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Brenda wrote:

Hi guys,

In part of De Montfort's True Devotion to Mary, I read that since Mary is in Heaven, she has the same privileges and rights as God. The passage also stated that while Jesus' rights and privileges are divine, hers are given through grace. While I believe she is full of grace and blessed as the Mother of God, I have a hard time accepting that she has the same amount of power and glory as Jesus.

  • Could anyone please explain this to me?

Perhaps I'm missing something. The Catechism refers to the "merits of Christ and the Saints".

  • Just what are the merits of the Saints and how can they be applied to others?
  • If I do something charitable, can that act later be used to aid a soul in Purgatory?

I don't get it!

  • If I were to ask one of the Apostles or Mary to pray for me, how would God answer my prayer?
  • Would He answer it Himself, or would He just tell Mary and the Saints to grant me my request, if it be His will?

Also, in the Apostles Creed, we (Lutherans and Catholics), state that Christ descended to Hell.

  • Does the Catholic Church believe that Christ descended to Hell or Purgatory?
  • If you believe that He descended into Purgatory, why doesn't the Creed say that?

I'm just wondering. Thanks in advance for your answers.

These are questions that I can't find answers to anywhere else.

God Bless,

Brenda

 

  { Does Mary have the same glory as Jesus, what are saintly merits, and where did Jesus descend to? }

Mary Ann replied:

Hi Brenda,

Thanks for the question.

The short answers are the following:

  1. You don't have to believe anything in private revelation or in the writings of the Saints
  2. All merit, all grace, is of Christ, and
  3. It's a different Hell — Biblical abode of the dead inclusively, not the specific abode of the damned.

As for De Montfort's words, without rereading, I would say that if he said what you attribute,
he meant that the Son of God has decided that all His merits would be put in her hands for distribution to His brothers and sisters.

  • Isn't that what a mother does?

She is like the Old Testament Queen Mother, who always had dignity equal to that of the King.

As for the "merits of Saints", we Christians share all spiritual goods in common. Also, any "merit" is a share in the merit of Christ. So if a person has opened himself or herself more to God's grace, by participating faithfully in the life of Christ, then that person is, like Paul, able to help his brothers by this.

24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the Church.

Colossians 1:24

We see here that Paul's "meritorious suffering" is being offered for the Christians in Colossi.

It is something Christ poured out upon us, to live in us and be shared. And the sharing doesn't stop once we pass from this life.

As to "Hell", the Creed is referring to the Biblical abode of the dead inclusively, not the specific abode of the damned. Though all would be damned without Christ, because of God's plan of salvation already at work in the world, those who sought righteousness could wait in some way, and not being damned into that Hell. It was not Purgatory. Christ referred to it as Abraham's bosom. In some way, Christ's visit opened the door to Paradise for them.

There is a lovely story of Christ arriving in Limbo, or whatever you might want to call the waiting place, where He goes to look, first of all, to Joseph. Joseph hugs him and says anxiously,

"Son, tell me, how is your mother?"

Mary Ann

Eric replied:

Hi Brenda,

Thanks for the question.

I can't comment on what De Montfort wrote, as I am unfamiliar with it, except to say that it is not an established teaching of Sacred Tradition. It lacks historical evidence as a belief; therefore
I would take it with a grain of salt. One must also consider the way of writing that was the custom of the time.

The merits of the Saints are the good gifts which God gave them by His grace, in terms of pleasing God. For example, feeding the poor on a particular occasion would give one merit.
It's important to keep in mind that merits are themselves gifts of God by grace. (See the Catechism, paragraphs 2008 and 2011.) We merely cooperate in them.

They can be applied to others because of the communion of saints, which is a sharing of spiritual goods among those who are holy, (here, "saints" includes us.) "The life of each of God's children is joined in Christ and through Christ in a wonderful way to the life of all the other Christian brethren in the supernatural unity of the Mystical Body of Christ, as in a single mystical person."
(CCC No. 1474)

In the communion of saints, "a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things." In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin. (CCC No. 1475)

With the communion of saints, someone who has done a good deed can apply the merit of that good deed to another person's well-being. So yes, if you do something charitable, that act later can be used to aid a soul in Purgatory.

As for how God answers the prayers that the Saints pray for us, it's best to think of it as God answering the prayer Himself. It's dangerous to think of Saints as having their own god-like power, since they aren't gods. They are simply holy and righteous people, whose prayers
"are powerful and effective" (James 5:16) on account of their holiness.

When the Creed says that Christ descended "into Hell", it does not mean the Hell of the damned, but the Limbo of the Fathers, also known as Hades or Sheol. "Hell" is a rather obsolete term for this netherworld. In this realm, all of the souls of the dead resided before the death of Christ. Jesus went there upon his death to take the righteous ones away into Heaven.

