MARY AND THE SAINTS
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Many non-Catholic Christians often question Catholics about Mary and the Saints. Many non-Catholic Christians say that Catholics are putting too many people between us and Christ, and therefore they get in the way of Christ. The bigger problem is that Catholics don’t know how to respond to this claim. The simple fact is that the Saints are our older brothers and sisters in Christ. They have gone before us as examples of being a good Catholic. When we hold up Mary and the Saints, what we are really trying to say is, ‘Look at what a great job Christ did in them’. Catholics do not give adoration to Mary and the Saints the way they adore God the Trinity: Rather, they venerate Mary and the Saints, giving them honor because of what Christ has done through them.
Catholics believe that the Saints are alive with God in heaven and that they can pray for us on earth, just as those on earth can pray for each other. Many people think that the Saints are dead and they can't hear us. This, according to our Faith, makes no sense, because when we die we are truly alive with Jesus (Matthew 22:31-32).
The Saints do not lead us away from Christ, but rather show us a side of Christ that we could not have known on our own. If you are learning guitar, wouldn't you like to learn from one of the great ones, like Eric Clapton? What if you said to yourself, ‘I'm not going to talk to Eric Clapton because he just gets in the way of me and my guitar’? You'd be laughed at! The same is the case with our Christianity: We must learn from the great saints who have gone ahead of us. Because they are alive in Christ, we can learn from them, ask them to pray for us, and have them touch our lives. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, St. Paul says, ‘Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ’. Why didn't he say, ‘Don't imitate me, because I just get in the way of Christ and you should go directly to Him anyway’? If St. Paul says we should imitate Saints, then we should!
Of all the Saints, the Blessed Mother, Mary has a unique relationship with Christ. She was with Him at every key moment of His life, and we see this in Scripture. Jesus singled her out in a special way to be His mother, and gave her a life that was - and is full of grace. She was the only person with Him from the beginning of His earthly existence: Thus, she can show us things about Jesus that no one else can. Mary loves us and wants to lead us to Jesus. We are called to imitate Christ in everything, and one of the ways we can do that is by giving His mother the same devotion that He gives her.
Review the Four Marian Dogmas:
Mary’s Immaculate Conception: Mary was conceived without Original Sin, and consequently did not commit a personal sin her entire life. Many people mistake this dogma for the ‘Virgin Birth’, in which Christ was conceived and born through the Virgin Mary. The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s conception, not Jesus’ conception. Mary’s complete separation from sin is a fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, in which the women, the mother of the redeemer, is at enmity (complete opposition) with the devil. God used Mary by keeping her free from sin and all the effects of sin. He did not have to give her this gift, but God chose to do so because it was fitting for Christ’s mother to be without sin. While God gave Mary a special grace in the Immaculate Conception, Mary could have sinned if she wanted to sin. Rather, at every moment of her life, she said ‘yes’ to God, and with God’s help she stayed free from sin.
Mary’s Perpetual Virginity: Mary conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit, not by a man, and at no time in her life did she ever have marital relations. Again, we have a special quality of Mary is fitting, but not strictly necessary. It is fitting that Mary have been a virgin her entire life because her virginity is a sign of living for heaven, where people will not be given to each other in marriage but will be literally married to God. Mary’s perpetual virginity also singles out Christ’s unique role in Mary’s life as her only Son.
Mary’s Title ‘Mother of God’: Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, is fully God and fully man. He is One Divine person (‘Who’ He is) with two natures (‘what’ He is – human and divine). We cannot separate these two natures, lest we make Jesus into a split personality. As a result of the Church’s teachings about Jesus, Mary was given the title ‘Mother of God’, a direct consequence of the dogma that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity. Mary is not just the mother of Jesus the human being, for we cannot separate His human from divine nature.
Mary’s Assumption: At the end of her life on earth, Mary was taken body and soul into heaven. Once again, this passage is a fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. Remember that suffering and death are a result of the Fall (the first sin of Adam). Because Mary is in complete union with God, and because she was sinless from the moment of her conception, it follows that Mary would not have been subject to death and suffering. Mary is in heaven right now with her body and soul because her body and soul were assumed (lifted up by God) into heaven. She has experienced the fullness of redemption, for after the Second Coming of Christ, our bodies will be reunited with our souls.