Does He Teach in The Glories of Mary that Mary is “Above God” and Can “Manipulate God”? (vs. Anti-Catholic Len Lisenbee)
[9 August 2002]
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Corrections of Protestant Misunderstandings of Catholic Mariology
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— Len’s words will be in blue —
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Len Lisenbee: E-mail of 17 July 2002, 14:54:24 (emphases added):
. . . What one feels is God’s honest truth is, to the other, a complete distortion of that same truth.
Take the Catholic Church’s position on Mary, for instance. They feel she is above God, can manipulate God, can get things for Catholics from God that Jesus can’t. (These facts come from The Glories of Mary a facinating if somewhat troubling book – citations on these facts available on request). Me, being a mere lay Baptist, feel Mary was (and is) nothing more than a vessel used by God to His Holy purpose. She serves no salvific purposes whatsoever, and doesn’t even receive a single one of the millions of prayers sent to her by misguided Catholics daily. Her elevation within the Catholic Church can only serve one single purpose, and that is not from God. She is certainly NOT God’s “queen of heaven,” and never, ever will be. So, both our “truths” are distorted to the other.
By the way, my (eventual) book definitely is not anti-Catholic. It will be as pro-Catholic as it can possibly be, with the fervent hope that the truths it contains will allow them to see the real truth of the Roman Catholic Church. To that extent, my book will be extremely anti-Roman Catholic Church, taking each and every “tradition” and explaining how each serves satan and hurts God. Almost every single one of them! If their eyes are open, I will give them the “proof” extracted from historical facts and Holy Scripture. Oh, but that’s a problem because tradition is equal to Scripture and Scripture alone is not enough. Oh, well. I think you get my point.
[ . . . ]
My Love and Respect in Christ,
Len Lisenbee: E-mail of 18 July 2002, 17:01:40
. . . The Book, The Glories of Mary, was written by a Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church [St. Alphonsus de Liguori], not some Protestant. He was made a Saint by the Church, so they definitely liked what he wrote. And he made those statements, not me. I will cite you page numbers to save you time — if you want to check them out, that is.
Furthermore, I feel I can prove, to you and to any other Catholic, that they are being deceived by a Church they have put their most fervent trust in. If you do not believe that, I am truly sorry.
Love in Christ,
E-Mail Response from Dave Armstrong: 18 July 2002
Okay, I’ll call your bluff. Why don’t you go ahead and document the following statements of yours from the book you mentioned:
Take the Catholic Church’s position on Mary, for instance. They feel she is above God, can manipulate God, can get things for Catholics from God that Jesus can’t . . .
I want full documentation (page numbers, publishers, etc.). I have a copy but old books differ according to publisher sometimes. You go ahead and prove this. For my part, I will answer, and put the whole thing on my website (including the outrageous statements you made in your letters, and your name and e-mail address) to show the world how compelling your scholarship and “disproofs” of the Catholic Church are (on a Catholic website, no less!!!). Deal? Here’s your big chance. Note that I’m just talking about the above statements, not 10,000 objections you may have. If you make outlandish claims to me, I will challenge you to back them up with something solid, not just your own opinion, or warped interpretation of a Catholic’s words (as presently). Normally I wouldn’t bother with this sort of thing, but I’m curious how you will go about proving your contentions.
Len Lisenbee: E-mail of 18 July 2002,21:46:02 (all remaining words in blue)
Dave, attached is a text document with the citations contained in another paper I have written. There are several things you need to know about me — I do not lie, nor do I embellish (except when I wrote my first book, which was humorous). I do not misquote or quote out of context, and never will. I am trying to reach people who I truly believe are in need of my witness, and if they for any reason do not believe what I am saying because I have lied about anything, then I am wasting their time, not to mention my own.
[ . . . ]
Your brother in Christ,
Most Protestants are taught very little about the Blessed Virgin Mary: The Mother of God the Son (Theotokos, or literally, God-bearer), other than the fact that she rocked baby Jesus’ cradle on the first Christmas and thus helped to make Silent Night (written by an Austrian Catholic priest) the lovely, moving song that it is. Thus, for them to understand the highest theological and spiritual level of Catholic Mariology is somewhat akin to expecting a child who has just mastered the times tables to comprehend calculus or trigonometry. It just won’t happen. Even most Catholics don’t understand these things. They require much thought and study. One has to progress in any form of knowledge little by little.
The amount of misinformation, disinformation, and incorrect understandings amongst Protestants on these issues can never, in my experience, be underestimated, or overlooked.
Moreover, Len approaches the subject with a basic outlook that the Catholic Church is out to deceive people and is serving Satan:
I feel I can prove, to you and to any other Catholic, that they are being deceived by a Church they have put their most fervent trust in.
. . . my book will be extremely anti-Roman Catholic Church, taking each and every “tradition” and explaining how each serves satan and hurts God. Almost every single one of them!
This perspective of hostility and mistrust and derision is bound to produce even more bias and distortion of Catholic views, because the one making the observations is incapable of the objective analysis required to examine any opposing belief, let alone perhaps the most complex and wildly misunderstood subject in Catholic theology.
When I write something designed to touch the heart of someone else, I never “bluff.” You can get a copy of this book from almost any Catholic book source. I did . . .
Quite frankly I could not believe what I was reading. Certainly I realized that the mainstream Catholic could not possibly believe this stuff. However, it does exist. It is widespread. And, the Roman Catholic Church encourages it to the point they have published it numerous times and under the names of different authors. You’ll see my notation at the end.
One other thing. I mention Pope John Paul II in the first paragraph. Shortly after he was shot, he proclaimed that Mary had saved his life and he had dedicated his life to her. Not to God, or Jesus. To Mary. I found that to be very unsettling, and it was one of the reasons I began my research into the Roman Catholic Church.
Anyway, with that said, here is my paper, complete with citations.
