What Do Catholics REALLY Believe About Mary, Saints and Statues?

There are a lot of misconceptions about Mary, Saints and Statues in the Catholic Church. Here's the real answer.

This post is post 8 in a series entitled Letting God Lead: My Journey Through Protestant and Catholic Beliefs. While you certainly can read this post by itself, I highly encourage you to check out the rest of the series as well. Find more about this series and a list of all of posts here. *This post contains affiliate links.

For many Protestants, some of the most difficult Catholic Church teachings to accept are the Church’s beliefs surrounding Mary and the Saints. I’m guessing this is due to the following reasons:

1. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what the Catholic Church actually teaches

2. What individual Catholics do in practice doesn’t always match official Roman Catholic Church teaching.

3. It’s just *weird* to Protestants who grew up in a completely different culture

Now, I can’t speak as to what every individual Catholic does in practice. I’m new on the scene and only personally know a handful of Catholics. So, understand that that is not my intent. Instead, we’re going to talk primarily about official Catholic Church teaching so we can separate some of the fact from the fiction. What you do with it as an individual–well, that’s up to you.

Do Catholics Worship Mary?

First of all, Catholics do NOT worship Mary. They think very highly of her and honor her (the word they use is “venerate” — which means hold in high regard or treat with great respect, more than you would to a king, but less than you would to God), but they do NOT worship Mary or think she is equal with God at all.

I can see why Protestants think Catholics do. They pray to her, they put up pictures of her, they say the Hail Mary, (some Catholics in some parts of the world DO mistakenly worship her)… BUT the official answer is: No, they do not.

Here’s my 2 cents on the issue: Worship is an attitude. It’s intentionally honoring someone as God. You can’t accidentally worship someone. For example, I like to worship by singing rockin’ praise and worship songs. That’s worship to me. If my 5 yo hears me, gets the song stuck in his head and then is singing it later, is he worshipping God too? Not really. Yes, he is honoring God, but he’s not really worshipping. He’s just singing a catchy song.

And really, if ANYTHING is worshipping someone, what about all the country love songs out there? There are tons of songs that go on and on and on about how wonderful and perfect and amazing a woman is. Are they worshipping? No. Because that’s not their intent. The singers think the woman is awesome, but they certainly don’t think she’s equal to God.

So, if a Catholic is praying to Mary or kissing the feet of a statue of her, are they worshipping? Not automatically. It really depends what is going on in their hearts and what they are intending to do. Are they trying to bring honor and respect to the person God himself honored more than anyone or anything else in all of creation? Or do they see Mary herself as their savior and God? There’s a HUGE difference there.

And as Catholics say: “You can never love Mary more than Jesus did.”

Hope that clears things up a bit.

Mary statue

What Does the Catholic Church Teach About Mary?

Catholics believe Mary:

  1. was preserved from Original Sin (by God, not her own merits) and remained sinless throughout her entire life
  2. remained a virgin throughout her entire life
  3. is the new Eve
  4. is the mother of the Church
  5. is in Heaven already
  6. acts as an advocate or intercessor for Christians today

1. Mary was Without Original Sin

Catholics believe that Mary was conceived without original sin, not because she earned it or deserved it, but because God chose to preserve her from it in order that she would be a pure vessel for the Holy Baby she would later carry.

Q: But what about Romans 3:23 and 1 John 1:8, which say that all have sinned? Well, if ALL had sinned, that would include Jesus, since he was a man too. So “all” can’t mean “every single one without any exception.”

Q: But if Mary was sinless, why would she need a savior (Luke 1:47)?  I love the analogy Bryan gave in the comments section of the 10 Common Catholic Myths Critics Believe post. I believe it originally came from Franciscan theologian Duns Scotus. Bryan wrote:

You’re walking along a road and fall into a deep hole. Someone comes along and drops down a ladder or rope and gets you out. They’ve saved you, correct? But your clothes are probably dirty and maybe have a few holes.

What if that same person where to shout at you BEFORE falling into the hole? Aren’t they still a savior? And look, your clothes are still clean!

That’s the Catholic view of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. In anticipation of the redemptive work of Christ, Mary was preserved by God in a special way from any stain of Original Sin. He kept her from ever falling into the hole.

Makes sense to me.

Now, I don’t believe you’ll find the belief that Mary was a virgin explicitly spelled out in the Bible. Like I said in the Who Has the Ultimate Authority? A Biblical Look at Sola Scriptura post, the Bible doesn’t cover every single question that could ever possibly come up throughout the entire rest of the world.

So, when the Bible doesn’t mention things, Catholics go back to what the first century Christians believed and passed down, and from what I understand Mary’s sinlessness was never seriously questioned for centuries. It was common knowledge and widely accepted. So when the Catholic Church officially declared it doctrine in 1854, they weren’t making up a new belief, they were simply formally defining something they had always believed.

2. Mary was a Perpetual Virgin

Protestants believe Mary was a virgin up through the time she gave birth to Jesus. Catholics believe she remained a virgin forever.

Q: But what about Matthew 13:55, which lists Jesus’ brothers? Apparently, the word we have for “brothers” in English could better be translated as “cousins.” Other verses list these same brothers as sons of another Mary.

Also, when Jesus dies, he entrusts his mother to the disciple John. If he had brothers and sisters, wouldn’t he entrust her to one of them?

Q: Then why does Matthew 1:25 say Mary was a virgin “UNTIL” Jesus’s birth? This is another example of a text that loses some of its meaning in translation. In the original language, “until” speaks of the time only *until* the event–it doesn’t reference anything that occurs *after* at all.

Another example would be 1 Corinthians 15:25, which says God will reign “until” He puts His enemies under His feet. Surely God won’t stop reigning once His enemies are under his feet.

Q: Then why is Jesus called the Firstborn? In the Bible, the term “firstborn” doesn’t mean “the child who was born first.” Instead it was the ceremonial title for the child who receives the birthright (think Jacob and Esau).

Q: Where is Mary’s Perpetual virginity mentioned in the Bible? Like her sinlessness, it’s not (to my knowledge). But, as I said before, the Church holds to all of the teachings of the apostles equally–both those that were written down (in the Bible) and those that were passed on orally (Sacred Tradition).

3. Mary is the New Eve

All Christians believe that Jesus is the new Adam (Romans 5:12-18); Catholics complete the analogy by viewing Mary as the new Eve. I have to admit, there are a ton of interesting parallels. This article has 6 Biblical Reasons Mary is the New Eve if you want to read more.

4. Mary is the Mother of the Church

Not that she created the church, but that she is a sort of mother figure. Kind of like Father Abraham to the Jews? I’m sketchy on the details, so if any Catholics want to leave more details in the comments section…. *hint hint* 🙂

5. Mary is in Heaven Already

Just a note–the Church is silent on whether or not Mary died first before she was taken up to Heaven, so Catholics are free to believe whichever way they want.

6. Mary Acts as an Intercessor

I’m going to lump Mary as an intercessor in with Saints as intercessors, so hang in there–we’ll get there! lol

***I also want to talk about the Rosary and the Hail Mary and all that, but I’m going to save that discussion for the post on “Weird Catholic Stuff,” scheduled for March 25th. 

Saint statue

Why Do Catholics Pray to Saints?

When Protestants need prayer for something, they have two options: They can pray to God themselves, or they can ask others to pray for them. Catholics have a third option: In addition to praying to God directly or asking a friend or family member to pray for them, they can ask a Saint to pray for them as well.

Catholics base their prayers to the Saints on the following verses:

“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” –Revelation 5:8

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” –James 5:16 (And who is more righteous than those who are already in Heaven?)

Now, I want to point out–Catholics don’t believe that you HAVE to pray to Saints, or that it is better to pray to them than to God, and they don’t only pray to Saints. They just view it as an option that we have.

Also–another incredibly important point–Catholics (theoretically) don’t believe that the Saints actually have the power to DO anything. They are just asking the Saints to intercede for them–exactly like how Protestants ask their friends to pray for them. They believe that God is still the one who ultimately answers the prayers.

Catholics don’t pray TO the Saints, they pray THROUGH the Saints, or ask the Saints to pray on their behalf.

Although, honestly, as far as I can tell, this is one of those instances where what Catholics teach and what Catholics practice don’t entirely line up. For example, consider these two papers my son brought home from school.

Why do Catholics Pray to Saints?

I actually took these to a Catholic priest to ask, “How can Mary help us say yes to God and how can Saint Therese help us love God if they aren’t supposed to be able to actually DO anything?” His response was basically “Well, we believe they ask God to help us, not that they do it themselves.” So… then why doesn’t it say that? Because that’s not what these papers say at all.

And consider this article about Saint Anthony, Patron Saint of Lost Items. The lengthy prayer to Saint Anthony (at the bottom) says: “O gentle and loving St. Anthony, whose heart was ever full of human sympathy, whisper my petition into the ears of the sweet Infant Jesus, who loved to be folded in your arms; and the gratitude of my heart will ever be yours.”

BUT the rest of the article is full of phrases and comments like: “St Anthony please let my sweatpants be found soon! I believe in you!” “This Saint Anthony has never let me down when I call for his intercession with regard to lost or misplaced items.” andAmanda credits Saint Anthony with their return from the sea!!” 

Again, it’s important to keep in mind the distinction between what the Catholic Church actually officially teaches and what people do. Not to say that they are a bunch of people who say one thing and do another… (at least, not any more than any other Christian–we’re all guilty of this on occasion). Just to say–just because some people get things wrong doesn’t automatically mean that the official teachings themselves are wrong. 

Q: Okay, so what about how the Bible says there is only one mediator–Jesus (1 Tim 2:5)? The Catholic Church does believe that Jesus is our one, true mediator. He’s the only one who can truly get the job done or make it even possible that we would have a relationship with God at all.

But Catholics also recognize that God’s people are called to take part in this mediation as well. In fact, the Bible commands it, using words like “intercession” or “intercede,” which mean the same thing.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” –1 Timothy 2:1

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” –Ephesians 6:18

“for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” –Phillipians 1:19

Protestants believe that Christians can and should pray for each other while they are here on this Earth. Catholics simply believe that the prayers don’t stop once the Saints die and go to Heaven. That the same Saints that prayed for people while on Earth continue to do so even now that they are in Heaven.

Mary2

Why Do Catholics Have Statues?

While this issue generally isn’t nearly as big as the whole Mary/Saint debate, it is still quite a sticking point for many: Why do Catholics have statues? Isn’t that idol worship?

First of all, no, Catholics don’t worship statues any more than random city residents worship the statues in their towns. The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church expressly forbids idolatry, and defines idolatry as following:

“The first commandment condemns polytheism. It requires man neither to believe in, nor to venerate, other divinities than the one true God. Scripture constantly recalls this rejection of ‘idols, [of] silver and gold, the work of men’s hands…” (2112)

“Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship…Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors or reveres a creature in place of God…” (2113)

This is not how Catholics treat their statues. Here’s what you should find instead:

1. Statues are Used for Remembrance

Similar to how people put pictures of their friends and family members around their homes or on their fridge, statues allow Catholics to remember the Saints who have gone before and to be inspired to live up to the high standards they set for us.

