Marian Willies

A reader writes:

I have been a convert for over 10 years now, and I still do not feel comfortable with many Marian cultural practices, devotions, etc. Before I converted, I was a member of the church of Christ, and I still struggle with many Marian devotions (not dogmas like the Assumption, though.) I can barely read about St. Louis de Montfort without breaking out in some sort of cold sweat, and doubting my decision to become Catholic. This is really strange, because I have no trouble with anything else: the Real Presence, confession, Apostolic succession, Humanae Vitae. Just a couple of weeks ago, I went ot an event with an inlaw where every prayer that was said was to Mary. During a break, I said to this relative that I didn’t understand why Mary was invoked so often and God was not. She had no problem with any of it, however. So what is my problem? Why can’t I embrace this? Any suggestions?

Two recommendations.

First, until you really get Marian theology, the devotional willies are pretty common. Once you get the theology, the willies fade. For a sort of brief synopsis of my take on Marian theology go here:

However, what I really recommend is that you get hold of my book Mary, Mother of the Son, which will allay your fears and put the devotions in context. The problem is, the book is out of print at present. However, it will be back in print within a few months from Marytown Press. Keep your eyes peeled. When it comes out I will announce it on my blog!

  • midwestlady

    Every prayer shouldn’t be addressed to Mary, regardless. There are some people who have spiritual lives that are completely dependent on Mary in a folk-religion sense, and it can verge on non-Christian religion in a few extreme cases. When it gets that extreme, and yes, I’ve seen that too, it gives me the willies too.

  • http://irishpapist.blogspot.ie/ Maolsheachlann O Ceallaigh

    I’m a cradle Catholic “revert” and I struggle with Marian devotion, too.
    Also, Mary: Mother of the Son is one of my favourite books and I recommend it, not just as an aid to devotion and a guide past stumbling-blocks, but a really fun read. Can’t believe it’s out of print.

    • Mark Shea

      It’ll be back in print soon. I’m chatting with the publisher today!

      • Eric the Read

        Will there be an ebook? One of the benefits of those is that they never need go out of print.

      • Laurel

        Can’t wait for the book! I’m also wondering if it will be available for Kindles.

      • Beccolina

        So happy to hear it will be. We’ve been wanting a copy or two.

  • Iris Celeste

    How I have explained it is that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. As the Ark in the Old testament held the word of God that came from Mt Sinai, Mary held the Word Incarnate. Also like the old testament where God instructed the Israelites to carry the Ark before them when they went in to battle to obtain the promise land and He would guarantee their victory, so too we must carry the New Ark before us as an example on how to love and trust God completely as we battle temptations in order to reach our promised land.

    If I had been an ancient king in the path of the Israelites, I would have gotten my spy into their war council and brought up all kinds of objections to carrying the Ark before them! “The people are thinking the victory is coming from the Ark and not from God! Look it has engraved images and look they are bowing before it! Surely we are displeasing God and must not take it before us!”

    • midwestlady

      Allegory. Wouldn’t it just be simpler to know the actual biblical story of salvation history?

      • Rosemarie

        +J.M.J+

        The Church knows the biblical story of salvation. She also knows that an allegorical interpretation of Scripture is perfectly valid, since Scripture has many senses. Wouldn’t it be better to understand God’s written word on all its levels of meaning and not just the literal meaning?

        • midwestlady

          We’re not talking necessarily about all the meanings of Scripture in a balanced sense. We’re not even talking about Scripture at all, mostly, because very little about Mary is in Scripture. We’re talking about a traditional allegory that’s developed around Mary, which is probably legit in its basic forms but has morphed into a looming monster for some people. Some of it is okay, but some of it gives me the willies, yes. For good reason. Some of it is post-Christian in nature.

          • Rosemarie

            +J.M.J+

            It’s not post-Christian at all. It’s quite Christian to love and honor the Mother of Jesus. Catholics and Orthodox have been doing that for a very, very long time.

  • Mr W

    Isn’t it ironic that the Muslims have more regard for Mary than many Christians?

    • Tom R

      Yes, so much for the sound-bite that “Whoever is not Marian is Arian.” The Muslims are far more “Arian” than even the Jehovah’s Witnesses (the latter call Jesus “a god” and claim he was a pre-existent angel), yet Islam shares the Catholic/ Orthodox belief in the Immaculate Conception and (I assume) Perpetual Virginity while rejecting the Trinity. So Muhammad and Ayatollah Khomeini are more “Marian” than, say, CS Lewis. Interesting.
      My first-ever comment on Mark’s blog (nearly ten years ago, come to think of it) was in response to someone’s anecdote about a Muslim who converted to Christianity. He was undecided between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, but had summarily rejected Protestantism on the grounds that it did not give Mary the veneration that he, as a Muslim, had been taught she deserved. I thought (and still think) that of the many plausible reasons for rejecting Protestantism, this is one of the oddest. It is rather as if a former Jehovah’s Witness embraced Trinitarianism, denounced The Watchtower as heretical false prophets, yet still chose Orthodoxy over Western Christianity on the grounds that the Filioque entailed the obviously false belief that the Son is fully equal to the Father.Just odd.

