Choose a topic from Vol 3:


Reason proves God's existence
Primitive monotheism
Mystery of God's inner nature
Personality of God
Providence of God and the problem of evil


Immortal destiny of man
Can earth give true happiness?
Do human souls evolve?
Is transmigration possible?
Animal souls
Freedom of will
Free will and faith


Religion and God
The duty of prayer
The mysteries of religion
Can we believe in miracles?

The Religion of the Bible

Historical character of the Gospels
Canonical Books of the Bible
Original Manuscripts
Copyists' errors
Truth of the Bible
New Testament "contradictions"

The Christian Religion

Christianity alone true
Not the product of religious experience
Compared with Buddhism, Confucianism, Mahometanism, Bahaism, etc.,
Rejected by modern Jews
The demand for miracles
The necessity of faith
Difficulties not doubts
Proofs available
Dispositions of unbelievers

A Definite Christian Faith

One religion not as good as another
Changing one's religion
Catholic convictions and zeal
Religious controversy
The curse of bigotry
Towards a solution

The Problem of Reunion

Efforts at the reunion of the Churches
The Church of England as a "Bridge-Church"
Anglicans and the Greek Orthodox Church
The "Old Catholics" of Holland
Reunion Conferences
Catholic Unity
The Papacy as reunion center
Protestant hostility to Catholicism
The demands of charity

The Truth of Catholicism

Necessity of the Church
The true Church
Catholic claim absolute
A clerical hierarchy
Papal Supremacy
Temporal Power
Unity of the Church
Holiness of the Church
Catholicity of the Church
Catholic attitude to converts
Indefectible Apostolicity
Necessity of becoming a Catholic

The Church and the Bible

Catholic belief in the Bible
Bible-reading and private interpretation
Value of Tradition and the "Fathers"
Guidance of the Church necessary

The Dogmas of the Catholic Church

Dogmatic certainty
Credal statements
Faith and reason
The voice of science
Fate of rationalists
The dogma of the Trinity
Creation and evolution
The existence of angels
Evil spirits or devils
Man's eternal destiny
The fact of sin
Nature and work of Christ
Mary, the mother of God
Grace and salvation
The sacraments
Holy Eucharist
The Sacrifice of the Mass
Holy Communion
Marriage and divorce
Extreme Unction
Man's death and judgment
Resurrection of the body
End of the World

Moral Teachings of the Catholic Church

Catholic intolerance
The Spanish Inquisition
Prohibition of Books
Liberty of worship
Forbidden Socieities
Church attendance
The New Psychology
Deterministic philosophy
Marriage Legislation
Birth Prevention
Monastic Life
Convent Life
Legal defense of murderers
Laywers and divorce proceedings
Judges in Divorce
Professional secrecy

The Church in Her Worship

Why build churches?
Glamor of ritual
The "Lord's Prayer"
Pagan derivations
Liturgical symbolism
Use of Latin
Intercession of Mary and the Saints

The Church and Social Welfare

The Church and Education
The Social Problem
Social Duty of the Church
Catholicism and Capitalism

Mary, the mother of God

747. Why does the Catholic Church give so much honor to Mary when she was just an ordinary woman selected for a great purpose?

Firstly, I deny that Mary was just an ordinary woman. She was a human being, but amongst human beings there are degrees of dignity. And she was no ordinary woman to whom God thought fit to send an Archangel with the salutation, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." Nor was she an ordinary woman to whom Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Ghost, cried out, "Blessed art thou amongst women; and whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me." Had any ordinary woman come to visit Elizabeth, no such exclamation would have fallen from her lips.Secondly, you yourself say that Mary was selected for a great purpose. Selected by whom? By God. Now God has ever fittingly prepared those whom He has deigned to call to great duties. We see that in the case of the Prophets, and above all, in the case of that greatest of all the Prophets, St. John the Baptist. Yet not one of these had so close a relationship to Jesus as she who was destined to be His Mother.

748. Some female had to be selected, and it just happened to be Mary of Nazareth.

If one who professes to be a Christian and to believe in the Bible thinks to please Christ by speaking contemptuously of His Mother, he is very much mistaken. I do not know whether you hold your own mother in reverence and esteem. But I will presume that you do. And I will merely say that Jesus was a far better Son to His Mother than you ever have been to yours. If you would resent any attempt to belittle your mother, you have a faint indication of what Christ thinks of such words as yours. As for your remark that "it just happened," a moment ago you said that Mary was selected for a great purpose. Selection by an infinitely wise God is not a haphazard proceeding. There were reasons for the selection of Mary rather than others, and those reasons had to do with her holiness and fitness above all others for the immense dignity.