Hope this answers most of your questions.

Eric

Terry replied:

Hi Brenda,

Thanks for the question.

Certainly, it is always the Godhead who works any miracle. By its very definition, only God can work a miracle, but Mary (indeed, anyone, including the Saints in Heaven, or the souls in Purgatory) can intercede for us. Mary's intercession is especially powerful, since she is the closest human to God, as evidenced by her Immaculate Conception.

Whilst on the subject of intercession, let us never forget the Angels, especially St. Michael and our special Guardian Angel, who has a unique responsibility towards us.

Remember the story of Pope Leo XIII. An exhortation to this prayer was repeated in 1994 by Pope John Paul II.

How the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel developed

One day, after celebrating Mass, the aged Pope Leo XIII was in conference with the Cardinals when suddenly he sank to the floor in a deep swoon. Physicians who hastened to his side could find no trace of his pulse and feared that he had expired. However, after a short interval the Holy Father regained consciousness and exclaimed with great emotion: "Oh, what a horrible picture I have been permitted to see!"

He had been shown a vision of evil spirits who had been released from Hell and their efforts to destroy the Church. But in the midst of the horror the archangel St. Michael appeared and cast Satan and his legions into the abyss of hell. Soon afterwards Pope Leo XIII composed the following prayer to Saint Michael, which is the original version:

Original — Prayer to St. Michael


“O Glorious Prince of the heavenly host, St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in the battle and in the terrible warfare that we are waging against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the evil spirits. Come to the aid of man, whom Almighty God created immortal, made in His own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of Satan.

Fight this day the battle of the Lord, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in Heaven. That cruel, ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with his angels. Behold, this primeval enemy and slayer of men has taken courage. Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the name of God and of His Christ, to seize upon, slay and cast into eternal perdition souls destined for the crown of eternal glory. This wicked dragon pours out, as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity.

These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where the See of Holy Peter and the Chair of Truth has been set up as the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be.

Arise then, O invincible Prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and give them the victory. They venerate thee as their protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as her defense against the malicious power of hell; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude. Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly find mercy in the sight of the Lord; and vanquishing the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations. Amen.

V. Behold the Cross of the Lord; be scattered ye hostile powers.
R. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered the root of David.
V. Let Thy mercies be upon us, O Lord.
R. As we have hoped in Thee.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.

Let us pray.

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon Thy holy Name, and as supplicants, we implore Thy clemency, that by the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin Immaculate and our Mother, and of the glorious St. Michael the Archangel, Thou wouldst deign to help us against Satan and all the other unclean spirits who wander about the world for the injury of the human race and the ruin of souls. Amen.”

Roman Raccolta, July 23, 1898, supplement approved July 31, 1902,
London: Burnes, Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1935, 12th edition.

If you can send us the web page where you referenced the quotes from St. Louis De Montfort,
we can probably explain things in context.

Terry

Brenda replied:

Hi, guys—

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond. I was working on a Sociology paper with a totally boring subject when I took a break to check my e-mail.

I found this quote on a Marian web site:

"This devotion consists of surrendering oneself in the manner of a slave to Mary, and to Jesus through her and then performing all our actions With Mary, in Mary, through Mary, and for Mary."

I understand this is a devotional practice but it seems a little odd to me. While I don't discount the Saints' intercession, I wouldn't say that I do things "for or in Mary".

The site also explains that many devotional practices strive to have the believer "allow Mary to guide one's actions." Whoa, now, I find that really strange.

  • What about the Holy Spirit?
  • Where does He fit into all this?

Thanks, and have a Blessed Holy Week.

Brenda

Richard replied:

Hi Brenda,

Thanks for the question.

A couple of quick notes just to start with:

  1. The writer's certainly correct when she indicates that Mary doesn't have the same nature
    as Jesus: she is of course a human being, whereas He is divine and human (with two natures united in one person). We need to explain that Mary's role in dispensing graces is based in her relationship with the Lord, not a power separate from His. Maybe De Montfort himself does this.

  2. The phrase "descended to Hell" is a misleading translation. The phrase in Latin is descendit ad inferos: that's "descended to the lower places" or "to the underworld", you might say; it's a concept broad enough to include Purgatory and such conjectured places as the "Limbo of the Fathers", where the souls, of those who died before Christ, awaited redemption from death.

The text of the Apostles' Creed is very old, with parts of it dating to the 200s, which is probably a time before the technical word "Purgatory" became established in Christian thought.

The idea of purification after death, though, does date to the earliest times, appearing in early Christian writers such as Tertullian and Origen. The history of the concept of Purgatory is described in the Catholic Encyclopedia on New Advent:

Purgatory — On New Advent

— RC

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