Sunday, June 22, 2014

How dare you say God has a mother!

In my experience, the number one complaint that I receive from Protestant Christians is the claim that Catholics worship the saints, more specifically Mary.  I think smart Protestants know that not the be the case, but a kind of anti-Catholic propaganda still remains.  In my days as an evangelical, and later an anglo-catholic, I was met with such rhetoric when I would talk about those Catholic members of the Church.

Upon a quick reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, any person would quickly realize worship is not in the cards between Catholics and the Virgin Mary.  It was on a particular night in my Protestant university theology class that the rantings of my fellow cohort students regarding Catholic Marian worship were quickly silenced by the Professor who simply cited the Catechism and put the musings to an end.  

Yet, this isn't really the problem.  The true problem is relies on judgementalism.  Protestants see Catholics and how they show their devotion to the saints and automatically judge the hearts of those Catholics to be worshipping said saints.  Pictures of pilgrims on their knees at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City may lead a Protestant to sound triumphantly "See!? Those who have eyes to see, booya!"  I used to be taken in by this kind of thinking as well.  Two points to make:

1) What is authentic for a particular faith? The Catholic faith is drawn from both scripture and tradition.  Protestants may chuckle at the mention of tradition.  Yet, abiding by tradition alongside scripure is, in fact, scriptural (2 Thessalonians 2:15).  So sacred tradition is passed along by scripture, the Church Fathers, the Church Councils, the Magisterium and can be summed up in a book such as the Catechism mentioned above.  

I once had a profound conversation with an atheist over what determines what a religion teaches.  As he was trying to disprove my Protestant beliefs (which I am incredibly thankful for today), he pointed out that there is little reason why my beliefs are right and a Catholic's may be wrong.  Like I had been trained, I immediately pointed out what I though to be Catholic idolatry in the world.  What he pointed out was the truth: "you cannot judge what a faith actually teaches based off the actions of some who profess that faith.  You cannot understand the Catholic faith through the wacky actions of Catholics who kiss the feet of statues anymore than understanding Hinduism through the actions of Hindus worshipping a desk chair deity."  (Is there anything wrong with kissing an object? Anglicans who would kiss the King's ring?) We meet people all the time who claim to be one faith or another, but does that mean they are representing the teachings of that faith accurately? Point being- you can't know by judging, but by understanding. It's like in the Matrix: go to the source.

2) I am still waiting to meet that Catholic who worships Mary.  Every Catholic I have met who has a deep affinity for Mary recognizes that their love for her is an even greater love for her son. Mary points the way to Christ (a second blog on this perhaps). One cannot appreciate Mary for her own sake, but for her bearing the Son of God. Catholics with Marian devotion know this. I'm still waiting to meet that Catholic who worships Mary, because it hasn't happened yet. 

On top of that, Mary is the Mother of God.  The third ecumenical council declared this to be so (for those Protestants who claim they accept the first four). That's an awe sully big title for a woman who simply is worthy of little more than a pat on the shoulder. Jesus loves his mother, and so do Catholics. Yet, we can never love her as much as Jesus does...