  • Elizabeth

    I just converted last year and one of the things that helped me with the Marian side was episode 4 of Fr. Barron’s “Catholicism” series (“Our Tainted Nature’s Solitary Boast: Mary, the Mother of God”). After I watched it, I had the sense that Marian devotion isn’t just a nice thing we do on the side, but is theologically essential. Oh, and look up Elizabeth Scalia’s post on Mary and microchimerism! Can’t wait for your book to be re-released, Mark….

  • Bill

    I guess as a cradle Cathoic I’ve never had trouble with Marian devotion. I’ve always found the aversion to it to be really odd actually, a weird either/or dichotomy rather than both-and. Nobody loved Christ as much as she did. I tend to think most Catholics know she is a creature and Christ is God. I think fear of Mary honestly comes from having too low of a Christology, a “buddy Jesus” approach wherein Mary could threaten that. But the higher the Christology (and the East has the highest to be honest) means of course Mary is no threat.

    • Stu

      I think there is something there with the “buddy Jesus” concept coming into play here. People seemingly think there is conflict between the notion of a “personal God” and a God who is owed worship, deference, and submission. Instead of being our “buddy” He should rightfully be seen as our Father who knows us, loves but is not our equal by any account. Seeing Christ as our Savior AND King helps put that in perspective as well as having someone like Mary who CAN intercede for us. There is a certain humility in realizing that while we can certainly approach God on our own, deferring to Our Lady to do it for us demonstrates our knowledge of our standing. She takes our requests, repackages them in a manner that is better for us and more pleasing to God, and ultimately points us in the right direction. She is the ultimate prayer partner.

      She is, I am convinced, the reason I am now in the Church.

      Ad Jesum per Mariam.

      • Bill

        agree completely Stu

        seeing her as the God-bearing one is very important

        a Christology that overly focuses on Christ’s Humanity makes Mary irrelevant or, worse, a competitor.. understanding Christ’s Divinity really makes Mary’s role in Salvation History. Our Blessed Mother points to Christ.

        Marian dogmas, as with all of Mariology, is really a building block of solid Christology

        • Rosemarie

          +J.M.J+

          When I was in Evangelicalism, it filled me with all that fear of “mariolatry,” that one could honor Mary “too much” and so cause her to “overshadow” her Son. After returning to the Church, I still carried some of that fear at first. Yet by the grace of God I eventually realized that Christ is so much greater and higher than Mary that there is no way she could really “overshadow” Him. I only feared that previously because my conception of Him was too small.

          • Stu

            When I was still a protestant, I wish someone had confronted me with the phrase, “my soul doth magnify the Lord” and asked me what that meant. It’s one of those verses you fly over without really thinking about it.

      • Peter

        I once considered – after my conversion and being involved in the Church for years, struggled with the move towards universalism. What prevented me from leaving for Lutheranism was very simple: the Blessed Virgin Mary.

        Mary’s role in Catholic theology and spiritually cannot be underestimated.

        By the way, here is what de Montfort says about Jesus:
        Jesus, our Saviour, true God and true man must be the ultimate end of all our other devotions; otherwise they would be false and misleading. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and end of everything. “We labour,” says St. Paul, “only to make all men perfect in Jesus Christ.”

        For in him alone dwells the entire fullness of the divinity and the complete fullness of grace, virtue and perfection. In him alone we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing; he is the only teacher from whom we must learn; the only Lord on whom we should depend; the only Head to whom we should be united and the only model that we should imitate. He is the only Physician that can heal us; the only Shepherd that can feed us; the only Way that can lead us; the only Truth that we can believe; the only Life that can animate us. He alone is everything to us and he alone can satisfy all our desires.

        We are given no other name under heaven by which we can be saved. God has laid no other foundation for our salvation, perfection and glory than Jesus. Every edifice which is not built on that firm rock, is founded upon shifting sands and will certainly fall sooner or later. Every one of the faithful who is not united to him is like a branch broken from the stem of the vine. It falls and withers and is fit only to be burnt. If we live in Jesus and Jesus lives in us, we need not fear damnation. Neither angels in heaven nor men on earth, nor devils in hell, no creature whatever can harm us, for no creature can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Through him, with him and in him, we can do all things and render all honour and glory to the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit; we can make ourselves perfect and be for our neighbour a fragrance of eternal life. (True Devotion to Mary 61).

    • midwestlady

      No, actually, that’s not true. A very Protestant sort of “buddy Jesus” account of salvation doesn’t really need Mary at all.

      On the other hand, a Marian spirituality of the extreme sort is usually a very allegorized theoretical sort of thing with lots of flights of fancy, lots of emotion and lots of stuff you have to do in order to placate God and “snuggle” up to Mary. It’s very abstracted and “high.” It’s scary stuff.

      • Beccolina

        I’ve encountered disordered Marian “devotion” in two areas. In the first, some new age/neopagan/wiccans had brought Mary in as a sort of earth goddess deity separate from Jesus, and really only Mary in name. They would carry Marian medals, but no other Christian symbols. They had fit her into their philosophy with no regards to who she is.
        The second was within the Hispanic community where I spent a lot of time. There is obviously a lot of devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe there, but some of the practices had gone over into superstition and “magical thinking”. ie. I say this prayer and do this and this and Mary has to grant my prayer (wish). Mary was the most popular for this sort of thing, but other saints were sometimes used too. It was often mixed with other traditional superstitions or practices of white magic.
        With those two caveats, though, I would generally say that devotion to Mary leads to devotion to her Son. She points to him, after all.

