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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Life Imitates Art

04/25/2016 Comments (6)

A coconut crab (Image credit: Drew Avery, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

I've always felt that evolution is so fascinating to its friends and foes alike, not only because it has real explanatory power for certain aspects of why organisms act like they do and are built like they are, but even more because evolution embodies one of the great mythic stories of the modern age. There is something enormously attractive about the plucky hero who overcomes various forces all bent on his annihilation, only to survive and prosper and see his children grow fruitful and multiply ("All dinosaurs from the enormous Brachiosaurs to the terrifying Tyrannosaurs trace their origins back to small bird-like reptiles like Coelophysis."). It's a great first act!

Equally great is the...READ MORE

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Even a Stopped Clock is Right Twice a Day

04/22/2016 Comments (6)

Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong (Image Credit: Scott Griessel, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

You may want to sit down for this, but once upon a time flamboyantly apostate Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong actually thrilled me with a prescient bit of insight into Scripture! How is this possible?

Well, there is a basic principle at work in the universe called the Gomer Pyle Axiom of High and Low Expectations. It works this way: when you expect great things from somebody, then merely above average performances are often denounced as disappointing failures. So, when Pixar, whose worst movies still tower over the junk Hollywood emits, makes Cars, people groan at what a weak effort it is, even though Cars still dwarfs 99% of all other movies and 99.9% of all other animated films.


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A Reader has a Question about the Canon of Scripture

04/18/2016 Comments (6)

(Photo Credit: markus 53, CC0, via Pixabay)

He writes:

I am debating a whole slew of Protestants, so I was reading your excellent article here.

The first myth you debunk is this:

"The deuterocanonical books are not found in the Hebrew Bible. They were added by the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent after Luther rejected it."

You conclude that this is false because:

"The Septuagint, complete with the deuterocanononical books, was first embraced, not by the Council of Trent, but by Jesus of Nazareth and his Apostles."

In my oppo-research, I came across the disappointingly convincing article here.

Here, the author directly addresses your conclusion, quoting William Weber:

"Josephus not only gave the precise number of the...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.