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
Tolerance of the Spiritual Life of Others
I want to begin with the whole question of WHY some people have difficulty with devotion to Mary while others have little or no problem with her. I do know from experience that this is not simply a split along Protestant/Catholic lines. There are Protestants who have a fond love of and even devotion to Mary while some are at least comfortable with her. On the other hand, there are Catholics who reject her. As a matter of fact, there are Muslims and even Hindus who have some kind of respect or devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus, yet many Christians fail to recognize her for whom she really is, the mother of their Lord (Lk 1:43).
When it comes to spiritual practices many "why" questions, can be asked. For instance, why is it that some people will seek and accept charismatic gifts from God while other will not? Why are some people rapped up in spiritual movements and others steer clear of them? Why is there so much variety in spiritual practices even among the different saints? Why are there so many different Christian denominations? Why so many religions in the world? Although there are no simple answers, some of the same logic can apply in answering all of these questions. Let me start with the different spiritual practices of the saints, or any faithful Catholic, for that matter.
I am certain that if we consider the differences in the spiritual practices of the holy ones of God they will not be seen to be a result of sin. I would say it is more probably a manifestation of God's infinite, manifold Self of which we humans can only begin to fathom some of the variety of those glorious attributes. Therefore, each person can only focus on some limited spectrum of God's spiritual gifts. The spiritual gifts that are given to us will usually reflect, in some way, the natural gifts God gives to each of us. So therefore the gifts we receive will reflect our capacity to understand, love and act.
Secondly, we must receive the spiritual gifts God gives in order to exercise them. As to accepting any of God's gifts, such as the grace of conversion or some of the subsequent graces following conversion, it would seem to depend on our readiness and willingness to receive. This readiness and willingness would also be a matter of God's grace in our lives and would likely be related to our previous experience in life both positive and negative and the results of the efforts of those who pray for us. Since the grace of capacity or openness to receive and experience God’s gifts is itself a gift from God alone – and only God knows how and why He distributes His grace the way He does – we could hardly judge others as to their spiritual practices and even less so their sincere beliefs. So, I am talking about the logic of being careful not to judge others.
In the Gospel we read that no one comes to Jesus unless the Father draws him (Jn 6:44). This clearly indicates that we do not come of our own will or power but that God must call us first and then we respond with our obedience and will. I would say that it is the same with the gifts God gives. It is a mystery how, and to whom He offers these gifts. Therefore, we cannot judge as to a particular person's practice since we do not know what God is doing in his or her soul. In fact, I believe that not only are the gifts we received dependent on the will of the Father but even the degree to which we are able to accept them is dependent on the grace of the Father. Not only does this help us recognize our blindness to what God may be doing in another person but it can also help us see that we should pray for others so they may receive the grace of true conversion and the fullness of Truth. I will address this more completely later when I explore the topic of co-redemption in the chapter on Co-redemptrix.
Whatever we happen to believe, it is only by the grace of God that we believe even so little. It is through no will, strength or effort of our own. The Lord provides grace for us to believe; we can only accept or reject His gift. It is a mystery known to God alone how He distributes His grace. Therefore, it is so important for us to receive whatever gift of grace God gives with the greatest of reverence, awe and humility. It is a privilege beyond measure for us to receive God's gifts, especially His spiritual gifts. Therefore, after receiving we must then return thanks to the Father for His mercy with the greatest gratitude our hearts can muster. St. Paul instructs us to always and everywhere give thanks to God our Father in the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 5:20).
No one of us is yet perfect or has fully responded to the grace of God. And, since God's gift of grace is unique to each of us we cannot judge rightly as to another's response to His grace. Jesus Himself tells us not to judge lest we be judged. St. Paul goes further when he says, "I don't even judge myself" (1Cor 4:3-4). This principle of respect for the beliefs, devotions and spiritual practices of others extends beyond our Church to other Christians and other religions.
Therefore, let us not be suspicious or judgmental of one another but let us try to accept others exactly where each may be in their particular spiritual journey. Remember, God accepts us, loves us, believes in us, just as we are, even in our sin; the least we can do is accept our fellowman as he or she is, knowing that God alone knows how each person is responding to His grace and call.