2. They are Used for Teaching

Also–another thing that you need to remember is in the early days of the Church, people didn’t have copies of the Bible and–even if they had–they couldn’t read. Statues, pictures, icons the stations of the cross–all of these things were used as teaching tools, just like how Protestants have pictures of Jesus, nativity scenes, crosses with crowns of thorns, and felt boards with little felt Bible characters.

3. God Specifically Requested Statues in Worship

In Exodus 25, when God was laying out the instructions for the ark of the covenant, He called for it to have statues of Cherubim.

“And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover.” — Exodus 25:18-20

If God specifically requested the ark of the covenant to be decorated with statues then, I highly doubt He is deeply offended by them now.

4. Old Testament History

And the ark isn’t the only time God called for statues either. In Numbers 21:8-9, God tells Moses to make a bronze snake, which the people look at to be healed. In Ezekiel’s vision in Ezekiel 41:18-20, he sees carved cherubim and palm trees.

Q: Why Do Catholics Remove the Second Commandment? If you look closely at the Protestant 10 Commandments and the Catholic 10 Commandments, you’ll notice something odd–they aren’t exactly the same. Commandment #2 about not worshipping idols is missing from the Catholic version.

BUT this isn’t because Catholics are trying to get rid of it. Instead, the New Testament account of the 10 Commandments doesn’t actually number them as ten. Instead, it lists 14 imperative statements, and–don’t forget–the original copies don’t include verse numbers. Therefore, commandments were grouped together, and Catholics (and Jews) simply group them differently than Protestants. All of the info is still there–just arranged a little differently.  

Okay, so I hope that clears things up a little bit! What questions do you still have? What points did I miss? See you in the comments section below!!

Loving this series so far? Don’t forget to sign up for the Equipping Godly Women Newsletter for up-to-date info and behind the scenes sneak peaks!

Letting God Lead: My Journey Through Protestant and Catholic Beliefs: Great Series! Must read for any Christian!

Enjoyed this post? Don’t miss the rest of the posts in the series!

The Day I Realized My Religion Got it Wrong

10 Common Catholic Church Myths that Critics Believe

Is the Eucharist Really Just a Symbol?

Is Faith Alone Enough?

Who has the Ultimate Authority? A Biblical Look at Sola Scriptura

A Brief Look at the History of Christianity

What All Christians Should Know About Priests, the Pope and Confession

What Do Catholics Really Believe About Mary, Saints and Statues?

Infant Baptism or Believer’s Baptism? Which is Correct?

What is Purgatory? What are Indulgences?

Why Do Catholics….? Honest Answers to Your Burning Questions

Protestant and Catholic Beliefs Series Conclusion

Resources and Further Reading

I’m not asking you to believe because I say so. Please DON’T take my word for it! The purpose of this series is only to share what I’ve learned on my journey in order to inspire you to begin a journey of your own. Here are a few helpful resources to get you started.

The New Catholic Answer Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Surprised by Truth: 11 Converts Give Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic by Patrick Madrid

The Catholic Church: What Everyone Needs to Know by John L. Allen

https://carm.org/mary-full-grace-and-luke-128

http://www.catholic.com/blog/tim-staples/one-mediator-between-god-and-men

http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/hail-mary-conceived-without-sin

http://www.catholic.com/tracts/do-catholics-worship-statues

http://www.catholic.com/tracts/praying-to-the-saints

http://www.catholicscomehome.org/two-minute-answers/

http://www.gotquestions.org/intercessory-prayer.html

http://www.gotquestions.org/prayer-saints-Mary.html

http://www.jesuswalk.com/7-last-words/3_woman.htm

http://www.openbible.info/topics/idolatry

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/command.htm

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A devoted Christian, wife and mother, Brittany loves helping other women grow in these roles as well. When she isn’t busy taking care of her growing family, you can find her at Equipping Godly Women, where she regularly shares tips, tricks and encouragement to help you be the amazing woman God created you to be. Brittany also has a thriving online community on Facebook as well.

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102 Comments

Great post! I am enjoying reading these posts as a Catholic. Thank you for helping others understand more about our faith.

I think Mary is the mother of the Church because she is our Mother and we are the church. When Jesus told John to behold his Mother while on the cross, he was also saying Mary was everyone’s mother.

Your son’s papers may be a bit confusing. Possibly they over simplified for the kids and missed the mark. You can also look to Mary and the saints as role models. So if you try to lead your life like they did, it would naturally bring you closer to Jesus.

Yes, I am sure they are oversimplified. But I think the sentiment still reflects what I’ve seen and heard elsewhere. And I would think that children’s papers are what you would want to make SURE to get correct, since they are actually used for teaching.

Catholics see the woman in Revelation 12 as Mary. She is THE woman who fulfills the promise to Eve in Genesis 3:15 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Revelation 12:17 – “Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.”
We, as the Church, are “the rest of her offspring.”

“But what about Romans 3:23 and 1 John 1:8, which say that all have sinned? Well, if ALL had sinned, that would include Jesus, since he was a man too. So “all” can’t mean “every single one without any exception.” This statement you made above is incorrect and it denies the deity of Christ! Christ was both “fully man” and “fully God” , therefore the scripture you quoted “….all have sinned…” is correct (as all scripture is, regardless of what the RCC teaches or anyone else), all have sinned and that included Mary.

The phrase “full of grace” in Greek is “plaras karitos,” and it occurs in only two places in the New Testament; neither one is in reference to Mary.

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).
“And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.” (Acts 6:8). https://carm.org/mary-full-grace-and-luke-128

Colossians 2:9 – For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people”. Hebrews 2:17. Psalm 51:5 makes it very clear also, that sin is passed down. The bible never ever suggests that God “kept Mary from sin”.

Jesus did indeed have brothers and sisters, not cousins here. When it spoke of Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, this is not the same word which is used to describe Jesus’ siblings.

Catholics do worship Mary, Statues etc. Worship is not merely singing, though it can be incorporated into such. Worship is to: venerate, pay homage to, adoration of or devotion to a person or thing, honour, adore, bow to, praise, pray to, glorify, exalt, the list is not extensive.

It is quite possible that that is why most traditional CCC REMOVE the 2nd commandment; to not make any graven image or bow to any thing, and they make the 10th commandment into two: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/command.htm

RCs also practice necromancy, which includes sorcery, magic, and is greatly spoken against by God. Praying to dead people (RCC’s ‘saints’) in the hope they can help etc. God forbids it: Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:10; Galatians 5:19-20; Acts 19:19) it is an abomination to God. We know from scripture that demons are behind all such things, including extra-biblical writings which are in-effect, “another gospel”. “Search the scriptures to show thyself approved”

Many Catholics, sadly, are ignorant of the very tenets that underpin their own faith. Looking only to catholic materials/people gives a biased view, naturally, and in your blogs you come across as making a case ‘for’ RC. If you are sincere about wanting truth, perhaps you should extend your research beyond RC.

http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-necromancy.html
https://onefold.wordpress.com/category/sola-scriptura/

Hi, Carrie! Thanks for your thoughts! Here are a few of my own. Remember, I am not Catholic or Protestant, just trying to find unbiased facts as best as I can! (Which can be pretty hard to do on the Internet sometimes!)

My statement “that would include Jesus, since he was a man too” does not deny the deity of Jesus. I am not saying He is ONLY fully man. I am saying He is fully God AND fully man. In other words–all of the attributes of both statuses would still apply to Him. Therefore, when the Scripture says “all have sinned,” Jesus would be an exception. He was (fully God AND) fully man, and yet was without sin.

Very good to know about the “full of grace thing!” Thanks for sharing. That actually helps a lot.

Also, I still maintain that worship has to be intentional. Yes, it is possible to treat Mary more highly than you ought (and MANY Catholics do), but that doesn’t automatically equal worship. It really comes back to how you define worship. To me (and according to the Catholic church definition), worship means that you are honoring someone as God. Catholics don’t do that. You can sing as a form of worship, or you can sing the same song and not be worshiping. You can pray as a form of worship, or you can pray and not be worshiping. (One of the actual definitions of pray is to ask something of someone. Like the old fashioned phrase, ‘pray tell.’ The word itself doesn’t have to mean “talking to God”–that’s just one definition.)

As for the cousins word thing–REALLY wish I knew how to read Latin, Greek, Aramaic and all of that. Wouldn’t that solve so, so many of our problems? 🙂

And I did know that the Catholic Church numbers the commandments differently. I gave an explanation for this in the post. I much, much prefer the Protestant version, but what I would say matters much more than that is: Do they still hold it as important? They didn’t get rid of the commandment all together–they still believe it–they just believe it is incorporated into the first commandment, which makes sense. So they still teach it, even if they don’t list it. (If they got rid of it altogether–that’d be a huge problem!)

I am pretty sure the church does not practice magic. I *believe* the official Catholic Church position is that what the Bible forbids is asking for information from the dead, not asking the Saints who are already in Heaven to pray for us–two very different things. Especially since Revelations says that the Elect offer up prayers of the people to God. Well, how did they get them?

And rest assured, I am not only reading Catholic sources. I’m reading a wide variety of sources. I just usually list more Catholic ones since one of my main intentions in this series is to find out what Catholics believe and why, and Catholic sources generally do a better job of saying what they believe. (They’re the ones who would know, right?) I read MANY more sources than what I link too, often because so many of the Protestant sources are just SO hateful and biased and inaccurate that I wouldn’t recommend them. (Catholic sources can be pretty bad too, but I’ve found the Protestant sources are generally much worse).

Hi Brittany

Concerning worship needing to be ‘intentional’, if a person bows, genuflects, prays to etc., that is intentional. When the Apostle John fell down to worship the angel in the book of Revelation, the angel told him not to do it. John wouldn’t have been worshipping the angel ‘in place of God’ because John knew God, he knew the Lord, even though he wasn’t intending to worship the angel as God, he was still told not to do it but to worship only God. Catholics do bow to statues, in certain cases priests may prostrate themselves before such statues, these are all forms of worship, as with John, it doesn’t require that you are ‘thinking’ this thing/person is God, the act is what counts. Which is why true believers are not to do such things, only God is worthy of such.
Scripture never tells believers to pray to anyone other than God through His Son, Jesus.

Removing one of God’s commandments from their catechism and dividing the tenth commandment into two, is not something to be taken lightly. On what authority do the RCC change and take away from, God’s Word? To say they still teach the 2nd commandment, but they’ve just removed it because “the first commandment covers it”, but says who? God saw fit to put it in, it was God who gave the commandments, He gave the second and He gave the tenth, if God put them in there then that is where they should be, as He put them. I would be very concerned as to why the RCC dared to do such a thing in the first place, change the Word of God.
For the RCC to remove and change commandments from their own catechism (a ‘fundamental teaching of the RCC’), but say they still teach it, is a contradiction at best, and deceptive at worse.

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they “teach the doctrines of men as the commands of God” Matthew 15:9. This is exactly what the RCC does. Here is another example of teaching their own doctrines: For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”80 “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”81 CCC 460. This may be a good place to remember that it was Satan, in the Garden of Eden, who beguiled Eve into believing she would “become like God”.