749. The glory does not rest with her but with God.

Mary herself said that. She gave the glory to God, saying, "He that is mighty hath done great things to me." But she did not deny that great things had been done to her which had not been done to others. And those who receive the greater gifts from God deserve the greater honor from us.

750. What is her place in the Christian religion?

Mary's place in the Christian religion should be obvious. She is the morning star preceding the Light of the World, Christ. The only difference is that all her light is derived from the Son she heralds. By God's eternal decree Mary has been associated with the highest mysteries of the Christian religion, being the very instrument of the Incarnation of the Eternal Son of God, and, therefore, of our redemption. We have devotion to her both because of our admiration of her, and because of her interest in our eternal welfare. When we honor Mary, of course, we are but honoring Christ in her. Without Him, she would be nothing, and she would be the first to admit it. And the honor we show her cannot displease Christ. He was the best Son who ever lived, and would rather be displeased were His Mother ignored or slighted. Remember the bootblack's answer to the parson. Whilst having his boots polished, the parson saw a medal of the Virgin Mary hanging from the boy's neck on a string. "Sonny," he said, "why do you wear that?" "She is the Mother of Christ," said the boy. "But," objected the parson, "she's no different from your own mother." "No," replied the boy, "but there's a hell of a difference between the sons." We owe love and devotion to the Mother of Christ.

751. Scripture accords no attributes of deity to Mary, and outside the grace of God, she was as helpless as any other woman.

The Catholic Church forbids anyone to ascribe any attributes of deity to Mary, whether inside or outside the grace of God. However holy she might be by grace, she still remains a creature. Mary would be the first to say that, but for the grace of God, she would have no privileges beyond those of other women. The Catholic Church teaches the same. But she certainly did receive graces that no other woman ever received or ever will receive, and in supernatural dignity and power surpasses them all. In bringing forth Jesus Christ she brought forth the life of my soul, and she is as much my mother in the supernatural order as my earthly mother in the temporal and natural order. And I for one hope ever to retain a child's devotion to my heavenly Mother till the day of my death and for all eternity. I know that as Eve was the mother of all the living, yet brought us forth to suffering, misery and death, so Mary, the second Eve, between whom and Satan God promised to put enmity, brought me forth to the happiness and life of God's grace.Eve listened to Satan, disobeyed God, gave us to eat of the tree of evil, left us miserable and driven from the paradise of the grace of God.Mary listened to an Angel, obeyed, gave us to eat of the tree of life, restored happiness to us and us to God's grace, and she is enthroned in heaven with Christ. And there she is my Mother and my Queen. I can only wish she could be as proud of me as I am of her.

752. In what way did Mary take her part in the redemptive work of mankind, which was accomplished by Christ alone?

Christ was the principal Author of our redemption, but there were many secondary cooperators in the work. We even find St. Paul saying that we are to fill up what is wanting to the sufferings of Christ. The explanation of this, however, would demand a treatise on the mystical body of Christ as comprising all the members of the Church, and I can scarcely do justice to it now. All I can say is that Mary cooperated in the redemptive work in a way quite special to herself.As Jesus is the second Adam, so Mary is the second Eve. As our first Mother Eve brought us forth to misery and suffering, so our second Mother Mary, in bringing forth our Savior, brought us forth to happiness and salvation. Mary's consent was asked by God when the time for the Incarnation was at hand; she consented to the full work of Christ from the cave of Bethlehem to the Cross of Calvary. She provided the very blood that was shed for us. In union with Christ she had her own passion, and Simeon rightly predicted to her, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, "Thy own soul a sword shall pierce." With, in, and through the work of Christ her sufferings also contributed secondarily towards our redemption. And she was given to us from the Cross as a mother for a mother's work. To all of us Christ said, in the person of St. John, "Son, behold thy Mother." We Catholics, therefore, regard Mary as our spiritual Mother, entertaining towards her the love and devotion of children. Every Christian woman, above all, should regard Mary, the Mother of Christ, as the glory of her sex.

753. Has the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception been defined by the Catholic Church as an article of faith?

