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Francisco Ferrier wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • As a Catholic, do I have to believe in Mary for salvation?
  • How can I be saved and go to heaven?

Francisco

  { As a Catholic, do I have to believe in Mary for salvation? }

Eric replied:

Hi, Francisco —

I'm not sure what you mean by "believe in Mary". Every Christian has to "believe in Mary" insofar as all Christians follows Christ and without Mary there would be no Christ, at least not a human one.

Here is what you have to believe to be Catholic:

  1. That Mary exists and is the Mother of God. This means, in particular, that Mary is the mother of the God-man Jesus Christ, who was fully God and fully human, one divine person with a divine nature perfectly united with a human nature.
  2. That Mary conceived Jesus without aid of a human father.
  3. That Mary remained a virgin throughout her entire life, before, during, and after the birth of Jesus.
  4. That Mary was conceived without original sin (Immaculate Conception), and was free from any personal sin throughout her life.
  5. That Mary was assumed into heaven at the end of her earthly life, like Enoch and Elijah.

Generally, we believe she is Queen of heaven (being the mother of the King of Kings) and that she is Mediatrix of all graces, but these have not been defined by the Church.

  • How can you be saved?

In summary, repent, believe in the Gospel, and be baptized. (Acts 2:38)

Of course, repentance is an ongoing process, and it remains necessary to live a life of continual repentance (that is, obedience) in order to be saved. (Romans 2:6-11, Mark 10:19, Matthew 5:22-29, 1 Corinthians 9:24, 1 Timothy 4:15f, Hebrews 6:7-9, Hebrews 3:12, James 1:12, 1 John 2:3,
1 John 3:10, Acts 26:20, John 3:36, John 14:15-21
) The Eucharist also factors into this
(John 6:50-58). It is also necessary to be in communion with the Church he founded, and obedient to her leaders (Hebrews 13:17).

Eric

Francisco replied:

I'm sorry, I was a little bit confusing when asking my question about Mary.  This is what I really meant to ask:

  • Do I have to come to Mary or believe in her to have eternal life?

Francisco

Eric replied:

Hi, Francisco —

You don't have to explicitly have a relationship with Mary to have eternal life — you can go through your whole Christian life without saying a word to Mary and still be saved — although frankly she's so inextricably bound up in the mystery of salvation that she's involved whether you like it or are aware of it, or not. Many believe that no grace is granted without her active intercession.
Not a dogma of the faith but, if so, she's not a woman you want to trifle with. :-)

Let me perhaps answer the unasked question: No, we do not worship her. She is subordinate to her Son, who alone is the savior of the world. She is not on the order of God. She is, in fact, the icon of the Church. She is the mother of all believers (Revelation 12:17), so just as it would behoove you to love your earthly mother, so it would behoove you to love your heavenly mother.

If I were you, I'd humbly ask Christ to illuminate your heart on the role of Mary in the life of the Christian. Study her role and address the reservations you have. Perhaps over time you'll understand the rationale for her role and have fewer objections to having a relationship with her.

Some of us have struggled with these same issues so feel free to ask questions.

Eric

Francisco replied:

  • What should I do as a good Catholic if I see a statue of Mary?

I've seen some people make the sign of the cross with their hands when they pass a church with a statue of Mary and other saints.

  • Should I do the same? 

I been away from the Catholic church since high school.

  • What is the true religion?
  • How can I get right with God?
  • What should I do about religion?

Francisco

Eric replied:

You wrote:
  • What should I do as a good Catholic if I see a statue of Mary?

I've seen some people make the sign of the cross with their hands when they pass a church with a statue of Mary and other saints.

  • Should I do the same? 

I been away from the Catholic church since high school.

  • What is the true religion?
  • How can I get right with God?
  • What should I do about religion?

There is no prescription for when you see a statue of Mary. Making the sign of the Cross is a pious custom you are free to adopt. Perhaps you can remember her or say a quick prayer to her if you wish. It's up to you.

  • The true religion is the Catholic faith, the Church founded by Jesus Christ.

  • To get right with God, you should resolve henceforth to repent of your sins and follow Christ and His Gospel every moment of every day, humbly surrendering your life to Christ and to what He would have you do with it. Live for Him, not for yourself, and trust in Him, not in yourself. Then seek the Sacrament of Confession and confess those serious sins you've committed since high school. You may want to find what's called an Examination of Conscience to help you identify areas that merit repentance and confession. An examination of conscience is when you search your heart and identify areas where you've fallen short and sinned. It's like doing a review of your heart and actions during the time since your last Confession. You should start by asking Jesus to show you your sins, opening your heart to him and committing yourself to do His will out of love for Him. I haven't reviewed it in detail but after a cursory review, this looks like a good place to start. Then the Lord will lift the heavy burden of your sins and you will be free! And you will be able to receive Communion again, which will intimately unite you with Christ.

    Here is a good guide on how to go to Confession [PDF].
  • What should you do about religion?

    You should, beyond what I've already said about giving your life over to Christ, love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and soul, and establish a relationship of prayer with him. Speak to him as you would speak to a friend, take your cares to him, ask him to increase your love and help you overcome whatever stands between you and him. Ask, too, for the Holy Spirit to come into your life and enliven your faith. Open your heart to the Father,
    to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Realize that salvation comes by grace, and that we are utterly dependent on it, able to do nothing without it. Ask for that grace in your daily prayers. Salvation is not a matter of us contributing our own works to earn our salvation — it's a matter of cooperating with God's grace and being transformed by it so that we become new creatures, filled with divine life. (The good works will come if we cooperate with his grace.) Our job is to get out of the way so God can do his work.

Also, start to read the Bible. The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are a good start. Perhaps Luke might be a good one to start with. Get an Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament.

You should do some spiritual reading. A good book is Holiness: A Guide for Beginners by Hubert van Zeller. You may also enjoy Your Life in the Holy Spirit by Alan Schreck; I read an earlier edition of this book many years ago and was impressed.

Eric

John replied:

Hi, Francisco —

To add to Eric's wonderful and extensive advice:

The Catholic Christian faith is a relationship with the Lord. Eric is wise to advise you to make a good and frequent Confession, after a thorough examination of conscience. He also hit the nail on the head when he talked about giving your life over to God and loving Him with your whole being.

I would add that this relationship can't be described by just one human relationship. Yes, God is a loving father who takes care of us and guides our lives. He helps us not fall into sin, which can be fatal to us. The Bible also describes the relationship between God and His Church as Jesus being the Bridegroom and the Church [us|all Christians] are part of Christ's Bride.

This means that our relationship with the Lord is one in which we share intimacy. You can tell God anything. It's not like He doesn't know it, but by telling Him, we let Him share in our good times as well as our bad, our sorrow, as well as our joy, our failures, as well as our accomplishments. God desires nothing more that to spend time with you. That's pretty awesome and overwhelming when you think about it. So for the Christian it's important, if not crucial, to develop intimacy with the Lord.

John

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