        • Rosemarie

          +J.M.J+

          One example of the former are certain Neo-pagans who call themselves “Collyridians” (or sometimes Philomarianites), after the ancient heresy that apparently worshiped Mary as some kind of goddess (though we know precious little about it). They basically practice Neo-pagan goddess worship but use the Blessed Virgin Mary as the exclusive (or at least primary) “face of the goddess.” They disregard the Trinity, Jesus, and basically every Catholic doctrine but still try to have Mary as their “goddess.”

          Yet “Collyridianism” tends to be a transitional phase for them, which they soon move past into full-blown goddess worship. Which doesn’t surprise me at all since you can’t have Mary without Jesus anyway. Without Him, she is meaningless since her whole life and all her prerogatives center on Him. By excluding God, Jesus, and any Christian theology they don’t like, they are gutting Marian devotion and leaving nothing but an empty shell. That won’t satisfy anyone spiritually. Contrary to the fears of some Protestants, you can’t be devoted to Mary and ignore Jesus; it just doesn’t work.

          As for the latter, that’s the complex world of folk religion. Some of it does become magical or superstitious, but the Church rejects superstition so that can’t be used to invalidate genuine Marian devotion. Like the anti-Catholic guy I once knew who kept complaining about the Catholic “doctrine” of burying St. Joseph statues to sell a house. Try as I might, I couldn’t seem to convince him that that is not a doctrine but a folk practice that the Church does not officially endorse even if some individual Catholics do it or recommend it to others.

          • Molly

            I have a cousin that is into the neopagan type of stuff you’re talking about. The way she looked at it was that there were lots of different cultural and historical references to the “goddess”. She saw Mary as one of these. So she didn’t really see her as a historical figure that actually existed, but a “manifestation” of whatever it is she thought of as “the goddess”. She thought it was possible to worship the goddess through any of these figures (I didn’t recognize the rest of them). She would actually use real holy cards and wear medals. Now I think she’s kind of past that and into full on “goddess worship”. The scariest thing about all of it (apart from obvious ties to the occult) is how relativistic it all is. It’s a very good example of “there’s good in every belief, we can encompass it all” type thinking. She actually thought that we could pray the Hail Mary together and both get out of it what we needed. I never knew whether to go ahead and do it, hoping some real grace would rub off on her, or whether that was fueling her fire.

            • Rosemarie

              +J.M.J+

              Yes, Neo-pagans, particularly feminist goddess worshipers, do see Mary as another manifestation or “face” of or “title” for their goddess. Her historical existence is usually not of great importance from that POV. If she’s just a “face” of a “goddess” then she’s basically no more than a mask, not a real person in her own right as Christians certainly believe she is.

              I think some cradle Catholics who turn toward Neo-paganism may cling to Mary for a while, out of a deeply-ingrained love for her, which explains the phenomenon of modern “Collyridians.” Like I said, though, that doesn’t last. We can’t have Mary on our terms if that conflicts with the reality of who and what she is, which is entirely wrapped up in the mystery of Christ and His Church.

              • midwestlady

                The fact that it doesn’t logically work doesn’t keep people from doing it. Or quasi-doing it and rationalizing it. You always have to keep that in mind. People sometimes do strange things.

                • Rosemarie

                  +J.M.J+

                  True, people do and rationalize a lot of strange things. Some ex-Christians become “Christopagans,” trying to incorporate some type of devotion to Christ into Neo-pagan worship and practice. Some embrace so-called “Trinitarian Wicca,” which identifies the Holy Spirit with the Wiccan goddess, God the Father with the Wiccan god and Christ as a “young solar god.” There are all sorts of syncretistic blends of Christianity and Neo-paganism out there, involving God, Jesus, Mary, angels, saints, etc. None of this invalidates genuine Catholic devotion, however. Just because something is misused doesn’t mean there is no valid, correct use of it. This goes for Marian devotion as much as anything.

  • Molly

    What has helped some of my Protestant friends understand the logic is to always look at it from the perspective of Mary’s sinlessness. Even though they don’t agree with her sinlessness, they can see the logic that if she is, then her will is always perfectly aligned with God’s, therefore prayers directed to her and through her are always “safe” from her side of things (as in her reaction to them). She always points towards Christ. They don’t accept her Immaculate Conception and sinlessness as truth so they don’t think that this is a possibility, but they have admitted that “if it were true” they can definitely see how it works. So I might start with the your understanding of the Immaculate Conception, because if you can truly accept that it changes your perspective completely.

    • midwestlady

      The doctrine says that Mary was conceived without sin. It doesn’t say she was incapable of sin after her birth. To claim that would take away her freedom to be a moral agent, and in doing so, deny her ability to make consent at the Annunciation. And I don’t think you mean to say that. So be careful what you claim.

      • Mark Shea

        Yes. It does. Mary was without sin both original and actual according to the faith of the Church. If you think sinlessness robs a human being of free will, then you are saying Jesus, who is fully human, had no free will.