Carrie,

Yes, the action is intentional, but it’s not the action that makes it worship–it is the intention behind it. To give an extreme example–say I was backing up out of my driveway when a small child ran behind my car and I hit him. Yes, I hit him with my car, but there is a HUGE difference between running someone over with a car with the intention of doing that and running someone over with a car with the intention of backing out of your driveway. The first would obviously be wrong. The second–while tragic in this instance–would certainly not be condemnable.

And to say that the church “took out” a commandment makes the assumption that there were 10 commandments there to begin with. Who says the church started with the Protestant 10 and then took one out to get the Catholic 10? If you read the ten commandments in the Bible today, you’ll see it covers 16 verses. (And then, realize way back then, the Bible wasn’t even segmented into verses yet anyways.) So, both Protestants and Catholics grouped the sentences into a memorable 10–they just did it in different ways. While I think it’s weird to split coveting into two, I can also completely see how “don’t make an idol” would fit under the category of “don’t have any other gods before me.” Maybe everyone would get along better if it was the 9 commandments!

As to your last thought–have you read my other post in this series: Who has the Ultimate Authority? A Biblical Look at Sola Scriptura? It addresses why Catholics believe things you won’t find in the Bible.

Carrie,

Could you please expand on your claim that Catholics practice magic/sorcery? As for necromancy, we ask for the Saints (who are very much alive in Heaven) to intercede and take our prayers to Christ, thus purifying our prayers. See Revelation 5:8

Here’s an article that explains the prayers of the Saints in much better detail: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/praying-to-the-saints

Margo

I think I said sorcery and magic are also considered necromancy. The Revelation 5:8-14 does not teach praying to saints. Also, the incense/prayer of the saints doesn’t tell us about the saints – saints in heaven? on earth?, it doesn’t say, but even if it did it’s not teaching praying to those who have died, there is just no scripture that teaches praying to saints or anyone else except to God, through His Son Jesus Christ. An article on this subject: https://carm.org/praying-saints-biblical

Carrie,

In the original Greek of Luke’s Gospel, the greeting is “kaire, kekaritomene” which translates as “Hail, full of grace.” In ancient Greek, the greeting “kaire” was generally followed by a name. We find this several places in Scripture (John 19:3, Acts 23:26).

The Greek word “kekaritomene” is a perfect, passive participle (don’t worry if you have to look that up, I did too) which literally translates as “she who has been graced.” In Greek, the perfect tense indicates an action has already been completed and results in a current state of being. It is not just a past action (there’s a different tense for that).

(See more: http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/hail-mary-conceived-without-sin)

Jesus may very well have had brothers, but the Scripture is unclear. The literal translation is “brethren of the Lord,” a Jewish idiom which could mean brothers or cousins (or even sisters!) But these brothers were more likely step-brothers (children of Joseph) rather than half-brothers (children of Mary).

Individual Catholics DO go beyond what is acceptable according to Church teaching. You can find this in more areas than just statues and in more places than just Catholicism. How many Christians, Catholic and Protestant, have let their commitment to God lapse in favor of money or other worldly things?

You give an extensive list of what you consider “worship.” Tell me, have you ever adored someone? Praised someone? I hear all the time how so-and-so “adores” his girlfriend. Is he committing idolatry? What about when a Marine is presented with the Medal of Honor? Is that worship? If I go to China or another far east country and bow when greeting someone, is that worship? Many would tell you my mom is constantly praising me, telling others how proud of me she is. Is that worship? And if I honor her as my mother, am I worshipping her? If so, then why does God command me to honor her?

I find many people today are ignorant of the fact the English language we speak today did not just fall out of the sky at the beginning of the world. It developed and continues to develop. Even after the Protestant Reformation, it was common for someone to say, “I pray you reconsider.” That was how someone petitioned another person for a favor. Were they also guilty of worshipping someone who wasn’t God?

Others have already addressed your complaint about the “Second Commandment.” I’ll simply reiterate that the Bible did not fall out of the sky with chapters and verses clearly labeled. Chapter/verse were added much later. The Catholic Church has included what you consider the Second Commandment as part of the FIRST Commandment. This is simply a different numbering. You could argue by including it as part of the First Commandment it is less important than if it were a standalone, but I can argue making it part of the First makes it more important because now it comes first. In the end, we are arguing different opinions about how they should be numbered and forgetting that we both agree it is important! It’d be like arguing the numbering of the Bill of Rights.

Your charge of necromancy also holds no weight. Catholicism teaches the “Communion of Saints” which includes all believers. A person who is no longer alive on this Earth is still alive in Christ, unless you reject verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 – “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.” If we are not alive in Heaven, then what is Heaven? Christ promised us eternal LIFE.

When Catholics ask the Saints in Heaven to intercede for us, we are asking people who are alive in Christ to pray with us. If we were practicing necromancy, we would be trying to conjure the spirits rather than asking them to pray with us.

There is a tremendous difference between someone holding a seance to speak with the dead, and a man kneeling at his mother’s grave asking her to speak to Jesus for him.

You say “search the Scriptures,” but I have to ask, how do you know what the Scriptures are? How do you know the Bible you have in front of you contains everything it should and nothing it doesn’t? If there’s something missing, wouldn’t that change how you read it? What about if it includes something it shouldn’t?

Finally, you point out the bias of Catholic materials and people. The sources you recommend are just as guilty of bias. There isn’t a truly unbiased perspective out there, especially when it comes to religious dialogue.

The bible is God’s Word to and for, mankind. Those that wrote both OT & NT where chosen by God to pen His inspired Word.

There is nowhere in the bible to even suggest that any other writings will come along, after the Book of Revelation, by which true believers are to adhere.

Those who have died in Christ, sleep. There is no teaching that such pray for us or with us in Heaven. Revelation 5:8 which is often cited by RC as to saints praying in heaven, is written in apocalyptic style – according to Jewish tradition. There is no knowing who those saints were or even the precise time frame of that part of John’s vision. Either way, we are never told to pray to those who have died, it is, for all sense of purpose, praying to the dead.

We pray directly to God, through His Son, the one and only mediator between man and God.

I didn’t say that RC literature etc., is biased, I said to only go to, or mainly to, catholic sources would give a biased view.

The angel who appeared to Mary never said ‘Hail Mary full of grace’, that was my point, it never said ‘full of grace’, it says “…you who are highly favoured!….Luke 1:28.

People use words ‘loosely’ I worship him, I love chocolate etc., this is to make light of the more serious point. I didn’t say not to worship statues etc., God said it. Only God is worthy of such worship. When John, in Revelation fell down at the angel’s feet to worship the angel,, the angel told him, don’t do it.

Jesus had siblings. There are different words used for cousin, brother, as of the same nationality, and brother as of the same mother, and sister as of the same mother. Even in the OT they used the appropriate terms for example, brother or half brother, the bible is not left open to individual conjecture, which is what you do when you say “these brothers are more likely…stepbrothers”. The NT differentiates between cousin, sister, brother (same mother) and brother as in brethren in the faith. King David’s daughter spoke of her “half brother”.

When it says in John 7, for one example, that Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in Him, the Gk word used here is for brothers as in those who have the same mother. Also, if that where unclear (which it’s not), Jesus would not refer to those who didn’t believe in Him as His brothers. He said those are His mother, and brother, who “believe in Me”.

But even if you were correct when you say the “bible is not clear” regarding Jesus’ siblings (which of course it is clear, and you can look the Greek words up for each different sense in which the word brother, sister, cousin is used, ie Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, not the same word as for maternal brother), the bible never even hints at the idea of Mary remaining a virgin, that is solely a RC teaching.

There are many false teachers, religions, as well as people who make mistakes, do wrong etc., but that is not what the discussion is, the discussion is on doctrine, doctrine as found in the bible vs RC. So I am not sure why you give examples of people who have erred in life, in their faith etc., because that is not the topic. You have to compare like with like.

Your comments on Church teaching? My point is that the RCC goes beyond what is written in the Word of God, His inspired Word.

You may find different findings with the catholic bible as it derives its doctrine from from the Latin Vulgate, I believe, which was not written until around the 4th century by St Jerome.

I gave what the word ‘worship’ means as found in any good dictionary/thesaurus/concordance and not what ‘I consider to be worship’. I think what you are doing is twisting what I actually said, but that’s fine, I’ll make the corrections as I respond to your points.

Regarding praying to the dead, those that have died, you say they are “alive in Christ” and unless I “reject 1 Thess 5:9-10”. I reject no scripture, Word of God. 1 Thess 5:9-10 speaks of true believers being alive in Christ, living or dead. Sleep is another level of consciousness, and the scripture doesn’t elaborate on the roles, if any, of those who await the resurrection that have already fallen asleep, they will be raised first. I fail to see where in this scripture it tells us to pray to those who ‘sleep in Christ’.

To ‘honour’ our Father and Mother, has no link with worshipping statues, or even with worship itself. If people choose to worship anything or anyone, what point does that make? None. God said not to make any image of anything, not to bow down to an image, and not to worship such images, as is done in the RCC; prostrating before statues of Mary, kissing statues of Mary etc etc., you are comparing chalk with cheese, it doesn’t work. As it doesn’t work with your other out of place comparisons such as in Old English people saying ‘pray tell’, this is really a nonsense and nothing to do with Mary worship, statue worship/bowing, praying to the dead etc.

The traditional catechism does far more than alter the numbering system. It entirely removes that part of the 2nd commandment that says not to make any graven image or to bow down to such etc. then it, the RCC, makes the tenth commandment into two commandments, that is more than changing numbers, that is changing the very word of God. Why does the CCC do that? Why remove a commandment, if even only in part, that commands not to make an image of ANYTHING, OR BOW DOWN TO ANY IMAGE? Furthermore, the bible does not belong to the RCC. And God hasn’t given any man the permission to alter His inspired word. 1 Cor 4:6 says to “learn not to exceed that which is written”. And from Revelation we know that adding to the word of God is forbidden.

I think it is pretty much elementary that the scriptures were written without chapters and verses, that is not a signal for the RCC to change the Word of God.

To pray at a loved ones grave and ask them to pray for them (ref your quote), is the same thing as praying to the dead, whether it compares with a séance or not, it is still praying to the dead and scripture never tells us to do it – not one time.
“How do you know what the scriptures are….if the bible in front of you has everything….?”

Firstly: From OT to NT, the bible fits perfectly; Jesus fulfilled 300+ prophecies written in the OT, concerning the Messiah. Secondly: Historically, archaeologically and anthropologically the bible OT/NT stand the acid test of authenticity. Thirdly: “I know that my redeemer lives..” Without a personal relationship with Christ, through His Holy Spirit, we can know nothing “it is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh profits nothing” “..but I will not leave you as orphans, I will send to you the Holy Spirit, He will teach you all things….” “the carnal mind cannot understand the things of God, for they are Spiritually discerned..” And lastly, the scriptures/bible contain everything that is needed for people to know how to be saved.

Thanks for your reply Carrie.

