Saturday, June 16, 2012

Who is Mary, Anyway?

I have been on a quest to understand the Blessed Virgin Mary. I felt compelled to research this because the concept absolutely dumbfounded me. When I become both fascinated and confused, I also tend to get a bit obsessed. At the moment, I'm reaching some clarity, so I thought I'd share a bit of the insights I have gained with you.

I come from a protestant background. More specifically, I grew up in a heavily fundamentalist climate, although my own parents were moderate Baptists. I attended youth group, choir and other activities. I remember a slide presentation I saw once in chapel. We were shown pictures from Mexico of statues of the Virgin Mary. The Baptist missionary from Mexico who led the presentation shared with us, with a very sad and sincere face, that there were no Christians in Mexico, because everyone worshiped these statues. I too, felt sad.

Later in life, I immersed myself in a New Age background. The Blessed Virgin Mary was presented to me as a “goddess.” However, at the same time, Jesus was presented to me as a “face” or “mask” of God, like many other masks and manifestations, such as Mohammed and Krishna and the Buddha. I was told, however, that humans could become gods and that Jesus was an example of one who achieved that goal, joining the pantheon of gods along with Zeus, Athena and others. So, the Blessed Virgin was said to be a goddess, but Jesus was not thought to be uniquely God, but one among many. I did not realize at that time how this type of thinking is equally skewed.

I tend to be an extremist. Everything I do tends toward the hard-core. So, I have swung to both far ends of the spiritual pendulum and many bizarre places in between. If Jesus is not a god among gods and Mary is not a goddess at all, where then is the truth? The answer is nothing most people would actually think of unless they read a lot of seemingly obscure medieval texts and depth theology. And why do that? Why the interest? In the process of becoming Catholic, I paid a lot of attention to people sharing with me about Mary. Mary was part of our curriculum. Still, I did not understand anything whatsoever about her. I knew what they said, but I didn't know if what they said made sense. But now it does.

What I learned throughout my study so far can be summarized this way: Mary surrendered all she is and all she does to God, for His glory. Because her soul "magnifies the Lord,” Mary has become, for many people, a means to see Jesus, who is the way. Mary reflects light from God so we can see Jesus, the Way.

Mary is not, as I was taught, as a Baptist, a false “way” to God, someone to whom only seriously misled people would pray to as the “way” to God, instead of Jesus. Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life” and no one goes to Heaven except through Him, just as the gospels say. Once again, Mary is not “the way.” When I realized that, I knew with certainty that I was not committing idolatry to ask Mary to pray for me to grow closer to Christ.

Mary is a human being, as fully human as you and me. She is not a goddess in any way. Mary willingly  serves as a feminine vessel that God moves through unimpeded and at full strength. She is not like us, who are limited to earth and constantly throwing obstacles of pride and ego in the way of God's will. Because she is a vessel, like a channel, prayers directed to Mary are directed immediately to God because that is Mary's main purpose for existing. I look at Mary as a way to view God through the perceptual lens of the feminine. I find this very helpful because I am a woman. Mary is a model of humble surrender for men and for women, but it is easier for me to follow her example than that of Jesus, because she is female, like me.

I've been going to the meeting/retreat days for the secular carmelites, because I am an aspirant for the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. Last Saturday, I sang some new hymns I had not heard before. One of them was, “Mary the Dawn.” Some of the words of that prayer are “Mary the gate, Christ the heavenly way.” As I hear those words, I imagine a path with an open gate, and that is Mary, always open to God. She is our example and a way of finding  the way. She is viewed as a beacon light over the ocean in the hymn “Ave Maris Stella,” or “Mary, Star of the Sea.” She is a beacon, a light to move towards as we seek to reach Christ.

Mary is in no way the “way to the way,” as this would be ridiculous. Her parents would be the “way to the way to the way” and so on, infinitum. Mary is instead an optional way to contemplate and receive God's way. St. Louis de Montfort is an expert in explaining the many benefits of following the way of Jesus with Mary's help. In fact, he believes Mary's intervention is the best way to worship Christ. I'm leaning towards that point of view and as I read, the depth and dimensionality of Mary's relationship to Jesus is awe-inspiring to contemplate. Today, the memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I am beginning a process of preparing for consecration to Jesus, through Mary. If this is idolatry, so is going to Jesus through listening to your minister. After all, just as God can enter your heart through the words of your minister, God chose to enter the world through Mary.