      • Molly

        Catholic teaching is not that she was incapable of win, but we are assured she did not sin. And it is very much Catholic doctrine that she is free from sin even now and that her will is perfectly aligned with God’s. we are also assured that she is in Heaven both body and soul, therefore when speaking in the present tense we can be sure she will remain free from sin. Sin does not exist in heaven, so in a sense, now, she is incapable of it. A human may be able to make a request of Mary with sinful intentions but Mary’s reaction to that request will not be sinful.

        • Molly

          The whole point is that she freely chose not to sin, as opposed to Eve. Hence the understanding of her as the new Eve.

        • midwestlady

          You guys just love fairy tales.

          • Stu

            Who are you, Richard Dawkins mother?

            • midwestlady

              No, I”m a very, very disappointed convert. Don’t make it worse.

              • Stu

                Honestly, I think you make it “worse” all by yourself.

                • midwestlady

                  And that is an example of why I’m disappointed. I could have gotten this much help for my spiritual life by joining a bowling league.

                  • Molly

                    You’re looking for comments in a comm box to help your spiritual life?

                    • midwestlady

                      NO, definitely not. I’m remarking about my general experience in a combox the same as you are.

                    • midwestlady

                      I got insulted for about the millionth time by another Catholic and I’m sick and tired of it, among other things. Like I said, I’m very disappointed.

                    • Stu

                      Try not insulting everyone else first.

                      I guarantee it will do wonders.

                    • Rosemarie

                      +J.M.J+

                      The best advice I can give you is to ignore comboxes like this, talk to a wise priest and pray about all this while maintaining a level of Marian devotion that is comfortable to you. Catholicism is a big tent and there is room in it for different approaches to Our Lady.

                      Just bear in mind that, when other Catholics speak highly of Mary, they are not doing so in order to downplay God or exalt Blessed Mother above Him. Rather, they are confident of God’s infinite greatness and that no creature, no matter how highly exalted, can equal or overshadow the Eternal, Infinite Creator.

                      The Church does teach that she is the greatest mere creature of God (Jesus being God Incarnate and so not a “mere creature” – of course He is above her!). Yet she remains a mere creature, called into being out of nothing by her Creator. She is God’s masterpiece, so when we praise her we are praising God, even as any praise of the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel is actually praise of Michelangelo. The greater the artist, the greater the masterpiece; Mary is as great as she is because she is the masterpiece of the ultimate Artist.

                      That’s how we understand honor given to Mary. It doesn’t detract from the honor of God but redounds to it.

                    • Molly

                      Midwest Lady — gotcha. Thought you were more frustrated with the topic of discussion.

                    • midwestlady

                      Thanks, Molly. This topic reminds me of how frustrated I am with Catholicism in general. Thanks for the note of understanding. They’re rare.

                • ivan_the_mad

                  Stu, shut up. She’s obviously very frustrated and you’re feeding the fire.

                  Midwestlady, here’s my layman’s understanding. In the Catechism we find: 411 … Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ’s victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.306

                  The footnote at the end refers to Ineffabilis Deus, an apostolic constitution concerning the Immaculate Conception which I’d exhort you to read: http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius09/p9ineff.htm. There is a beautiful explanation of Mary’s sinlessness therein traced throughout the history of the Church’s tradition.

                  “Eve listened to the serpent with lamentable consequences; she fell from original innocence and became his slave. The most Blessed Virgin, on the contrary, ever increased her original gift, and not only never lent an ear to the serpent, but by divinely given power she utterly destroyed the force and dominion of the evil one. ”

                  ” … the Fathers proclaimed with particular and definite statements that when one treats of sin, the holy Virgin Mary is not even to be mentioned; for to her more grace was given than was necessary to conquer sin completely.[24] They also declared that the most glorious Virgin was Reparatrix of the first parents … ”

                  Like Eve, she was born without original sin, but unlike Eve *she chose* not to sin, aided by extraordinary grace. This makes sense if you think about it. The great saints availed themselves of God’s grace and grew in holiness, but they never lost their freewill. Instead, they learned to conform their will to God and to choose what is good in His sight. How much more than would Mary choose what is good, conceived without sin and aided by extraordinary grace?

                  • Stu

                    Frustration is no excuse for insulting everyone else here because of their beliefs.

                    As a convert myself, I struggled with this very topic even after I converted but I didn’t go around telling my FELLOW Catholics they they believe in fairy tales nor take on an air of being “God’s gift to cradle Catholics” because clearly they don’t know Scripture” like I do.

                    The formula is simple. Don’t insult others and more than likely you won’t get insulted.

                    • ivan_the_mad

                      None of which excuses your insults to a woman struggling with her faith.

                    • Stu

                      Insults? Hardly. I can really insult someone if I really want to do so. Instead, I have brought to her attention how she is coming across with but a small bit of push back.

                      If she really wants help, understanding and reasonable discourse, start by not demeaning those from whom you desire such assistance. Again, it really is an easy and effective formula.

              • Molly

                I don’t really understand what you’re disappointed in. What has been said here by most of us is Catholic teaching, not our opinion.

                • midwestlady

                  Yeah, I was going to write about that, but I erased it. I don’t even care anymore enough to do that. I don’t even know why I stopped at one of these Marian threads anyway.

