Skip to comments.Scriptural View of Mary
Posted on 10/08/2007 6:08:42 AM PDT by NYer
The following is the transcript of Scott Hahn's audio and video tape presentation, "Mary: Holy Mother" as it appears in the "Catholic Adult Education on Video Program" with Scott and Kimberly Hahn.
As you probably know, this is our third installment in a series of five sessions that we are spending together discussing how to answer common objections, questions regarding key tenets that are distinctive to the Catholic Church. We have focused upon the Pope and yesterday we looked at purgatory. This morning we want to focus on Mary and the Marian doctrines and devotions of the Catholic Church to see where in scripture do we see, not necessarily logical demonstrations that are brought forth from proof texts that kind of force the mind against the will to give in and to acquiesce in these beliefs, but where do we find in scripture the reflections and the illustrations and the assumptions and the conclusions that the Catholic Church affirms with regard to the Blessed Virgin Mary?
We are also going to be able to touch lightly and briefly upon some historical data, but our focus this morning will be primarily scriptural. Now non-Catholics also are concerned with historical evidences for Marian doctrines and devotions. But I would say the vast majority of non-Catholic questions and objections stem from scripture and the seeming silence from the holy writ. So that's what we are going to be focusing our attention, our energy and our time upon this morning.
Before I go on, I want to make the same admission that I do at every point and that is, we don't have time to cover everything. We don't have time to cover even half of what we need to cover. I'll do my best and you know how fast I can get going and you know how long I can go. I have to candidly concede the fact that you need to be reading scripture. You need to be asking our Lord for extra time to study, to ponder and to pray. Let me recommend some books to you, some secondary sources.
One of my favorites is by one of the top biblical scholars in France, Andre Foulier. It's entitled Jesus and His Mother, the Role of the Virgin Mary in Salvation History and the Place of Women in the Church. This, I believe, is a masterpiece, and it's published by St. Bede, and it's only about two or three years old. The other book I want to recommend, and I am not sure is in print. In fact, I suspect it might be out of print, but you can find it in libraries, and I have found it in used book stores because that's my favorite haunting place, to travel to used book stores. But this is by Max Thurien who is a reformed brother in the Taize community over in Europe. It's entitled, Mary, Mother of All Christians.
What makes this distinctive is that when he wrote this, he was a Reformed Calvinist Christians. You don't find Christians much more non-Catholic than that! I know. I was one! Now, rumor has it, and I have only heard it from two or three persons, and I've not confirmed this, that Brother Max Thurien has converted. He is considered to be one of the wisest Reformed Protestant theological sages of this century, not only for his theological depth and his scriptural understanding, but especially for his spirituality in guiding the Taize community in worship and community and in ecumenical environment.
Another classic, Joseph Duer, a Jesuit by the name of Joseph Duer. I believe it was originally written in German. It's entitled, The Glorious Assumption of the Mother of God. This goes through the biblical and the historical, the patristic and the magisterial data and evidences for the doctrine, or the dogma, I guess we could say, of the bodily assumption of our Lady. Now this is an old copy, but I was just recently informed that the book is back in print. I'm not sure who publishes it, but my suspicion is Christian Classics.
Here's another book, and I'll tell you the story behind this a little later. Remind me; I might forget. It's entitled The Assumption of Mary by Father Killiam Healey, a Carmelite theologian up in New England, in Massachusetts. This is published by Michael Glazier. I'm not sure if you can get it from them, but if you want to try, you have to contact Liturgical Press, because Glazier and Liturgical Press just merged up in Collegeville, Minnesota, which is their new address. But this is superb. This is for popular consumption. This could be like a primer, a first reader in Marian Doctrine and Devotion. He is very fair and even handed. And I might add, he's a marvelous priest. I heard him preach, right after I joined the Church, but I'll tell that story later on. It was a delight in my own life.
The real magnum opus on the subject was written by one of Great Britain's top Biblical scholars, Father John McHugh entitled, The Mother of Jesus in the New Testament, published by Doubleday, and it's in many public libraries that I have seen as well as college or high school or seminary libraries. I don't believe it's in print, but it is all around, so you could find it if you looked hard enough. This is just a copious study of all of the relevant passages in the New Testament, and McHugh looks at these from the perspective of the writers of scripture themselves, how the Fathers of the Church interpreted it, how Jewish and Rabbinic interpreters and commentators understood certain passages from the Old that were fulfilled by the New, all the way up until the present day. It's very thorough but readable, very readable. I think anybody named McHugh has something good to say. I'm buttering up my host and hostess here.
