Q: Do Catholics worship Mary?
A: No, Catholics do not worship Mary.  Worship belongs to God alone, and Mary would be the first to say, not to worship her.  Worship of a creature is sin, and she would neither want us to sin, nor to have her Son suffer because of it.
       But honor does belong to Mary.  We should honor her for her great service to humanity, for the suffering she endured in accomplishing her mission and for the dignity that God bestowed upon her for being the mother of Christ. 
       In addition to these reasons,  we should honor her in imitation of Christ Who loved and honored her as a Son. Then, too, in the Fourth Commandment, we are also told to honor our motherand she is our mother in the spiritual order of things.

Q: Why go through Mary, when you can go directly to God?
A: We may go directly to God. We do this when we pray the Our Father, also known as the Lord's Prayer, which is definitely part of Catholic practice. Or we may simply say, "Lord, help me" or "My Jesus, have mercy on us."
       But why should we not ask Mary to intercede for us?  Being the Mother of God, is she not close to her Son?
       Think of what we do in the natural and human order to things.  A child may ask a mother to obtain something from the father.  Why?  Because the child hopes and thinks Mom may be able to get Dad to say yes and fulfill what the child wants.  Do not people actually pray for one another?  Do those in religious positions, not go to hospitals where they pray for the sick or those undergoing surgery?  Do not people write letters of recommendation for others, to help them obtain a job?  Isn't the job seeker hoping the letter, will influence the decision of the employer.   If we ask intercession in the natural order of relationships, why not in the supernatural order?
Q: Besides the human way of interceding, is there a spiritual basis for intercession?
Yes, there is.  We should be humble before the Almighty.  It's part of humility to see that there's a great gulf between us and God: between a creature and his Creator.  We're finite; He's infinite.  It pleases God to see humility shining forth from our souls.
       While we don't need to blow alpine horns to reach the ear of God He'll hear a whisper even from the height of heaven ― He does want us to be humble: to see ourselves as we are, beings dependent upon Him
       Besides, being sinners, how worthy are we to approach God?  If we send someone to ask in our place, it can express a sense of unworthiness, as well as humility.
       Think of intercession as a spiritual bridge to cross a gap, or a spiritual ladder to reach a height.
       Here is a prayer expressing humility: 
Lord, without You, I'm nothing.  I'm not even as much as a grain of sand, nor a speck of dust, nor the smallest part of an atom I cannot even see.   Without You, I'm nothing.  Only with You, am I something.  I'm something because You've made me something, and keep me as something.  You put me into existence and keep me here. 
         It's as if  You stand in front of a mirror, holding an image of me before it ...and there I am, reflected in the glass.  But were You to take my image away, I'd disappear, vanishing into nothingness, like all creation would, without You preserving it there.  My Lord and My God, I need You...I need You so very much...

Q: How is Mary our spiritual mother?
Mary is our spiritual mother because Jesus appointed her to that role from the Cross, when He told the disciple that she was his mother, and told her, that the disciple was her son.  The Bible uses the generic "disciple", a term which gives wide application, applying to all true followers of Christ, so Jesus was including us in what he said.
       But there is something else to consider.  When we were baptized, we received sanctifying grace which is a sharing in the life of God.  Since Jesus is God, we are in a sense Mary's children through our linkage to her Son.  It doesn't make us divine persons but it does form a relationship.      
      Twins are close in the relationship of their bodies, especially identical twins, but their souls were created entirely separate at the time of conception.  The spiritual relationship we have through sanctifying grace, may be even closer in a spiritual sense than twins are in a physical sense.  It's something like sharing in the life of someone else's soul, only greater because we share in the life of God.   God, in the First and the Third Persons of the Trinity, is entirely spiritual, as was God the Son before the conception of Jesus.

Q: Who was this disciple at the Cross with Mary and the other women?
The Apostle John the brother of James mentioned in Matthew 10:2,  where they are identified as the sons of Zebedee.  These two sons of Zebedee were called the sons of thunder.

Q: What about the belief in the Immaculate Conception?
Let us approach the subject this way.  If you were to ask for water, would you prefer water in a glass that was shiny clean or in one that was dirty?  You'd want the shiny clean one: clean water in a clean glass, to have an uncontaminated drink.  Christ was a holy and perfect Being coming into the world.  Why should the vessel He's coming in, Mary His mother, be contaminated by sin?  Why not a holy and humanly perfect vessel for Him?  That way He's untouched by original sin, which stains the rest of us. A holy Being wrapped in holiness, redounds to His glory. 
         Mary's Immaculate Conception preserved her from original sin, but it didn't preserve her from Redemption.  We are cleansed of original sin in Baptism ― washed, if you will ― Mary in light of her special role to come in the fullness of time, was kept free of original sin in the first instant of her being.  She wasn't stained or besmirched, but pre-redeemed through the intervention of God in human and salvific history.