      • Rosemarie

        +J.M.J+

        >>>The doctrine says that Mary was conceived without sin. It doesn’t say she was incapable of sin after her birth. To claim that would take away her freedom to be a moral agent, and in doing so, deny her ability to make consent at the Annunciation.

        Contrary to common belief, free will does not mean the ability to choose between good and evil. It means the ability to freely choose to do what is good, as opposed to being compelled to always do the right thing. Choosing to do evil is actually a distortion of free will. So Mary, in freely choosing to obey God’s will, exercised her free will even if she was incapable of sinning. Besides, she likely didn’t know that she was incapable of sin and so thought herself capable of choosing to disobey God like everyone else around her0. So she would have willed to avoid doing that, anyway.

        • Molly

          I like to think of concupiscence (our tendency to sin after the fall, hence something Mary didn’t experience on Earth) as a lessening of our free will. Our will was actually “more free” before the fall. We weren’t inclined towards sin, therefore possessing much more strength with which to choose good. So not only was Mary immaculately conceived and free of sin her entire life on Earth, but it was actually easier for her not to sin than the rest of us. Two things out of this: If you see this greater strength to choose good as something that God gave her, that she did not develop in herself, you can focus on the greatness of that act of God, not on Mary’s will. Also, remember that we were all supposed to be this way. The difference is not that Mary was better than us and therefore closer in esteem to God, but that she was preserved and therefore an example of God’s original human creation. She is what Adam and Eve were before the Fall. It also makes you realize what a big deal the Fall really was, and how hard the devil had to work to tempt them. People don’t often focus on that difference. Adam and Eve’s will was oriented towards good, their wills were perfection because they were exactly as God originally intended to be. Their decision to sin was a betrayal of God that we can’t really even fathom because we have never experienced that strength and purity of will that God originally intended us to have. Mary didn’t do this for herself, God did it for her, for us to see what He had originally intended us to be, and what we will be again in Heaven (after lots and lots of purgatory ;).)

        • Susan

          THANK YOU, Rosemarie, for a truly CATHOLIC reply. Catholic theologians and moral philosophers, as well as Popes like JPII and B16, have taught this repeatedly – that we are FREE TO CHOOSE THE GOOD but people still insist on getting stuck in the dualisms of the Enlightenment and imagine that there is only one kind of freedom, the freedom of “choice” that means “freedom of indifference” rather than “freedom for excellence.” A great intro would be anything by Servais Pinckaers, O.P., or Father Robert Barron, although this goes back to Aristotle.

  • Ellen

    That’s all right. I’m a cradle Catholic on the traddie side, and I have some problems with Marian hyperbole. Louis de Monfort’s language at times makes me quite uncomfortable and the phrase co-redemptrix gives me the willies. I love Mary and I honor her as the highest of God’s servants but I look on her as ‘the handmaid of the Lord” and not some goddess figure.

    • Molly

      Part of the problem with de Monfort’s writings is the fact that we are reading them from a modern perspective. So it “seems” off to us, not because his theology is unsound, but because his use of language is foreign to us. But in actuality, “co-redepmtrix” simply means what it implies, that she cooperated with God in the redemption of mankind. Don’t let it scare you. It doesn’t make her God, it doesn’t give her divine power, it doesn’t place her equal to or above Christ. It does, however, (and I think this is what actually gives people the “willies”) place her above the rest of humanity. And rightfully so. She is different than us, no one else was immaculately conceived, no one else agreed to and then bore Jesus, and no one else was His mother. All of this doesn’t make her God, it makes her what God made her.

      • Molly

        I guess I should add, after reading Mark’s link, a “for now” to the “place her above the rest of humanity” section of my my post. She’s a real example of what we are destined to become (and can become — other than the mother part). Mark correct me if I’m wrong? I think it’s also connected to Catholic vs. Protestant beliefs about infused vs. imputed justification.

    • Rosemarie

      +J.M.J+

      I don’t remember where I read this, but it helps to understand Mary as the Co-Redemptrix in light of Eve as the Co-peccatrix. We know Eve sinned first and was the cause of Adam’s sin. Yet the Fall occurred when Adam sinned, since he was the head of the human race. St. Paul wrote that original sin and its punishment of spiritual death entered the world through Adam. He was the Peccator, the Sinner. Eve played a role in Adam’s sin and so is the Co-peccatrix, the woman with the Sinner. Yet it was the Peccator who actually caused the Fall.

      Similarly, Christ is the Redeemer, the One who restores spiritual life to us. Mary played a secondary role in His work of redemption by obeying God (in contrast to Eve’s disobedience) and giving Jesus the Body which He sacrificed on the Cross (as Eve gave Adam the fruit which he used to sin). Thus she can be called the Co-Redemptrix, the Woman with the Redeemer. Yet it is the Redeemer who brings about the Redemption, not the Co-Redemptrix, even as Adam the Peccator directly brought about the Fall, not the Co-peccatrix.

      Of course, Our Lord could have redeemed us all by Himself. He didn’t need Mary to help Him. Yet He freely *chose,* in His goodness, to associate a woman with Himself in His work of redemption because a woman had been involved in the Fall. He wanted a New Eve to undo the knot tied by the first Eve. He didn’t need her help but He willed to include her.

