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Rev. Anonymous wrote:

Hello Mike,

I thank you for the time and space while I pray and read about the doctrines of the Church.
I am amazed at how much I agree with the Catechism.

Of course, my current hold-up is Mariology. Help me with this. I have prayed with honesty and sincerity for Jesus to show me the truth about His Mother.

The difficulty is in my understanding of the Church's teaching. I was taught that such a thing is idolatrous. Please help me with this.

Another issue is about the Ten Commandments.

  • Why do Christians (Protestants and Catholics) differ in how we number them?

Thank You,

Rev. Anonymous
  { How are Marian teachings not idolatrous and why do we number the Commandments differently? }

Mike replied:

Hi Rev. Anonymous,

Great to hear from you!

On Mary. You said:
I was taught that such a thing is idolatrous.

Catholics do not worship Mary at all and she is not an idol in Catholic theology or in any type of Church teaching. If you know of Catholics that do worship Mary, tell them they are committing a grave sin and that they should talk to their priest.

Catholic worship Jesus alone!! but we honor those, God honors. Because of Mary's unique role in the salvation of all Christians, we emphasize the honor we give her but we only honor her.

Catholics see in the Saints and Mary models of holiness to follow so we can imitate Our Lord, but they are not God.

In the same way, a little boy playing baseball wants to be like David Ortiz of the Red Sox.
The little boy doesn't literally worship Ortiz, or shouldn't, but wants to be like him: a good hitter.

This posting may clarify things:


On praying to Mary:

Sometimes when we have a dialogue among the AskACatholic team, I will purposely make a statement so a colleague can give a clarifying answer. In one posting, we were talking about praying to Mary and the saints when I said:

  • Can I still pray to St. Joseph? : )

John replied:

Yes Mike, you can.

But my point is important. When you ask me to pray for you, you don't say,

I prayed to John DiMascio.

You say,

I asked John for his prayers.

Non-Catholics are predisposed to reject praying to saints and see it as a idolatry.

These posting may also help:

On the Ten Commandments, the following posting from our knowledge base may help. If it doesn't just get back to me.

I'm sending your question to both John DiMascio and Terry Quinn.

John use to be a Protestant pastor, like you, and may be able to better understand where you are coming from. Terry, one of our other colleagues, specializes in understanding Mary in the Church.

Note for my team: Rev. Anonymous is an Assembly of God's pastor, who has been reading the Catechism and is thinking about joining the Church.

Hope this helps Reverend,

Mike

John replied:

Brother Anonymous,

Whether we are talking about Mary, any of the Saints, or indeed the Church Herself, all Catholic doctrine stems from the way the Church answers Christ's question to Peter:

  • Who do you say that I am?

Let's start by looking at 1 Timothy 2:5:

For there is one God an one mediator between God and Man, the Man Christ Jesus.

Protestants often point to this text as a proof text which excludes any possibility of the intercession of Saints, in particularly Mary but, in fact, the verse says quite the opposite.

Notice that Paul's emphasis on the humanity of Christ in this verse. He doesn't simply say the one mediator Christ Jesus. No, Paul says the Man Christ Jesus. This emphasis makes it clear that it is, in and through the Incarnation, that man has access to grace, but there is more to this.

The Incarnation, itself, is an indication that God desired man to participate in his own redemption.

  • It was through the sin of the first Adam (man) that sin and death entered the world, and
  • it is through the Second Adam (the Man, Christ Jesus, or Son of Man) that we have been redeemed.

Now, it is by faith and Baptism that we are incorporated into the Body of Christ thus we are all seated in Heavenly places with Christ Jesus. We have become members of One Body, the family of God, which is in Heaven and on Earth. As members of the Body, we therefore become members of the Man Christ Jesus and participate in various ways in the redemptive work and mediation of the Man, Christ Jesus. Again, Paul writes to the Corinthians, "we are co-laborers with Christ for the sake of the Gospel." (1 Corinthians 3:9)

Using a business model, we become the distribution network. Therefore every time you as a Pastor are faithful to preach the Gospel, you become a mediator of grace, hence you become a co-mediator. You work, with Christ, to redeem souls, hence you become a co-redeemer.

Mary played a unique role in our salvation. If Christ is all Grace, then Mary became the Mediatrix of all Grace by bringing Him into the world.

  • Have you ever thought that just as God gave His Son for our Salvation, Mary also gave  her son, in the same way?

Oh, she might not have known all the details of His sufferings when she said to the Angel:

Let it be done to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38)

but she knew He would be the Savior. As a good Jewish girl, who could offer such a beautiful and doctrinal rich prayer as the Magnificat (My soul magnifies the Lord..) Luke 1:46-56, odds are Mary was well acquainted with the Scriptures. She would have known of Isaiah 53 and the other prophecies about the Messiah's sufferings and yet, she, a simple Jewish girl, agreed to give her Son for the sake of the world.

In doing so, she also became a cause of our Salvation. Just as Paul compares Jesus to Adam, so the early Church Fathers compared Mary to Eve. In effect, Mary's Yes to God undid Eve's No.

So Mary then becomes an Icon of the Church. A model of what we should be as believers. As she is the Mother of God, the Mother of Jesus, she becomes our mother as well. Surely as the Church is the Body of Christ, and Jesus dwells in our hearts, it follows that she becomes mother of the Church and mother to all Christians.

All that said and done, she is still a human being. She is not part of the God head and we don't worship her.