The Catholic belief is a dogma of faith.  What does the dogma say?
  In December 8, 1854 Pope Pius IX said, "We declare, proclaim, and define that this dogma is revealed by God and therefore to be firmly and unremittingly believed by all the faithful: namely, the dogma which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege from Almighty God and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, was kept free of every stain of original sin."   The Dictionary of Mary says, "The privilege is the source and basis of the Mother of God's essential impeccability, acknowledged since the first centuries of Christianity."
Is the Immaculate Conception found in the Bible?
A: Not explicitly.  Nowhere in Scripture is it clearly expressed that her conception was immaculate, but that doesn't mean the doctrine is not in accord with Holy Writ.  Because something is not mentioned doesn't mean it is not true. For example, something may happen to you which you know about.  But if you don't mention it, it doesn't mean it didn't take place. What is not widely enough known or believed is that not everything is in the Bible*.
       The book Theotokus says there are texts that implicitly show it.  The references to her Immaculate Conception are these passages: Genesis 3:15, and Luke 1:28 and Luke 1:42.
"I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and   thou shalt lie in wait for her heel (Gen 3:15)."
          "And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. (Lk 1:28)."
          "And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb (Lk 1:42)."

       The Blessed Virgin had a large role in the history of salvation, but I wonder if this possibility occurs to many: that out of humility she asked the Apostles to put the focus on her Son (and not mention her anymore than necessary), and consequently, for that reason or partially for that reason, there is limited mention of her in the Bible.  Remember that Jesus said from the Cross, "Son, behold thy mother" and the disciple took her into his home.  That disciple was John.  Look at the access she had to him, who as one of the Evangelists is one of the writers of Holy Writ.

      * The Catholic Church looks to both Scripture and Tradition for revealed Divine truth, Scripture being the Written Word of God ,and Tradition, being the Unwritten Word.  St. Paul says in 2 Thess. 2:14 , "Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle." Spirago-Clarke's The Catechism Explained says, "It is by Tradition that we know Our Lord instituted seven sacraments.  It is by tradition that we are taught that there is a purgatory, that Sunday is to be kept holy, and that infants are to be baptised.  It is Tradition which teaches us which books belong to Holy Scripture, etc.  Tradition comes down to us from the time of the apostles."

Q: Is there anything else that might help one understand the doctrine?
A: I will try to distill a few things I've read to help clarify the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.  We inherit original sin through the flesh coming down from Adam.  While Eve was instrumental in the Fall, it was the sin of Adam that was of such consequence for us, not hers.  We might think of original sin as a great inherited defect that afflicts us as Adam's descendants.  We are deprived of the supernatural life of sanctifying grace, and are subject to both spiritual and physical death.   We are born this way. 
      Adam and Eve enjoyed what are called preternatural gifts (e.g., no suffering nor death, a harmony in their beings) and the supernatural gift of sanctifying grace a sharing somehow in the life of God which enables us to go to heaven.  This supernatural gift was the greatest thing they lost for themselves and for us.  By suffering and dying, Jesus restored this gift, and we receive it in Baptism.  Baptised, we still have to die physically, but not spiritually or supernaturally, unless we choose to through sin.
For something to compare, think of a path through a darkened woods.  On this path there's a pit concealed by branches and leaves on the forest floor.   As we go upon this path, we fall into the pit and become in need of rescue.  We need to be pulled out.   Mary tread the same human pathway, but was prevented from falling in.  She is held back from the edge of the pit.   She needed to be saved, but was saved in a different way.
      Mary, in light of the role that she would play in our salvation, was saved from contact with original sin; we are saved after we contact it. 