      He also willed to include the rest of us in His great work of redemption. As members of His Mystical Body, we can unite our suffering to His suffering on the Cross (as Mary herself did) and so in our flesh “complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col. 1:24). This doesn’t mean that Jesus’ act of redemption is lacking or incomplete, as Bl. John Paul II wrote:

      “The sufferings of Christ created the good of the world’s redemption. This good in itself is inexhaustible and infinite. No man can add anything to it. But at the same time, in the mystery of the Church as His Body, Christ has in a sense opened His own redemptive suffering to all human suffering. Insofar as man becomes a sharer in Christ’s suffering—in any part of the world and at any time in history—to that extent he in his own way completes the suffering through which Christ accomplished the Redemption of the world” (Salvifici Doloris, 24).

      So we can all unite our sufferings to those of the Head, and pray for the salvation of others, and so play our part in Christ’s great work of redemption. Our Lady does all this as well, and so participates in the Redemption to the greatest extent of any member of the Church. Thus she is Co-Redemptrix. None of this makes her a goddess or equal to Christ, however. She does not effectively cause the Redemption itself, she only plays a subordinate role in it as a human person. Thus Christ is the only Redeemer.

      • Chris M

        So, biblically, women are always (for bettor or worse) ahead of the curve! :0D

      • midwestlady

        Do you actually ever talk with Jesus Christ himself about all the details of getting this done in your everyday life, or is this just a systemic thing that you partake of–aka how things are? I’m curious.

        • Rosemarie

          +J.M.J+

          I’m not sure what you’re asking. I talk to Jesus often, not just to Mary. It’s all part of the Christian life.

        • Mark Shea

          Why would you suppose Marian devotion precludes prayer to Jesus?

          • Stu

            I’ll go a step further.

            Marian prayer is prayer to Jesus. She simply puts some polish on it and passes it on to her Son.

          • midwestlady

            It doesn’t always, Mark. But I’m talking about the extreme type here.

            • Rosemarie

              +J.M.J+

              The most basic prayer to Mary, the Hail Mary, is full of references to God. As are many other Marian prayers. Apart from God, Mary is nothing. You can’t have true Marian devotion and exclude Jesus; it won’t work. Some people of a Neo-pagan bent attempt that, only to give it up because in the end it won’t fly.

              • Susan

                Thank you Rosemarie. Some converts also forget that the entire rosary, including John Paul II’s additional luminous mysteries, are about Christ, and so are the two that seem to be explicitly about Mary. Both the assumption and the coronation reflect what will become of the Church, created in and for Christ.

  • Ellen

    Oh, another thought. When I think of Mary, I think of her words to the servants at the Wedding Feast of Cana – “Do whatever He tells you” I think that’s the best advice ever.

    • Molly

      Exactly!! Which is why she can be safely entrusted with a title such as co-redemptrix!

      • midwestlady

        Even reading this thread gives me the willies. Just saying.

        • Rosemarie

          +J.M.J+

          That’s sad. Jesus loves His Mother immensely; shouldn’t we imitate Him? He fulfills all Ten Commandments more perfectly than any mere human can, including the command “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Thus Jesus honors His Mother as much as He can. Shouldn’t we imitate Him? If Christ is King of Kings, the Son of David, then Mary is the Queen Mother in the kingdom of God. The Queen Mother (gebirah) was an office in the OT Davidic monarchy; it’s there in Scripture. This is all quite biblical stuff when you really look at it.

          • Stu

            It is Biblical. It’s just in the parts the many protestants tend to overlook.
            Mea culpa.

        • Molly

          Ok. If I said “Mary can be entrusted to cooperate in the redemption of humanity through the role God assigned her” would that give you the willies?

        • Susan

          Yeah, Midwest Lady, because “Do whatever He tells you” under hwich you chose to put this comment, is such a terrible thing! And the Rosary, which is all about Christ, is such a terrible thing. And the Hail Mary, whose words are from Scripture, is such a terrible thing. And because calling her the Mother of God was SPECIFICALLY to reinforce Jesus’s humanity, when so many people wanted to make Him entirely “spiritual.” Can’t you just TRY some of Balthasar’s or Benedict’s books, or perhaps Caryll Houselander’s “The Reed of God?” two millennia of Catholic teaching isn’t wrong.
          If people can’t stomach Catholic teaching on Mary, there are a zillion Protestant churches that would be happy to accommodate you. Though (for example) private revelations are not obligatory, the Marian dogmas ARE.
          But no one wants to beat you over the head. I am a mother. My son, a priest, loves me to pieces, and I love him more than my own life (meaning, I would lay it down for him). I can’t imagine a Savior who had LESS love for his mother than I do, or my son does. Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine, and contempt for his mother is contempt for him.

          • Mark Shea

            Susan: What good does it do to tell a depressed Catholic to leave the Church? Stop it.

            • Susan

              No, no Mark, I am 100% on your side and in agreement with you. I meant it ironically, but not sarcastically or sardonically; I meant, as the apostles said, “where else would you go?” Apologies!

    • Michael in ArchDen

      “Do whatever He tells you” is the episcopal motto of Archbishop Aquilla here in Denver. Just one of many ways he is awesome.

  • LUKE1732

    Never judge the Church by the actions of its members.