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Many Catholics, including ranking members of the curia and, at least to some extent, Pope John Paul II, have taken “Mary Worship” to levels that exceed any blasphemy observed so far in this chapter. Some of the material is covered here not so much because it is official church dogma I realize that it is not yet! It is covered here because it exists and is taught within the Roman Catholic church. It is covered here because some people, perhaps many people, believe that it is the truth, which it definitely is not. It is covered here in an attempt to show the extent that Roman Catholic church teaching concerning Mary has departed from the Scriptures. These quotations are taken verbatim from The Glories of Mary, by Bishop Alphonse de Ligouri [sic: the correct spelling is “Liguori] (Brooklyn: Redemptorist Fathers, 1931). Those Roman Catholic Bible quotations are from the Douay Bible. Refuting Scriptures are from the King James Version of the Bible. I present the Church premise first, followed by quotes from The Glories of Mary, with page references, and with that followed by my comments and refuting Scriptures.
The Supreme Importance of Context in Interpretation
Before we delve into Len’s particular objections to statements in The Glories of Mary, some significant preliminary observations are necessary. I will argue that — beyond the question of attempting a critique of advanced Catholic theology before understanding the basics, as discussed above — Len is not even properly interpreting the words of St. Alphonsus in context. This is a very common mistake in popular apologetics and polemics, but especially when the Catholic Church is involved, and particularly when Mariology is the subject in dispute (precisely because it is so widely and profoundly misunderstood). Here, context is supremely important, lest Marian theological and devotional language (which will inevitably be difficult for Protestants to “hear”) be misunderstood.
What Baptist theologian Bernard Ramm writes about biblical interpretation and the supreme importance of context can easily be applied to the task of interpreting any literature:
The third context is the particular book in which the passage occurs . . . The fourth context of any passage is the materials immediately before it, and immediately after it. The material before the passage is the radar which guides the approaching, and the following material is the radar of the leaving . . . the framework in which the passage is to be understood. For example, to understand the heart of the middle and last part of Romans 3 . . . we must understand the kind of case Paul builds in the preceding materials about man’s sin and guilt, and what he says in Chapters 4 and 5 about man’s faith and justification.
(Protestant Biblical Interpretation, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 3rd revised edition, 1970, 139-140)
Renowned evangelical New Testament scholar D. A. Carson refers to the practice of,
. . . . so selective a use of evidence that other evidence has been illegitimately excluded . . . As a general rule, the more complex and/or emotional the issue, the greater the tendency to select only part of the evidence, prematurely construct a grid, and so filter the rest of the evidence through the grid that it is robbed of any substance.
Carson also critiques “unwarranted associative jumps,”
. . . when a word or phrase triggers off an associated idea, concept, or experience that bears no close relation to the text at hand, yet is used to interpret the text. This error is shockingly easy to commit in textual preaching, overlooking the old adage that a text without a context becomes a pretext for a prooftext.
Moreover, in touching upon the necessity of understanding the Hebrew culture which produced the Bible, Carson shows (if I may apply an analogy to our present subject) how it is possible for an evangelical Protestant, who has (from the Catholic perspective) been taught little or nothing about Mary or Mariology, to easily misinterpret Catholic statements on the topic, due to unfamiliarity with the idiom and background thought and “Catholic culture,” if you will, which lies behind such utterances at the presuppositional level (just as Hebrew cultural factors are often poorly-understood):
The fallacy in this case lies in thinking that one’s own experience and interpretation of reality are the proper framework for interpreting the biblical text, whereas in fact there may be such deep differences once we probe beyond the superficial level that we find quite different categories are being used . . . Unless we recognize the “distance” that separates us from the text being studied, we will overlook differences of outlook, vocabulary, interest; and quite unwittingly we will read our mental baggage into the text without pausing to ask if that is appropriate . . . real knowledge is close to impossible if we fail to recognize our own assumptions, questions, interests, and biases; but if we recognize them and, in dialogue with the text, seek to make allowances for them, we will better be able to avoid confusing our own world-views with those of the biblical writers.
(Exegetical Fallacies, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1984, 98-99, 117, 105-107)
In the present instance, Len is not imposing his view onto the Catholic Mariological view, trying to make it his own, but rather, he makes so many (erroneous) hostile assumptions from the outset (it is radically unbiblical, it is idolatrous, it is blasphemous, it places Mary above God, etc.) that it is next to impossible for him to even read the passages fairly and in context, in order to accurately ascertain their intended meaning, whether or not he agrees with the Catholic theology presupposed and explicated by the writer.
I will contend throughout this paper that he (along with many others who utilize this book in like polemical fashion) is misinterpreting St. Alphonsus’ statements about the Blessed Virgin Mary; that he fails to understand what they mean in the first place, which is the necessary prerequisite for an intelligent, compelling critique of the statements and the theology. This is what is called “constructing a straw man.” In other words, Len’s target is not what the Catholic Church actually teaches, but what he mistakenly (however sincerely) thinks it teaches. And he doesn’t understand that due to lack of background information and neglect of context and idiom, as I will demonstrate again and again as we proceed to examine the controversial texts from the book itself.
In order to properly understand the overall framework of the thoughts and ideas and doctrines expressed in this book, we must examine what St. Alphonsus has to say about the relationship of Mary to God the Father and God the Son, Jesus, since this is Len’s primary and most impassioned charge: that she supposedly usurps and overthrows God’s prerogatives and unique position of supreme honor and glory, in Catholic theology, and attains some sort of divine or quasi-divine or semi-divine status (which would, indeed, be blasphemous and grossly heretical). Nothing could be further from the truth, and this is all expressed in the book itself. If Len had simply read the book carefully and as objectively as possible, this entire discussion could have easily been avoided.
St. Alphonsus’ Introduction and Mariological and Christological Presuppositions
Before embarking on textual and contextual arguments from the book, let us recall once again the charge that Len made:
Take the Catholic Church’s position on Mary, for instance. They feel she is above God, can manipulate God, can get things for Catholics from God that Jesus can’t . . .