Yes. Consequently the only way to disprove it is by disproving the infallibility of the Catholic Church. Meantime, none of your difficulties avails against it.

754. Why did the Church define it?

Because it rightly expresses the truth concerning Mary as contained in God's revelation. That truth is that Mary was exempted from any trace of inherited original sin.

755. At what date did the Roman Catholic Church adopt the idea of the Immaculate Conception by Jesus' Mother?

I am afraid you are confusing two different doctrines. The Immaculate Conception is a term referring to the conception of Mary herself by her parents, Joachim and Anne. When Mary herself was conceived, her soul was preserved immaculate, or free from inherited original sin. But when Mary herself conceived Jesus, it was under the influence of the Holy Ghost, and not through any relations with man. This could be called the miraculous conception of the child Jesus. Usually it is referred to as the Virgin Birth, since it implies that Mary remained a virgin even though she gave birth to Jesus. Both the doctrine that Jesus was born of a virgin, and that that virgin was herself immaculate from the very moment of her own conception are taught in the Gospels. But the latter doctrine is not so clearly recorded as the former. That Jesus was born of a virgin Mother has been explicitly taught by the Catholic Church from the very beginning. So in the Apostles' Creed itself we say, "born of the Virgin Mary." That the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary herself is also part of the Christian revelation was defined by the Catholic Church in 1854. The Church did not invent a new doctrine then. She merely defined that such was the original Christian teaching of the New Testament.

756. How can you say that Mary was ever a virgin when the Bible speaks of the brethren of the Lord?

The expression, "brethren of the Lord," is no argument whatever that Mary had other children besides Jesus. For the Jews used that expression of any near relatives, without intending necessarily the first degree of blood relationship. It was enough for people to be descendants of the same tribe to be called brethren. James was called the brother of Jesus. Yet we know that he was the son of Alphaeus, and Mary was certainly never the wife of Alphaeus. This James, also, was the blood brother of Jude. And Jude begins his epistle with the words, "Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and the brother of James." Here he is using the word brother in the strict sense, and knows that he cannot in that sense call himself the brother of Jesus Christ. Yet in the broad sense of the word, he is ranked amongst the kinsmen of Christ, as we know from Matthew XIII., 55, where the Gospel speaks of "His brethren James and Joseph, and Simon and Jude."

757. I think the brothers and sisters referred to were the children of Joseph and Mary after Jesus was born. There is no reason to think otherwise.

There is every reason to think otherwise. Firstly, the so-called brethren of Jesus are depicted by the Gospel texts as older than He Himself, criticizing and advising Him, and jealous of His popularity. Secondly, when the offer was made to Mary that she should become the Mother of the Messiah, she said, "How shall this be done, because I know not man." Almighty God provided miraculously that she should become the Mother without sacrificing her virginity. She was not likely to sacrifice it later on for other children so much less than the very Son of God. As that Son was the only-begotten of His Eternal Father, so He would be the only-begotten of His earthly Mother. Thirdly, Jesus alone in the Gospels is called the Son of Mary; and never once is she called the Mother of the brethren of the Lord. Fourthly, the only four brethren mentioned by name are James and Joseph, Simon and Jude. Now St. John tells us that there stood by the Cross of Jesus His Mother, and His Mother's sister, Mary of Cleophas. And this latter is referred to by St. Matthew as the mother of James and Joseph. Again, if you look up the first words of St. Jude's Epistle you will find him saying, "Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James." Why did he make that distinction? Finally, if James and Joseph, Simon and Jude, were direct children of Mary, and if there were yet other brethren and sisters of Jesus in your sense of the word, why did Jesus commit His Mother to the care of St. John after His death, so that John took her as his own mother thenceforth? That would not be necessary if she had other children to look after her.

758. Mark VI., 3, says, "Is not this carpenter, the Son of Mary, the brother of James and Joseph, and Jude and Simon? Are not also His sisters here with us?"

