I am writing this in response to a Facebook email from a friend from my former Baptist Church (actually the church is still Baptist. It is I who am former). I also have several friends that I just added to Facebook. I met these friends in Texas when I was stationed at Fort Hood in the early ‘80s. We attended a Baptist church together, where I was a charter member and deacon. They now live in various parts of the country and we have only recently made contact again after several years. They did not know until we connected on Facebook that I came back to the Catholic Church about three years ago.
I had posted The Angelus on my Facebook page and my friend took exception to it indicating that I was giving Mary undue honor that should belong to Christ alone. I decided to post it here on my blog site rather than a personal response as I am sure there are a lot of others of my friends from both churches who may have the same questions of me.
Personally I’m having trouble figuring out what part of The Angelus a Protestant might have a problem with. I posted a Christmas prayer that I thought would not be offensive to my non-Catholic friends. The Angelus is a string of Bible quotes about the announcement of the birth of Christ. Like it or not, Mary was a part of all of that.
Here is The Angelus in it’s entirety. Facebook wouldn’t allow me to post the whole prayer as it is too long:
V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, etc...
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to Your Word.
Hail Mary, etc...
V. And the Word was made flesh,
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, etc...
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray:
Pour forth, we beseech You, O Lord,
Your Grace into our hearts;
that as we have known the incarnation of Christ,
your Son by the message of an angel,
so by His passion and cross
we may be brought to the glory of His Resurrection.
Through the same Christ, our Lord.
If it’s because of the Hail Mary, the first part of that are quotes from the Bible also. The title “Mother of God” was developed by the early church to confirm the dogma of the full diety and humanity of Christ.
The part where it’s a prayer to her is completely consistent with the dogma of the Communion of Saints. Hebrews 11 gives a list of many of the great heroes of the faith (including some only mentioned in the Deutro-Canonicals that most Protestants reject as part of the Bible), and then says that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. This is not symbolic or a figure of speech. We really are surrounded by them. Revelation 5:8 and 8:3 show angels and heavenly saints offering to God the prayers of the saints on earth in the form of incense.
Maybe it’s because of the erroneous belief that many Baptists, Evangelicals, and Fundamentalists often have, that Catholics pay too much attention to Mary. Even when I was a Baptist, I thought we didn’t pay enough attention to her. She is virtually ignored except for womens' Bible studies, and a little bit at Christmas. As the Mother of our Lord, she is the most unique person in history, save the Lord Himself. Revelation 12 clearly shows her as the Queen of Heaven, as she is the woman who “gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.” It further goes to say, “Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God's commandments and bear witness to Jesus.” Showing that she is the Mother of the entire Church.
This is the belief of the earliest Church Fathers, and quite frankly, I would take their word—people who knew her and the apostles—before I would take the word of someone 1,500 years or more later that is acting out of rebellion. If we rebel against the Church, we rebel against her, and against God. To not give her the honor she is due is to disrespect our Mother in the faith, directly against the 5th Commandment to honor your father and mother.
I do not mean that my non-Catholic friends are rebellious. They may just be ignorant. It is John Nelson Darby, Cyrus Scofield, D. L. Moody, Harry Ironside, John R. Rice, and people like that who are in rebellion. I have found that virtually all non-Catholics and ex-Catholics, even those who have had a Catholic education, simply do not understand Catholic teaching. I was in this boat myself for almost 30 years. Rather than looking at actual Catholic teaching, they have been reading anti-Catholic material, mostly based on Loraine Boettner’s “Roman Catholicism,” and the books of Dave Hunt who are poor excuses as biblical scholars. All of these works are full of errors, untrue suppositions, straw-men, and red herrings.
Scripture is very clear about how to deal with disputes in the Church. Matthew 18 says that if your brother offends you, take it to the Church. It does not say to break off in rebellion and start your own denomination based on your own personal interpretation of the Bible. "No Scripture is of private interpretation..."
Perhaps the issue is with praying to saints in general. I have already touched on most of the reasons that the Bible teaches the exact opposite. The main argument would probably the Biblical prohibition against contact with the dead. But as is often the case with Protestants this is a gut-reaction rather than exhaustive Biblical research. A superficial reading of Deuteronomy 18:10-11 may lead you to believe this. But this is another instance where Fundamentalists take things out of context in order to fit a pre-conceived idea.
Rather than me writing this I am going to quote from the Catholic Answers website. Here is a link to the article. While you are there, go ahead and register on the forums. There is an incredible about of information there. You do not need to register to read anything there, but you do need to in order to post.
"'No Contact with the dead'
Sometimes Fundamentalists object to asking our fellow Christians in heaven to pray for us by declaring that God has forbidden contact with the dead in passages such as Deuteronomy 18:10–11. In fact, he has not, because he at times has given it—for example, when he had Moses and Elijah appear with Christ to the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:3). What God has forbidden is necromantic practice of conjuring up spirits. "There shall not be found among you any one who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, any one who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer. . . . For these nations, which you are about to dispossess, give heed to soothsayers and to diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you so to do. The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren—him you shall heed" (Deut. 18:10–15).
"God thus indicates that one is not to conjure the dead for purposes of gaining information; one is to look to God’s prophets instead. Thus one is not to hold a seance. But anyone with an ounce of common sense can discern the vast qualitative difference between holding a seance to have the dead speak through you and a son humbly saying at his mother’s grave, 'Mom, please pray to Jesus for me; I’m having a real problem right now.' The difference between the two is the difference between night and day. One is an occult practice bent on getting secret information; the other is a humble request for a loved one to pray to God on one’s behalf."
© 2010 The Cathoholic - All Rights Reserved.