[All excerpts are taken from The Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus de Liguori — a Doctor of the Catholic Church –, edited by Rev. Eugene Grimm, Two Volumes in One, Fourth Reprint Revised, Brooklyn: Redemptorist Fathers, 1931; all emphases are added unless otherwise noted]
Now, to begin, let us see what St. Alphonsus writes at the very beginning of his book. He dedicates it “To Jesus and Mary”:
My most loving Redeemer and Lord Jesus Christ, I, Thy miserable servant . . . I know not, however, to whom I could better recommend it than to Thee, who hast her glory so much at heart. To Thee, therefore, do I dedicate and commend it . . . this Immaculate Virgin in whom Thou hast placed the hope and whom Thou hast made the refuge of all the redeemed . . .
And now I turn to thee, O my most sweet Lady and Mother Mary. Thou well knowest that, after Jesus, I have placed my entire hope of salvation in thee; for I acknowledge that everything good — my conversion, my vocation to renounce the world and all the other graces that I have received from God — all were given me through thy means. (p. 23)
I understand that Protestants reject the Mediatorship of God’s grace through Mary, and I know why they do (having once been a fervent evangelical Protestant myself). I deal with that in other papers. Here I wish to point out that — whatever one thinks of that belief — it does not entail a usurpation of God’s unique glory and divinity and a raising of Mary to that exalted position of majesty. Mary is what she is only due to a sheer act of God’s grace and election (“in whom Thou hast placed the hope”). This does not make Mary God; it makes her, rather, God’s chosen vessel (a vastly different notion). God can do whatsoever He pleases.
One may disagree with the doctrine itself, but it is impossible to state that God could not possibly have ordained the distribution of His graces in this fashion. God can raise up stones to praise and serve Him if He so chooses (Mt 3:9); He can use a donkey (Numbers 22:22-35) to rebuke a man. He can do anything, and His actions and “strategies” are often surprising and baffling to us. We should fully expect this:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9; RSV — here and throughout, in my own comments)
Therefore, it is not a priori impossible for God to use Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus, in such a fashion, as so many Protestants casually (but quite wrongly) assume. This does not overthrow God’s position as Lord and God. Mary is strictly “after Jesus.” St. Alphonsus and Catholic theology see no necessary dichotomy between “graces that I have received from God” and chosen earthly vessels through which God chose to send that grace. The grace originates from God, not Mary, just as Jesus came from God, but was born of a woman. This does not entail Mary being “above God” at all.
St. Alphonsus goes on to make his presuppositions crystal clear in the next section, “To the Reader” (initially citing another writer, in agreement):
“And now, to say all in a few words: God, to glorify the Mother of the Redeemer, has so determined and disposed that of her great charity she should intercede on behalf of all those for whom his divine Son paid and offered the superabundant price of his precious blood in which alone is our salvation, life, and resurrection.”
On this doctrine, and on all that is in accordance with it, I ground my propositions . . . the plenitude of all grace which is in Christ as the Head, from which it flows, as from its source; and in Mary, as in the neck through which it flows. (p. 26)
The very analogies and language make it impossible for Mary to be “above God.” God “determined” that she would intercede for those “blood-bought” by Jesus’ death on the cross, in Whose precious blood “alone is our salvation.” The grace flows from the “Head,” Jesus, through the neck, Mary. A neck is not a head. The Body of Christ has one divine Head, Jesus. A neck is under a head, and it isn’t the control center, so to speak. Etc., etc. It is clearer than the sun at high noon on a clear day that Mary cannot be equal to God at all in this scenario. She is merely a creature and a vessel, albeit highly exalted and venerated and honored. Every prophet served the same function to a lesser degree. St. Paul played a profound role in salvation and Church history. That doesn’t make him God. Nor is Mary God. Catholics know this, but our critics oftentimes don’t “get” it.
Of course she is fundamentally and qualitatively lesser than God, being a creature. A stream can’t rise above its source; likewise, a creature can never rise above its Creator. That was Satan’s fatal mistake in judgment and “metaphysical, or ontological category.” Informed, orthodox Catholics never make this grave mistake concerning the Blessed Virgin. But Protestants so often mistakenly think this is official Catholic teaching, and their criticisms are often steeped in a profound ignorance of Catholic Mariology and the rationales which lie behind it. St. Alphonsus makes the Catholic theological position vis-vis Mary abundantly clear in many explicit statements in his book:
. . . it is one thing to say that God cannot, and another that he will not, grant graces without the intercession of Mary. We willingly admit that God is the source of every good, and the absolute master of all graces; and that Mary is only a pure creature, who receives whatever she obtains as a pure favor from God . . . We most readily admit that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator of justice . . . and that by his merits he obtains us all graces and salvation; but we say that Mary is the mediatress of grace; and that receiving all she obtains through Jesus Christ, and because she prays and asks for it in the name of Jesus Christ . . . (pp. 156-157)
. . . when these saints and authors tell us in such terms that all graces come to us through Mary, they do not simply mean to say that we “received Jesus Christ, the source of every good, through Mary,” as the before-named writer pretends; but that they assure us that God, who gave us Jesus Christ, wills that all graces that have been, that are, and will be dispensed to men to the end of the world through the merits of Christ, should be dispensed by the hands and through the intercession of Mary . . . [this is] necessary, . . . not with an absolute necessity; for the mediation of Christ alone is absolutely necessary; but with a moral necessity . . . (p. 162)
. . . Jesus now in heaven sits at the right hand of the Father . . . He has supreme dominion over all, and also over Mary . . . (p. 179)
“Be comforted, O unfortunate soul, who hast lost thy God,” says St. Bernard; “thy Lord himself has provided thee with a mediator, and this is his Son Jesus, who can obtain for thee all that thou desirest. He has given thee Jesus for a mediator; and what is there that such a son cannot obtain from the Father?”
