Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Misunderstood - Series part III

Click here to read the intro to this Series.
here to read Part I to this Series.
Click here to read Part II to this Series.

Misunderstanding Assumption III
"Catholics worship and pray to Mary and the Saints instead of God. They even worship statues!"

I just read this article with this quote that I believe says it all when it comes to the devotion Catholics give to Mary...
"It has to be one of the strangest things in the world: So many Christians who love Jesus with all their hearts recoil in fear at the mention of His mother’s name, while many who do love her find themselves tongue-tied when asked to explain why."
Many non-Catholic misconceive our devotion and admiration of Mary (and the Saints) as worship - when they fail to look into the teachings of the Church on Mary and the Saints to come to an accurate understanding of why we honor her and why we ask Mary and the Saints to intercede for us in prayer. "Do Catholics worship Mary?" isn't a question about Mary. It's concerned more with whether or not Catholics countenance idolatry and what the word "honor" means. Mary tells us, "Do whatever He tells you" (John 2:5). To many non-Catholics that could mean to them she refered them to Jesus and be done with it. So this may baffle many non-Catholics why the Church keeps referring us to her. This is what the Church believes and teaches: ""We believe that the Holy Mother of God, the new Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven to exercise her maternal role on behalf of the members of Christ" (Paul VI, CPG § 15). - CCC 975". Below is a short video clip that demonstrates through Scripture why the Church teaches that Mary is the new Eve.

Mary is the first and best model of a disciple of Jesus because she is the one who said and lived "Yes!" to God. This is why the Church, like the Gospels, has always called Mary our Mother: because Mom is the best model for training children. "Behold your mother" (John 19:27). I think the misunderstanding that non-Catholics hold of Catholics and their relationship with Mary is that "worship" and "honor" are defined differently by them. "Worship" comes from the Old English weorthscipe, which means the condition of being worthy of honor, respect, or dignity. For many centuries, the term worship simply meant showing respect or honor. However, the English term "worship" has been narrowed in scope to indicate only that supreme form of honor, reverence, and respect that is due to God. This change in usage is quite recent. "As the terminology of Christian theology developed, the Greek term latria came to be used to refer to the honor that is due to God alone, and the term dulia came to refer to the honor that is due to human beings, especially those who lived and died in God’s friendship—in other words, the saints. Scripture indicates that honor is due to these individuals (Matt. 10:41b). A special term was coined to refer to the special honor given to the Virgin Mary, who bore Jesus—God in the flesh—in her womb. This term, hyperdulia (huper [more than]+ dulia = "beyond dulia"), indicates that the honor due to her as Christ’s own Mother is more than the dulia given to other saints. It is greater in degree, but still of the same kind. However, since Mary is a finite creature, the honor she is due is fundamentally different in kind from the latria owed to the infinite Creator." Unfortunately, many non-Catholics have been so schooled in hostility toward the Church that they appear unable or unwilling to recognize these distinctions.

So why do Catholics pray the Rosary or pray to Saints? The Rosary consists of the Apostle's Creed, which is a statement of Christian belief, the Lord's prayer, which was uttered by Jesus in Luke 11:2-4, the Glory Be, which is a prayer that glorifies the Trinity, the Hail Mary, and the Mysteries. It is alleged that by praying to them we equate them with God. This is false. When we ask Mary and the Saints in Heaven to interecede and pray for us it is because we here on Earth and in Heaven are "all baptized into one body" (1 Corinthians 12:13). We are to "bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2), and to "pray for one another" (James 5:16). Origen wrote in the year 233, "But not the High Priest [Christ] alone prays for those who pray sincerely, but also the angels…as also the souls of the saints who have already fallen asleep" (On Prayer 11).

Lastly, what's with all the kneeling before statues!? Many non-Catholics mistake this for worship. The fact that someone kneels before a statue to pray does not mean that he is praying to the statue, just as the fact that someone kneels with a Bible in his hands to pray does not mean that he is worshiping the Bible. In Exodus 20:3-5 God is not prohibiting the making of pictures and statues, but the deifying and worshipping of them. Why did God ask that images be made for His Temple and the Ark of the Covenant? Do you suppose that He didn't understand His own commandment? Pictures and statues of saints are valued in the same way that pictures of friends and family are. They are not idols, but visible reminders of what they represent. For idolatry to exist, a person must worship something or think of it as if it were God. A man who kisses a picture of his wife and children is not practicing idolatry. He is merely expressing love for his family. The same applies to pictures and statues of saints. Idolatry is an interior disposition. It is wrong to judge interior motives by what we think we see. The lives of the saints are inspirational. Their images remind us of their testimony, which can encourage us in our own walk with God. In the early Church, when 99% of the people couldn't read and there were no readily available texts, statues, pictures and stained glass windows were the common man's Bible.

I hope and pray this post has cleared up the misunderstanding that Catholics worship Mary, the Saints and statues. Stay tuned for the next post in this series.


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