As a convert to Catholicism, I am no stranger to apprehension regarding Mariology. It is a bit ironic that the most humble creature to ever live is such a stumbling block to so many. As we just left August, the month dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary traditionally; and we begin September, the month dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows, now felt as good of a time as any to dive into some of the common issues non-Catholics (and perhaps even poorly catechized Catholics) have regarding our Blessed Mother.
A Brief Mariology
First, let’s start with what the Church actually teaches and then we can circle back to the objections. Officially, the Church teaches that Mary is the Mother of God, theotokos, or Christ-bearer. She is also our Mother, the Mother of the Church, the body of Christ. She was immaculately conceived, remained perpetually a virgin, and was assumed bodily into heaven. We venerate her and ask for her intercession, but we do not worship her. (See CCC 963-975).
A lot of these beliefs conjure up misconceptions and misunderstandings for a lot of non-Catholics (and probably for some Catholics, too). In exploring the common objections I found that the Catholic Church has the most consistent and common sense theology on Mary (well, on everything, but that is another thing entirely).
You have statues of Mary and images of her, you pray to her and sing songs about her–how is that not worship?
To Protestants, that might look like worship. Unfortunately, statues, images, prayers and songs are lacking the fullness of what worship is for Catholics. Worship requires sacrifice.
We venerate saints and angles as blessed with the honor due to creation (dulia), we honor and venertate Our Mother with hyper-dulia.
OK- but, why ask Mary to intercede for us when we can go directly to Jesus?
Why ask anyone to pray for us when we can pray for ourselves? We are the Body of Christ. We exist together, bound by the Covenant of His Blood. Praying for each other and asking for others to pray for us is just the natural outpouring of love.
But, Mary is dead–and she isn’t God, how can she hear all of your prayers?
Firstly, no one in Heaven is dead. Mary is more alive than anyone on earth. As for the question of her ability to hear us, she can because God allows her to, just as he allows any saint in heaven. It is in God’s plan that we all love and pray for each other. That plan doesn’t end once we are in heaven.
How can Mary be Mother of God?
Well, lets try this exercise in logic, shall we?
Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, is God.
Mary is the human mother of Jesus.
Therefore, Mary is the Mother of God.
No, we do not think she created God. She is not “higher” than Jesus. Her fiat, her “yes” to God to carry Jesus and be his earthly mother and the mother of the Church, is a pretty big deal.
If you believe that Mary was sinless, does that mean you believe she didn’t need Christ’s sacrifice?
Not at all. Mary was sinless not of her own doing. God preserved her from sin by the blood of her son just as he saves us from sin. God is outside of time and space, so Mary was preemptively preserved from sin. And there is a very logical reason to have done this.
Mary is the New Ark of the New Covenant. The original Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament carried evidence of God’s Covenant with Israel. The wood that the Ark was made from had to be pure and untouched by sinful hands.
How much more pure would the New Ark be, carrying the very body of Our Lord in her womb?
Mary couldn’t have been perpetually a virgin, the Bible says she had other children.
Probably the other children referred to as the brothers of Jesus are actually cousins. There is an argument to be made that they are the children of Joseph from a previous marriage.
As the Ark of the New Covenant, Mary was a sacred vessel. She was consecrated for virginity from an early age. We know this to be true by her words to the Angel Gabriel. Her confusion at the prospect of bearing a child is due to the fact that she not only had not known a man but that she had no intentions to, despite being married to Joseph.
The other Biblical evidence is plain in the words of Jesus himself. At the crucifixion, he entrusts his mother to the care of St John. If Mary had other children it would have been their duty to care for her. It stands to reason that she had no one to care for her. And, the words Jesus spoke from the Cross are important.
Also, knowing Mary is the New Ark also points to the fact that she would not have been known by Joseph as he was a man touched by the stain of Original Sin.
So, she was assumed into heaven–isn’t that sort of elevating her to the level of Christ?
Nope. Christ ascended into heaven of His own divine power. Mary was assumed into heaven, of the power of God. She was made sinless and therefore did not suffer death as other humans.
OK, fine. She is in heaven, sure. But, the QUEEN of heaven?
I am by no means a Biblical scholar; but, if you know anything about the Old Testament concept of the Queen Mother, than this should make perfect sense to you.
There is this listicle from EpicPew on the Litany of Loreto if you are interested in familiarizing yourself with some of her titles. (It is a really beautiful prayer, too).
Also, this handy list of Marian feast days.
Scott Hahn, a former Protestant minister, turned Catholic convert and theologian has countless books on apologetics that deal with issues in an extremely accessible way. His book, Hail Holy Queen helped me to understand Mariology.
Has this helped answer any lingering questions? If you have more, or want to discuss something above, PLEASE comment below.