The reference to Jesus as the Son of Mary and the brother of James and Joseph, Jude and Simon, as also to His sisters is also quite compatible with our Lord's being the only Son of Mary. The term brothers or sisters was applied to any near relatives within the same tribe even though they were first, second or third cousins. In much the same way I could speak of a brother American without suggesting that he was of the same mother as myself. Remember that in the Aramaic language used at the time, there was no word in existence to denote cousin. The Jews had to use the word "Achim," brethren, for the description of any kindred by collateral descent. I could give you a dozen references from the Old Testament proving the Jewish usage of those terms for half-brothers, nephews and nieces, cousins, and any blood relatives in general. Renan, quite an unbeliever in Christ and whose verdict is above suspicion, says of this passage that the preliminary expression "the Son of Mary" followed by the mention of the other names takes it for granted that Jesus was known as the only son of a widow. Loisy, another who was by no means well disposed towards the Catholic doctrine, declares that, when Mary hesitated to accept the offer of the Angel to become the Mother of Christ, she spoke so absolutely when she said, "How shall this be, for I know not man," that Catholics are justified in seeing the intention of perpetually preserving her virginity.

759. You pick the plums out of Renan when it suits your case.

The fact that Renan, so radically opposed to the supernatural element in the Gospels, says so few things that suit our case immeasurably intensifies the value of his verdict when he admits that the Gospel text supposes that Jesus was the only child of Mary. All his inclinations would be against making that admission. You are not happier in deluding yourself that Mary had other children than Renan, the rationalist, would have been, could he have brought himself to believe that the text permitted such a persuasion.

760. Jesus said unto them, "A prophet is not without honor save in his own country and among his own kin, and in his own house. . . ." St. Mark VI., vv. 3-4.

When Jesus said that He had no honor among His own kin He was speaking quite intelligibly despite His not having brothers and sisters. The expression kith and kin is verified by relatives independently of the precise degree of consanguinity.

761. St. Matthew XIII., 55, 56, implies the whole family.

He implies too big a family, if the strict sense you wish were true. In verse 56, he says, "His sisters, are they not all with us?" The use of the word "all" in reference to the sisters implies not one or two, but a large number in various degrees of relationship. They were certainly too many, together with four brothers, to be sisters of Jesus in the strict sense of the word. There is a little axiom that "he who proves too much proves nothing." The wording used by St. Matthew tells distinctly in favor of the Catholic interpretation.

762. St. Luke VIII., 19, implies the whole family when he says, "His Mother and brethren came unto Him."

He implies that His Mother and other relatives in various degrees came to Him. Those relatives were not brothers and sisters in the first degree of consanguinity.

763. Luke I., 36, confutes the story that there was no word in the Greek to describe James, Joseph, Jude and Simon as cousins.

I have never heard it said that there was no word in Greek for cousin. It is certain that there was no word in Hebrew for cousin. The Hebrew word for brother, ah, and in the Aramaic, aha, was used to describe brothers, half-brothers, nephews and nieces, cousins, and relatives in general. It is certain that any cousins of Jesus would have to be described in Aramaic as brethren. And, in translating the Hebrew expression literally by the Greek word brethren, the Evangelists merely followed the example already given in the Septuagint Greek version of the Old Testament.

764. St. Paul wrote: ". . . But other of the Apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. . . ." Galatians I., vv. 19, etc.

Quite so. St. Paul did not lie. He saw St. James. But when he alluded to James as the Lord's brother, he had not in mind the sense you imagine. He made a perfectly lawful use of the term in the broad sense which included cousins, according to Jewish usage at that time. Critical scholarship demolishes the idea that these brethren were other children of Mary the Mother of Jesus. It observes that these brethren are depicted as older than Jesus, though it is certain that Mary had no children prior to Jesus. And precisely because Mary had no other children of her own, Jesus had to confide His Mother to the care of John, the son of Zebedee, as He died upon the Cross. One wonders why Protestants wish to assert that Mary had other sons after Jesus was born. Is it for the sheer love of truth, and that they may contribute to the greater honor of Jesus and Mary? Or is it that they want to drag Mary down from her true dignity, and Jesus down to the level of ordinary men, in order to show their contempt for Catholicism? I am afraid that, in some Protestants, faith in the Gospels and in Jesus Christ runs a bad second to their dislike of Catholicism. It is enough for them that the Catholic Church teaches a given doctrine to inspire them with zeal to deny it, whatever the consequences to the Jesus Christ they profess to serve, and to His Mother Mary, whom Jesus cannot desire to be held in anything but the highest reverence and esteem.