Well, here we go. What I would like to do now is to begin to change our focus to scripture itself. Of course, the place we have to begin in order to see what the scripture says about the Blessed Virgin Mary is found all the way in the beginning of the Bible. Let's turn to Genesis, chapter 3. There we see the first Eve having been seduced and, I believe, brutally intimidated into a kind of disobedient submission. You can go back and listen to this tape that I think we made two or two-and-a-half days ago about how often we distort what really happened in the temptation narrative, because we don't know how to read Hebrew narrative. There is a literary artistry there at work that's very hard for the Western mind to grasp, understand and appreciate. But I believe, just to sum it up, that Adam was called to be a faithful covenant head in a marital covenant, and he was called to show forth, as the representative of the covenant, the love, the hessed, the loyalty of the covenant to the fullest degree. And, as our Lord says, "Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his beloved."
So, if he is truly going to love his covenant partner in marriage, he has to be willing to lay his life down. Now, how does God, the Father, test his son's loyalty and love? Well, that's what the serpent is there for. The serpent, nahash in Hebrew is, I believe, misunderstood to be a snake. Medieval art work, and this has been carried on into the modern tradition where you have Eve depicted as some dumb, perhaps blonde, but some dumb air-head who just basically is tricked by some little snake, hanging from a branch in a tree, to eat the apple. All right, and so all men just kind of sit back and say, "Yeah, it's still the same way." And they congratulate themselves on being so worldly wise that they wouldn't be so dumb as this air head.
Total misreading, I believe. This is my own hypothesis. This is my own interpretation. You don't have to abide by it, but my view is that the nahash, the serpent is deliberately depicted as a kind of, I'd say mythical figure but I don't want to deny the historicity of this text. It's just that Hebrew historical narrative can often use mythical imagery to communicate historical truth. In Daniel 7, I mentioned four gentile kingdoms are described as being "four beasts." So, I believe, here we have the serpent as a kind of dragon. The word is used and used and used in Hebrew to connote or denotes a dragon figure like Leviathan or Banmuth or Rehab, the monster later than Isaiah and elsewhere in the Old Testament. In Revelation 12:9 in the New Testament confirms this translation of nahash, not as serpent/snake, but as serpent/dragon, because there Satan is described as the "ancient serpent" and then it goes on to describe a seven-headed dragon.
So she is being confronted and brutally intimidated by a dragon who is intent upon producing disobedience, come hell or high water. So in the cross-examination, in the interrogation that goes back and forth, Satan uses the truth in a clever, deceptive, but intimidating way to kind of force this woman to see, in effect, that if she doesn't eat that fruit, she will die, at least in the biological, physical sense because Satan will see to it.
The question, then, as you read through this narrative is not based upon anything that is explicitly stated, but rather that which is so conspicuously unstated, and that is, where the heck is Adam in all this? By the end of the narrative you discover that he's right by the woman because she just turns and gives him the fruit to eat; but the question is, where was he all along? This loving covenant head, this loving covenant partner who is to show the great love that he's willing to lay down his life for his beloved? Well, he was probably rationalizing his silence by saying, "Well, if I oppose such a serpentile monster as this, I stand no chance."
So in Hebrews 2:14-16, the New Testament tells us that Christ had to take on our flesh and blood to free us from the devil, from Satan, who held us in life-long bondage because of the fear of death and suffering we all have. So it seems as though Adam's response, or lack of response, is due to his fear of suffering and death, which in turn subjects all of A-dam, humanity, to life-long bondage to he who holds the power of death, Satan, in this sense.
So the first Eve, then, is abandoned by her covenant partner and husband who was presumably to tell that dragon where to go, and then, in a sense, stand up for his convictions and possibly even suffer martyrdom and to lay down his life for his beloved and trust that God, his Creator, to whom he is loyal in love would raise him and vindicate him in proper covenant judgment. Which is exactly what the second Adam does on behalf of the second Eve, the Church, which is the whole dramatic encounter we read about in Revelations 12. I'm going to have to talk about that later on this day, so I'm not going to get into it too much this morning. You're all invited to that. It's at 1:30. We're going to be talking about Mary, Ark of the Covenant, focusing upon the woman of the Apocalypse who is clothed with the sun, a crown of 12 stars, and the world under her feet. I think it's the deliberate symbol of the second Eve for whom the second Adam lay down his life. Mary, the Church, Israel, and all New Testament believers in a sense.