Mary is content to be a human forever, and one through whom our Lord may pass without obstruction, and through perfect expression. None of us are going to become gods, ever. We are born to be creatures forever. We can become perfect and glorified creatures, like Mary and the saints, but only God is God. I know that might sound like a drag to some of you, and it sounded like a drag to Lucifer too, so he is working hard to become a “god” and to encourage others to do so too. Jesus is the only God who has ever or will ever walk the earth. If a person is a member of another religion and they experience Jesus' love without knowing or realizing his name, that is the same thing as going through Jesus as the way, and they can be saved and reach heaven. However, the other gods they pray to (although they do not know they are false gods) are not God.

In all ways, Mary magnifies the Lord. I hope one day, my soul will magnify the Lord, so that people will see the way to Christ through me. Amen.

Footnote :)
I've only been Catholic for two months now, so if my catechism is off, let me know either here or by email. Thanks!


  1. Your catechism is dead on target my friend! It is very beautiful because it is both true and so clearly from your deepest self. And, truth be told, I am shedding a tear as I write this because I am so happy for you.

    1. This from Marybeth- I don't blog much, can you tell?

  2. Hi Laura:

    This is a great post! You have an excellent understanding of Our Lady and the Catechism of the Catholic Church! Thank you so much for writing this! I hope you'll write more about Our Blessed Mother. Remember that she is also the true Arc of the Covenant and so much more!

    God bless you,


  3. The people of Mexico are truly oppressed by the Catholic church.

    Worship of Mary is idolatry because the second commandment in the Ten Commandments says not to make a graven image of anything. The Catholic church altered the Ten Commandments because if the second commandment were in place in the Catholic church that church would be destroyed.

    Why do we need Mary to magnify the light of Jesus when we can have Jesus' light within us through a personal relationship with Him.

    Why should we pray to Mary to pray to Jesus on our behalf when we can pray directly to Jesus?

    Ministers in our churches are called as teachers by God to teach us about His Word.
    The Gospels clearly say Jesus is the gate.

    Mary is a woman who died 2000 years ago whom the church has placed on a way higher pedestal than she should be. Mary definitely knew who Jesus was and believed in the end, but if she were alive today she would tell the Catholics they are wrong in their attitude toward her.

  4. How could the Church have modified the commandments when Protestants came after us and modified according to the opinions of one man, Martin Luther, instead of relying on the work of 1500 years of councils by brilliant theologians? Alex, you do not know what our "attitude" toward Mary is, because you are not asking, you are telling us. We do not worship or adore Mary. Mary's entire purpose is to, "Magnify the Lord," and not herself, as the Bible says. Don't ask me why Mary should, "magnify the Lord," because that statement is biblical. We did not invent those words. They come from sacred scripture. We see her as a role model, so we can also "magnify the Lord." That's it. Asking for her prayers is the same as me asking for your prayers or my neighbor's prayers. I don't need them. God doesn't need them. It is good for us to pray for each other and the Bible tells us to pray for each other. Mary is in Heaven and she can pray for us just like you can pray for us. Mary is a model is a great model for praying for others. That's it.

  5. graven image noun
    : an object (such as a statue) that is worshipped as a god or in place of a god
    (We do not worship statues of Mary, the saints or Jesus Himself on a Crucifix. We use these as devotional items to remind us of them, just like we would make paintings or drawings in a book of Jesus and Mary. Pagan Idols were believed to have the spirit of a god dwelling in them. We know that isn't true. What we do is so far away from putting other Gods before the One True God that it bears no resemblance to idolatry... unless a person is judging just from an external view and not asking questions about the purpose and process of how that object (icon) is used.

  6. Last comment- We follow the same 10 commandments the Jews always have. Nothing was ever altered by anyone until Protestantism started 500 years ago.

  7. Actually, if you look at the Hebrew scriptures, you’ll find the ten commandments read like they do in Protestant Bibles. As far as nothing being altered, church history would prove tghat statement incorrect. There are many good sources of information about this, including the book “Truth Triumphant” by Benjamin George Wilkinson, as well as many good sources on textual criticism that will bear out what I have said above.

