Chapter One: Grace and Devotion to Mary
Chapter Two: Mary, Holy Objects and God
Chapter Three: Primary Teachings - Mary the Virgin
Chapter Four: Mary and Jesus
Chapter Five: Deeper Teachings -
Chapter Six: Teachings Not Yet Declared Dogmas -
Jesus and Mary
A Mediator with our Mediator
Chapter Seven: Final Thoughts and Reflections
of the Holy Spirit
of Jesus Made Present
and Church Unity
Consecration to Mary Individual and
Litany of Mary's Faith Journey
© Copyright, J. Roy MacIntyre 2009
Arguments against Devotion to Mary
It seems to me that one can't show the full reasonableness of devotion to Mary without attempting to address the arguments against devotion to her. Therefore, in this section I will address some arguments against Marian devotion that have not already been treated above.
One argument I have heard against devotion to Mary is that some people's devotion to Mary borders on idolatry. This is thought, by some, to happen when Mary is placed on an equal footing with God. I've heard the flippant remark that Mary is made "the fourth person of the Blessed Trinity." Comments such as this aside, I believe people who seriously worry about this kind of problem in devotion to Mary have a legitimate concern. It would certainly be morally wrong for anyone to pray to Mary, the mother of Jesus, as if she was equal to God or to worship her in a way that belongs to God alone.
My first response to the possibility that there are people who deify Mary is; who are they? I once asked a man who made a suggestion that such people exist if he had ever met one. He said he had not known any personally. ĎThen how do you know such people existí, I asked? He had no response but still somehow believed there were lots of people like this. If the worry that people are worshiping Mary as if she were God is not grounded in fact, where might the worry come from? One possibility is that it is Satan who inspires such fears especially when there is no evidence that people are deifying Mary. On the other hand, there are reasons why Satan wants to discourage devotion to Mary that will be addressed later in the book. The worry may also just come from being ill-informed, idle chatter, or open prejudice against devotion to Mary.
Nevertheless, if there are people who make Mary equal to God, and I strongly doubt there are, they must be rare since no one seems to have any first hand knowledge of them. Secondly, such individuals would not be using their intelligence to think that Mary, a mere creature of God, could possibly be His equal. Another possibility is that such a person would be ignorant of the faith or had received false instruction about Mary. If this latter is so, then again who are the people who would teach such heresy? I've heard of catechists who wrongly taught that Mary was not immaculately conceived but I have never heard of anyone teaching that Mary is the fourth person of the Blessed Trinity.
Nonetheless, I acknowledge that it is a legitimate concern that Mary might be made into God. However, I think it is an idle worry since we have no concrete evidence that such people exist. If they do surface, and I admit I am looking for them, they would simply have to be corrected. I am sure, if such people turn up, they would quickly repent when given proper instruction. Contrast this generally unfounded worry with the real fact that many people who call themselves Christian do not believe that Jesus is God. It is much harder to convince these people of the Divinity of Jesus. This is a real concern, one that should get more attention than the tenuous assumption that some people make Mary equal to God.
Another argument against devotion to Mary suggests that there are people with a devotion to Mary who, do not even have a basic relationship with God. This seems somewhat judgmental since we cannot see into the heart of another, yet, there are people who hold such a view. This is similar to the Mary-is-God concern noted above. Since both of these arguments are particular cases, that is, some people and not all people the response to the suspected abuse should also be particular and not general, that is, addressed the individual donít end all Marian devotion. Making a general response to a particular issue is clearly an invalid argument against all devotion to Mary.
I have never met anyone whose devotion to Mary includes exclusion or subordination of God. In fact, I find that those who are devoted to Mary are also faithful to the Gospel and Traditions of the Church and I am certain that when these devotees of Mary come before the judgment seat of Christ, they will be joyfully received. Really, I expect that Mary will be advocating for each of them at her Son's side and He will not be outdone in generosity and mercy to those who have great trust in His mother.
Therefore, the spurious argument that devotion to Mary means lack of love of God or subordination of love of God is only another devise of the Evil-one to undermine God's plan. In this case God's plan is that all Christians have a place for Mary in their spiritual home. We will consider later why Satan is so strongly opposed to Mary and her devotees.
Of course, there have been people with a devotion to Mary who have gone astray from the strict teaching of the Church. A recent example was the case of Traditionalists who led a revolt against the Vatican in favour of a return to pre-Vatican Council II practices and liturgies. These people demonstrate a devotion to Mary and although they rebelled against the authority of the Church it could hardly be said they lacked love for God. They may have been misguided but they must have believed he was doing what God wanted. So what I am saying is that those who have a devotion to Mary invariably have reverence for God and with rare exception for all the teachings of the Church. Therefore, the argument that devotion to Mary leads us away from God or subordinates God is untrue and only serves to deprive Christians of God's gift to them in Mary.
