church is his bride, and his mother is the queen.