. . . If your fear arises from having offended God, know that Jesus has fastened all your sins on the cross with his own lacerated hands, and having satisfied divine justice for them by his death, he has already effaced them from your souls . . . ” . . . What do you fear, O ye of little faith? . . . But if by chance,” adds the saint, “thou fearest to have recourse to Jesus Christ because the majesty of God in him overawes thee — for though he became man, he did not cease to be God — and thou desirest another advocate with this divine mediator, go to Mary, for she will intercede for thee with the Son, who will most certainly hear her; and then he will intercede with the Father, who can deny nothing to such a son.” (pp. 200-201)
Let’s summarize, then, the explicit statements thus far by St. Alphonsus, teaching that God, not Mary, is the source of all salvation and grace, and that Mary is by no means, in no way, shape, or form, divine, but a mere creature, whom God uses in an extraordinary fashion:
1) “My most loving Redeemer and Lord Jesus Christ”
2) “graces that I have received from God”
3) “his precious blood in which alone is our salvation, life, and resurrection.”
4) “the plenitude of all grace which is in Christ as the Head, from which it flows, as from its source”
5) “God is the source of every good, and the absolute master of all graces”
6) “Mary is only a pure creature”
7) “Mary . . . receives whatever she obtains as a pure favor from God”
8) “Jesus Christ is the only Mediator of justice”
9) “by his merits he obtains us all graces and salvation”
10) ” receiving all she obtains through Jesus Christ, . . . in the name of Jesus Christ”
11) “. . . all graces that have been, that are, and will be dispensed to men . . . through the merits of Christ”
12) ” the mediation of Christ alone is absolutely necessary”
13) “Jesus . . . has supreme dominion over all, and also over Mary”
14) “a mediator, . . . his Son Jesus, who can obtain for thee all that thou desirest.”
15) “He has given thee Jesus for a mediator; and what is there that such a son cannot obtain from the Father?”
16) “Jesus . . . having satisfied divine justice for them [our sins] by his death, he has already effaced them from your souls”
Does this sound like — as Len believes — the Catholic Church places Mary “above God,” or that she “can manipulate God,” or “can get things for Catholics from God that Jesus can’t”? Hardly. The truth of the matter is plain to see. Len has gotten his facts wrong. He may believe — based on his own Protestant theological and hermeneutical presuppositions (themselves not above all critique) — that the notion of Mediatrix is thoroughly unbiblical, and in fact, untrue, but he can’t prove that the Catholic system teaches it in such a way that God is lowered and Mary raised to a goddess-like status. That simply is not true, and even in the very book which is “notorious” in anti-Catholic circles for the most allegedly “extreme” remarks about Mary, we find many statements such as the above. Hence, we see that context is supremely important for interpreting books and writings.
Len’s Examples of Supposedly “Extreme, Blasphemous” Statements in The Glories of Mary, With Dave’s Counter-Replies
#1 Mary (alone) is given the place belonging to Christ.
That is not true, as just shown. The crucial distinctions — ones which Protestants would wholeheartedly accept, are found throughout the book, in dozens of places.
“And she is truly a mediatress of peace between sinners and God. Sinners receive pardon by . . . Mary alone” (pp. 82-83).
Now we see already, right from the start, how Len misinterprets and even quotes incorrectly, the text he is critiquing. The reader will observe that this becomes a distressingly regular occurrence, as we proceed. He is using the same reprint of the book that I have before me. But my copy has the word “made” between “truly” and “a” — which makes a big difference: Mary is not who she is intrinsically, but because God chose to make her so. In context, the mediatorship of Mary is shown to be “the powerful help of the intercession of Mary” (p. 82); which is a far different thing from dying on the cross and atoning for our sins, as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did. But by eliminating the contextual reference to intercession, the impression is left that Catholicism is trying to place Mary in Jesus’ unique position.
The second sentence in Len’s “quotation” is on the next page; it isn’t the next sentence. The words he has deleted (from St. John Chrysostom) are: “the intercession of.” Why are they eliminated? The result is that one might mistakenly think that Mary is granting the forgiveness or the grace which makes it possible. Yet in the very next sentence, St. Alphonsus states: “our Lord dispenses all grace.” What a difference context and refusal to engage in highly selective citation makes . . .In fact, a mere three pages before this “citation,” St. Alphonsus makes it very clear Who forgives and who merely intercedes:
“Either pity me,” will I say with the devout St. Anselm, “O my Jesus, and forgive me, and do thou pity me, my Mother Mary, by interceding for me” . . . my Jesus, forgive me; My Mother Mary, help me. (p. 79)
“Mary is our life . . . Mary in obtaining this grace for sinners by her intercession, thus restores them to life” (p.80).
Here, the word “is” is inserted; it is not in the text; “, then,” also is deleted after the second appearance of “Mary.” This is very shoddy citation. And the passage’s meaning changes somewhat when not cited in its proper context. The entire paragraph reads as follows:
To understand why the holy Church makes us call Mary our life, we must know, that as the soul gives life to the body, so does divine grace give life to the soul; for a soul without grace has the name of being alive but is in truth dead, as it was said of one in the Apocalypse, Thou hast the name of being alive, and thou art dead. [Rev 3:1] Mary, then, in obtaining this grace for sinners by her intercession, thus restores them to life.
Grace obtained through prayer and intercession is an altogether biblical concept. Hebrews 4:16 reads:
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Grace is even distributed (mediated?) by the “seven spirits” near God’s throne, so that they not only “obtained it,” but dispensed it as well:
. . . Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne. (Revelation 1:4)
St. Paul does something similar, according to his own teaching:
assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you. (Ephesians 3:2)
Nor are saints in heaven prevented from interceding and being concerned for those on earth. In Revelation 6:9-10, dead souls are praying for those on earth; what is known as an imprecatory prayer, as in, e.g., Psalms 35, 59, 69, 79, 109, and 139. An angel makes a similar prayer in Zechariah 1:12. Jesus mentions a type of this prayer in Matthew 26:53. Imprecatory prayers are intercessions on behalf of the righteous. If dead saints are interceding for us, and aware of what is happening on earth (e.g., Hebrews 12:1), why shouldn’t we ask for their prayers? They are not required to be omniscient to be aware of our requests for intercession, only out of time; and we have reason to believe that all who are with God in eternity in heaven are outside of time.
