It has been 3.5 years now, but I remember a conversation that I had with my friend (a convert and eventual sponsor) Rigsby. It had became very clear to me that my Protestant denomination was straying further and further from the truth. For a short period I considered myself adrift and was therefore in full research mode.
The Catholic Church was not initially at the top of my list. Or in second place. Or third. There were just too many issues (I thought). One-by-one the Protestant communities that I was interested in were found to be wanting, having their own issues with the truth.
I believe now that the Holy Spirit basically boxed me in and forced me to fairly look at the Catholic Church. I was really surprised by what I found. Before I went further, I needed to address… “the Mary issue”.
I might have asked Rigsby about Marian doctrines, exactly what they were, why they were believed, their historical basis, their scriptural basis, or even their logical and rational basis – all of which would have shed light. I didn’t because I assumed they were wrong and that I could not believe them as Catholics do. This seemed like a big hurdle. My question was instead “do Catholics have to believe that stuff?” Oy vey!
My problem was good, old-fashioned prejudice against the Catholic understanding of Mary. My Protestant denomination was closer to Catholic beliefs than many, but a real gap in understanding and belief was still there. Before going any further, I list here the 4 Marian dogmas:
- Mother of God: while Jesus’ divinity is eternal, His human incarnation was not and Mary was the mother of that; this title was settled at the Council of Ephesus in AD 431
- Perpetual Virginity: ever virgin, before and after Jesus’ birth (and no, there is no properly understood scriptural evidence to the contrary – quite the opposite actually); explicitly recognized at the Council of the Lateran in AD 649
- Immaculate Conception: refers to Mary’s birth, not Jesus’ – she was born without the taint of original sin; why would God provide any less for the mother of His Son?; would the King of kings be born of a sinful womb?
- Assumption: like Enoch and Elijah, Mary was assumed into heaven at the end of her life on Earth; would Jesus do less for His mother than these prophets?; BTW – this is assumption, not ascension
Additionally and expanding on the above:
- Mary’s impeccability (sinlessness): Mary was born and preserved sinless; this is related to the dogma of her immaculate conception
- mediatrix: via her role in salvation history and closeness to Our Lord; this does not make her divine in any way; see also advocatrix, co-redemptrix, mediatrix and advocate of all graces
- Queen of Heaven and Earth: not dogma (yet), but how else would Christ honor and elevate His mother?; she is the queen to His kingship
- veneration: because of all the above!; rest assured that we do NOT worship her – she is the most worthy Saint, but not divine / not God in any way
My purpose here is not to provide apologetics to defend each of these items (many very thorough ones are available), but rather to list “issues” that may be separating you from the fullness of the Church Our Lord founded. My suggestion is this: put them aside for now. This is similar to taking a test and coming to a halt on a difficult question. Do not get hung-up, move on and come back later. You may find this hard to believe now, but someday you will find it difficult to understand why all Christians do not understand Mary as Catholics do. They are missing so much (note on that point: the Protestant “reformers” retained much of these beliefs, but over time their divergent creations have fallen further and further away.)
As you study with an open mind and heart other Catholic claims, you will find their truth. Expect to be surprised! Eventually your “master list” of issues will dwindle, but by then you will accept the Church is who she says she is and trust her. If unresolved issues such as this remain, you will see them at most as difficulties in understanding – not claims that you deny. At that point, you are ready to become Catholic. Actually, at that point you are already in communion with the Catholic Church, albeit informally. You accept most teaching and lean on the authority and infallibility of the Church (given by Christ) for any remaining difficult part. You will be not all that different than the Apostles as described in John:
Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”
As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
“Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Indeed! I will close with the following video for your consideration. It is far from the complete story, but makes many important (in hindsight obvious) connections for scriptural blockheads like me. It is one of my favorites and still touches me every time I watch it:
(If you do not see a video above, click here.)