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
Openness to Marian Devotion
Our openness to devotion to Mary will be strongly affected by our religious training especially in our families. I would say even erroneous teachings learned at home or at church can be very difficult to let go of. This is especially true if the belief in them is strong. For instance, many Catholics raised in some areas learned a kind of Jansenist attitude toward sex in marriage. This heretical doctrine taught that sex, even in marriage, is inherently wrong. When such a person is corrected on this error it may still be difficult for him or her to freely experience the goodness God has given in this act. This goodness and limitations of sexual expression has been faithfully expounded by Pope John Paul II in his teachings that have become known as the Theology of the Body. But even with this goodness taught by the Pope some people’s experience one way or the other makes it difficulty for them to properly exercise the gift.
Similarly, where religions teach that praying to Mary is idolatry, mediumship or at best a waste of time, correction at an intellectual level would likely be insufficient. Such an individual may require many months or even years of prayer before she or he feels the freedom of the children of God in showing devotion to Mary. I would say that it is only by an extraordinary grace that any of us is able to conform our hearts to the truth we once believed to be error.
In the case of the openness to devotion to Mary, nature also plays a key role. People who have this openness usually cannot say why with any certainty; it's simply a grace. In the natural order, there may, however, be a connection between the relationship with the individual's mother and his or her relationship to Mary. By the same token a person's openness to God the Father or the Son can, in part, reflect familial experience.
It is interesting that in the western Church the Holy Spirit, who has not been anthropomorphized or given a human image, does not seem to carry emotional blocks to people's devotion. I have never heard of anyone who had a block against being devoted to the Holy Spirit. However, neither does the Holy Spirit easily receive the devotion that would arise more naturally if He were to have a human-like image. I believe that devotion to Mary will lead and assist us to a true understanding of, and devotion to the Holy Spirit. I will attempt to show this later in the book.
In terms of our experience in the natural order let us consider four kinds of responses to one's own mother that would affect a subsequent relationship with Mary. First, if a person’s mother was cold and distant her child may go through life looking for a warm nurturing mother, thus being open to Mary as spiritual mother. Secondly, if a mother was cold and abusive, her adult child might have difficulty opening up to our spiritual mother. Thirdly, if a mother was overprotective and fearful of letting her child find independence, the adult child might feel a desire to avoid a perceived smothering relationship with a spiritual mother. Finally, if a mother was warm and loving, nurturing but not over-protective, perhaps openness to Mary, for her child, would seem natural. Of course, because of the complex nature of human beings the above four experiences could also produce effects opposite of those listed. Also, a poor relationship with one's father could turn the adult child either toward or against a spiritual mother.
Nevertheless, we can see from the above that natural experiences in our childhood can affect our openness to relationship with Mary, and Jesus and Our Heavenly Father as well. However, as believers, we immediately recognize that relationship with the Father and Jesus is a necessary part of the life of the Christian. Therefore, if we have difficulty with devotion to God the Father or God the Son we are naturally motivated to appeal to Him for help. We then avail ourselves of His healing power to lead us to achieve the emotional intimacy with the Persons of God that we know by faith He wants of us.
Over the centuries God has shown that we also need a devotion to Mary as St. John the apostle demonstrated by taking her into his home and caring for her when she lived in Ephesus. We will take some time with their sojourn and relationship later in this treatise. We can see from what I have pointed out in terms of relationships in the natural order that to have the openness to devotion to Mary that God wants us to have we may need healing.
Before venturing further into devotion to Mary, I would like to note an important benefit in overcoming any life experience that would make it difficult for us to have a relationship to the persons of God. The healing process that allows us to open up to the persons of God will also cause these hurtful relationships, themselves, to become healed. That means wounded relationships with brothers, sisters, mother, father and others, that have made it difficult for us to see God's goodness, love and mercy toward us, can be healed in the same process that heals our relationship to God.
Mind you, although the healing of our relationship with our mothers may be motivated by our effort to improve our relationship to Mary, this does not imply that Mary is to be seen as part of the God-head. In fact, although Mary is the mother of our Lord Jesus, she is only a creature and therefore infinitely beneath her Son, the Father and the Spirit. Nevertheless, the same process of healing of our relationship to her can positively affect the relationship to our natural mothers as well.
I would also like to make a point about relationships with others and our relationship to God. There is a current move in psychology and counselling in which the therapist attempts to work with a person's relationship to God in order to positively affect the other relationships in the person's life. A key thought in this process is that with all our natural relationships there are secrets in which we hide some part of ourselves from the other, but in our relationship with God there are no secrets since God is omniscient – all knowing. With nothing to hide we have a greater openness to ourselves and what we need to do to be our best self. Of course, as beneficial as working on ourselves in relationship to God is we do not necessarily need a therapist to attain healing in our relationship with God or others since God can lead us to such healing by His own power.
Let me once again turn to devotion to Mary. I know of individuals who, through their lives, did not have devotion to Mary yet at some point were able to learn to love and understand her and her providential role. This was accomplished through their faith, which inspired the necessary efforts in prayer, study and meditation. Those who are open to God's will about Mary's role in His plan of redemption can also deepen their love and understanding of her in the same way.
Certainly, for Catholics with a long sacred Tradition emphasizing the importance of Mary's role in Christian formation and which is spelled out in the many Church approved Marian devotions and supported by some Church doctrines such as, the Immaculate Conception of Mary and her Assumption, there is a clear call to seek a full understanding of Mary. I hope this book will be of help to those who have difficulty with devotion to Mary, whether they are Catholic or of another Christian denomination. My wish for each person reading this book is that he or she will achieve the kind of relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary that God desires.
I will now attempt to sum up this section on the difficulties people encounter with devotion to Mary. Our experience of God, our particular faith background, our biases and prejudices about faith and God, our life experience, our capacity to understand and act and our own efforts to respond to whatever grace God gives us, go together to define our spiritual life at this moment. Since we do not know another person's life experience we cannot judge him or her. However, we are responsible to search out the factors in our own life experience that limit our ability to fully respond to God. We are also responsible for the more difficult task of trying to live according to what we find to be true.
If having a devotion to Mary is difficult for you I ask you to take a few moments to pray to Jesus for openness, insight and understanding. If you earnestly pray to Jesus, that is, enter into His presence and receive His peace and be truly open to what He wants to tell you; He will not lead you into error but to the Truth. It is Jesus, Himself who will then start the process of healing within you necessary for you to love His gift to you in His earthly mother, Mary. Through His grace and by your genuine openness to the Spirit of God you will be able to overcome the spiritual, cultural, psychological and emotional blocks that may be preventing you from embracing Mary as your true mother. As you read you may find that you cannot accept everything that is demonstrated here but whatever you can accept, I encourage you to grasp onto it for the glory of God. Please take those few moments right now to pray to Jesus for this openness before considering what is presented here following.