Because so much of the written history we rely on today is from an Anglo-Protestant perspective, Spain’s role in bringing the Christian faith to the new world is minimized by many early historians.
Worship, revere, or esteem Mary?
In citing Luke 8:21, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God and do it, Iscool (and others) is supporting his position that family ties are less important in the eyes of Jesus than those of obedience to the will of God. If Im reading him right, Iscool is saying that Catholics wrongly put Mary in a position she does not deserve or claim, based upon her position as the biological mother of Jesus. I agree, as does the commentator in my Catholic Bible, that this passage is expressing the importance of seeking Gods will and of obedience to it over those of familial relationships.
Where our views differ is that Catholics hold Mary in high esteem because of her obedience, service to God, and the fact that God CHOSE HER to be His earthly mother. It seems to me that Jesus is not excluding Mary from his family or diminishing her importance in Luke 8:21. Consider that when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary as described in Luke 1:26-38, the angel announced that she is to be the mother of Jesus, even though she is yet a virgin. Confused, but humble and trusting in the Lord, she assents, saying May it be done to me according to your word.
The same holds for my understanding of Iscools other citations from John: Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it (Luke 11:28). Mary is the perfect example of someone who heard the word of God and kept it. Mary proclaims, in Luke 1:46-49, My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaids lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty one has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” Mary does not promote herself. Instead, she humbly praises God for His goodness to her and for the opportunity to serve Him. Imagine if God asked you to become the mother of a child, even though you were not married, in a culture that could stone you for such a sin. Most of us would plead to God to be spared the difficulty of facing ridicule, raising a child that was not our own, etc. This was not easy. But Marys response was a resounding yes to God, even though what He asked of her was difficult.
Ill try to summarize all that. Catholics foster devotion to Mary because:
She was chosen by God for the task of being His earthly mother.
She trusted God completely and said yes to His will, even when it was difficult.
She is an EXAMPLE of holiness, but (and I repeat) NOT the object of worship.
We love Mary because shes the greatest saint.
Mary, a mediator between God and Man?
In asserting that Christ is the only mediator between God and man, Protestants often will quote I Timothy 2:5, For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as ransom for all. They also see problems with the second half of the Hail Mary prayer in which we ask Mary to pray for us sinners. The theological understanding is that Christ is the only bridge between God and humanity because only He was both fully God and fully man. It is only by His incarnation that we are redeemed and saved. I think we agree on that.
Having said that, I point out the verses immediately preceding the quote that they used from I Timothy: First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. (I Timothy 2:1-4) Verses 1 through 4 point out that prayer for others has value in the eyes of God. If your friend is sick and he asks you to pray for him, you will do it, right? You will ask God for his quick recovery. You are interceding for your friend, by prayer, to God. In the same way, we ask Mary in Heaven for her prayers. This pleases God.
Sacraments are required?
As Protestants will point out, the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. (CCC 1129) I understand sacraments of the New Covenant to mean actions performed at the instruction of Christ as recorded in the Gospels. The sacraments help us to live lives in accord with the Gospel. God works through the sacraments the grace bestowed comes from Him (as if grace could come from anywhere else).
Faith Alone vs. Faith and Works
Faith and works are necessary. Read James 2:14-24, What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
But wait this seems to contradict other quotations in the Bible, such as “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight...” Romans 3:20. Because we all believe the Bible cannot contradict itself, we must be misunderstanding something here.
Stolen from www.catholic.com: Paul categorically excludes works from our salvation. But what kind of works is Paul talking about? If we believe the entire Bible, we need to see how Pauls words fit together with Jamess words, because James clearly says that a man is justified by works. If Paul and James mean the same thing by works, then they contradict one another. Since you and I both believe that the Bible cannot contradict itself, we must agree that Paul and James mean two different things by the word works.
For an explanation of this seeming contradiction, I strongly encourage anyone to read the rest of the article I just quoted by visiting the URL below. It is too long to include here.
My point is that the Catholic Church has faith in a God who is active in His people today and in history. There are even a few points in more recent history when something extraordinary happened that could not be explained away and (this is important) which had powerful, positive results, like the Our Lady of Guadalupe apparition.