765. On the Cross Christ said to St. John, "Son, behold thy Mother," therefore, making out John was another son.

Christ, in His infinite wisdom, would not waste words in those precious and most painful last moments to tell John something of which John was already well aware. It was precisely because Mary was not the natural mother of John that Christ asked him to be a son to her. And the Gospel tells us that "From that hour the disciple took her as his own." Which means that only from that moment, in virtue of this commission of Christ, John recognized that he had filial obligations to Mary. Had he been her natural son, he would have had them all along. Scripture gives us the names of John's father and mother, and they were not Joseph and Mary. Mark I., 19, tells us that his father's name was Zebedee. In Mark X., 35, we again read that "James and John, the sons of Zebedee came to Christ saying . . ." etc. In Matthew XX., 20, we are told that the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Christ adoring Him and asking a favor. And she was not His own Mother. Who was she? Her name was Salome, mentioned in Mark XV., 40. So that St. John was the natural son, not of Joseph and Mary, but of Zebedee and Salome. And it was precisely because Christ knew that His Mother Mary had no other children to care for her that He committed her to the care of His loved disciple St. John, asking him to regard her henceforth as if she were his own Mother.

766. Was our Lady vowed to virginity from early childhood, or was she "espoused to a man named Joseph" with the intention of marrying him in the ordinary way, until the advent of the Angel Gabriel changed her plans?

According to the teaching of Catholic theologians, Mary, under the inspiration of God, had formed the determination to preserve life-long virginity, and under that same inspiration of God, had agreed later to be espoused to St. Joseph, both of them by mutual consent making a vow not to demand of each other the right to those marital relations which are one of the normal privileges of marriage. This espousal was in view of God's purpose to provide a protector for the Mother and Child, a purpose which became clear to Mary when the Angel Gabriel, as St. Luke says, "appeared to a virgin who was espoused to a man named Joseph." When the Angel predicted that she would bear a child, consciousness of her determination to remain a virgin is evident from her reply, "How shall this be done, because I know not man." As St. Augustine points out, she would not have said this, despite her engagement to Joseph, had she not resolved to remain a virgin.

767. Do you believe that Mary ascended into heaven, and was crowned amidst the glory of all the Saints?

Catholic teaching does not speak of Mary's ascending into heaven. Christ, by His own divine power, ascended into heaven. Mary was assumed or taken up into heaven, body and soul, after her death. We Catholics believe, therefore, in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And we speak of the fitting honor with which God received her as her crowning with glory. There is nothing in this doctrine which is in any way opposed to sound and reasonable principles. Nor a single rational argument can be advanced to prove that it could not happen, or that it did not happen. On the other hand, there are solid reasons for the belief that it did happen, and also the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, an authority guaranteed by Sacred Scripture.

768. There is nothing in Scripture about this.

It is not necessary that there should be. We know that Christ is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. We know that His Mother is in heaven, and that the Mother of the King rejoices in a queenly dignity. It is quite certain that our Lady has a closer bond with Jesus than any other human being, and that, if He is going to crown His Saints with glory, He will give the highest honor to His Mother.

769. What authority is there for the doctrine?

Firstly, of course, the inherent teaching authority of Christ. The Catholic Church was commissioned to teach all nations with His authority and under His protection. The mere fact that she teaches the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven is sufficient assurance of the event. But what reasons support the teaching, apart from the authority of ithe Church? There is no express reference to the subject in Sacred Scripture. But it has ever been the tradition of Christians from the very beginning, and, as the Anglican Mozley has pointed out, "The conviction of the fact did not arise from mere belief; the belief can only be accounted for by the primitive fact." Theologically, the corruption of the body is a consequence of the corruption of original sin. But Mary was exempted from the corruption of original sin, and it was most fitting that she should be exempted from corruption in the grave. The Greek Orthodox Church agrees with the Catholic Church on this doctrine. High Church Anglicans are returning to it. I have just been reading an Anglican booklet on the subject, in which the author writes: "It would seem rash to deny such a bodily Assumption, for despite the prevalence of credulity in the matter of relics, no Church (or city) has ever claimed to possess the mortal remains of our Lady. Why not? It is a fact which requires explanation. Relics of our Lady would possess a greater value for Christians than any others. Do not urge that the Reformers abolished the festival of the Assumption. They abolished much that had been better left untouched. Many of their experiments have not proved successful. We may hope the day will come when the authorities of our provinces will repair the loss which has been sustained by its omission." I quote that to show the High Anglican tendency, and also, because there is something in the historical fact that, whilst St. Peter's body, for example, is so deeply reverenced at Rome, no city has ever claimed to possess the remains of our Blessed Lady. Her assumption, body and soul, into heaven is an obvious reason why.



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