As God was drawing me back into my faith, I definitely struggled with Mary to some extent. I didn’t struggle with her in the way that one might struggle with the existence of God, but I just struggled with why the Church had any formal teachings on Mary in the first place. I have a better understanding now, but I doubt I’m the only one that has wrestled with Mary and the relevance of Marian doctrines as a Catholic Christian or Non-Catholic Christian.
My struggle with the teachings regarding Mary were just that, they were struggles. I wasn’t piling up objection after objection against Marian dogma, like some sort of theological version of Starship troopers. Really, I just chalked them up as unnecessary, but not inherently false, additions to the faith. The sort of things that you just acquire over the course of 2000 years, kind of like Ireland and River Dance.
Discussions with my wife though made it clear that Catholic Marian Doctrine was a big deal in many people’s eyes. With some research, prayer, intentional reading of Scripture, and an open mind I came to a very intellectual assent to the Church’s teachings on Mary. Eventually, Bess too joined me in that regard. But if doctrines were to remain solely in our heads and never penetrate our hearts than we would be idiots for allowing doctrine to be a source of division.
What I wish to share in these posts concerning Mary are the ways that the intellectual assent has reached my heart. There are numerous people, far smarter than I am, who have well developed pieces on apologetics regarding Mary. I have no intention of reinventing the wheel in that regard. I do wish to share my own personal heart knowledge though, something that I believe only I can contribute.
The Marian Priniciple
As we progress through the four Marian Dogma’s, two Marian Prayers, and a handful of Marian titles I will constantly be referring back to what I’m calling the Marian Principle. The principle is this: Every doctrine and dogma regarding the Blessed Mother is taught because intellectually it is believed to be true (that should be a given). More to the point, it is taught with the force of doctrine or dogma because it:
- Respects Mary by upholding that which is true about her, our Mother by virtue of the Gospel
- Most importantly, every teaching that is defended as doctrine or dogma ultimately teaches us more about ourselves and God than Mary. We would do well to learn their lessons.
The burden that I believe these posts will shoulder is the second point. Like the Great Eagles that carried Sam and Frodo out of the volcanic chaos of Mt. Doom, I wish to help carry the underlying truths being proposed by Marian Doctrine. I hope to bear them out away from the smoke, haze, and fiery projectiles of apologetic debate and misrepresentation. So that at the right time, they may be examined for the ways in which they ring true, not only in the face of reason and debate, but also in the face of faith, practicality, and virtue.
But isn’t it just confusing?
Before I begin looking at each individual teaching I want to address one common objection. “True or not, aren’t these doctrines confusing? Couldn’t they be misleading or cause a believer to unintentionally stumble?”
Can we showcase that well intentioned Catholics have, likely due to poor catechesis, taken Marian devotion too far? Sure. But does that mean that we should correct our catechesis or throw out doctrine? I know which one I would choose.
Now someone might insist that “Confusion can still occur so we should do away with these doctrines. It is just misleading to many people who don’t understand theology, soteriology and anthropology to call Mary the Mother of God, etc.”
To this I would respond that all theology has inherent elements of confusion. We are finite beings wrestling with understanding the revelation of our infinite God and constantly struggling to describe the infinite in our finite language. Confusion free theology is not only impractical, I would argue it is impossible. Hasn’t the Dogma of the Trinity been too confusing for people to the point that they either fell into Tri-theism or Modalism? Or the doctrine that Christ is fully human and fully divine had to be clarified because out of the confusion Arianism and Docetism emerged. Or, and this is specifically directed toward my Protestant brothers and sisters, would you be willing to abandon the cry of Sola Fide because people confuse it as an excuse to live immorally and abandon the pursuit of a life of virtue?
Jesus’ practice of using parables sets a strange example for us if truth is to be abandoned for the sake of avoiding confusion. No, the confusion that results from our finite minds encountering the mind of God, His plan, and His workings is a worthy risk in the pursuit of truth. The pursuit of the Truth. The pursuit of Christ.
And if the truths surrounding His mother shed more light on Him, His plan, and how we all fit into that; then bring on the Marian Doctrines. My mother lives only to draw me closer to her Son.