Images of Mary

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If you had asked me about Catholicism when I was growing up, I would probably have told you lots of things which I have since discovered aren’t true. Top of my list of misinformation would have been that Catholics ‘worship Mary’. There was an elderly man in our church who took every opportunity (and I really mean every opportunity) to accost Catholics and demand why they worshipped Mary.

Devotion to Mary is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for Protestants who are attracted to Catholicism. I still found this aspect of Catholic teaching challenging, even though I had been married into a Catholic family for many years before I even thought about becoming Catholic.

When I met my husband, I was far too much in love with him to worry about religious questions. After meeting his family, who included several nuns and priests, I realised that although they had a special respect for Mary, it was clearly Christ who was at the centre of things.

For years, I thought of it as a cultural thing. Every Christmas we went through a bit of a pantomine at home. My husband bought Christmas cards with reproductions of classical paintings of the nativity. The Virgin and child were, of course, in the centre of the picture. Even if they hadn’t had the address of a Catholic charity on the back, I wouldn’t have sent these cards to my relatives, because they were just, well, a bit too Catholic looking.

My church was so reformed that Christmas and Easter, the two biggest Christian festivals, were not celebrated, which was not to say that the Christian teaching behind them was not spoken about. Our minister might happen to preach a sermon on Christ’s birth in July, whilst we were taught about Christ’s death on the cross in practically every sermon. However, if you were to visit our church on a Sunday towards the end of December, the sermon would almost certainly not include any mention of the birth of a child in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.

When we were young, my parents didn’t want us to feel left out, and so we celebrated Christmas as a commercial festival. In keeping with this, I sent my Protestant relatives garish pictures of snowmen and Santa Claus, while my husband sent his Catholic relatives classic nativity scenes of the virgin and child. It was something which we teased each other about. However, it now seems symbolic. Mary brought Christ into the Catholic Christmas, whilst the focus of my ultra-reformed Protestant Christmas was getting new toys and eating too much food.

When I was coming close to making a commitment to become Catholic, I felt that other aspects of Catholic teaching such as saints and transubstantiation and marriage as a sacrament, had clicked into place. However, I still didn’t feel that I really understood at a heart rather than head level the role of Mary in the church. I asked Father K if it was all right if I said I was prepared to trust the church on their teaching on Mary in the hope that I would eventually understand it better. He said that this would be fine, and after that, there really were not any major reasons why I couldn’t become Catholic

Going back to where I started with the Christmas cards, in all the traditional paintings of the nativity, Mary is pictured with Christ. God could have found some other way to parachute his Son into the world, but he chose to do it through a woman. Through praying the Rosary and meditating on the Gospel mysteries, I’ve thought more about Mary’s role. It hasn’t brought me closer to feeling any strong devotion to her, but it has brought me further in my devotion to Christ.

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9 thoughts on “Images of Mary

  1. Agellius June 24, 2015 / 5:38 pm

    “I asked Father K if it was all right if I said I was prepared to trust the church on their teaching on Mary in the hope that I would eventually understand it better. He said that this would be fine, and after that, there really were not any major reasons why I couldn’t become Catholic.”

    Funny, that was the last “hurdle” for me as well. And the answer given by my priest was the same as the answer you seem to have figured out for yourself: That you don’t become Catholic because you have evaluated each and every doctrine individually and judged it to be true. You become Catholic because you have come to believe that the Church was founded by Christ and authorized to teach and to act in his name, and it’s for that reason primarily that you believe all of its individual teachings.

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    • canach June 24, 2015 / 9:25 pm

      Hello Agellius – thanks for your comment. There were many things in my life that I took on trust, because I couldn’t possibly check them all from first hand. For instance, I believe that there is a city called Stockholm in Sweden even though I have never actually been there, because all the evidence seems to point to that. I take lots of scientific information for granted, such as the distance to the moon, because I trust the people who’ve measured and recorded the information. When I thought about it like that, I realised that I had come to believe that the Catholic church was right about a lot of other things and that I was prepared to trust the teachings on Mary, even though I didn’t have a gut feeling about it. Incidentally, I liked your recent post on your background before you became Catholic. I thought it was very honest and brave. Sometimes I think I am going to comment on posts but never get around to it because I have young kids.

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      • Agellius June 24, 2015 / 9:58 pm

        Yes, we’re definitely on the same page in that regard.

        Thanks for your kind remark. For a long time I never wanted to get personal on my blog, but it seemed like the best way to make the point.

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  2. canach June 25, 2015 / 9:31 pm

    I noticed that you mostly write in a more philosophical way. Everyone writes differently, which is a good thing. A lot of my personal thoughts and feelings have gone into this blog. I thought that other people might find it useful to read about the struggle I had with some of the Catholic teaching, which is different from Protestant teaching, and how I managed to come round to it. I found reading about other people’s experiences useful when I was thinking of converting. However, writing on the internet about your personal experience of faith sometimes feels like stripping naked in the central reservation of a busy highway. You know that most of the drivers are too busy to notice, but now and then one of them will, and even worse you have told a few of your friends what you are doing and where you are going to be, and you know that one of them might drop by sometime.
    Excuse the analogy, but I have to keep my sense of humour.

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    • Agellius June 25, 2015 / 9:41 pm

      I guess we try to write in the way that we would find helpful ourselves. And of course what people find helpful differs from person to person.

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  3. Mitchel October 28, 2015 / 12:16 am

    Good way of describing, and good piece of
    writing to get data concerning my presentation subject matter,
    which i am going to deliver in university.

    Like

    • canach October 28, 2015 / 8:27 pm

      Thanks for your comment. What is your presentation about, if you don’t mind me asking?

      Like

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