Q: What about Mary's mother?  Was she immaculately conceived?
A: No.  She was not to be the mother of Jesus, the vessel through which He would come into the world.  She wasn't that person, but her daughter would be.  In the  the words of the dogma: "...the most Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege from Almighty God..."   Singular refers to one.  We may say this, however: Mary's mother was associated the Immaculate Conception, as it happened within her. That's special.  And we may say that hers was a special relationship to Jesus: she was His grandmother.
Q: What about the brethren of Jesus?
A: The Bible does say Jesus had brethren, but these were not siblings of Jesus.  To understand this, one needs to understand that the Bible needs to be interpreted according to the meanings the words had when it was written.
        By way of comparison, if 60 years ago a person was described as "gay," you would interpret that according to the meaning it had then, not according to the homosexual meaning it is given  today. 
        The term brother, or its plural brethren, had a wide meaning in Biblical times and was not limited to brothers of the same parents.  Brother could be used for cousin, a kinsman, friend or even an ally.  Jesus spoke Aramaic and neither that language nor Hebrew had a special term for cousin.  Those who spoke these languages, used "brother" for a cousin, or used a circumlocution, like "the son of  the sister of my father," a roundabout way of speaking.
        The writers of the New Testament used the Aramaic equivalent of  brethren, for both cousins and sons of the same parents.  When Scripture was translated into the Greek, the writer  followed the same pattern, favoring the use of adelphos (which usually had a narrower meaning like brother does in English) instead of anepsios which means cousin in Greek.  You can see in this, their effort to be faithful to the original usage, even though it is not as precise. 
        Another consideration is this:  if Jesus had brothers, other siblings, why did John the son of Zebedee take Mary into his home?   This fact alone argues against the "brethren" misunderstanding.
        But beyond all of this, we have brothers being used otherwise in the Bible.  We have St. Paul, for example, in 1 Corinthians, saying, "I urge you brothers..."  Does that mean this man from Tarsus was a blood brother to all the Christians in Corinth?  In 1:11 of the same book, he says, "For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers..."  He also uses the term elsewhere in his epistles. 
       Then, too, consider this passage from 1 Paralipomenon (Also called the books of Chronicles  in certain translations, like the Septuagint).  It says in 1 Paralipomenon 23:21-22, "The sons of Moholi: Eleazar and Cis.  And Eleazar died, and had no sons, but daughters: and the sons of Cis their brethren took them."  In 1 Chronicles 23:21-22, it says, "The sons of Mahli, Eleazar and Kish.  Eleazar died leaving no sons, only daughters; the sons of Kish, their kinsmen, married them."   The daughters of Eleazar were cousins to the sons of Cis or Kish.  Their Kishing cousins, if you want to add a little humor.

Q: What about the word "until" in Matthew 1:25?
The word until is to be understood not by what it suggests today, but by what it meant at the time.  It does not mean that up to that point it was one way, and after that, it was another way.  It does not imply Mary was no longer a virgin following the birth of Jesus, nor does it exclude it. 
The teaching of the Church is that Mary was a virgin, before, during and after the birth of Jesus.
        There is something beautiful that redounds to God's glory, about the perpetual virginity of Mary.  The womb through which God came into the world, was a special dwelling place for Him and for Him alone.  It was untouched by original sin, a sin which is partly the work of the devil.  Her womb was the first tabernacle where Christ of the Eucharist is kept today.  The tabernacle is reserved for Jesus alone, and her womb was reserved  for Jesus alone.
        For Mary to have had other children by St. Joseph, would mean that original sin would have come into contact with her, and in contact with the place where Jesus dwelt before His birth.  To insist that she had other children after Jesus is to take away from God.

Q: How is it that Mary was a virgin and conceived a child?
A: This was accomplished miraculously by divine intervention into the natural order of things.
       The derivation of the body of Christ was from Mary alone, and from however God caused the conception in her womb.  It's possible the conception by the power of the Holy Spirit was by a miraculous use of a cell from Mary's body, from which God formed the male element for conception.  We might like to think of a cell from her immaculate heart.  It is also possible that God created the male element directly, making it simply out of nothing.  He is after all the Creator.
        The teaching of the Church is that Mary was always virgin.  The understanding here is not only that Mary never knew a man in the Biblical sense, but also that the womb was unopened, was perpetually intact and was the unborn abode for Christ alone. 
        We should have no problem with her being treated specially in this regard, as God is special and His coming into the world is special.

Q: How was it that Mary was a virgin during birth?
Normally when a child is born, it opens the womb even in the case of a Caesarean section where the baby is surgically removed.   However, this was not an ordinary birth, just as the conception of Jesus was not ordinary.  It was extraordinary.   If virginity implies an unopened womb, then we must allow for an extraordinary occurrence during the birth of Christ.
Even though this aspect of her virginity reflects a tradition of the Church, there are Biblical passages that will help us grasp how this could be.  And it could  be they are meant to do so.
       After his resurrection Christ appeared to the Apostles who were gathered in fear behind closed doors. On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you (John 20:19)."   He entered the room without opening the door.  Thomas was not there, and when told, was unbelieving.  Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you."  Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe (John20:26-27)."*  These events show the power of Jesus to pass through another substance and yet have dimensions and substantiality of His own. 
       If Christ could enter a room through a locked door (or perhaps even without coming through a door at all), then surely he could pass through the "wall" of Mary's body to be born.
       Another way of looking at this: Christ is the Light of the World.  For a comparative purpose, think of Him as sunlight passing through a window glass without breaking it, producing warmth and illumination on the other side.  Think of Him passing into the human world, giving us the warmth of His love and the illumination of His wisdom. 
* from New American Bible, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C.

Q: Why do Catholics call her blessed?
A:  Because she is.  In Luke 1:42 it says of her, "Most blessed are you among women."  In 1:46-48, it relates that Mary says, "My spirit proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked on his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed..."