Furthermore, why should we not ask for the intercession of particularly righteous saints? Catholics believe Mary is without sin. Protestants hold her in very high regard as well. And they accept James 5:16-18:
. . . The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects. Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit.
This is a common motif in Scripture: the righteous man’s prayers having great power. God described Job as “blameless and upright” and said that “there is none like him on the earth” (Job 1:8). After the ordeal that Job went through, God’s assessment did not change, and He called Job “my servant” who spoke of Him “what is right” (Job 42:7). His “comforters” were not in such a good spiritual state. So how did God deal with them, in His mercy? How were they to be restored? By the prayers of the righteous Job, which had far more power than theirs:
. . . go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right . . . and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer. (Job 42:8-9)
It has always been thus. Abraham practically “bargained” with God to spare Sodom, suggesting that it be spared for the sake of 50, then 45, 40, 30, 20, and 10 (Genesis 18:22-33). God would have spared it for ten, but of course, ten righteous people could not be found there. Moses not only prayed for, but atoned for his people (Exodus 32:30-32, Numbers 14:19-23, 16:46-48). One man, Phinehas, is said to have “turned back” God’s wrath from Israel, so that He did not “consume” them (Numbers 25:6-13). Mary, being exceptionally righteous, has this same power, and no other creature has the sublime honor of being the Theotokos; the God-bearer; the Mother of God (the Son).
Furthermore, the Bible explicitly states that Christians in general are God’s “helpers” or “fellow workers” (Greek, synergos):
Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. (2 Corinthians 6:1; cf. Mark 16:20)
For we are God’s fellow workers . . . (1 Corinthians 3:9)
Why then, is it unthinkable for Mary to be a “fellow worker” with Jesus (albeit in a much more extraordinary fashion)? No one claims that the above verses teach our equality with God, simply because we work with Him, and are His fellow workers. Likewise, the Blessed Virgin is in no wise equal to God in function when she is a Mediatrix.
“He fails and is lost who has not recourse to Mary” (p. 94).
This is blasphemy that takes away from Christ the Lord the glory that is rightfully His.
No it is not at all; not in the slightest. It is simply a statement that has to be understood in light of many other qualifying and elaborating statements in the book. For example:
Most certainly God will not condemn those sinners who have recourse to Mary, and for whom she prays, since he himself commended them to her as her children. (p. 76)
. . . in us she beholds that which has been purchased at the price of the death of Jesus Christ . . . Mary well knows that her Son came into the world only to save us poor creatures . . . therefore Mary loves and protects them all. (pp. 60-61)
Thou, after God, must be my hope, my refuge, my love in this valley of tears. (pp. 55-56)
St. Augustine declares that “as she then co-operated by her love in the birth of the faithful to the life of grace, she became the spiritual Mother of all who are members of the one Head, Christ Jesus.” (p. 49)
Jesus our Redeemer, with an excess of mercy and love, came to restore this life by his own death on the cross . . . by reconciling us with God he made himself the Father of souls in the law of grace . . . (p. 47)
Whoever places his confidence in a creature independently of God, he certainly is cursed by God; for God is the only source and dispenser of every good, and the creature without God is nothing, and can give nothing. But if our Lord has so disposed it, . . . that all graces should pass through Mary as by a channel of mercy, we not only can but ought to assert that she, by whose means we receive the divine graces, is truly our hope. (p. 174)
Scriptures: “Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “For there is one God, and one Mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1st Timothy 2:5). “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4)
None of this contradicts Catholic Mariology, for the latter is in accord with explicit Pauline teaching on “sub-mediation.” For example, Paul describes himself and Timothy as, in effect, “secondary mediating saviors”:
I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. (1 Corinthians 9:22)
Take heed to yourself and to your teaching: hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16)
Protestants themselves speak of evangelists going out, attempting to “save sinners” or “save souls.” Everyone knows that this does not mean that they literally did all the saving. God did that; they were merely God’s messengers or ambassadors. This is the same sense in which Catholics speak, in sometimes flowery language, shocking to Protestant ears and presuppositions, of Mary “saving” someone. The Blessed Virgin Mary is certainly greater than Timothy, or Billy Graham. If it can be said that they “saved” people, in this sense, then it can absolutely be said of Mary as well. It is simply a matter of understanding how Catholic Marian language is used, and what is meant by it.
#2 Mary is glorified more than Christ. “The Holy Church commands a worship peculiar to Mary (p. 130).
More incompetent citation: between “Church” and “commands” are no less than 23 words which have been deleted as if they weren’t there at all. “Worship” in English, and especially Old English, can have several meanings, including veneration. My dictionary gives as the second definition: “extreme devotion or intense love or admiration of any kind.” The dictionary also noted that in England, some magistrates and others of high rank are addressed as “your worship,” similar to the American legal address of judges, “your honor.”
It is well-known (by those who trouble themselves to read Catholic catechisms and/or apologetic works at all) that Catholic Marian veneration is of an entirely different order from divine worship, or adoration. I discuss these crucial distinctions in my paper, “Is Mary Worshiped by Catholics? (The Latria /Dulia Distinction).” As for the claim that “Mary is glorified more than Christ,” this has already been shown to be an outrageous falsehood in the many citations above. Here are a few more:
. . . not as if Mary was more powerful than her Son to save us, for we know that Jesus Christ is our only Saviour, and that he alone by his merits has obtained and obtains salvation for us . . . (p. 137)
The Eternal Word came from heaven on earth to seek for lost sheep, and to save them he became thy Son. And when one of them goes to thee to find Jesus, wilt thou despise it? The price of my salvation is already paid; my Saviour has already shed his blood, which suffices to save an infinity of worlds. This blood has only to be applied even to such a one as I am. And that is thy office, O Blessed Virgin. (pp. 140-141)
No one denies that Jesus Christ is our only mediator of justice, and that he by his merits has obtained our reconciliation with God . . . St. Bernard says, “Let us not imagine that we obscure the glory of the Son by the great praise we lavish on the mother; for the more she is honored, the greater is the glory of her Son.” (p. 153)
Many things…are asked from God, and are not granted; they are asked from Mary, and are obtained, (pp. 127 For She…is even Queen of Hell, and Sovereign Mistress of the Devils”, 141, 143).
