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Brenda wrote:

Hi, guys —

You've done a great job answering my questions in the past, but I still have a few more.

I live in the U.S. I'm a 27-year-old single female who was raised Missouri-Synod Lutheran — one of the most conservative branches of the Lutheran church. I was baptized as an infant and confirmed in the church. I often get asked if my church is similar to the Roman Catholic Church. I proudly reply that we are. I think I would find Catholicism a lot more difficult to understand if I hadn't been raised a Lutheran. Although we are different, we share many wonderful similarities. I was happy to hear that your new Pope is from Germany. I too am German and this has made me a bit more proud of my heritage. It's also great to know that Pope Benedict has had many dialogues with leaders of the Lutheran Church.

That said, I have a few more questions.

First, I've read a lot about the 15 promises the Blessed Mother has given to those who recite her Rosary.

I feel a little uneasy (okay, a lot uneasy), about number nine:

I will deliver promptly from Purgatory the souls who recite my Rosary.

Whoa, sounds a little weird!

  • Doesn't God deliver people from Purgatory?

Perhaps she meant that she would intercede for those in Purgatory. Being Lutheran, I most certainly believe she is blessed and is the mother of God. In the Bible, she is a simple humble servant.

  • Why does she want us to recite my Rosary?
  • Has the Catholic Church officially approved of these promises?

I read on a web site devoted to prayer, that a person may ask for Mary's healing.

  • Can she actually heal people?

I know she's a mother and all, but even Catholics believe that she isn't nearly as powerful as God. In the Hail Holy Queen prayer, a line refers to her as the mother of mercy, my life, my sweetness and my hope.

  • I know Mary is the mother of mercy but who is my life, my sweetness and my hope?
  • Did the Late Pope John Paul II believe that Mary herself actually saved his life?

I know that a lot of Haitians practice both Catholicism and Voodoo. This practice is also common among some Africans.

  • What does the Catholic Church teach about this type of syncretistic belief?
  • Which belief about Purgatory is more correct?

The Western Rite believes it to be a place of purification, while the Eastern Rites see Purgatory as a place of less suffering.

  • Do the Eastern Rites believe in the practice of indulgences?
  • If I were to convert to Roman Catholicism, would it be okay for me to have a more
    Eastern Rite view of Purgatory?

Thank you for your time and patience.

Have a happy and blessed Lent. This is such a wonderful tradition our churches share.

God Bless you.

Brenda

  { Can you answer some questions from a Lutheran on the Rosary, Mary, Voodoo, and Purgatory? }

Mary Ann replied:

Hi, Brenda —

I know that many people share your questions. You give us a good opportunity to clarify our confusing word usages and concepts. You are right in everything you say about Mary. She would be the first to say that God accomplishes everything. Mary does not deliver, does not heal, and is not our life and hope and sweetness — except in one very important way: She is not these things
of herself,
but only in Christ.

Jesus saves, Jesus heals, and Jesus is our life and hope and sweetness of life. All the power of the Father ("from whom all things come") is in Jesus, who submitted completely to the Father's will.
In imitation of the Father, Jesus has arranged that His life (all grace) would be distributed through Mary, the human person who perfectly cooperated with God's will (Jesus was a divine person with a human nature). She conceived Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, and she offered her Son for us, and she continues this mission for us by offering His life to us and nurturing it in us. Grace comes to us as a share in the life of the Body of the Resurrected Christ. Mary conceived this Body — it was made from her! (By the power of the Holy Spirit). She gave birth to Christ, she nurtured His life, and then she cooperated with His life to the end. She still does all these things for us today! She brings Him to birth in our souls, she nurtures His life in us, and she obtains for us the graces we need to cooperate with Him. That is her mission. In this way, she is also a Model of the Church.

Just as we say that a person with a gift for prayerful intercession is a healer, just as we say that a doctor saves us, just as we say that our guardian angel protects us — in this way, and more, we say that Mary delivers, saves, and heals. More, because her intercession is unfailing, not of its own intrinsic power, but by the will and humility of Christ and the Father and the Spirit, who give her this mission.

As for Voodoo, syncretism of any kind is evil. The Church fights a great battle against it, and especially against Voodoo, which invokes the power of darkness through occult practices.

Purgatory is a place of purification. Beyond that, we cannot say with certainty, except that the images in Scripture are those of prison, paying off debts, and fire.

The Church does not require that you believe the images literally, nor must you believe any private revelation about Purgatory. All that is (of faith), is that there is a state of purification after death for those who need it. Purification in this life is rarely accomplished without pain or discomfort, but when purification is practiced and embraced willingly in this life (charity, alms, self-denial, prayer), it is not unbearable at all and often a joy. We use fire as an image of love ("ardent" means burning!). God's purification of us is a work of love, and on earth we can cooperate with love. In the next life, we will receive any needed purification as an act of love for us.

Mary Ann
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