You gave a lot of information, so let me see if I can respond appropriately. My usual disclaimer: please feel free to correct me if I appear to be misunderstanding your points.

First, the Catholic Church derives all dogmas and doctrines from the only true Word of God – Christ Himself – as recorded in Sacred Scripture (the Bible) and handed on through Sacred Tradition (oral traditions, many of which were later written down in the Bible).

We agree those that wrote both OT & NT where chosen by God to pen His inspired Word, but we disagree on which books belong. Since the 4th Century the Catholic Church has affirmed 73 books as canonical, but many more were written. How do you know when you read Acts of Paul and Thecla, Apocalypse of Peter, or Clement’s first letter to the Corinthians that they do not belong in Scripture? How can you be sure when you read James, Jude, Hebrews and Revelation that they actually belong? Did you know Martin Luther actually wanted all four of them removed from Scripture?

And how do you reconcile contradictions of Scripture, like when God says not to make graven images or bow down before them, then commands Moses to make a staff with a serpent at the top and have anyone bitten look at it? What about when he commands the building of the Ark of the Covenant? And were the Israelites guilty of worshipping the Ark when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to offer sacrifices?

You said what “worship” means, and according to your dictionary definition that includes honor. So if worship includes honor, then logically if I’m “honoring” my parents as I’m commanded to do, I’m worshipping them. As you said, honor is one definition of worship. So are you now saying honor is not the same thing? Are you saying it is possible to honor someone without worshipping them? That would completely contradict your previous statements, and would also be in line with Catholic teaching.

According to most modern English translations of the Bible, you are correct of the text in Luke 1:28. But how do you know those are accurate translations? I’ve already shown you my evidence that they are not. The word in Greek is “kekaritomene” which is a perfect passive participle. The action has been completed, but the effect continues.

As for the commandments, first of all understand the Catechism is not meant as the authoritative and definitive document on Church teaching. It is merely a summary, and in fact does not include every little thing (there is nothing about tattoos, for example). It was intended as a “point of reference” but not as an authority.

Having said that, I must also ask which Catechism you are using. My Catechism not only mentions the passage in question as part of the first commandment, but also explains what this passage means. Nothing has been removed.

Furthermore, since Catholicism existed long before the Reformation, it would not be correct to say the Church moved or removed anything unless you can prove conclusively that Luther or other reformers used a different Bible that was in existence before the Church, that the Church knew of this Bible and chose to organize it according to their own will. Absent this evidence, we must base our claims on the historical facts before us. According to the timeline of these facts, the only ones who could have moved or removed anything were the Reformers and those who came afterward.

It was Luther who removed parts of Daniel and Esther, and moved 1&2 Maccabees, Tobit, Sirach, Judith, Wisdom and Baruch to a separate section of the Old Testament. He also proposed the same treatment for James, Jude, Hebrews and Revelation.

So if God hasn’t given man permission to alter His inspired word, what are we to make of Luther and those who followed his canon? What about the later reformers who completely removed those seven books?

You reference 1 Cor 4:6, but I ask what does that mean? If I’m not to exceed what is written, where do I draw the line? Does this verse in First Corinthians mean I can ignore anything Paul writes in SECOND Corinthians? I think you’d agree that’s a ridiculous idea. But we have to remember the 27 books recognized by the Church as New Testament Scripture weren’t written immediately after Christ’s death. The earliest writings were around 54 A.D. The latest were around 100 A.D. None was officially recognized as Scripture until the late 4th Century.

For more than 350 years after Christ’s ascension there was no single compilation of Scripture we would call “The Bible.” If you lived in that time, how would you interpret those verses?

This is probably the greatest flaw with Sola Scriptura. It places Scripture in a vacuum devoid of all historical and cultural context. Without that, we get a completely different understanding of Scripture.

Hi Bryan

You have some misunderstandings on what I have actually stated in my posts. I didn’t say honour was part of worship, I think you actually made that statement, but I did address about honour in response to when you first mentioned it, see my previous post dated 12 March @ 7:32 am.

Carrie,

In thinking more about this the last few days, I’m curious about something…Do you believe it is a requirement for Christians to keep the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament?

If so, how do you reconcile that with the New Testament? Especially St. Paul’s writings?

If not, then how do you determine which parts of the old Law we have to follow and which ones can be ignored?

Again, a well-written article, and I liked that you compare Catholic belief and practice. As a Baptist/Presbyterian-style Protestant, I naturally have concerns about some of these Catholic teachings, but a few of them are less objectionable to me than some of the other Catholic teachings discussed on your blog. I might comment more later if I have time, but for now, I’d genuinely like to understand the Catholic reasoning behind some of the ideas. If anyone has time to answer, some of my questions are as follows:

1. Do Catholics simply believe Mary was preserved from original sin, or do they believe it was a necessity since she was to be the mother of Christ? If the latter, then if Mary could herself be born from a mother infected with original sin and yet still be preserved as pure, wouldn’t that mean Christ could have been born in a similar fashion? (As a side note in reference to the Catholic explanation of the word “all” in Romans 3:23, Christ is an exception as noted, but He was man and God–a fact that does not apply to Mary, so her exception to the rule would have to be dealt with differently.)
2. Why does it matter whether Mary was a virgin after Christ was born? I assume this has to do with the concept of her being preserved from original sin and how that would affect her offspring, but I’m unsure.
3. This displays my ignorance, but which verses list Jesus’ brothers/cousins as being sons of a different Mary than Mary, the mother of Christ?
4. Brittany stated “Mary is in Heaven already.” Was that in reference to the concept of bodily assumption and having a body in Heaven, or do Catholics believe no one else is currently in Heaven? I should probably know the answer to this, but memory escapes me.
5. Can Catholics pray to anyone suspected to have died in Christ (i.e. parents, grandparents, former priests, popes), or can they only pray to those declared to be saints?

I forgot to mention that there is one point on the catholicscomehome.org link that confused me. It seemed to suggest that even more individuals in history than Mary (particularly John the Baptist) may have been sinless. I was not aware that such a concept was even a discussion within Catholicism.

I noticed that too, but as far as I know, the Catholic church doesn’t teach that anyone is sinless except Jesus and Mary. I’ve never heard it anywhere else.

Yes, others are in heaven, but they are awaiting the resurrection of the body. Mary is in heaven, body and soul, having served as the new arm of the covenant, her body I’d preserved from decay.

DCal,

I haven’t read the link, so I don’t know the context. But I would guess it was in reference to ORIGINAL SIN. All validly baptized Christians are free from Original Sin, but that does not make us sinless. We still have personal sin to deal with.

The Church teaches three people were BORN without Original Sin. Mary, who was free from Original Sin at the moment of conception, Jesus, and John the Baptist. John is the one often forgotten, but the Scriptures testify to his recognizing Jesus in Mary’s womb. The Church teaches at that moment he was freed from Original Sin.

Thanks for the clarification, Bryan. The original link to which I was referring seemed at first glance to imply that John the Baptist was always without sin of any form. Though with the qualifier that Catholics and Protestants often disagree on definitions of justification and sanctification, I have no problem with sin (even original sin) being forgiven after someone responds in faith to Christ, even if hypothetically that were to occur within the womb. I’d still assume that John the Baptist, being human, sinned at times during the course of his life and was forgiven, but that’s a discussion for another day. Part of my reason for balking at the Catholic understanding of Mary is the impression I have that Catholics hold she was always without sin, including original sin, from the moment of conception (in contrast to John the Baptist). This would seem to exempt her from numerous commands throughout the New Testament to repent of sin, confess sin, admit to being a sinner, etc. Many of these commands seem to assume that all humans (except Christ, who is also God) are tainted by original sin along with the tendency to sin. I just remain unconvinced that Mary is an exception to the rule.

DCal,

Always happy to continue our charitable discussions of the faith.

The Catholic view is that Mary was free from sin throughout her life. We don’t know if John the Baptist ever committed personal sin, but we believe he might have. With Mary the belief isn’t simply that she didn’t sin, but that by the special Grace given by God at the moment of her conception in anticipation of Christ’s redemptive work, Mary’s will was perfectly united to God’s for her entire life. In other words, she was incapable of committing sin as we understand it. Sin involves an act of the will. We willingly choose to go against God’s plan for us. Mary’s will, being perfectly united to God’s, would never choose that.

As to her being an exception to the rules, I first of all want to encourage you to read my comment at the bottom of the page on Mary’s role as the New Eve. Second, without knowing which specific verses you are referring to I cannot offer much in the way of clarity. Many of the verses I think you are referring to deal with either personal sin or with baptism. Neither of them would apply to Mary.

Thank you again for your explanation, Bryan. It does help me to understand the Catholic position. You asked for verses about sin and repentance that I think would apply to the situation with Mary, but before I list any, I would note that I don’t intend to point to any specific verse, but rather a biblical trend. There seems, in the New Testament, to be a general call to repentance from sin, and I simply see no reason outlined in the New Testament to think that Mary is an exception to the rule. I know we’ll disagree on this, and, like you, I’m glad we can discuss these matters charitably. A few examples of some of the verses that demonstrate the general call to repentance include Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:4, Mark 6:12, John 3:5, Acts 13:24, Acts 20:21, Acts 26:20, Luke 11:4, Romans 3:23 (already discussed on this blog), Romans 5:8, 1 Corinthians 15:3, 1 John 1:8, etc. I’m having to write this quickly, so I haven’t had time to carefully analyze the context of all of these verses, but I think they’re at least semi-applicable. That Christ is an exception to the sinfulness of man is very clearly demonstrated and explained in Scripture. I simply don’t see such a clear picture of Mary, and I say this carefully, because I most certainly don’t want to make it seem that I intend to be disrespectful to her or to Catholic belief.

Just to clarify–the official word from the priest I spoke to yesterday is that Mary *could* have chosen to go against God’s plan (she was a human with free will, not a robot), she just didn’t. Whereas Eve was born without original sin and made the wrong choice, Mary was born without original sin and didn’t.

Brittany,

You are correct that Mary *could* go against God’s will. However, because of the Immaculate Conception, her will was perfectly united to God’s. Therefore, she *wouldn’t* go against Him.

Hi DCal and Bryan,

I highly appreciate your thoughts but I admire the charity you share. This is the charity that Jesus repeatedly preached throughout his ministry. By merely reading your exchanges, you have portrayed Jesus’ love and mercy for all of humankind. Your faith have been translated in action.

You may have different views, yet you show appreciation of each other’s beliefs. What is even more beautiful about your exchanges is that you strengthen the points over which you agree. This is what we need in our Christian faith. We have a billion things in common. Let’s focus on and echo them.

Although doctrines are important for a better understanding of the faith and of God, practicing love and mercy as Jesus commanded us has bigger impact in our daily lives. I pray that the good Lord will continue to bless you.

Brittany, you are doing an excellent work. Thank you.