The other main anti-Marian argument is that devotion to Mary or to any of the saints will take away from God the time that belongs to Him. This sounds like a reasonable argument which runs; if you are spending time with Mary or the saints you are not spending time with God. However, the measure of whether spending time with Mary and the saints takes away from God is to look at how our growth in relationship with the Persons of God is affected by such devotions. The long experience of the Church is that devotion to Mary and the saints bears fruit in knowledge and love of God as noted for example in the lives of the doctors of the Church, Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas. These two particular Church Doctors produced a rich body of theological work and yet each had a deep devotion to Mary. Also, if we, as I have, seek specific individuals who are devoted to Mary and the saints and thereby have less knowledge of the love of God, we will find that they generally do not exist.
I have had a kind of amateurish opportunity to explore this while spending time on a daily basis at a diocesan Cathedral, in the early to mid 1970's. Many of the people who congregated at the Cathedral at that time were affectionately referred to, by one person, as "the Cathedral odd-balls" and in fact, I think I was numbered among them. Many of us had some obvious social and personal deficiencies but all were solidly united in a fond devotion to Mary. Some were charismatic and others Legionaries of Mary and many did not quite fit into any group. Some were having trouble with sin in their lives. All of these people were easy targets of the more socially adept but I felt that these were Mary's little chosen ones, those rejected by their Christian brothers and sisters (Gal 4:29), but taken in by Mary.
You know, all of these people in their miserable conditions without exception had a great reverence and love of God not obvious to the casual observer. The time spent in devotion to Mary only seemed to bring them closer to their Lord, Jesus Christ. Many of these people may not have been able to articulate their knowledge of God yet they have a knowledge of God that is not easily described.
So, time spent in devotion to Mary should not be said to take time away from Jesus, the Father, or the Spirit because time spent with her actually brings us closer to God and helps us to know Him better. This time spent with Mary and the saints is similar to time spent praying directly to the Persons of God. The time we spend in devotion to Mary helps us grow in love, knowledge and reverence of God. No, it is clear to me every person I have come know who has a devotion to Mary or other saints is deeply in love with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I should also note that whenever we pray we do so by the power of the Holy Spirit. To pray we first have to be inspired to pray and it is the Holy Spirit who inspires. Secondly, Prayer requires perseverance and that too comes from the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us the strength to persist at our prayers. And thirdly, the Spirit gives us the will to pray consistently. Without his guidance we would not achieve growth and persistent prayer life. Anyone who prays to and through Mary like praying to Jesus will usually or at least from time to time experience the consolation of the Holy Spirit. The consolation of the Holy Spirit is that feeling of wellbeing and peace that accompanies prayer. Finally, all legitimate prayer is in the Holy Spirit.
One other point I would like to make is that we need to be docile to the Holy Spirit in order to be guided by Him. Docility to the Holy Spirit is a kind of active openness to Him that Pope John Paul II suggests is the necessary requirement for a new springtime of faith and Christian life in the world. In a mysterious way our confidence and trust in Mary can help us to be open to the Holy Spiritís guidance. I will try to show why this is true in the section on Mary and the Holy Spirit.
I have to admit that I have met a few people who have a superstitious kind of belief in Mary, the saints or some other practices. What distinguishes these from genuine devotees of Mary is their lack of fruit of the Spirit, lack of participation in the Church, and their superstitious practices. Often these latter practices include things that are even anti-Christian such as, removing all crucifixes from the home or pagan such as using charms, crystals etc. The people like this whom I have met are the product of incomplete catechises which has allowed cultural superstitious practices to blend in with the teachings of the Faith.
Nevertheless, I believe that even these people, rare though they be, if they are genuine but ignorant of the falseness of their practices can be saved by Jesus, through Mary's intercession. These people are a small minority in English North America and would likely repent if properly evangelized. Yet, we must be careful not to prejudge, even if these individuals seem to exhibit false spiritual practices. We may, however, be called upon to explore such practices with the individual and possibly offer correction (Lk 17:3; 2Thes 3:15 & Jude 1:22). However, even if we are called upon to offer such correction to our brothers and sisters we should do so mindful of the, "log in our own eye" (Mt 7:5) and do so in love.
Finally, there are others, it seems, who, being caught up in the New Age movement include every kind of perverse practice in their spirituality, unfortunately, also including references to Jesus and His mother. A close examination of these practices usually reveals a lack of genuine acceptance of the divinity of Jesus and the infinitely subordinate role of Mary, His human mother. We must become aware of people like this because they can be wolves in sheep's clothing.
Now that we have had an opportunity to explore the reasonableness of prayer to the dead in Christ, the benefits of holy objects and places and the special place of devotion to Mary as a help to lead us more completely to God, let us turn to the specific teachings or doctrines on Mary. I hope the teachings which follow will show that devotion to Mary is not just a reasonable practice but necessary for a full understanding of the whole Gospel and for the fullest kind of relationship with God.