But having sinned, Adam and Eve were now confronted by God. You can go all the way back, I believe, to verse 8, Genesis 3:8, "They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day and the man and his wife hid themselves." Now, this is, I think, perhaps somewhat of a mistranslation. We often have this kind of romantic, bucolic picture here of God kind of walking through the woods. You can hear the crushing of the leaves and the snapping of the twigs as he says, you know, "Adam, Eve, where are you?" Poor God, just doesn't really know what's going on!
But when you actually look at the Hebrew, what the people hear, verse 8, it says, "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God." We're tempted to hear that as the crushing leaves and snapping twigs, this poor unwitting God is saying, "where... weren't we supposed to meet, you know. Isn't this the time? Isn't this the place?" But no. The word in Hebrew for sound is qol. Now, what kind of noise does the qol of the Lord make? Well you can find out by reading Psalm 29. Keep your finger on Genesis 3 and take a look at Psalm 29 because there we discover an entire psalm devoted to describing what Adam and Eve must have heard when they heard the qol of the Lord, the sound of the Lord.
Verse 1 of Psalm 29, "Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings or sons of God. Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name and worship the Lord in holy array. The qol of the Lord is upon the waters. The God of glory thunders. The Lord upon many waters. The qol of the Lord is powerful. The qol of the Lord is full of majesty." Verse 5, "The qol of the Lord breaks the cedars. The Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf in Sirion, like a young wild ox. The qol of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire. The qol of the Lord shakes the wilderness. The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The qol of the Lord makes the oak trees to whirl and strips the forest bare and all in his temple cry, 'glory'!"
What do you think they heard? It wasn't the snapping of little twigs and the crunching, you know, of leaves. They heard a thunder and shattering roar, and they hid themselves. Quite understandably. Goes on, "They heard the qol of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day." That word in Hebrew, cool, is ruah, normally translated spirit or wind, and that phrase could easily be translated as scholars have argued, "They heard the thundering, shattering roar of Yahweh Eloheim as he was coming into the garden as the spirit of the day!" What day? The day of judgment. We've got a primo parousia on our hands. The second coming in advance in a sense.
So they flee from the sound that they hear. They hide from the Lord God among the trees in the garden. "But the Lord God called to the man, 'Where are you?'" Now he doesn't talk about geographical location. The deity here, in order to meet the job description of the divinity is omniscient. He knows where they are. He's asking, "Where are you in terms of your covenant standing before me. Where are you? "He answered, ' I heard you in the garden, but I was afraid because I was naked and so I hid. Who told you that you were naked?" What does the man say? "The woman! Have you eaten of the fruit that I told you not to eat?" And what does he say? He immediately starts passing the buck. Verse 12, "The man said, 'The woman.'" But it gets worse, "The woman you gave me."
Not so subtle, huh? He's not just faulting her. Who's he really faulting? Some help, some assistant you gave me! He's not just blaming her. He's implicitly blaming God. And the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this that you've done?" The woman said, "The nahash deceived me and I ate." Now, if you go back, the serpent never actually told a lie, but what the serpent did was to use a kind of blunt, brutal intimidation to get her to submit to the evil. "So the Lord said to the serpent, 'Because you have done this cursed you above all the livestock, etc." But here we look at verse 15, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel."
Now some other translations render, "She will crush your head." And so we have statues of our Lady crushing the head of the serpent. That's an interesting but kind of tangential issue for us right now. At any rate, we see here the woman. "I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed." Now you don't have to be a scientist to wonder what they're talking about here. The serpent's seed, okay. But her seed? The Greek Old Testament translates this spermatos, that's the term for seed. Now so far, so good, but wait a second. What is it doing in connection with the woman? The woman's seed? Nowhere else in the Old Testament do you ever come across an expression like that. It's always the man's seed, the husband's seed, the father's seed. This is weird. The woman's seed? Yeah, God's going to elevate that woman and give to her in some unique sense perhaps a seed through which the serpent's head will be crushed. Keep that in the back of your mind because that is going to be crucial.
We're going to move on now to, of course, what is probably the second most famous Old Testament passage for understanding our Lady, Isaiah 7, verse 14. Isaiah 7, verse 14: here we have an interesting episode between Isaiah and King Ahas who is king of Judah, and he's worrying about the national stability of his people in his country of Judah, his kingdom, because he is surrounded by stronger neighbors and so he's toying with the idea of entering into all kinds of wrong- headed alliances. So, through Isaiah the Lord says to King Ahas who's always beginning to kind of stumble with doubts, he's beginning to wonder with fear who he should rely upon, Verse 3, "Then the Lord said to Isaiah, 'go out'" and it goes on in verses 3 through 10, where the Lord speaks to Ahas through Isaiah and says, "Ask of me and I will give you a sign."