I CHOOSE to have my will be in agreement with the Father’s, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t sin. It means that yes, He knows my heart, but I am able to fall into sin anyway. The tempter is always around. I KNOW I can overcome him by the power of Holy Spirit, but I still find myself having to repent. So yes, an act of WILL as in purposely sinning is not something I would ever choose, but that does not mean I don’t need salvation on an ongoing basis daily, and that is NO DOUBT exactly why Mary herself called Jesus HER OWN SAVIOUR. Why do people have to read all this extemperaneous stuff into plain scripture? Why can we not be happy with what the Bible tells us without trying to add all sorts of subterfuge/mystery et al? There are surely other things that could occupy us more profitably for the Kingdom

I wish I had longer to address all of your questions – although a couple of them I don’t feel like I can explain properly. I will try and address number 1 though. If a person is born to a mother who is an alcoholic that drinks while pregnant, that person will be affected by those actions. Even if the mother quits drinking before the baby is conceived, if the alcoholism has already affected her body (her liver for instance) to a great degree the baby can still suffer from the effects. However, if a babies GRANDMOTHER suffered from alcoholism, that has no direct affect on the grandchild while it is in the womb of its mother. Sure, after the baby is born he might have to deal with a genetic predisposition toward alcohol and will have to fight temptation to succumb, but he will have suffered no physical effects from an alcoholic grandmother while in the womb.
So Mary was preserved from sin in order to be a pure vessel for Jesus. His grandparents were not responsible for carrying Jesus in their bodies for nine months – Mary was. And yes, Mary’s parents were sinners, which means he is directly descended from sinners. But he faced the temptation to sin like all of us and overcame it – most notably during his 40 days in the desert.
As for why Mary HAD to be preserved from sin, I am honestly not sure except to say that if you are shipping something valuable and precious through the mail you are probably not just going to toss it in an envelope and send it on it’s way. You will pack it with the utmost care and as safely as possible for it’s journey.

Thank you, Fine Linen and Purple, for your thoughtful reply to my questions. Your reasoning makes sense, and I think I understand Catholic positions a little better now. Of course, I remain unconvinced of Catholic doctrines such as the one addressing the Immaculate Conception, as I still just don’t see reliable evidence for it in Scripture, which, even speaking from a historical perspective, remains the earliest detailed record of the birth of Christ of which I am aware. To me, it seems that if Christ came into the world as a human and as God, and if He allowed Himself to be subjected even to suffering and death on the cross, then it would make sense for Him to have been born in a normal human womb, even one in a mother subjected to original sin. It seems that, even in such a state, He could have Himself been preserved from original sin and its effects.

Yes, He absolutely could have. I think the Catholic position is just that if God cared so much in the OT about making the arc of the covenant so perfect and precise, He’d want his 9 mo home here to be perfect too.

Hi there!

I can try and do my best to help. If you need more explanation/resources, let me know.

1. I feel like this is answered best with Catholics’ belief in the Immaculate Conception which says that Mary, although conceived in a normal manner that in that conception she was preserved from original sin.
I see what you mean with your point though-my simple reasoning if anything is that God wanted to go the extra step of having a Virgin Mother for his son, Jesus. (not sure if that entirely helps or not…)

2. In a way, it doesn’t matter whether she was a virgin after Christ’s birth or not but I think it does speak about her character and vocation as God’s mother that she chose to remain a virgin her entire life. Many saints also remained virgins throughout their lives (and many people still chose to today) as a sacrifice/offering to God.

4. Catholics believe Mary is in Heaven, body and soul. We celebrate this on the Feast of the Assumption. This wasn’t declared until around the same time the Immaculate Conception was declared an official teaching (which the Catholic church only does when there is a dispute of the belief). If you think about what we know about the early apostles and followers of Christ who we speak of often (St. Peter, St. Paul, etc.) we know where they’re all buried. They were alive in the time of Jesus (and Mary). Yet, there is no record of where Mary is buried like we have of the apostles. This supports the belief of the early Christian church that Mary was assumed body and soul into Heaven.

5.In the Catholic church, we believe that everyone who dies and goes to Heaven is a saint. There are Saints (capital S) and saints (little s). Capital S Saints are the officially recognized ones in the church (St. Francis, St. Paul, St. Therese etc). Little s saints are anyone that dies and goes to Heaven, referred to collectively as the Communion of Saints. Although we don’t know for sure that our loved ones are in Heaven, we trust in God’s mercy that they make it there. I know when I was little (maybe 5 or 6) my grandma passed away. She was THE figurehead of our family, and I adored her. I remember talking to her and imagining her in Heaven watching out for me. No one (parents or the church) had told me to talk to her; it was just a natural reaction. Asking my grandma to watch out for me and pray/intercede for me in Heaven is the same as when she prayed and interceded for me on Earth. There is no guarantee that she (or any Saint) will have our prayers granted because they’re interceding for them and bringing them to God. I do think it’s the mindset of our Christian faith to ask for the Saints (and saints) to pray for us since our faith is communal (and our God is too! Father,Son,Holy Spirit).

If you need any clarification on what I said, please ask. 🙂

Chelsea, thanks for your answers to my questions. I really appreciate it. Naturally, I still disagree with many elements of Catholic doctrine and practice, but I am glad to be able to understand Catholic positions better.

Honestly, the fact that you at least understand Catholic positions better is a Huge thing to me. Too often non-Catholics have misconceptions about what our beliefs are. The more people that can at least see where we are coming from will help bridge the gap to more understanding and mutual respect.

Chelsea, I heartily agree that better understanding between Protestants and Catholics is needed. I, of course, want people to become Protestant, just as you want them to become Catholic, but whether people choose Protestantism or Catholicism, I want them to do so with their eyes wide open. Too many Protestants dismiss without thought the rich history of Catholic teaching and traditions, and I suspect that many Catholics misunderstand the richness of Protestant heritage and doctrine. That’s unfortunate, as discussions about the wrong things don’t really do as much good as hearty, friendly discussions about the actual beliefs of Protestants and Catholics.

Because the authorities were pretty concerned about the new faith- it really was an amazing time in history, when Pentecost arrived, the apostles were in danger and we are told of some of their horrendous deaths. There is also the other side of the idea of Mary’s disappearing from further mention in the Bible. AND it makes more sense than saying she was whisked off without fanfare to heaven. (That would be something I’m sure the writers would have mentioned) it is thought that Joseph of Arimathea (who was reportedly her relative- uncle? and a wealthy shipping magnate) had her removed from the centre of the controversy. After all, the authorities would certainly not want her producing another contender after they had just illegally murdered her first born. So to preserve her life, she was moved to another country. Some myths- at least equally believable as the sky-lift, even say she was taken to England by sea.

Hello, DCal90.
I never got to reply to the other comment in the previous post. I have been swamped. I will still try to get to it sometime.
I will tackle #2 first.
============2. Why does it matter whether Mary was a virgin after Christ was born? I assume this has to do with the concept of her being preserved from original sin and how that would affect her offspring, but I’m unsure.=================

Actually, this is the ONLY Marian dogma which is not implicit or explicit in scripture, but portions can be derived at by careful examination, and the rest must be submission of will to the Church’s authority and wisdom.
The Perpetual Virginity of Mary states that she was a virgin before, during and after the birth.
FYI, Mary only had ONE child = Jesus, and no one else. Let’s look at the events in context of Jewish culture and faith to have a better understanding of the relationship between Mary and Joseph.

It is CRITICAL to understand that Joseph was a righteous man. He would be a very devout Jew and follow the laws of the faith with care.
According to the Protoevangelium of James, from which we learn a bunch of things regarding Mary, we know that her parents, Ann and Joaquin, were old and had no children (Sarah and Abraham, Elyzabeth and Zacharias, etc). Once Mary was born they offered her to God and she was ‘consecrated’ to living in the temple. Hence, Mary’s upbringing was in serving the Lord in the temple, until she went through her first menstrual period. At this moment, because of the flow of blood, she could no longer be in the temple. Because she was consecrated to God, there was the need to find a guardian for her. This is where Joseph comes in.
It is difficult to know what would normally happen between Joseph and Mary, even though she had been consecrated to God, because she was no longer living in the temple, and was given in marriage. At this point it really is irrelevant because of what happens next.
She is found to be with child, before she was taken by Joseph, and we all know the story, but there is ONE portion that is missed badly.
When it is REVEALED to Joseph that the child in her womb is the fruit of God, and Joseph being a RIGHTEOUS man, he embraces the idea that Mary has been espoused by God Himself, and IF he, Joseph, touches her in any sexual manner, he is violating her and committing adultery against the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it would be IMPOSSIBLE for Joseph to touch or have sexual relations with Mary, once he learned that the child she was carrying was the fruit of the intimate relation of the Holy Spirit with Mary.
In conclusion, Mary never had any more children, nor did Joseph have any sexual relations with Mary. But this is not the end of the problem, because when the baby is born He breaks the virginal membrane, The Church tells us that she remained a virgin ‘during’ and also after the birth. This is the part that must be accepted under the authority of the Church, but it really is not a big deal.
Let me show a real miracle of the last century through the ‘intercession’ of Padre Pio (saint now). A seven year old girl was blind from birth because she had no pupils. Anyway, making a long story short, she was miraculously cured and has 20/20 vision, but there is more to the story.

Various eye specialists from all over the world have gone to examine this girl/woman and cannot believe what they encounter; she has no pupils, but sees perfectly. Her eyes have always been WITHOUT pupils yet sees perfectly, defying ALL the laws of nature. This is just a gesture from God dealing with “Help my unbelief”. If God can do this kind of stuff for a girl, keeping His own mother perpetually a virgin would be nothing. Let’s not forget all the amazing miracles we see in scripture both Old and New. Things like oil for one day burned for eight.

I will try to get to the rest another day. Almost 2AM, and too sleepy.