Again, if we want to use the business model as a tool:

  • Christ is the CEO of the Church
  • the rest of us are the sales and customer service departments.
  • Mary, then becomes the head of Sales.

Most importantly, Marian devotion is meant to bring us closer to Christ. Her words to us are the same as they were to the servants at the Wedding at Cana:

Do whatever He tells you to do. (John 2:5)

She is not an alternative route to the Father nor is she a free agent. Her will is united to will of Her Son. That is why her intercession is so powerful. Did not Jesus say,

Ask according to My Will, in My Name, and it shall be granted?
(Matthew 7:7-8)

That is why we ask her intercession.

The Catholic approach is that a personal relationship with Christ entails personal relationship with the rest of the Body of Christ.

You can't separated Christ from His Body or It's members. Christ taught us to pray Our Father not My Father. As Catholics, we don't ever pray alone.

We believe our prayers are upheld as bowls of incense to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, by the Saints in Heaven. (See Revelation 5:8). When we worship, we enter into the Divine Liturgy taking place in Heaven. (See Revelation 4-5 and Hebrews 12).

It's not just about me, Jesus and my Bible. An eye cannot say to ear, "I don't need you"; nor can the hand say likewise to the foot.

When you begin to look at Mary and the Saints in Heaven as simply a part of Church, each with particular roles, then there is no risk of idolatry.

It's no different than someone coming to you at an Altar Call and asking you to agree in prayer with them, whether it be for forgiveness, healing, or what not.

They are not worshiping you, Rev. Anonymous. They are asking for prayer and they recognize and honor the office to which God has called you.

I hope this helps.

Stay in touch brother, and best wishes for a Sacred Advent and Christmas.

Under His Mercy,

John DiMascio

Mary Ann replied:

Anonymous,

It is not idolatry:

  • if you honor your clergyman and ask him to pray for you
  • to have days of remembrance in honor of some deceased person, let's say Martin Luther
  • to ask Martin Luther to pray for you (though I know some Christians think asking prayers of the deceased in tantamount to summoning spirits).

Now think of the person closest to Christ:

  • the person Christ gives to His disciple (all of us) to be taken into the disciple's home
  • the person with the most influence over Him in a human manner (Cana) (John 2:4-5)
  • the person who is "most favored" by God (Luke 1:43)
  • the person whose image is found in the catacombs
  • the person who is the place or context in which the Gentiles find Christ: they found Him with His Mother. (Matthew 2:11)

Jesus is Son of God and Son of Mary. We cannot honor the Son by ignoring His mother. It is not idolatry to do with her, in a preeminent way, what we do with all friends of God:

honor her and ask her to pray for us.

Like Elizabeth, we should recognize God's gifts to her, and call her blessed, as Mary prophesied she would be called blessed forever. (Luke 1:49)

Mary Ann

Terry replied:

Hi Anonymous,

I am not sure at what level you want an answer, put simply, Catholics honor Mary as the Mother of God and the unique place this accords her in God's plan for salvation. it is fitting that as Mother of God, Mary was conceived without any stain of Original Sin. This makes her unique among created human beings.

Mary being wholly human was conceived in a natural manner from the union of Joachim and Anna - whereas her Son, Jesus, also possessing true human nature, also possesses the nature of God, since he was conceived my the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary.

It is a natural phenomenon that human children frequently ask their natural mother to intercede for them; for a mother to ask a favor from another on their behalf. In simplistic terms, this is what we do when we ask for Mary's intercession.

  • It is also natural that we honor a human mother in the home, so how much more honor ought we to give to the Mother of God?

If you are asking at a technical level, the theological terms you need to refer to are:

  • dulia - the honor we give to the Saints and Martyrs and those who have led heroic lives
  • hyperdulia - the highest of this type of honor and is only due to Mary, Mother of God, and
  • latria - which is the worship due only to Almighty God.

These distinguishing marks make obvious the way Catholics approach the Saints, the Mother of God and the Trinitarian Godhead and help draw the distinction between honor and worship.

We only ever worship God; we show honor to Mary and the Saints.

Terry

Rev. Anonymous replied:

Thank You for more clarification.

I understand the concept and the precept. It just seems awkward. I have only prayed to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. My conscience, whether through training, education, or experience, flinches at the idea of praying to Mary.

The steps I have taken in prayer is for Christ to show me the rightful place of His mother.

The other matter consistently on my mind is what this decision and these actions will cost. I know Jesus said to count the cost; this is a life changer.

Rev. Anonymous

Terry replied:

Rev. Anonymous,

Thank you for your e-mail reply.

I might add that any prayers to Blessed Virgin Mary are for her intercession with the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, so all prayers through Mary are truly Trinitarian in nature. (The same applies to intercessory prayer to the other Saints.)

Since many intercessory prayers are requests for some favor, we must always understand very clearly that only God can work a miracle.

Requests to Mary and the Saints are to ask them to join their prayers, with ours.

Kind regards,

Terry

Mike replied:

Hi Reverend,

You said:
The other matter consistently on my mind is what this decision and these actions will cost. I know Jesus said to count the cost; this is a life changer.

I wish I could be of more help. You may want to get in touch with Marcus Grodi.

His apostolate is to help and assist Protestant pastors who are in the exact situation you are currently in. Tell him, Mike Humphrey from AskACatholic.com sent you.

The Coming Home Network International

Know you are in my prayers my brother!

Mike

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