    I agree Mary can be a role model like many other Biblical characters, but that does not include putting her on the pedestal the Catholic church has placed her on.

    As far as the Catholic church not worshipping Mary, if it has feathers, waddles and quacks, it’s a duck.

    Asking for Mary’s prayers is different than asking for my prayers. I am a current living human being whereas Mary is not. Thus, when you are asking Mary to pray for you, you are praying to Mary. What about the verses in Scripture that forbid communication with the dead.

    Where is it written in Scripture that it is permissible to use icons as devotional items?

  8. Alex, if you don't believe the words of an actual Catholic who lives this from the inside out, there's not much I can do for you. A coral snake looks and acts like a king snake, but it is still a harmless coral snake. A very similar thing is true about how Catholics view Mary. You will find that all catechism materials reflect the same thing I am telling you. If some Catholics go against the teachings and worship Mary, if they have been catechized properly, they are deeply in sin. We are not allowed to worship Mary. Our official catechism says, Idolatry is a perversion of man's innate religious sense. An idolater is someone who "transfers his indestructible notion of God to anything other than God."More info here:

  9. "Biblical texts like Deut. 18:10-11 and Isaiah 19:3—each of which condemns necromancy—are (falsely used to say that “communication with the dead” is condemned absolutely.

    Actually, what is being condemned in these texts from Deuteronomy and Isaiah is conjuring up the dead through wizards and mediums, not praying to saints. The Church has always condemned this. Mediums attempt to conjure up spirits and manipulate the spiritual realm at will. This is categorically different from Christians asking for the intercession of their brothers and sisters in Christ. We do not “conjure up” or manipulate anything or anyone. True prayer—whether to God or the angels and saints—changes the pray-er, not the pray-ee."


  10. This is also from the catechism. Mary as an icon is only there to glorify Christ through the example of her life. "1159 The sacred image, the liturgical icon, principally represents Christ. It cannot represent the invisible and incomprehensible God, but the incarnation of the Son of God has ushered in a new "economy" of images:

    Previously God, who has neither a body nor a face, absolutely could not be represented by an image. But now that he has made himself visible in the flesh and has lived with men, I can make an image of what I have seen of God . . . and contemplate the glory of the Lord, his face unveiled.27
    1160 Christian iconography expresses in images the same Gospel message that Scripture communicates by words. Image and word illuminate each other:

    We declare that we preserve intact all the written and unwritten traditions of the Church which have been entrusted to us. One of these traditions consists in the production of representational artwork, which accords with the history of the preaching of the Gospel. For it confirms that the incarnation of the Word of God was real and not imaginary, and to our benefit as well, for realities that illustrate each other undoubtedly reflect each other's meaning.28
    1161 All the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ: as are sacred images of the holy Mother of God and of the saints as well. They truly signify Christ, who is glorified in them. They make manifest the "cloud of witnesses"29 who continue to participate in the salvation of the world and to whom we are united, above all in sacramental celebrations. Through their icons, it is man "in the image of God," finally transfigured "into his likeness,"30 who is revealed to our faith. So too are the angels, who also are recapitulated in Christ:

    Following the divinely inspired teaching of our holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church (for we know that this tradition comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in her) we rightly define with full certainty and correctness that, like the figure of the precious and life-giving cross, venerable and holy images of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, our inviolate Lady, the holy Mother of God, and the venerated angels, all the saints and the just, whether painted or made of mosaic or another suitable material, are to be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, in houses and on streets.31
    1162 "The beauty of the images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God."32 Similarly, the contemplation of sacred icons, united with meditation on the Word of God and the singing of liturgical hymns, enters into the harmony of the signs of celebration so that the mystery celebrated is imprinted in the heart's memory and is then expressed in the new life of the faithful."

  11. Now, Alex, could post paragraph after paragraph all day.. BUT the truth is that Catholic theology is a complex and deep study that requires study and you can't learn in depth from arguing with people in com boxes. I suggest you read the catechism, available on line at the link provided.. or ask your questions at They are the experts at answering this questions.