Thanks, Antonio, for your reply. I fully agree that God is capable of having Mary be a perpetual virgin, as I absolutely believe in miracles. Indeed, since Christ’s coming to earth was in itself a miracle, I think it reasonable to even question the faith of anyone who denies the possibility of miracles in history. That said, my three main concerns about the concept of the perpetual virginity of Mary are as follows: 1) Is it Scriptural?, 2) Is it historical?, and 3) should it be official Christian teaching? On the first point, as you note, it’s not explicitly spelled out in Scripture. Some strands of Protestantism think the Bible suggests the opposite of the concept (that Christ did have half-brothers and/or half-sisters). I have no seminary training myself and should look into the matter more. I know Mary was a virgin up to the birth of Christ; what happened later is the area of concern for me. On the second point, even if the concept of Mary’s perpetual virginity is permitted by Scripture, we have to discuss the extra-Scriptural historical record. Did it actually happen? Catholics rightly look to church traditions for evidence, and I can assure you that carries a lot of weight for me too (just not in the same way it does for Catholics). I would feel more comfortable making sure the traditions are sourced reliably. You note the Protoevangelium of James, but I looked it up and my understanding is that there was some question about its reliability even in the early church period, and I know that it is not accepted as part of either the Protestant or Catholic biblical canons. Do you know if the Catholic Church views the Protoevangelium as being historically authoritative? (Please forgive my ignorance of this aspect of Catholicism.) On the third and final point, should the concept of Mary’s perpetual virginity be official church teaching? This is where I find myself most in disagreement with Catholicism. Even if we hold that Scripture does not contradict the idea (and I’m still unsure), and even if it was a historical possibility, I question that we can be certain enough about it to make it official Christian doctrine 1800 years later. This, of course, displays my Protestant ways of thinking and is probably not an objection that would be reasonable to a devout Catholic. To me, the idea of Mary’s perpetual virginity does not seem to be a concept demanded by either Scripture or the historical record. You suggest that Joseph could not commit adultery with Mary, but I would ask–Regardless of sexual relations after the birth of Christ, wouldn’t it have been problematic for Joseph to even be betrothed and/or married to Mary if she was actually considered the wife of God in a human sense? And second, aren’t we to consider the Church as a whole to be the bride of Christ rather than simply Mary specifically? Even if permitted by Scripture, I just don’t see the concept of Mary’s perpetual virginity as being demanded by Scripture. Also, I still (and again I display my Protestant ways of thinking) have concerns about the doctrine being officially defined 1800 years after the fact. I know Catholics argue that it was all but universally taught until that time, but my Protestant mind has difficulty with such a concept. Catholic apologists up until that time could have assured me that Mary’s perpetual virginity was not official Catholic teaching (because my impression is that it simply wasn’t). It was taught, but was not dogmatically defined. That makes me wonder whether things that Catholic apologists today say are not part of official church teaching could later become so. In conclusion and more to the point though, I don’t see the idea of Mary’s perpetual virginity as being a major difference between Protestants and Catholics (I assume some Protestants believe in the idea as well), and I freely admit that, even if I am right about believing Protestant objections to Catholicism in general, I could still be wrong about the concept of Mary’s perpetual virginity. I’m simply unconvinced of the concept at this point.

I’m going to reply to myself and withdraw one of my objections to the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity. I made a terrible academic error. In discussing so many Catholic doctrines lately, I think I confused the timing of when some were dogmatically defined in history. I do question why some Catholic ideas were not dogmatically defined until the last couple of hundred years, but I think I was in error in referring to the concept of Mary’s perpetual virginity as falling into this category. I really don’t know when it was dogmatically defined by the Catholic Church. This error does not erase my other concerns about the doctrine, but I apologize for criticizing it as not being dogmatically defined until the 1800s as I don’t know whether that was the case or not. I shouldn’t have let myself ramble as I did and hope I haven’t given offense.

Very interesting information! I don’t think the problem, though, is whether God *could* have done this–we all believe He *could* — but whether there is enough evidence to believe that He did.

The orthodox church also teaches that Mary was a vestal virgin, and as such she would have after puberty been released from temple duties to a live with an older guardian type guy, and they would never have had sex.

DCal,

1. It was not a “necessity,” but it was fitting for her as the Mother of God.

2. I don’t think it’s one of those, “salvation totally depends on us being absolutely correct” situations. However, the Church has long held this belief in part because of a 2nd century text known as the “Protoevangelium of James.” This is the earliest text we have making reference to Mary’s perpetual virginity. According to the text, Mary was a consecrated virgin. At that time in Jewish society, she still needed a male protector bound to her through marriage. But he was required to hold her vows in the highest respect.

On place we see this evidenced in Scripture is the Annunciation, where Mary asks, “how can this be?” If Mary planned on having sexual relations with Joseph, she wouldn’t ask how it was possible. She would respond in the first-century equivalent of “Duh! I’m getting married! Of course we’re going to have children! Thanks for telling me my first child will be a boy.”

3. There isn’t a specific verse. It’s an understanding of how language has developed since 1st Century Judea. The Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic words for “Brother” applies to all male relatives from whom you are not descended (they would be “father”) nor those who were your descendants (those are “sons”). Based on this understanding, it is more likely they were cousins. It is also possible for them to be step-brothers (children of Joseph) rather than half brothers (children of Mary). (More info: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/brethren-of-the-lord)

4. I tried to cover this one in my other reply, but Mary’s being in Heaven is a reference to her being assumed completely (body and soul) into Heaven at the conclusion of her earthly life. Catholics absolutely believe others are in Heaven. Everyone the Church has recognized as a Saint is in Heaven, as well as many of the Old Testament heroes (Moses, Enoch, Elijah for example).

5. This last one is a little more complicated. The short answer is yes, we can pray to anyone we suspect is in Heaven. The long answer is we cannot encourage others to pray for them unless there is a formal cause for canonization and the person has been approved by the Vatican (or maybe just the local Bishop’s Conference, can’t remember) for prayer. It’s also important to remember than anyone the Church has declared “Blessed” is technically a Saint. Also, just as a point of clarification, the Church does not “make” Saints. When there is a declaration of Sainthood, the Church is merely recognizing the person is in Heaven.

Again, Bryan, thanks for your comments. They are both insightful and helpful. I’ve wanted to know the rationale behind the perpetual virginity of Mary because it makes a difference as to whether the discussion is a theological discussion or a historical discussion. Are we saying that Mary simply remained a virgin after Christ’s birth, or are we saying that there would have been something inherently wrong with marital relations after Christ’s birth? The way you describe it (in contrast to some other Catholics), it is largely a historical discussion, and I have no problem with that. From my perspective, the key is simply to make sure no side of the debate inherently contradicts Scripture then see what the historical record shows. I freely admit my skepticism on Mary’s perpetual virginity could be wrong. That said, If it’s a theological and moral discussion, it’s helpful in conversing with Protestants such as myself to show the rationale that demands the belief be part of official church teaching. In closing, I would like to note that I have no doubts about Mary being a virgin when Christ was born. That is made absolutely clear in Scriptural passages that both sola-Scriptura-style Protestants and Catholics view as being authoritative.

DCal,

You present this as an either/or position, when in fact it’s more of a both/and.

It is a historical argument, as Mary was consecrated to the Lord as a child to serve like the prophetess Anna. Because of the culture, it was fitting that she still have a husband to serve as provider and protector. This man was required by law to respect her purity, and serious consequences awaited if he violated her pledge to remain a virgin throughout her life.

There is also a clue in Mary’s response to the annunciation. If Mary planned on a sexual relationship with Joseph, why would she ask how it was possible she would conceive? We can argue she was curious specifically about the birth of Jesus, but the fact remains Mary was aware of how babies were made. If she planned on a normal marriage to Joseph, she’d expect to have children. So Gabriel’s announcement wouldn’t come as a shock to her.

But it is also theological based on Mary’s role as the Ark of the New Covenant. No impure man was allowed to touch the OT Ark, and since New Testament types are always more perfect than their OT counterparts we would expect the same treatment given to Mary.

Thanks! I was afraid I would seem to be presenting Mary’s perpetual virginity as an either/or discussion regarding history or theology. You are correct–it is much more complicated than that, and in Christianity, history and theology are ultimately inseparable. That said, you also correctly illustrate what I was trying to get at with my points. I have no question about the propriety of discussing the historical record of what we know about Mary. I would simply be hesitant to make a conclusion from the non-Scriptural historical record into a matter of church doctrine. Even aside from the sola-Scriptura debate, I’m uncertain that the historical record is clear enough, although such an assertion on my part then brings up the issue of church authority, etc. Your subsequent discussion of Scripture, of course, is where I’m most comfortable as a Protestant with doctrinal discussion and that’s where it would be easiest to convince me one way or the other about Mary’s perpetual virginity. Finally, your closing paragraph on the theology of Mary as the Ark of the Covenant is where I personally balk the most. I know that Catholics do use Scriptural parallels between Mary and the Ark to make this argument, but in my opinion, the analogy only holds up so far in regard to the perpetual virginity of Mary. You suggest that people couldn’t touch the Ark without the proper ritual procedures, and I agree that’s clear in the Old Testament. Even if Mary parallels the Ark however, that doesn’t seem to me to demand her perpetual virginity. If we take the analogy too far, we would be forced to come to the conclusion that she would have to be carried around her entire life in a special, ceremonial manner, and that outside of those ceremonies, no normal human could have any form of contact with her without risking being killed instantly.

even though the perpetual virginity of isn’t mentioned in Scripture it has been taught since the early Church. So far for Catholics it is what both the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition teach/tell us about Mary…I think you’ve touched on that before too.

Having statues of Mary or saints in home is now different than hanging up a cross or picture of Jesus…we don’t worship a statue or picture but it draws our attention back to Jesus through another holy person’s life/witness.
Good stuff!

In some parts of my country saint Anthony is very “popular” and priests there joke that they hear people praying: Dear Jesus, please tell saint Anthony to help me. 😀
It’s just a joke, of course, but I think a lot of people, especially older ones, don’t really know the official Church teaching on this issue.
While I’m pretty sure none of them think saints and Mary are equal to God, there are some strange practices like kneeling before and kissing saints’ statues (it’s not common, but it happens).
I love how learning what Protestants find strange/wrong in our practices makes me a better Catholic because I pay more attention to things I never have before and reevaluate things I’ve been doing wrong without even knowing. God works in mysterious ways 🙂

I also love hearing what Protestant traditions Catholics think are strange. My husband has mentioned a couple that made me think “Hm. that is strange!” But you just grow up so used to it, you don’t even think about it.

Good article.

It does appear that the Catholic Church emphasizes Mary’s virginity perhaps excessively so. What I mean is that the theological importance of her virginity is to support our belief in Jesus having 2 natures – true God and true man. Beyond that, I think it is important to note Mary’s freedom form sin – all sin. Mary’s purity was a purity of soul and heart and that meant she was free of hate, envy, pride, etc.

Not completely unrelated is that the Catholic Church has from the time of (St.) Augustine had a rather poor view of the married state and that poor view is not supported by the Bible. People are free to choose a celibate life for themselves, but they are not then free to look down upon us married householders. Love of God and love of your fellow human beings makes one holy – not being in the celibate state for life.

Please read my response to DCal90 a few comments above.
Actually, St Paul REALLY emphasizes celibacy. Furthermore, he calls people to live celibate and ONLY to get married if they cannot control their sexual hormones/urges, so that they will not commit sins of adultery or fornication, or whatever else. So this concept was already very alive in the time of the apostles, it was nothing ‘new’ to St Augustine.
There is a place for marriage, and some are called to live a life of virginal purity and chastity in total consecration to God. This was what St Paul talks about and challenges people to do, as he was doing.

I don’t agree with most of what you wrote but as long as people believe that Jesus is God’s Son, died for our sins, rose again and whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life, we agree on the most fundametal aspects of Christianity. If Mary were a perpetual virgin, sinless and to be prayed to, the Bible would have made that very clear and it didn’t. We were only taught to pray to the Lord. Blessings to you!

Actually it does say in the bible Luke 1: 28 …The Angel said to Mary…Hail full of grace the Lord is with thee blessed art thou among women… Not only is that a testimony to her sinlessness but also of her worthiness above all women.

The Bible also doesn’t mention The Trinity and yet we speak of it as we speak of other elements that are actually contained in the scriptures.