    This should be helpful – what Paul VI wrote in 1974:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_p-vi_exh_19740202_marialis-cultus_en.html

  • Kirt Higdon

    Is “co-redemptrix” an official title of Mary according to the Church? I was under the impression that it is not. I’ve never heard it used in any Marian prayer and unlike “advocate” and “mediatrix”, it is not used in the documents of the Second Vatican Council or any other Council I am aware of. I’m certainly an advocate of proper devotion to Mary as promoted by the Church, but some Marian devotion spins off into very heretical areas and this should give people the willies. This includes most “visionaries”, who are always putting their own words in Mary’s mouth, as well as people who justify their own disobedience to the Church by claiming that the Pope is disobeying Mary. A lot of these people must give Mary the willies.

    • Stu

      Not official, but not forbidden either. Popes have used it and or language very similar to it. Properly understood, it makes perfect sense. But that is the challenge.

      “Co” as in cooperate, not as in equal.

      • http://soulsagabooks.blogspot.com/ Brian Niemeier

        Precisely. If we consider that God allows anyone to participate in Christ’s work of redemption through intercessory prayer (which even protestants accept), fears that Mary’s co-redemptrix title are heretical hold no water.

        • midwestlady

          Yes, except when most people say co-redemptrix that’s not what they are referring to.

          • Stu

            And people confuse the Immaculate Conception as being related to Christ’s conception as well. All part of educating the ignorant.

          • Mark Shea

            How do you know that?

            • Renata

              Mark, by now you should know, from reading Midwestlady’s posts, that she knows everything about everyone, and makes CONSTANT blanket statements about Catholics, utterly blind to the fact that she is not omniscient. It was funny the first few times, but it is getting really, REALLY old.

              • Renata

                I didn’t mean for that to sound harsh. But it is really, really hurtful when someone constantly makes wrong generalizations about people she hasn’t meant, doesn’t know the inner life of, or the experiences of, or anything else. Not trying to be sarcastic on Hily Thursday and I apologize. But I think apologies are in order elsewhere as well.

                • Renata

                  Darn the lack of an editing feature!!! “HOLY” Thursday!

      • Elaine T

        Trouble is, in English the ‘co’ is heard as equal, which is why ‘co-redemptrix’ gives me the willies. It is way too easy to hear it wrongly as ‘equal.’

        • Stu

          And often you have to explain the word “pray” to protestants because they equate it with “worship” (which is a word itself that can have nuanced meaning). I’d say it’all part of knowing your faith and being prepared to give an account of it. Men and women of good faith will listen and take into account such explanations. Those not of such demeanor will continue to go off on tangents.

          So for me, I say simply embrace it if it is true and let the chips fall as they may.

          Also speaks to the beauty of Latin being the official language of the Church.

  • Stu

    You could also just travel to Charleston and talk to her.

    I’m sure she is quite approachable.

    http://www.mylife.com/marianwillies

    • midwestlady

      Til she figures out that she’s being contacted because of her name. She’s probably not even Catholic. 75% of the US isn’t, you have to realize. She’d probably have us thrown off the property. ROFLOL. And rightly so.

  • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

    The Blessed Virgin was there when I needed her – Moscow, 1991. Whenever I recall that it gives me hope.

  • FrMichael

    If our blog host hadn’t already done so, I would have recommended his books on the subject.

    Another approach I have used with this subject is the interaction between the Archangel Gabriel and Our Lady in Luke chapter 1. Usually in the Bible, when humans encounter angels, the humans are terrified of the angels, knowing themselves to be in the presence of superior creatures. However, in the Annunciation, Gabriel salutes Mary, knowing Her to be a creature superior to him. The Scripture is clear that She was troubled by the obscure nature of the message Gabriel was delivering, but not by his angelic presence per se.

  • thomas tucker

    A recommendation: watch The Passion of the Christ this week, and focus on the role of Mary in the film. She is not the lead, but you’ll get why she is important, and a gift to us, from The Lord Himself.

    • Molly

      @thomas tucker — just watched it and right at the beginning of the credits there was a “Benedict” something or other, which made me smile and think of BXVI. Then I thought wouldn’t it be funny if I would then see the new Pope’s name somewhere in the next few seconds. Just – and I mean just – as I finish simultaneously thinking “I shouldn’t be superstitious” and “there’s not going to be a Jorge” there pops up . . . “Francesco”. First of all, duh, not Jorge anymore. But second of all, I had my own little moment of chills.

  • john noodle

    What a great phrase, Molly! “all of this doesn’t make her God, it makes her what God made her.”

    • Molly

      I will admit that after eighteen years of really having an interest in apologetics and lots of debates that even I (who have had a devotion to her since 5 yrs. old) stop and check myself out of insecurity from all the debating. But I always come back around to the fact that this was God’s choice, so follow in His footsteps!

  • Molly

    “We never give more honour to Jesus than when we honour his Mother, and we honour her simply and solely to honour him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek – Jesus, her Son.”
    –Saint Louis Marie de Montfort

    • Rosemarie

      +J.M.J+

      Another thing he wrote in True Devotion:

      “14. With the whole Church I acknowledge that Mary, being a mere creature fashioned by the hands of God is, compared to his infinite majesty, less than an atom, or rather is simply nothing, since he alone can say, “I am he who is”. Consequently, this great Lord, who is ever independent and self-sufficient, never had and does not now have any absolute need of the Blessed Virgin for the accomplishment of his will and the manifestation of his glory. To do all things he has only to will them.”