I can’t find the purported quote (if indeed it is intended to be one) on p. 127 [it’s actually on p. 137 in my edition]. Be that as it may, this line of thought is explained in the many citations above. As for sovereignty over devils, so what? Every believer has that power: “. . . Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
The “Mary” referred to here is not the Mary that gave birth to Jesus. This is more blasphemy, a true denial of Holy Scripture.
I don’t see how, given the facts that Abraham could almost save a whole city from judgment by his intercessions (if only ten righteous had been found there), Moses could atone for an entire nation, and Phinehas could save the same nation from destruction through his own obedience and righteousness. If God chooses to honor the prayers of a righteous person, that is His business, not ours. If this is “blasphemy” in Mary’s case, then it must be also for Abraham, Moses, Phinehas, Job, Jeremiah, and many others. Angels give grace; St. Paul and St. Timothy “save” people, etc.
Obviously, therefore, this “reasoning” of Len’s collapses in a reductio ad absurdum. Neither Catholics in general nor St, Alphonsus are saying that Mary is above God; only that God chooses to involve intercessory prayer in the matters of grace and salvation (an eminently biblical concept), so that it can happen that a request may not be granted by God till Mary is asked to intercede. If that is so “unbiblical” or “blasphemous” then none of us ought to pray for anyone else, as this would — so we are told, and following this “logic” to its conclusion — put us on a par with God, and make His actions contingent upon us.
Neither scenario is true, so the objection collapses. As soon as it is admitted that God uses human beings in a variety of ways in order to help save souls (we pray, we evangelize, we do various good works and sacrificial actions which affect people positively for the Kingdom), then this critique cannot stand with regard to an a priori rejection of Mary’s preeminent intercession.
Scriptures: “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,” (Ephesians 1:20-22)
This is a moot and irrelevant point, as Catholics fully agree. St. Alphonsus states as much many times. The only “problem” here is that Len doesn’t know that we already agree with him. And that is because he doesn’t yet grasp how Mariology is related to, and harmonious with, Christology, in Catholic thought. He seems to think that any involvement of human beings in God’s plans (even if God chooses this path) is somehow “blasphemous.” This won’t work, because the Bible is too clear that God uses people all the time (and sometimes donkeys and whales and things like the Red Sea) to accomplish His ends and goals.
#3 Mary is the gate to heaven. “Mary is called…the gate of heaven because no one can enter that blessed kingdom without passing through her (p. 160).
This is a quote from St. Bonaventure. As always, it must be understood within its overall context and the presuppositions which St. Alphonsus lays out in the beginning of his book. Right before this statement, and right after it appears the following:
St. Bonaventure: “As the moon, which stands between the sun and the earth, transmits to this latter whatever it receives from the former, so does Mary pour out upon us who are in this world the heavenly graces that she receives from the divine sun of justice” . . . it is our Lord, as in the head, from which the vital spirits (that is, divine help to obtain eternal salvation) flow into us, who are the members of the mystical body . . . (pp. 159-160)
Far from Len’s charge that Catholics place Mary above God; we believe that this was God’s chosen method; it was His will. God can do whatever He wants to do. He could have chosen to make all the light which reaches the earth from the sun bounce off the moon and come to us as moonlight. Likewise, He can choose to distribute His grace through Mary, as the creaturely moon which merely reflects His Divine sun. Why should the very notion be thought “impossible” or “blasphemous”? Again, one can agree or disagree with the theological belief of Mary Mediatrix, but Len’s accusations go far beyond that. He is claiming that Catholics make Mary a goddess, above even Almighty God. This is sheer nonsense. Thus, St. Alphonsus writes:
God has enriched thee with so great power . . . from all eternity God had determined by another decree that nothing that she asked should ever be refused to the divine Mother. (pp. 183-184)
This involves no inherent impossibility at all, within the framework of biblical thought:
And this is the confidence which we have in him, that is we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. (1 John 5:14-15)
Catholics believe Mary is without sin (on other biblical grounds). When she prays, it is in accordance with God’s will, so God grants her request, just as St. John says He will. It’s quite elementary, and a very biblical concept. Many Protestants simply can’t comprehend a sinless creature, as if it were an impossibility. It is not at all. Adam and Eve were sinless before the Fall. The good angels are sinless now, and have never fallen, as the demons have. St. John, in fact, teaches that the essence of any Christian is sinlessness:
No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him . . . He who commits sin is of the devil . . . No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God. By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil; whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:6,8-10)
The way of salvation is open to none otherwise than through Mary, and since our salvation is in the hands of Mary . . . he who is protected by Mary will be saved, he who is not will be lost” (pp. 169-170).
Again, we see a citation mauled almost beyond recognition. After the first “Mary” is about a two-thirds of a page gap, which is not indicated in the citation. The clause “and since” is not in the text, but this is not indicated either. The inept quoting doesn’t particularly affect the meaning of the sentiments in this particular instance, but it indicates an exceptionally poor level of scholarship which does not reflect well upon the writer trying to shoot down Catholic theology. The least one can do is to accurately cite opposing viewpoints.