If I could take the liberty of commenting on this thread, the point that the doctrine of the Trinity is not spelled out in exact detail in the Bible is very insightful and is something Protestants like myself should consider. That said, I think the difference for some Protestants (such as myself) between the concept of the Trinity and the concept of the sinlessness of Mary is that we find the former to be a necessary conclusion from the words of the Bible and the latter not to be. The Bible presents the idea of one God then also presents the idea of Christ as God, so the concept of the Trinity seems to be there. The concept of the sinlessness of Mary, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to us to be a necessary conclusion. We could be right or we could be wrong (and it may be that we simply don’t understand the doctrine well enough), but, due to verses like Romans 3:23 and 1 John 1:8-10 (among others), we find that the the Bible as a whole demonstrates no reason for us to consider anyone other than Christ to actually have been sinless or untainted by original sin.

Thank you DCal90 for your thoughtful response. I did some reading this morning and came across this from the writings of Martin Luther, father of the Reformation:

“. . . she is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin. . . . God’s grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. . . . God is with her, meaning that all she did or left undone is divine and the action of God in her. Moreover, God guarded and protected her from all that might be hurtful to her.” (Ref: Luther’s Works, American edition, vol. 43, p. 40, ed. H. Lehmann, Fortress, 1968)

And as early as the first century the church is already referring to Mary’s Immaculate Conception.

Thanks, Jenny. The quotes you share are helpful, as I do value church history, both pre-Reformation and post-Reformation. As has been noted by others in these threads, and as most Protestants themselves claim, the Bible does not contain all truth. We just hold it to be authoritative truth for matters of doctrine, etc. And I think that’s why people like me balk at the idea of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. It’s not that it could be true, was believed by at least some in the early Church and is simply not spelled out in the Bible (there are many things that are true and not spelled out in the Bible); it seems to run in contradiction to other points in the Bible (i.e. the concept that all except Christ have sinned and are called to repent). I like the parallel that Catholics draw between Eve and Mary (i.e. Christ is the new Adam and Mary the new Eve), but the apostle Paul did not seem concerned about making a clear parallel between Mary and Eve in his letters in the New Testament, even though he did make clear the parallel between Christ and Adam. I’d be interested to hear more of the Scriptural evidence for the Immaculate Conception of Mary, in addition to Luke 1:28.

The problem with this line of argument, however, is that not everything that is true is written in the Bible. (There even is a verse somewhere–I forget where–it’s in one of the Gospels–where the writer says that Jesus said many more things, but they aren’t already recorded.) You have to remember, the Bible was never meant to be an exhaustive “how-to” guide that covers every single issue. The gospels did intend to give a good description of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, but the rest of the NT is composed of letters that were written to specific churches at a specific time to address specific issues. The Bible nowhere says that it even attempts to cover everything.

For example, I know that you strongly believe that women should stay home and not work outside the home. Can you show me a single verse that says that? The Bible also doesn’t ever say that the canon is infallible (that the right books were chosen). And, like Jenny mentioned, it doesn’t say anything about the Trinity. The Bible is the authority on everything it speaks on–but it does not speak on everything.

Another thing to remember is that the Bible was written by apostles. So you believe that the apostles are worth listening to. The Catholic Church does too. That’s why they hold to the teachings of the apostles–both those that were written down as well as those that were passed down orally. (Remember also–there WAS no Bible for the first few hundred years. And even once it was compiled, few people had it in it’s entirety, and people couldn’t read anyways)

Yes, Brittany, you make a very valid point. The Bible was not intended to contain all truth and all answers. This is why I am not, and could never be, a Protestant. Yet, although I recognize a need for a magesterium, I do see in Church history abuses of Church authority (some of which continue to this day).

As an example of my view: The Bible tells us that murder is a mortal sin in God’s eyes. Thus, I think we as Christians need to condemn (and work against) all forms of murder – even those forms of murder not specifically mentioned in the Bible.

And most dedicated Catholics don’t deny the mistakes that have occurred within the Church in the past, or even currently. The church is guided by the Holy Spirit but is made up of men – and men have free will and certainly are not perfect. There is a quote somewhere that I can’t find right now that says the fact that the church has survived 2000 years being run by men is proof that God is protecting it. 🙂

As always Brittany you are tackling some huge teachings of the beautiful Catholic faith and doing a great job with your research and delivery! Kudos and blessings to you!

As far as Mary being the Mother of the Church here is a good resource about that: http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2bvm63.htm

And here’s some information about the Communion of Saints: http://www.catholicity.com/catechism/the_communion_of_saints.html

Mary is also referred to as the Ark of the Covenant. Just as the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant was holy and held the tables of the Law (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01721a.htm) Mary’s womb was a holy vessel holding God Himself, the Word made flesh.

And here is a link about Mary ever virgin: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/mary-ever-virgin

Excellent post. It made me think of the Fulton Sheen quote, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” It is amazing, in this day and age, the confusion that still exists about Catholics.

I’ve heard that quote too 🙂 I’m not really surprised misunderstandings still exist though. People just don’t know, and they believe whatever someone tells them. Hopefully this series will shed some light!

Thought this was some good information regarding the communion of saints. This is from “Word on Fire” with Father Barron. If you aren’t familiar with him, you should check him out. He did the Catholicism series on PBS and is a great teacher. This was his daily Lenten email for today:

Lent Day 16 – Out of the Ordinary World
by Fr. Robert Barron

We’ve mentioned before how Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets, but there is more to their appearance at the Transfiguration than just a symbolic representation or shorthand for the Jewish Scriptures. They give us additional insights into the nature of prayer.

Recall that the text says, “behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah…” When you pray, you step out of the ordinary world of space and time and enter into the properly eternal realm of God. This means that you can come into contact with the past and the future. You establish contact with what the Church calls “the communion of saints,” all those friends of God over the centuries. We speak of invoking the saints, speaking with them, seeking their help and intercession. This is not just pious talk. It is the metaphysics of eternity.

But what precisely are Jesus, Moses, and Elijah talking about? The answer is “…his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” We notice first of all the wonderful thematic connection between the Exodus that Moses led—a journey from slavery to freedom—and the exodus that Jesus would accomplish on the cross, a journey from sin and death to resurrection.

In both cases, it is a great work of liberation and life-giving love, and this is key. The fruit of prayer in the Biblical tradition is action on behalf of the world. We are, essentially, a mission religion. Even the highest moments of mystical union are meant to conduce to doing God’s work in the world, to becoming a conduit of the divine grace. This is why Peter’s line is so important: “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

As Luke points out immediately, “But he did not know what he was saying.” The point of prayer is not to stay on the mountain. It is not to cling to mystical experience, however wonderful. It is to become radiant with the divine light so as to share it with the world. And this is why the voice from the cloud, once it identified Jesus, specified, “Listen to him.”

I grew up Catholic. The autobiography of St. Therese taught me the intimacy of prayer:) St. Teresa of Ávila has an wonderful book – “Interior Castles.” I didn’t realize until much later that most of the Catholic Mass was scritpure (like the Hail Mary – first part is Luke 1:28 – the second a request for intercession). I thiink one of the most eye-opening experiences about Mass is when we went to a Bat Mitzvah a long time ago – and I saw where the Catholic Mass came from – from the format for Jewish worship. The only difference was Catholics had new testament readings. I so love that you’re trying to answer questions. So many people think Catholicism is a cult – when historically it traces its “ancestry” to Christ.

Yes, I think attending a Jewish service would really shed a lot of light on things too. I imagine there are real reasons why things are the way they are–we just don’t know always know them!

You will find Dr. Brian Pitre talks on the Mass and its Jewish connections REALLY, REALLY enlightening and also Dr. Scott Hahn’s talk on ‘The 4th cup’ helpful.

This resource will provide you with some really great info on the Jewish connections. These sites are all extremely good.

http://www.hebrewcatholic.net/jewish-roots-of-the-church/

from Marty Barrack (cute conversion, available on The Coming Home Network)
http://www.secondexodus.com/

and last, but not least, from a former atheist (former Jew) Harvard professor with a powerful conversion story; Roy Schoeman.
http://salvationisfromthejews.com/

In his Prescott (Arizona) mission, Roy shares his conversion story, along with insights into the Jewish culture and the intimate relationship of Mary with the Holy Spirit, in addition to a lot of other info. For non-Catholics, and even for Catholics who are not deep into Catholic theology, a couple of the things he says sound really strange, but he is SOLID. It is a language ‘thing’, like the two posters your child brought home from school, it’s a language ‘thing’ (trust me when I say ‘it will grow on you’).

Anyway, here are the three links (in sequence to his 3-day mission). Great info.
Day 1 = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeDzSfquYcs
Day 2 = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=or-gmyT27I4
Day 3 = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9kEXDG3sEg

Not only can we ask those who are in Heaven already to pray for us, we can also pray for those whose lives were not perfect and are in Purgatory. They need our prayers to shorten their time in Purgatory.

Another great article, Brittany!

I want to emphasize the idea of “typology” when reading Scripture. In the case of Mary, you’re correct that she is the New Eve. But she is also much more than that.

It starts with Mary prophecied as the New Eve in Genesis 3:15 – “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall crush your head, and you shall strike at His heel.”

This was very unusual language. Women in the time of Scripture were not referred to as having “seed.” Children were the “seed” of their father. So we have a prophecy of the virgin birth and Mary’s role in it, making her the Second Eve.

Just as there were similarities between the First Adam and the First Eve, we can expect similarities between the Second Adam and Second Eve.

Adam and Eve began their lives in an Immaculate state, as did Christ, so we should expect the Second Eve to also begin her life immaculate just as the First Eve and Second Adam. This also explains other teachings about Mary.

Because Christ was dedicated to serving the Lord, it would make since for Mary as the New Eve to be dedicated to the Lord as well. (Perpetual Virginity)

And just as Adam and Eve shared the same fate by returning to dust, we would expect the New Eve to share the same fate as the New Adam who went to Heaven. (Assumption)

So the New Eve is the beginning, but we also view Mary as Queen of Heaven. Why?

Heaven is the Kingdom, with Christ as King. In the Old Testament, the Queen wasn’t the King’s wife. It was his mother. So Mary, as Mother of God, is Queen in His Kingdom.

The final parallel to understand is Mary as the new Ark of the Covenant.

The Old Testament Ark: contained manna, Aaron’s rod (symbol of priesthood), and original ten commandments (word of God/Law)
Mary: carried Christ in her womb who is revealed as the Bread of Life (manna), high priest, Word made flesh, and fulfillment of the Law

The Old Testament: The Ark stayed 3 months at the house of Obed-edom, who was greatly blessed by the Lord because of the Ark.
Mary: stayed three months with Elizabeth

The Old Testament: David danced before the Ark as it was brought into Jerusalem
Mary: John the Baptist leapt for joy in his mother’s womb upon hearing Mary’s voice

The Old Testament: The Ark went with the people of Israel everywhere they went until the conquering of Jerusalem and building of the first Temple.
Mary: Went everywhere with Jesus until He was laid in the tomb, then followed Him after the resurrection until His ascension.

These are just some of the things we can find in Scripture that demonstrate the importance of Mary’s role.