      One must bear that in mind as well when reading St. Louis de Montfort on Our Lady.

  • Tim Jones

    May I add that there is no requirement that any Catholic enjoy St. Louis de Montfort, or even read him at all?
    There are many helpful resources regarding Marian devotion. If you don’t find St. Louis de Montfort helpful to you, find something else that is.

  • Tim Jones

    It does not mean there is something *wrong* with you.

  • Bill

    Im sorry you were disappointed and insulted, but at the same time don’t get discouraged, which could lead to a loss of faith.

    You know who helps here? Mary.

    • midwestlady

      Too late, Bill. I am discouraged.

      • Stu

        Well, don’t be.

        MWL, I think there is any number of people here who would willingly give you their time to discuss this issue especially if you believe it is a challenge to your faith as a Catholic. I am absolutely confident of that. In fact, I have seen it in this very thread. But they also would like to do so without being insulted. I think that is reasonable. And I think that is a good place to start.

        Devotion to Our Lady can be tough. I agree. It was for me. Years of fundamentalist thought almost made me antagonistic towards her. In fact it saddens me now. But if she always points us to Christ, in her humility all of our praise of her she also directs that way. She magnifies the Lord and she helps me approach Christ in a much, much better way.

        • midwestlady

          I don’t need to be “convinced” of a lot of flowery memorized stuff about Mary by some cradle Catholic, Bill. It’s not something I’m very interested in. But it’s not only the Marian thing, Bill. It’s not even mostly the Marian thing. I’m just discouraged by all of it.

          • Stu

            I’m neither Bill, nor “some cradle Catholic” (as if that is a bad thing).

          • Becky

            Hi, midwestlady,

            I also am a convert who gets very discouraged at times about the kinds of issues that have been discussed in this thread, as well as others. Please let me know if you’d like to correspond. I don’t know if we can access each other’s e-mail addresses through this thread, but maybe we could “swap” them through Mark Shea?

          • Bella

            Wow. So our love for Mary is merely “flowery memorized stuff.” And you know this about us HOW?

            I pray directly to Jeus every day of my life and meditate and contemplate as well. But as for asking Mary to pray for us, I will stop when everyone on earth stops asking for their friends, neighbors, and fellow blog-readers to please pray for them. In other words, never. She was closer to Jesus than any other human person.

          • James M

            Hey, Midwestlady:

            Don’t let it all get you down. If I may, I’d like to offer a little advice:

            1. Catholic blog comboxes are essentially poison. They’re inhabited by know-it-alls who know nothing but love to pontificate. No offense to Mark Shea or to any other bloggers. But it’s true. These comboxes and venues like the forums at Catholic Answers do not represent reality, much less do they give one a taste of “life, and life more abundantly.” Take a break from the blogs.

            2. There are Catholics who go way overboard with Marian devotion. They insist what they do is not the same as “worship” by using fancy language to make a distinction between Marian “veneration” and Divine “worship” but when you actually see it, there is no difference. You’re not the bad guy if you’re noticing that. It’s true.

            3. There are very devout and Christian Catholics who have never heard of deMontfort, have never given a moment’s thought to anything regarding the Immaculate Heart, pay no attention to Marian apparitions like Fatima, do not wear scapulars (of any color), and have never said a rosary in their lives. We call these devout Catholics “Eastern Catholics”. Check and see if there’s an Eastern Rite Catholic church near you. Eastern Catholicism (sometimes called “Greek” Catholicism) may be the sort of Catholicism for you. It often appeals to Catholics who find themselves frustrated by “Roman” Catholicism. You can be a Catholic without being a Roman Catholic. There is another way! There are a number of different ways, actually. Contrary to the cliche, not all roads lead to Rome.

            4. I like to think of Mary as the Mother of Jesus at Cana who asked Jesus to change water in to wine for the sake of a young couple who didn’t plan very well. He told her no. And then he did it anyhow. Because she asked him to. That’s why I pray to her, asking her to ask Him to change my water into wine.

            • Rosemarie

              +J.M.J+

              1. True enough.

              2. Divine worship involves sacrifice. If someone is offering sacrifices to the Blessed Virgin then this criticism has merit. If not, you’ll have to do better than that to prove mariolatry. Like reading someone’s heart, which most people can’t do. “When you actually see it…” is a call to judge by appearances, which Christ said we shouldn’t do.

              3. Eastern Catholics may not wear scapulars but they might wear small icons or medals of the Godbearer. They may not pray the Marian Rosary but they have their own effusive praises of the Mother of God. Akathist Hymn, anyone? Even attend a Moleben to the Theotokos? I have. Many Eastern Christians pray this to her every Sunday at the Divine Liturgy:

              “It is truly right to bless thee, O Theotokos,
              ever blessed, and most pure, and the Mother of our God.
              More honorable than the cherubim,
              and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim.
              Without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word.
              True Theotokos, we magnify thee.”

              While I would not discourage any Catholic from exploring the Eastern Catholic Churches, trying to sell them as downplaying Our Lady isn’t exactly truth in advertising. It may just lead to more frustration when one discovers the level of Eastern Christian devotion to the Godbearer.

              4. Amen


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