Is Mary Just TOO Catholic?

Overheard at the post office last week as a woman ahead of me was buying Christmas stamps:  “Oh that’s so beautiful,” she said, holding up this year’s Madonna and Child stamp.  “But I can’t buy those — it’s just way too Catholic!”  Huh?  Exactly what is “too Catholic” about a 16th century Raphael painting of the baby Jesus in the arms of His mother?  What struck me most about her comment was that, on some very real level, this woman had been taught to equate the Virgin Mary with the Catholic Church.  On one hand, this gives me great joy.  For my Church to be so closely identified with the mother of our Savior is a blessing to me as a Catholic.  From the very earliest days of Christianity, the Virgin was looked to for guidance and comfort and seen as the best example of the Christian life.  But mostly, I feel sad for this woman and for the many other Christians who don’t have a relationship with Christ’s mother.  And maybe it’s our fault as Catholics for not doing a very good job at explaining the role that Mary plays in Catholic spirituality. 
 
Many Christians believe that Catholics worship Mary, almost as if she’s a kind of fourth Person of the Blessed Trinity.  Once and for all, we do NOT worship Mary or the saints.  We worship the Lord God Almighty in the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.  But we do ask Mary and the saints to pray for us to the Lord.  While they are no longer alive here on earth, we believe that they are alive in heaven as members of our family of faith.  Just as I might ask my earthly family and friends to pray for me, I ask Mary and the saints to pray for me, too.  For Catholics, Mary is the perfect Christian example.  God Himself chose her to be His mother.  As the angel’s greeting reveals, Mary is “full of grace” (Luke 1:28) — which means she is full of the Lord, with no room for sin.  This perfect vessel cooperated with God by becoming the mother of our Savior.  From that moment, her life centered completely on Christ — from the infant in her womb, to the baby in the manger and throughout His life, to the very end — Mary’s eyes and heart were fixed on Jesus.  In her quiet and humble way, Mary leads us unerringly to her Son.  This is why we love her so much.  The last words spoken by Mary in Holy Scripture sum up her life’s purpose and contain the central truth of Christian spirituality:  “Do whatever He tells you to”(John 2:5).  That’s the heart of Mary’s role for us:  to remind us to keep our eyes on Jesus, no matter what.  Unite your heart to His heart.  Keep Him at the center of your thoughts, your words and your actions.  Stay with Him at the Cross and share in His suffering.  Mary’s model is for all Christians, across all times and all cultures.  Welcome her into your faith life, not just at Christmas, but every day of the year.  Ask her to pray for you and ask the Lord to reveal His mother to you.  Read the Gospels again and pay attention to Mary’s model life as it unfolds with His.  Jesus loved the Blessed Virgin Mary as He loved no other person in His life.  And if she’s so beloved by Him, embrace Her as He does.  Even if you aren’t Catholic.

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