In other words, let's admit it. Your faith is weak. You need to have it shored up and strengthened. That's what signs are for. Go ahead and ask me for a sign. Verse 12, with false modesty Ahas says, "Oh, I won't ask. I will not put the Lord to the test." Give me a break! Isaiah said, "Hear now, you House of David, is it not enough to try the patience of men. Will you try the patience of my God also?" He sees your need. He's got the gift that you need. Now don't play strong. You're weak, admit it and receive the gift that he's got in this sign." "Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Emmanuel."
That word, almah in Hebrew translated by the Greek Septuagint parthenos has been the subject of incredible debate. Is it young woman or is it virgin? You could stack up scholars who advocate either position, but I am persuaded, not only by the targums, that is the ancient Jewish interpretation of this was decidedly in favor of "virgin." They saw it as some kind of Messianic prophecy in the targums, these ancient Aramaic paraphrases of the Old Testament.
Now there are a lot of scholars who debate, "Well, are the targums before Christ or after Christ or whatever?" But I think there's a lot of evidence for them being before Christ, but even if they were a little bit after Christ, the fact remains that Jews from earliest times saw a Messianic reference with regard to parthenos, a virgin. A recent scholar whose article I just read by the name of Professor Wyatt argues that the Alexandrian Jews who rendered almah by parthenos were being entirely faithful to the Herogamic tradition. He goes on to talk about how Isaiah borrows all his pagan mythical imagery, only then historicizes it with reference to the coming Messiah, as the ritual technical term for an embodiment of a divine mother, who is both a fecund mother, a fruitful mother, as well as a perpetual virgin.
In other words, Isaiah in using this language is tapping into a well-known ancient outlook on what humanity needs for deliverance, that is, God is going to have to send an incredible figure, the likes of which humans have never seen, a creature, a human but in a sense possessed by God in an absolutely unique way. And this, by the way, is not unique to the Hebrew tradition. It's shared throughout. Now maybe it's because Genesis 3:15 was channeled out throughout the world as the human race spread, whatever you want to believe.
There are other ways to explain it, but the fact remains that this translation, this rendering of almah as virgin is strong and sure and is very reliable. At any rate, we know one thing for sure, the New Testament applies it to Mary and the virginal birth of Jesus. So in terms of the inspired narrative, what do we have? In Matthew, we have in a sense, the answer in the back of the book really, or at least we can treat it that way for this morning's time together.
What is going on here? The Davidic line is almost at an end and the only way out for King Ahas in his own mind is to begin to move away from Yahweh and to begin to trust in all of these pagan neighbors who want to form alliances with him. Only, in order to form those alliances he's going to have to submit as a kind of vassal. So Isaiah says, "Don't do it. If you are weakening in your faith, ask him for a sign. He has one ready." The problem is the Davidic line could be crushed. Well, the faithful were saying, "But God has sworn an oath: there will always be an heir on the Davidic throne."
But now what happens if the king is deposed and if the royal family is murdered? Well, God will take a virgin and produce a son of David. In other words, we're not dependent exclusively upon human resources, political power, economic wealth and all of the rest. So Isaiah 7:14 stands in line with Genesis 3:15 as in a sense the second key text with regards to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Pyro, you’re very much to be commended for “fighting the good fight” on this thread. The initial articles were great. The posturing, hubris, bile and vitriol are simply to be expected.
A supposed promise given to St Simon Stock, put in a Bull by Pope John XXII, ratified and modified by later Popes that says that on the first Saturday after death, Mary will redeem from Purgatory all of those who die wearing her Scapular [other conditions may apply as well].
LOL. Terry Thomas. No one did gap-toothed grin better than he.
I would never, ever, ever have the remote possibility of ever praying to the vastly overrated “Abe”!
They aren’t even holy people; that wasn’t their venue, so why would I pray to them, anyway?
Thanks for the info.
So Mary is the Mediatrix of ALL graces but God can dispense graces through other means?
Your definition of "all" is quite interesting.
Yeah, God also said in the same Torah that His people are not to eat pork either, and I don't see most "Reformists" abiding by that commandment either.
This is the inconsistent nature of your theology. You pick and choose the verses you use as hammers against patrisitic Christianity (I use that term since you object to much of what the Orthodox do/believe as well), and ignore/explain away other ones, like John 6, that aren't your cup of tea.