Faith in Apparitions
Ill end with a discussion of such apparitions. Until I heard Mark Armstrong give a presentation on Our Lady of Guadalupe, I did not understand the image. It is plastered all over the seminary. Its on the taxi cabs in Saint Louis, where I am studying. If you go to Mexico or Central America, you probably cant walk ten feet in a city without being able to see the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is a powerful image for many people in the world.
Before I understood the story of the Guadalupe apparition in its historical context, I rather disliked the image myself. It seemed, as some would see it, far too important to many Catholics. And besides, it looks weird. But after hearing the story, I came to see the Our Lady of Guadalupe apparition as a powerful manifestation of Gods love for all of humanity.
Supposedly, through the power of God, Mary appeared in Mexico. She asked that a Catholic church be constructed (she sent Juan Diego to the Catholic bishop with this request) in her honor. The church was built and in that church God is worshiped, not Mary. This apparition has converted millions of people. It brought them to the Church, where they encountered Christ.
One final footnote to that remark is that belief in such apparitions is not essential to the Catholic faith. The apparitions and miracles that seem to occur are investigated thoroughly and critically by the Vatican before they are deemed acceptable for belief by Catholics. They are judged so if they do not conflict with Christian teaching. If there are no problems, miracles may be approved for belief. Very seldom does this occur.
Acceptance of the miracle by the Vatican, however, does not force anyone to believe the miracles or apparitions occurred. Miracles and apparitions are said to be for those who receive them not necessarily for everyone. I dont have to believe that Our Lady of Guadalupe is real to be a Catholic. It is secondary and truly insignificant to my faith in Christ.
I’ve got much to learn...
I’ve been researching the “faith alone” and “faith with works” debate. Reading several other postings had me a little confused and concerned. But no more. “Faith alone” didn’t make sense to me, but most were supporting it with scripture. The Bible is big and it’s tough to wrap your head around and get the right idea. Thankfully, we’re not the first ones to think about this.
My understanding is the one put forth by the Catholic Church, which has an unchanging understanding of these matters across 2000+ years of history. Both positions can be seemingly supported all day by quoting scripture, discussing the proper translation from Greek, etc, etc.
My point is that these are important issues that deserve serious consideration ... much more than we can get on this blog, unfortunately. I suggest anyone interested in understanding the debate check out these books:
Born Fundamentalist, Reborn Catholic by David B. Currie, especially chapter seven.
Catholicism and Fundamentalism by Karl Keating, especially chapter thirteen.
Rome Sweet Home by Scott Hahn
Yes, they present the Catholic view. But the arguments are powerful and much better than anything I could post here. Read them and evaluate their arguments for yourself and think critically about your religion. If reason conflicts with your faith, you’re treading on thin ice.
The Catholic understanding is solidly based on Scripture - even if I cannot articulate it myself (I’m still new at this). The authors above do excellent jobs of explaining the debate in light of scripture.
Get out there and research the issue honestly. Thanks for the catalyst of this blog. It has strengthened my understanding of these issues and excited me for courses in scripture that begin with my theology studies next year.
When I learned Latin in my private elementary/;middle school (one of my classmates was Catholic) we learned it with the alleged "classical" pronunciation, rather than that less conjectural "Church Latin" pronunciation. In later years it became apparent to me that this was a consequence of the largely Protestant culture of the WASPish US in which I grew up.
From early studies of US history what we were taught was the the Conquistadors were about "Glory, God, and Gold," and while it was grudgingly acknowledged that they made inroads into the American South and Southwest, of course our history was focused on the Pilgrims and Jamestown -- the English and Protestant settlers. Catholic History is, Pere Marquette and Fr. Hennepin to the contrary notwithstanding, the history of Latin America and, a little, of Canada -- and those degenerates in Louisiana, of course .....
So, even if an unforeseen result of the liberal Protestantism of the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries was that more and more believed less and less, I would still suggest that the influence not just of Protestantism but of strong anti-Catholicism still dominates much of US intellectual life. That many modern intellectuals profess no Christianity at all rather confirms than denies the contention, I think.