The Truth Will Set You Free

FAITH Magazine September-October 2010

Marian Catechesis for the Papal Visit and for the month of the Rosary


Why Mary? Why do we Catholics place so much emphasis on her? First and foremost for the simple and obvious reason that without Mary we would not have Jesus. Without the Mother of God we would have no Saviour. Well that is true of course, some might object, she was indeed God's instrument in coming to save us, but can't we go directly to God? Isn't Christ our only Mediator? To answer this way of thinking we must first understand that nothing and nobody can go 'directly' to God, if by this we mean 'immediately'. Only God is God. No one and nothing is His equal. Only the Father, Son and Holy Spirit can go directly to one another (so to speak) because they are the One Eternal Communion of the undivided Godhead. Every gift of God to His creatures must necessarily be givenaccording to the creature's way of receiving things - that is, mediated through the creaturely nature. Such is God's generosity that in creating things other than Himself, God also bends Himself to their needs. He 'mediates' Himself to them.

We human beings have a shared, physical nature. We come into being through one another, through our parents, and ultimately we live and grow by the ministry of the whole human family. This means that we naturally mediate life from God to one another in a shared way. God did not save us by uttering a word of command from the heavens. He came to share our nature by his birth. It is true, therefore, that we come to God (or rather God comes to us) most directly and immediately in Jesus Christ, who is God made Man. But this means that He comes to us in, through and together with the whole of what is human. He comes as part of our whole human family, with all its natural bonds and structures of mediated life and love. The first and most obviously essential relationship with humanity that heenters into is with Mary.

She is central to the saving plan of God. That may be true historically speaking, some may continue to object, but why do our Catholics pray to her and honour her as if she continues to be important to salvation history here and now? Well, first of all God does not merely use people as instruments then cast them aside. He gives people a vocation to share in his own loving plans for the world. It would be natural for Mary, as a mother, to care about the people her Son cares about, to love them for His sake, just as she loves God more perfectly than any of us through her uniquely intimate relationship with God the Son. But the other mistake people make when raising this sort of objection is to think that our vocation comes to an end when we die. In fact our vocation comesto its perfection when we enter heaven and continues, together with Christ's own vocation, until the end of time. Our personalities do not change with death.

In fact, it is a sobering thought that we will be for ever who we have become by the time we die. Whatever in us is not in conformity with God will then be burned away in the purification of Purgatory, and whatever is conformed to Christ will be confirmed and glorified and become supremely active. The things and the people that mattered to us on earth will continue to matter to us. This is why there are patron saints of this, that and the other. It is not some silly superstition, it is the reality and glorious diversity of human beings. In Mary there is nothing, and never has been anything, that is not in conformity with Christ, so everything about her co-operates perfectly with her Son's mission, on earth and in heaven. We could say that Mary is the patron saint of everything and ofeveryone. Wherever Mary is honoured and loved, there Christ her Son will always be present and active in a most direct and powerful way.

The fact that Jesus is the one redeeming Mediator between heaven and earth does not override the mutual belonging, influence and intercession of human beings upon each other: it is this whole fabric of humanity that he redeems and brings back to the Father by his perfect mediation between heaven and earth.

Jesus is the Head and Heart of the Church, from which all wisdom, life and blessing flows. He is the Saviour and Redeemer without whom we are all lost. Far from competing with Him or distracting from Him, Mary was the first and greatest recipient of the grace He brings. She is now, and forever, the Mother to whom he has entrusted the care of the whole Church. Her prayers mediate and distribute within the human household of God the graces that he has won for us.

Christ was not born for us without Mary. How could he be? Christ did not die for us without Mary at the foot of his cross. How could she not be there? And Christ does not bestow on us any grace from heaven without the prayers and intercession of Mary whom he has made Queen of Heaven. How can we not love her and ask for her help? For when we speak the name of Mary, she replies with the name of Jesus.

From The Mystery of Mary by Paul Haffner Gracewing 2004 p.98

In the last of his University Sermons, preached on the Feast of the Purification in 1843, Newman provided a penetrating analysis of the relations between faith and reason. His starting point was the scriptural passage: "As for Mary she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Lk 2:19). Newman proposed that Mary's faith "did not end in a mere acquiescence in Divine providences and revelations: as the text informs us, she 'pondered them.'" He shows how Mary is a model for relating faith and reason: "She does not think it enough to accept, she dwells upon it; not enough to possess, she uses it; not enough to assent, she develops it; not enough to submit the Reason, she reasons upon it; not indeed reasoning first and believing afterwards, with Zacharias, yet first believingwithout reasoning, next from love and reverence, reasoning after believing. The genius of Newman's idea is that Mary comes to symbolise not only the faith of the unlearned, but of the Doctors of the Church also, who need "to investigate, and weigh, and define, as well as to profess the Gospel; to draw the line between truth and heresy; to anticipate or remedy the various aberrations of wrong reason; to combat pride and recklessness with one's own arms; and thus to triumph over the sophist and the innovator."[1]


[1] J.H.Newman, ‘The theory of developments in Religious Doctrine, 1843', in J.H.Newman, Conscience, Consensus and the Development of Doctrine: Revolutionary Texts by John Henry Cardinal Newman, ed. J. Gaffney, (NewYork: Image/Doubleday, 1992), 6-30; § 3.

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