To address the specific admonition, I repeat what I said earlier, that Catholic do not see these images as gods, do not make sacrifices to them, etc. Open your Bible to Exodus 32:8.
They have quickly strayed from the way which thou didst shew them: and they have made to themselves a molten calf, and have adored it, and sacrificing victims to it, have said: These are thy gods, O Israel, that have brought thee out of the land of Egypt.
It isn't just the act behind the "falling down," as you put it, but the intention that goes along with it. If a Catholic went before a statue of a saint, venerated it, and said "This is one of my gods," then truly he would be in error. As the footnote for Exodus 20:4 puts it:
"A graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing"... All such images, or likenesses, are forbidden by this commandment, as are made to be adored and served; according to that which immediately follows, thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them. That is, all such as are designed for idols or image-gods, or are worshipped with divine honour. But otherwise images, pictures, or representations, even in the house of God, and in the very sanctuary so far from being forbidden, are expressly authorized by the word of God. See Ex. 25. 15, and etc.; chap. 38. 7; Num. 21. 8, 9; 1 Chron. or Paralip. 28. 18, 19; 2 Chron. or Paralip. 3. 10.
In summary, this "Reformist" train of thought is similar to that of the Pharisees, who abide by the actions of the law, but do not have the spirit of it.
Jacques-Benigne Bossuet wrote this....
“Mary stands near the Cross. With what eyes she contemplates her Son all covered with blood, all covered with wounds, in form now hardly a man! The sight is enough to cause her death. If she draws near to that altar, it is to be immolated there: and there, in fact, does she feel Simeons sword pierce her heart.
“But did her dolors overcome her, did her grief cast her to the ground? Stabatjuxta crucem: she stood by the Cross. The sword pierced her heart but did not take away her strength of soul: her constancy equals her affliction, and her face is the face of one no less resigned than afflicted.
“What remains then but that Jesus who sees her feel His sufferings and imitate His resignation should have given her a share in His fruitfulness. It is with that thought that He gave her John to be her son: Woman, behold thy son. Woman, who suffer with me, be fruitful with me, be the mother of my children whom I give you unreservedly in the person of this disciple; I give them life by my sufferings, and sharing in the bitterness that is mine your affliction will make you fruitful.”
Marys love for Jesus was enough to make her a martyr: “One Cross was enough for the well-beloved Son and the mother.” She is nailed to the Cross by her love for Him. Without a special grace she would have died of her agony.
Mary gave birth to Jesus without pain: but she brings the faithful forth in the most cruel suffering. “At what price she has bought them! They have cost her her only Son. She can be mother of Christians only by giving her Son to death. O agonizing fruitfulness! It was the will of the Eternal Father that the adoptive sons should be born by the death of the True Son. What man would adopt at this price and give his son for the sake of strangers? But that is what the Eternal Father did. We have Jesus word for it: God so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son (John 3:16).
“(Mary) is the Eve of the New Testament and the mother of all the faithful; but that is to be at the price of her Firstborn. United to the Eternal Father she must offer His Son and hers to death. It is for that purpose that providence has brought her to the foot of the Cross. She is there to immolate her Son that men may have life. She becomes mother of Christians at the cost of an immeasurable grief. ” We should never forget what we have cost Mary. The thought will lead to true contrition for our sins. The regeneration of our souls has cost Jesus and Mary more than we can ever think.
For me, just thinking about Mary there at the foot of the cross and what she endured... it is enough for me to cry like a baby.
I can only pray that our Blessed Lord forgives some of our separated protestant brothers and sisters for what they do and say about Our Blessed Mother
I wish you a Blessed day!
Yeah, when you look at it through your lens, it would appear to be “interesting.”
That's why Catholics shouldn't waste their time praying to Mary on Saturdays especially. It's hard to reach her on that day since she is out of the office, burning up the miles on that long road between heaven and purgatory, redeeming those scapular wearers :)
. Why, He is the one that suffered for me? She didn't suffer for me at all. Her suffering was natural His was spiritual.
Give it a little bit of time. From Catholic Online:"Theres another well-known Catholic who also calls the Mother of Jesus the Co-redemptrix: His name is Pope John Paul II. He has done so on six occasions during his post Vatican II pontificate."
So, was John Paul II speaking ex cathedra or was he speaking as a fallible human being? Was his well-known devotion to Mary a signal on the direction that the RC church would ultimately take or was it heresy? If the RC church decides to reject the notion of Mary as co-redemptrix, then you have the problem of one of the most popular popes in history being a heretic.