C.S. Lewis said, “The Roman Catholic beliefs on that subject (the Blessed Virgin Mary) are held not only with the ordinary fervor that attaches to all sincere religious belief, but (very naturally) with the peculiar and, as it were, chivalrous sensibility that a man feels when the honor of his mother or his beloved is at stake. It is very difficult so to dissent from them that you will not appear to them as a cad as well as a heretic.” It is not belief that separates Catholics and Protestants on this issue as much as passion! Catholics LOVE Mary. She is not a side note in the story, but the reason the story exists at all. What your little son’s workbook paper was trying to illustrate (very poorly, I agree) was Mary’s YES. When God sends Gabriel to announce the coming of Christ, Gabriel’s words make it seem like a “done deal”. But then Mary says, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done unto me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38). Why would she be compelled to say that if it was not her choice? Would God have forced a young unmarried woman into an unplanned pregnancy? Did Mary not have free will, as we believe all humans have? Could Mary have said NO? I posed this question to my third grade religious education class. They agreed that Mary could have done things her own way. They had fun speculating on what would have happened if she had decided the name Emmanuel or Jesus was no good and she had named the baby Bob instead. But, broaden the question. What if she had chosen the route of abortion (extremely dangerous, but available throughout the centuries)? What if she had just left the baby in that manger, trusting the inn keepers to raise him? What if she had decided Egypt sounded too dangerous and given him over to Herod? What if she had not bothered to take him to the temple every year and teach him to read the scriptures? Mary is our mother because she does what mothers do. She puts her child first. And, in Mary’s case, that means she puts God first. In every decision she makes, she cooperates fully with God’s plan for salvation and she does it out of love.

Furthermore, consider not just that she loved Christ as her child AND as the Lord, but also that Christ loved her. I think most Christians can agree that Jesus was sinless. As such, He would have followed the commandments perfectly, including “Honor your father and your mother.” (Ex 20:12). Indeed this is evidenced at the wedding feast in Cana (John 2: 1-11). Jesus states that his “hour has not yet come” implying that he had no intention of intervening, but he does as his mother asks out of respect for her. In turn, we are called to act as Christ acted (1 John 2:6, 1 Peter 2:21, 1 Cor 11:1, etc.). Logically that extends to loving and respecting Mary as our mother. I believe Christ reinforces this when he says, “Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.” (John 19:26-27). John refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” to remind us that Jesus isn’t just talking TO John throughout the gospel, but THROUGH John to all his beloved disciples. Jesus expects us to “take her (Mary) into our homes.”

Mary isn’t the “Mother of the Church” in the sense that she is it’s founder or innovator or head-honcho, but in the sense that she is our Mama. The way you might start to call your best friend’s mother Mama Jones because she makes sure your favorite snacks are on hand, and laughs at your antics, and loves the way way you love her child. Loves you for the friendship you provide. Mary loves us for loving Christ and we love her for loving Christ. In this way, she is our mother. Hope this helped you grasp the idea. I’m sure it’s hard to love a woman you didn’t grow up with!

Scott Hahn is a great resource on understanding the biblical roots of catholic teaching. He was a Presbyterian (I think) pastor and he and his wife eventually converted to the last thing they thought they’d ever be- Catholics!- after his study of the early church.

Also, to enhance your learning, I highly recommend the Lighthouse Media CDs. Dr. Scott Hahn has a talk on “The Virgin Mary Revealed Through Scripture” and “Discovering the Biblical significance of Mary”

Another high quality resource with video. . .because, really. Kids. Haha I love listening and watching you tube videos while cleaning or cooking. http://www.salvationhistory.com/blog/scott_hahn_on_the_queenship_of_the_blessed_virgin_mary

Anyway, in general, if you want top notch research and answers from a biblical perspective, Scott Hahn is an excellent resource.

Thanks. I’m familiar with the name and love what I’ve read so far! (and yes, I love listening to YouTube and podcasts while cleaning and cooking too 🙂 )

As a life-long Catholic, I am surprised when non-Catholics say that they do not really know Mary. I think that Mary provides us with a fully human example of how we can love God. Because Mary is human, she also knows what we go through in our daily lives. As a mother, I feel that I can turn to Mary, our mother. I can only imagine the pain that Mary felt in watching her son persecuted and crucified.
I also feel close to the saints. As Christians, we all strive to be saints, as a part of the Communion of Saints; we acknowledge that the list of named saints is likely not complete, but we try to recognize those who have shown true love for God, and we also try to follow their examples.

I like what Kimberly Hahn said in Rome Sweet Home–something along the lines of–she couldn’t possibly relate to Mary. She was perfect and her son was perfect. The struggles she faced were probably not anything like the ones we do! (food for thought)

I found this great quote by Archbishop Fulton Sheen about Mary being without sin. 🙂
“As no weeds grew in Eden so no sin would arise in Mary, the paradise of the Incarnation. A barn door cannot fittingly serve as an entrance to a castle.”

Of course. 🙂
It just seems like a good explanation as to why Mary would be without sin.
Because nowhere in the Bible does it specifically say that she was or wasn’t.
None of it could be possible without God anyway, if she was without sin, it’s because that’s how God wanted it.

I’ve heard you say several times that this belief doesn’t make much of a difference either way. However, the bottom line is that I cannot ever receive communion in a Catholic church unless I believe it. The church whose name means “universal,” who lays claim to the apostles and all of the early church fathers as exclusively belonging to their tradition, who claim to believe so strongly in the “communion of the saints,” refuses communion to anyone who does not believe every point of their dogma about Mary. Catholics and Protestants all agree in believing the Bible to be the inspired written word of God; that God is the author, although he used various humans to put the words on paper. If God chooses to write a book, isn’t He capable of making sure that the essential information necessary for salvation and participation in the church is included in its pages? Every denomination, and even local fellowship, may have different traditions and practices, some going back hundreds of years, but I think it is a problem when these extra-Biblical things become mandatory for full fellowship and communion.

Oh yes, I totally get where you’re coming from there! That’s where I’m stuck too. I went through RCIA until the point where I had to get up in front of God and man and say that the Catholic Church is 100% correct on everything. I couldn’t do it. I still can’t.

Romans 3:23 is very clear “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” These are God’s words and God does not lie.

Some will say this possibly couldn’t mean “all” because Jesus was human. Jesus is God. What they forget is Jesus is God. Jesus’/God’s glory is what we all have never been able to obtain. Any blanket statements in the Bible about the human race does not apply to Jesus for He is God.

And others will say that Jesus needed to be preserved from sin so the “immaculate conception” was conceived (pun intended). 🙂 There is NOTHING in the bible about the immaculate conception. Nothing!!! This was not needed because Jesus, being God, was immune to sin. He didn’t need to be protected. This concept usurps God’s power and might.

God bless.

Yes, Jesus is fully God, but He is also fully human. You can’t just forget his humanity because he is God too. (I have no idea how that works; I just know he’s fully both).

And Jesus wasn’t “immune” to sin – he was perfectly capable of sinning just like the rest of us. That’s why Hebrews 4:15 says “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” If he were not ABLE to sin, then it wouldn’t have been a temptation. He was able to sin – he just didn’t.

Strengthen your faith in God and you will realise you don’t need mediators. Everything else is just an excuse to cover one’s lack of faith in God! God’s grace is sufficient in every way.

But… if that’s the case… why are you reading this blog? Or any blog or Christian living book? Why go to church? We’re ALL just mediators that help bring people closer to God. Why not go straight to God Himself? (Just something to think about)

Thanks for your reply Brittany.
You hit the nail on the head, that’s exactly what I do. I go straight to God. No mediator needed. Yesterday you made me realise that our forefathers Moses, Abraham, David etc all went straight to God with their needs, they gave thanks and worshipped him as the one true living God. It strengthened my believe that God was sufficient for them and is sufficient for us.
The reason why I came across your blog is because I had been searching for differences in Catholics/Protestants/Anglicans. I found your blog quite helpful and detailed to my purpose. Thank you for this.

Regards

Diana

I’m glad you found it helpful! But my point was — we all go to people sometimes. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sure you read Christian books, Christian blogs, ask your friends to pray for you, ask your friends for advice. There’s nothing wrong with any of that 🙂 It doesn’t mean we don’t go to God, but we DO and CAN go to people too for additional help.

And that’s exactly what Catholics believe too. That you absolutely can and should go straight to God. But that you can ask other people for additional help as well.

<3

4. Mary is the Mother of the Church

Not that she created the church, but that she is a sort of mother figure. Kind of like Father Abraham to the Jews? I’m sketchy on the details, so if any Catholics want to leave more details in the comments section…. *hint hint*

Jesus is the church and the church is Jesus, all Christian believe so. Mary being the mother of Jesus makes her the mother of the church

Jesus is NOT the church. Jesus is the Head of the church. Jesus and TRUE believers make up the church. Mary is another believer. Unfortunately over the centuries, the RCC has continued to elevate her to a position that is not worthy of anyone except the Trinity. There is a movement within the RCC to elevate her to co-redeemer. Once that happens, the RCC will go from a Christian church with doctrine problems to a non-Christian Christian, new religion.

Catholics believe Mary:

was preserved from Original Sin (by God, not her own merits) and remained sinless throughout her entire life
remained a virgin throughout her entire life
is the new Eve
is the mother of the Church
is in Heaven already
acts as an advocate or intercessor for Christians today

BTW – these are all beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church that have NO Biblical basis. There is not one scripture that supports any of these “traditions” of the RCC.

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” –John 15:7

“Well, I don’t know about you and I’m certainly not calling the Bible a liar, but that hasn’t been my experience at all! I’ve had plenty of prayers go unanswered, both big and small, and I bet you have too.”

Ans: Well it hasn’t been ur experience at all cause uve refused to abide in him and in his words

Uve always abide in Him since day one u think; but in his words? No! Remember we are all sinners and if we continue to sin, we’re breaking His rules and also getting Him upset… we ain’t abiding in Him neither are we abiding to his words

We all need His sufficient graces in our lives, with this; we are 100% fine

Hello,

I just read your article and there are some glaring mistakes on what you have been told some scripture says/mean. I’ll just take one for instance:

Regarding Mary being an ever-virgin: Matt: 1:25 and 1 Cor 15:25. The word “until” in both these verses DO mean the end of something. You write “Another example would be 1 Corinthians 15:25, which says God will reign “until” He puts His enemies under His feet. Surely God won’t stop reigning once His enemies are under his feet.” I am assuming you mean the Father in your statement. But the verse reads the following and I will include v.24 to help the context:

“24 Then the end will come, when He (Jesus) hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He (the Father) has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power. 25 For He (Jesus) must reign until He (the Father) has put all His (Jesus) enemies under His (Jesus’) feet. ” Names in parentheses added by me.

When you examine and know who He and He are and consider the context you see that JESUS hands over His reign to the FATHER (cross ref with Psalms 110:1). Yes, Jesus was given “all authority and dominion” Matt 28:18 and currently reigns but that does not last forever. 1 Cor 15:24 tells us that Jesus’ CURRENT reign will end (hands authority and dominion back to the Father) and a new age AND reign will begin.

So your example actually disproves your belief.

God bless you.