Beyond those considerations, the same explanation applies here. This is a statement of fact or God’s chosen methodology, not of inherent necessity, which would indeed make Mary a sort of goddess. If the many statements already cited from St. Alphonsus do not suffice to explain this outlook, then I will produce some more:
The angelical Doctor St. Thomas [Aquinas] says [Summa Theologica 2. 2. q. 25, a.1, ad. 3], that we can place our hope in a person in two ways: as a principal cause, and as a mediate one. Those who hope for a favor from a king, hope it from him as lord; they hope for it from his minister or favorite as an intercessor. If the favor is granted, it comes primarily from the king, but it comes through the instrumentality of his favorite; and in this case he who seeks the favor is right in calling the intercessor his hope. The King of Heaven, being infinite goodness, desires in the highest degree to enrich us with his graces; but because confidence is requisite on our part, and in order to increase it in us, he has given us his own Mother to be our mother and advocate, and to her he has given all power to help us; and therefore he wills that we should repose our hope of salvation and of every blessing in her. Those who put their hopes in creatures alone, independently of God, as sinners do, and in order to obtain the friendship and favor of a man, fear not to outrage his divine Majesty, are most certainly cursed by God, as the prophet Jeremias says. (pp. 109-110; cf. p. 220)
. . . thy son Jesus Christ . . . has willed that thou also shouldst interest thyself with him, in order to obtain divine mercies for us. He has decreed that thy prayers should aid our salvation, and has made them so efficacious that they obtain all that they ask. To thee therefore, who art the hope of the miserable, do I, a wretched sinner, turn my eyes. I trust, O Lady, that in the first place through the merits of Jesus Christ, and then through thy intercession, I shall be saved . . . “Jesus is my only hope, and after Jesus the most Blessed Virgin Mary.” (pp. 117-118)
I can’t hold it in any more. Can anyone see the hand of satan here?
No, not if it is rightly understood.
That serpent has literally removed Christ and replaced Him with a pagan goddess.
This silly and slanderous charge cannot be sustained at all in light of the overwhelming documentation above.
That these statements are totally and completely false, there can be absolutely no doubt.
Len is welcome to counter-reply to my arguments and documentation. I think this description applies to his false statements about Catholic Mariology.
Yet the Roman Catholic church encourages them in a book it publishes! It wants them to become the “tradition” of the future. I’ll explain why at the end of this section.
I am highly interested in Len’s perceptions as to why the Catholic Church does what it does, and believes what it believes. He seems to have some special insight into that. Maybe he has spies or bugs planted in the Vatican or something.
Scriptures: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. (John 10:9) ” I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
Non sequitur . . . of course we agree.
#4 Mary is given the power of Christ. “All power is given to thee in Heaven and on earth, so that at the command of Mary all obey even God . . . and thus . . . God has placed the whole Church . . . under the dominion of Mary” (pp. 180-181).
More butchering of citations: the first sentence ends after “earth,” the words “so that” are added and not in St. Alphonsus’ text, then one has to skip over about half a page to get to the next clause. As always, one must examine the context of such an extraordinary statement to determine exactly what the author is trying to communicate. And so we shall do so, since Len has not been so kind as to provide the context:
. . . although Mary, now in heaven, can no longer command her Son, nevertheless her prayers are always the prayers of a Mother, and consequently most powerful to obtain whatever she asks . . . “For thy protection is omnipotent, O Mary,” says Cosmas of Jerusalem . . . Richard of St. Laurence; . . . ” . . . a mother is made omnipotent by an omnipotent son.” . . . Since the Mother, then, should have the same power as the Son, rightly has Jesus, who is omnipotent, made Mary also omnipotent; though, of course, it is always true that where the Son is omnipotent by nature, the Mother is only so by grace . . . Mary, then, is called omnipotent in the sense in which it can be understood of a creature who is incapable of a divine attribute. She is omnipotent, because by her prayers she obtains whatever she wills. (pp. 180-182)
Nor is the notion of creatures being granted a measure, great or small, of God’s “power” foreign to the biblical outlook:
. . . that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (1 Corinthians 12:9)
. . . we shall live with him by the power of God. (1 Corinthians 13:4)
. . . by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)
that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:5)
. . . my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus. (1 Corinthians 5:4)
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, (Ephesians 3:20)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. (Ephesians 6:10; cf. Ps 68:35)
who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:5)
He who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, I will give him power over the nations. (Revelation 2:26)
“Mary is also the Advocate of the whole human race . . . for she can do what she wills with God” (p. 193).
I can’t find these words on my page 193; perhaps I missed it, but given Len’s pathetic record of shoddy, inaccurate, and misleading citations, I don’t think so. I will let him clarify where he finds this. As for the reply; we have already shown many times in what sense this is to be understood. St. Alphonsus cited St. Augustine and St. Bonaventure along these lines, four and five pages earlier:
. . . St. Augustine says, “that Mary, having merited to give flesh to the divine Word, and thus supply the price of our redemption, that we might be delivered from an eternal death; therefore is she more powerful than all others to help us to gain eternal life.”
. . . St. Bonaventure, who, considering the great benefit conferred on us by our Lord in giving us Mary for our advocate, thus addresses her: “O truly immense and admirable goodness of our God, which has been pleased to grant thee, O sovereign Mother, to us miserable sinners for our advocate, in order that thou, by thy powerful intercession, mayest obtain all that thou pleasest for us.” (pp. 188-189)
This is probably the most blasphemous tripe I have ever read, and if I offend any Catholics with that statement, I do not apologize.
No need; we Catholics are very patient with ignorance and misinformation, knowing how prevalent it is, with regard to our teachings and beliefs.
I cannot believe that any Christian would subscribe to a single word of it. That some in the Roman Catholic Church actually teaches it and encourages its belief is disgusting in the extreme. That Mary can control God is a hideous, blasphemous lie! It is also, without any doubt, satan’s evil work.
Indeed it is. But we don’t teach it, and it hasn’t been demonstrated that we do.
Furthermore, I defy any Catholic apologist or any member of the curia, including the pope himself, to defend it. Only a true devil’s disciple or devil’s advocate would even attempt to do that!
I’ve done my best to defend the book and to present its true teachings, as opposed to Len’s gross caricature of them (i.e., in how he describes their import and implications). If that makes me a disciple of Satan, then clearly, Len will be able to blow my arguments out of the water, by the power of God (1 Cor 12:9). He has a chance to do so on my website, for all to see. I encourage him to give it a shot.
