Mary: Assumed into Heaven

05/27/2016 Comments (10)

Jan Frans Beschey, “Assumption of the Virgin” (c. 1750-1767)

The final Marian dogma—the Assumption—was promulgated in 1950. But like all doctrinal developments throughout the history of the Church, it is rooted in apostolic teaching and reflected in Scripture. Pope Pius XII defined the dogma this way:

“The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

What evidence is there for the Assumption?

To begin with, we have the witness of the New Testament, which already takes for granted the image of Mary as a Cosmic Heavenly Figure by the time of the book of Revelation (roughly 90 AD). 

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the...READ MORE

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Immaculate Mary Was Redeemed From the Moment of Her Conception

05/23/2016 Comments (4)

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682), “Inmaculada del Escorial”

A lot of people confuse the Immaculate Conception with the Virgin Birth. The Virgin Birth refers to the birth of Jesus Christ. The Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Mary, not Jesus. It is the dogma defined by the Catholic Church in 1854 that:

“The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”

The Church not only teaches Mary never sinned in thought, word or deed, she teaches Mary never even suffered from "original sin", that hole in our souls where the life of God, was...READ MORE

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Mary: Perpetual Virgin

05/20/2016 Comments (12)

Fritz von Uhde (1848–1911), "Christmas Night"

The dogma that Mary is perpetually a virgin (defined at the Second Council of Constantinople in the sixth century) finds its origin, like all Catholic dogma, in the teaching of the apostles.

To see it in Scripture, we must, of course, get past both hyper-sexualized contemporary culture (which can scarcely imagine virginity at all) and the assumptions of much (though not all) of Protestantism which reads the New Testament with the conviction that it “disproves” the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. (Exception include Luther, Calvin, and John Wesley.)  When we do this (by reading Scripture as the earliest Christians did), we discover that, in fact, there is no basis for rejecting her Perpetual...READ MORE

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Mary: Mother of God

05/16/2016 Comments (26)

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682), “La Virgen del Rosario”

Why does the Church bother having dogmas about Mary anyway? Why not just stick to talking about Jesus?

To find out why, consider Nestorius. He was a fifth-century bishop and theologian who disliked the way common folk talked about Jesus and his mother because it played havoc with a theory he had concocted. Nestorius’ theory was rooted in a deep discomfort that is as old as the Church: the discomfort with the fact that the Word really and truly became flesh. This discomfort with the Incarnation is a continual pattern among false teachers from New Testament times (1 John 4:2) down to today. It animates everybody from the ancient Gnostics (who held that spirit was good and matter was evil) to...READ MORE

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Mary: First Guardian of the Faith

05/13/2016 Comments (2)

Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), “The Madonna of the Book”

As we saw last time, the biblical authors and the Fathers of the Church see in Mary a figure who is a fulfillment of prophecy, just as Jesus is. However, the way in which she fulfills prophecy is of a different character from Jesus, precisely because she is a creature and not God. All that she does, she does by grace, not by her own divine power. So, for instance, she fulfills prophecy by giving birth at Bethlehem (as the prophet Micah foretold (cf. Micah 5:1)). But she is not the architect of the situation which places her there, God is. She cooperates with His will and she and Joseph do the sensible things that need to be done in their situation, but the outcome is guided by God.

Mary’s...READ MORE

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Where the Church Gets Its Marian Teaching

05/09/2016 Comments (3)

Guillaume Perrier (1600-1656), "La remise du rosaire"

As we saw last time, the problem with the claim that Catholic devotion to Mary is “pagan” is that there is simply no evidence for it. When we look at the early Christian Church, we find that it is as convinced that devotion to Mary is perfectly in accord with Scripture as it is that the worship of Jesus is.

So how is it that the Church builds the mountain of Marian doctrine and devotion on the molehill of Marian biblical references? The answer: The Church doesn’t build its doctrine and devotion on the Bible at all. It grows it from the seed of Sacred Tradition which comes down to us in both written and unwritten form from the apostles.

Consider, for instance, the idea of the Trinity. The...READ MORE

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Mary Is Not a Warmed-Over Pagan Goddess

05/06/2016 Comments (2)

Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1727-1804), “The Adoration of the Shepherds”

The basic problem that faces those approaching Mary from outside the Catholic tradition is the seeming disproportion between what Scripture tells us about Mary and the enormous amount of space she appears to occupy in the life of the Church. Part of that appearance of disproportion is due to Catholic devotion and part of it is due, paradoxically, to the exaggerated fears of non-Catholics about Catholic devotion.

The dynamic works this way: Scripture doesn’t spell out for us, say, a command to pray the Rosary. But Catholics pray the Rosary anyway (due to the fact that they don’t regard the Bible as the Big Book of Everything given by God to micromanage our prayer lives under the rubric...READ MORE

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Taking May to Look at Mary

05/02/2016 Comments (11)

Sassoferrato, “The Virgin in Prayer” (c. 1645)

Cradle and convert Catholics encounter the Blessed Virgin Mary in profoundly different ways. A cradle Catholic growing up in a parish and a family with a healthy Marian spirituality grows up, from the immemorial Always of childhood, surrounded by her as Mother, as Heavenly Intercessor, as Glorious Virgin, as the gentle Mother of God. She is there at baptisms, at daily Mass, at birthday parties, Christmas, weddings, and funerals. She is part of normal life, somebody you turn to as naturally when you have the blues as you do when at family gatherings where the wine is flowing. She is redolent of the smell of May flowers, of the scent of pine at Christmas, of the smell of fading leaves in...READ MORE

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About Mark Shea

Mark Shea
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Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.