Q: There are statues of Mary.  Do Catholics worship statues?
A: No such thing is approved or allowed by the Church.  Catholicism is not about worshipping idols.  If anything, it's about not doing so. 
      A statue is a three-dimensional likeness or visualization of a person.  The same likeness or visualization, can be depicted in a way with which we are more familiar, it can be two-dimensional, like a picture, painting or drawing. 
     We remember our parents by putting up pictures of them in our homes.  This is hardly a matter of worshipping them, but it is a matter of expressing our linkage to them.  We can remember and also honor them this way.  Can you imagine what the impression would be, if one refused to put up pictures of them and had the space and pictures to do so?   It could say the person doesn't care to see them around or is ashamed of them, neither of which would honor them.
       Mary is a mother in two senses.  One in the physical order of things, wherein she is the mother of Jesus.  The other is in the spiritual order of things, wherein she is the spiritual mother of us.  It is quite appropriate to display a picture of her, to honor her, and be reminded of her and her virtuous example.  By the same token, it is appropriate to have a statue of her.

 Q: Do Catholics worship bread?
No, we worship what the bread becomes at the consecration: the Real Presence of Christ, the real Son of  Mary.

Q: The consecrated hosts don't look like her Son Jesus.
 True.  But consider for a moment: could you easily "take and eat" if the appearances of  the host or the bread were not still there?  Even at the Last Supper, Jesus gave His disciples bread to eat, saying it was His body (Matthew 26:26).  Accordingly, we may conclude from the first, His physical body and the bread were separate in what appeared to the senses.  Were it not for a miracle on the part of God, even the appearances of the host would be gone and we would see Christ.  He keeps our eyes and other senses from seeing and sensing Him to make it easier for us to receive Him.   Our sense of hearing, however, can perceive His presence through audible words professing belief.
      While the host looks like bread, it certainly would not be fitting to put Jesus in a bread box.  Nor would it be fitting to keep bakery bread in the tabernacle with Him.  The substances of  ordinary bread and the consecrated "Bread" upon the altar are different
      Ordinary bread is always bread.  But at the consecration the substance of the altar bread, the wheaten host, is changed to the substance of Christ.  There is a transformation, or what's called "transubstantiation."  
      Think, also, of how the reception of Our Lord at Communion, makes us like Mary, in a certain sense.   We actually carry Christ within our bodies and back to our places in our pews.  Although, in a different manner, Mary carried the unborn Jesus in her body.  When she received Communion from any of the early priests, she also carried him in the manner we do. 

Q: Might not celiac sprue refute transubstantiation?
A: No, but this is harder to see.  This would be where the devil would try to gain entry and insert doubt.  He would delight in causing disbelief in the Real Presence of Christ.
      What is essential here is to realize that along with what originally appears to the senses after  consecration, are also certain effects of the original substance.  If one is allergic to wheat, and has a problem with celiac sprue, that effect will remain.  But the person may receive under the appearance of wine then.  
      What is true of the host, will be true of the wine.  The altar wine changed into the Blood of Christ, will still taste like wine, and will still retain the effect of wine on the body.  If one dare not taste wine because he is an alcoholic, then he or she has the option to receive the Eucharistic host alone. The fullness of Christ  is present, under either the bread or the wine.

Q: Is the Body and Blood of Christ, that of Mary?
A: No, not strictly speaking.  Christ is separate being.  But, in a certain sense, we can say He has her blood, in that He directly derived His blood from her, and His body as well.  But, unlike our derivation from our mothers, which includes a derivation from our father, there was nothing of a human father in the Body and Blood of Christ.

Q: Are flowers at a statute of Mary a sign of worship?
A: Since worship cannot be given to Mary nor any statue of her, no one expressing the truth of the Catholic faith could assign this meaning to flowers placed by a statue of her.
       Flowers are a part of creation that show forth prettiness, color and beauty, and may be used to show thoughtfulness, devotion or honorany or all of these. 
       Think of the many instances of where flowers are planted, used or given.   They may be placed on a table in a home where they beautify and add color, but they do not worship the table nor those who use the table.   A child may bring his mother a violet and she joyfully accepts it as a sign of thoughtfulness.   A young man may give his girl friend flowers and she may take them as a sign, not only of thoughtfulness but of love.  He may think a lot of her, and think a lot about her, but he is not worshipping her. 
        Even though flowers may be placed where worship does take place upon the altar where the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Christ it does not follow that even in this case, that they are a sign of worship.
        Honor is more generic than worship, and may be given both to God and to lesser beings: to parents, for example.  Worship, however, is specific to God alone.  Think of worship as a special kind of honor, on a level far above humankind , where we'll never be.   It must always be separate from the honor we give other human beings.  Worship attributes to God what cannot be attributed to a human being.


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