Scriptures: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) “All power is given unto me (Jesus) in heaven and in earth.” (Matthew 28:18) ” That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)
There is nothing in The Glories of Mary or Catholic dogma contrary to this.
#5 Mary is the peacemaker. “Mary is the Peace-maker between sinners and God” (p. 197).
This “citation” is not to be found on page 197 [it’s actually on p. 199]. I will cite relevant portions from that page which contain within themselves the usual qualifications sufficient to explain the biblically non-objectionable meaning of St. Alphonsus:
. . . ” . . . thou art, at the same time, our advocate and mediatress of peace between men and God, and who art, after thy Son, our only hope, and the secure refuge of the miserable . . . Since then, O Mary, thy office is to be the peace-maker between God and men, let thy tender compassion, which far exceeds all my sins, move thee to succor me.” (p. 197)
Was Mary the only “peace-maker” among creatures? Hardly. Moses was quite the peace-maker between the Hebrews and God, seeing that God had determined to destroy them for their wickedness (Exodus 32:7-10). Moses prayed fervently on behalf of his people (32:11-13); the result being that “the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do to his people” (32:14). Of course, God didn’t really change His mind. That was merely a figure of speech, or what is called an anthropomorphism. (God appearing or revealing Himself to be like men in some respect, so that men can understand Him). The point is that, once again, God willed that His creatures would play a role, in their free will, in salvation and redemptive history. This was one such notable instance. Shortly after this, Moses prayed for his people once again, and made atonement for their sin (Ex 32:30-32). The climax of this dramatic prayer is recorded in Exodus 32:32:
“But now, if thou wilt forgive their sin — and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.”
This was an instance of Moses being a “mediatrix” or “peace-maker.” Others occur in Numbers 14:19-23, 16:46-48, and 25:6-13. Even St. Paul speaks of being “poured out as a libation” (Phil 2:17) and “being sacrificed” (2 Tim 4:6) on behalf of other believers. This sort of mediation, penance, or intercession, is a very common theme in Scripture.
“We often more quickly obtain what we ask by calling on the name of Mary than by invoking that of Jesus. She . . . is our Salvation, our Life, our Hope, our Counsel, our Refuge, our Help” (pp. 254, 257).
I’ve learned that I have to double-check every citation of Len’s to see whether it was recorded accurately or butchered. This one is no exception. The citation starts on the bottom of page 254 and continues into page 255 (which isn’t indicated). It stops after the first sentence, since it was a quote from St. Anselm (neither the gap nor the fact that it was a quotation of someone else is indicated). Between “Jesus” and “She” is a gap of no less than two pages. That said, this sentiment is based on the explicitly biblical principle that a righteous man or woman’s prayers are more efficacious (James 5:16), as just seen in the case of Moses.
Once again satan has replaced Christ with his own “Queen of Hell.” This is blasphemy, denying the truth of God for the utter fiction that could only come from the devil. Let any apologist attempt to defend it, if they dare! Why can’t Catholics see the obvious truth that satan is behind this sinful tripe, and he wants them to call on Mary rather than Jesus. That is his evil desire, not God’s!
I have defended it, so Len can either believe I am a devious and sinister follower of the devil, or he can intelligently reply to all that I have argued.
Scriptures: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “For there is one God, and one Mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1st Timothy 2:5). “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
These Scriptures are irrelevant to the subject at hand and have already been dealt with in one way or another. Catholics believe Scripture as much as Protestants do.
It is a known fact that, during his life, Bishop Alphonse de Ligouri
It’s a trivial point, but the correct spelling is “Liguori.” One would hope that the name of the person being so blasted could be written accurately. This is now the second time it was not.
was the individual most responsible for promoting the worship of Mary. Some of what he stated in his book is blasphemous in the extreme, a true affront to God Almighty. That it is accepted and encouraged within some levels of the Roman Catholic church around the world, from the pope to the lowest parish priest, cannot be denied. It cannot be denied simply because the Roman Catholic Church canonized him as a saint, thereby endorsing every word of his blasphemy.
It is not blasphemy, nor adoration; it is veneration, and all orthodox Catholics accept these teachings, even though some aspects of them — while firmly entrenched in Tradition — have not been defined at the very highest levels as of yet. Vatican II contained more teaching about Mary (including Mediatrix) than any previous Council.
Furthermore, that Church has published his book in many editions (most recently under the imprimatur of Cardinal Patrick Joseph Hays of New York).
Cardinal Hayes, not Hays . . .
Anyone who cannot clearly see the hand of satan in this sinful trash is truly spiritually blind. May God have mercy on his or her soul. I will pray for them. Amen.
Thanks for your prayers. Now I challenge you to get to work and show how my arguments are insufficient and inadequate and untrue to biblical teaching.
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Dave, as you can see, I wasn’t bluffing. I thought you knew about this book, but obviously you did not.
Of course I did, and had it in my library.
It is worth the price, but only so you can try to get Catholics to tone down their dialogue on Mary.
Sorry; my purpose was to get you to tone down your falsehoods against the Blessed Virgin Mary and what Catholics allegedly believe about her. I believe I have succeeded, by God’s grace.
They are increasing her at the unacceptable cost of decreasing God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
That doesn’t follow. St. Jerome stated in his Epistle 109: “we show veneration to the servants so that it might radiate back from them to the Lord.” When we praise a painting of Rembrandt or a sculpture of Michelangelo, we are really praising Rembrandt and Michelangelo. The relationship of God to His creatures is not a zero-sum game. Some extraordinary creatures among us can properly be honored and venerated precisely because they reflect God’s image within them to a great degree. That is ultimately no credit to them, but to God, without Whose graces they would be absolutely nothing and damned to hell for eternity.
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Uploaded , with the permission of Len Lisenbee, who was offered the opportunity to make a counter-rebuttal if he should so desire. Thus far he has declined [and as of 19 years later, he still has not showed up to reply].
Photo credit: The Holy Family, by Raphael (1483-1520) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
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