Hello, Sports Fans.
Looking at the date of my last posting, I am shocked and embarrassed to learn that I have let this blog lie fallow for 9 whole months. Lately, a couple of things have happened to drive me to dust this baby off and reboot it, albeit with a new attitude.
Shortly after I realized that Our Lord was calling me into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, I joined a forum sponsored by Catholic convert and apologist Stephen Ray. I went there as a place to discuss my journey with fellow travelers, and I have learned much. The forum is made up of all types–converts, cradle Catholics, lapsed Catholics, and non-Catholics. We even have a self-avowed atheist who posts on occasion. Sometimes the members engage in witty banter, other discussions are cerebral, and yes, some even get contentious.
Today, I entered a discussion in which a Baptist asserted that he had personally observed something that is a common fallacy among non-Catholics–worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I felt compelled to respond — after all, it IS Mother’s Day, and he was talking about the mother of God. I’m amazed at how easily the words flowed; it’s as if she was guiding me all along. I’ve decided to share, albeit edited to make the post more suited for a general audience. In other words, I took out the pseudonym of the original poster.
One other thing: I limited my compare/contrast to the Baptist church only because that was the point of view of the person to whom my comments were addressed. I’m not trying to single out the Baptist church. He’s Baptist, and I used my past experience and knowledge to keep the conversation limited to terms and concepts we had in common. Meeting on common ground, as you will see in my closing.
Happy Feast of the Ascension, and Happy Mother’s Day!
As a former Baptist, I know what you THINK you have seen and do not dispute it and would not brook to argue with you on it. But as someone who also had to have the divine hint to embrace Holy Mother Church applied with a sledgehammer, I ask you to consider the possibility that what you observed was not what was actually going on.
Remember that our Catholic faith is over 2000 years old. There was no Internet. No cell phones. No telegraph or telex. Even the written word was a luxury appointed only for the wealthy, the powerful, and the occasional slave whose job it was to write or teach it. How then, to get the masses to understand the Mass? Imagery. Remember, paper was a luxury, but clay was literally at your feet. Hence, statues of the saints. They were comparatively inexpensive, easy to produce, and effective in their purpose: to teach the people the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice and how to live a life honoring Christ.
In the book “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma”, we read that a saint is “…a member of the Church [who] has been assumed into eternal bliss and may be the object of general veneration.” Notice the definition uses the word “veneration,” NOT “adoration.” Adoration is solely reserved for the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. “Veneration” means that a person is worthy of respect and emulation. The saints are people from whose example we learn how to live a life pleasing to God. Catholic apologist Gus Lloyd compares statues of the saints to a family photo album–images to remind us of those we love, respect, and desire to honor.
When I kneel before Our Lady (or the statue of some other saint) and pray the Rosary or some other prayer, I am not praying TO her, but WITH her. To an unknowing eye, it may APPEAR that I’m “praying to Mary,” but I’m not. Her image is there to help me focus. In this too-hectic, multitasking world, I need all the help I can get to stop for 20 minutes a day to contemplate the life, death, and resurrection of our risen Lord. Mary herself, at the wedding at Cana, told the servants “Do whatever He [Jesus] tells you.” Always, always, ALWAYS her attention was on her beloved Son.
You may also have difficulty understanding the Catholic’s reliance on the intercession of the saints. In truth, it is a very Baptist concept as well; it’s just that the concept is not carried through to completion. In the Baptist church, the congregation prays for others all the time–every altar call, every prayer group, every Sunday School Bible study is highlighted by the prayer request. Baptists, like Catholics, believe that although the body dies, the soul lives forever–either in heaven or in hell. Those who are in heaven spend their days in worship and adoration of God. How? By praying without ceasing! The only difference between Baptists and Catholics here is that we Catholics don’t stop asking our loved ones to pray for us and for others just because their physical bodies have died. On the contrary, those whom we know to be in heaven–the saints–are like a signal boost for our prayers.
Please don’t take what I just said to imply that I meant that our prayers aren’t necessarily as effective as a saint’s. That’s not what I meant at all. What I mean is that at some point in our day, we have to stop praying. We have to work, to eat, to sleep, to meet other obligations. The saints, however, are free from all earthly impediments to worship, and so can pray for us without ceasing. Remember that Scripture also tells us that in order to receive, we must ask. So we ask the saints to join with us in bringing our supplications before the Throne of God.
And that is what makes the transition from Baptist to Catholic so natural–the realization that we aren’t so different after all.