By the way, I admired Pope John Paul II greatly for many reasons but found his extreme devotion to Mary quite frightening. The Bible, which is supposedly one of the three legs of the footstool that is the RC church, is most explicit that our worship, prayers, and devotion belong only to the triune God and not to any other.
The apostle John records this caution about bowing down to or giving more credit to angels (or anyone) than is due: "And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, 'See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant...'" (Revelation 19:10, see also Revelation 22:8-9). I think that if someone with a devotion to Mary actually met her, she would tell them the same thing.
We're in an agreement with this one. If they did so with the intention of worshipping her as a goddess, then she would do so.
It's not my analysis, it's scripture. Check it out -- you're not disagreeing with me, you're disagreeing with Matthew.
In light of the other sayings of Jesus and the apostles and the context in which the statement was made, I think it pretty obvious that Jesus was excluding himself.
I noticed that you conveniently ignored the verse in Luke where Jesus rebuked a woman in the crowd for yelling out, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you."
I'm very well aware of the rest of the verse, thank you, but nothing in it cancels out the first part of the verse. Jesus was speaking of the end of the Old Covenant (of which John was the last prophet) and the beginning of the New Covenant. The Bible is full of passages explaining how the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant.
Jesus abolished dietary restrictions.
Not so with falling down to the stock of a tree. God's words again idolatry are still in effect and stand in condemnation of your praying to Mary, saints, woodland sprites, and any other name but the One Mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus.
Catholic...do not make sacrifices to them
The mass is defined by the RCC as a repetition of the sacrifice of Christ, which is clearly against God's word as found in Hebrews 10.
Would you mind outlining those "other conditions?"
Wait a minute. You're trying to change the subject. We're talking about supposed "idolatry" by Catholics. Now, you're trying to talk about the "repetition" of sacrifice of the Mass. Stick to the topic!
That's not completely accurate.
But if any man say: This has been sacrificed to idols, do not eat of it for his sake that told it, and for conscience' sake (1 Cor. 10:28).
I believe you completely. However, not everyone is in agreement with us. I don't know where you live, but most Hispanic RC churches barely even resemble their American counterparts in doctrine or in practice.
My wife, who is Hispanic by decent, and I attend our inter-denominational church on Saturday night and, until a few weeks ago, we both attended Catholic mass on Sunday morning with her brother's family because our nephew is going through the confirmation process. I like the church and we contribute to it financially. It's not strong in the power of God (neither are most Protestant churches) but it's a good, humble church that worships God and ministers to those in need.
A few weeks ago, my nephew's classes began meeting from 3:00 to 5:00 on Sunday afternoon and I usually don't attend them, though my wife does. There's a group of Hispanic learners of all ages and a group of "American" (for lack of a better word) learners. This past week the teacher, Sister Yolanda, was teaching about the wrongness of going to curanderos (essentially witch doctors). The Hispanic learners were incensed with what she was teaching them because in Mexico, curanderos are an accepted part of the Catholic culture. In fact, in Latin America, Mary is generally more revered than Jesus himself. I promise you, you wouldn't even recognize that you're in a Catholic church -- you would think that you had stumbled across a place of goddess worship. What's more, the Mary that is literally worshipped is a Mary of superstition conglomerated with indigenous goddess folk religion, so you wouldn't even recognize Mary.
My wife grew up Presbyterian because that was what her Baptist father and Catholic mother compromised upon but became a Catholic upon her first marriage. She was a lay leader and even taught the same classes -- in the same church -- that her nephew is taking now.
When she divorced her husband because he was a serial adulterer, she lost her posts in the Catholic church and began attending a mildly charismatic evangelical church. She was set on fire for Christ, learned the Bible, learned how to pray, and began seeing what could only be miracle after miracle. For years she believed that she wasn't saved while she was in the Catholic church and never knew Jesus while she was there. I argued with her that God had her where he wanted her to be at the time and was nurturing her and that one can be a Catholic Christian and a non-Catholic Christian. Now that she has begun attending the Catholic church that she attended for so long, she sees that God is there, working through the priests and the congregation, and that she most definitely was a Christian when it was her home church.
For what it's worth, the person who set me on the spiritual path that I'm on now is a charismatic Catholic who is also a Freeper. You know who you are if you're reading this ;-). I shall always be indebted to this person and am looking forward to resuming long conversations in heaven.