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Venerate Mary?

Venerate Mary?

One conversation with a Catholic friend has stuck with me through the years.
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"I'm just not a fan of how you Catholics venerate Mary," I said to my college friend Erica (not her real name) during one of our regular conversations about the differences between my evangelical Protestant faith and her Roman Catholic one. At that time, I was thinking about the "Hail Mary" prayer and certain statues in front yards, not the fact that the Oxford Reference Dictionary defines venerate as "to regard with deep respect."

Looking back at this conversation with Erica, I realize that I didn't really know what I was talking about; rather than understanding Roman Catholic theology, I was parroting what I'd heard others say. My comment was knee-jerky rather than thoughtful and informed.

To me, a dyed-in-the-wool Protestant, making Mary more special than any of the other folks in the Bible was just too Catholic. To me, Mary was … well, just plain Mary. She was the person I was loathe to play every year in my family's at-home Christmas pageant because it's embarrassing to pretend to be pregnant, especially when the only males of the house are one's father and eight-year younger brother. (I preferred the angel of the Lord and his speech to the cowering shepherds. Mary always seemed a little mousy.)

Erica replied, more graciously than I deserved, "You have to understand that through the veneration of Mary, women are given a model of how to follow God's lead. Jesus is a great example, of course, and we follow him. But he was still a man—and we're women. Mary is a wonderful model for us because she shows us how we, as women, should follow God."

That threw me for a loop. First, Erica answered my question even though I'd probably sounded like a jerk. Second, it was a good answer.

Certainly there are significant and important differences between the Protestant and Roman Catholic understandings of Mary, as well as on several other matters of faith. Yet, though Erica and I had different theological perspectives on key points, we found unity in Christ. Our friendship grew as we together studied a fine arts program at a secular school that had few other Christians. What Erica taught me about Mary in that simple conversation has stuck with me since then.

I've remained Protestant in my faith and practice, but this Advent I've been thinking that Mary teaches us, to put it in Erica's words, "how we, as women, should follow God." This past year, I started to identify with Mary even more because I had a baby. I knew what it felt like to be "great with child," to waddle around and have to go to the bathroom every five minutes, to give birth the old-fashioned way. (I'm not trying to sound self-righteous about natural childbirth here, but seriously, that's what Mary did.) And I've realized that there was something about Mary that caused her to be highly favored.

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Displaying 1–3 of 16 comments

Emily

March 04, 2013  1:59am

well written..!

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Suzanne

December 13, 2012  11:35am

I think you are missing the point, she isn't talking about elevating Mary in idolatry but more in aknowledging in our attempts not to idol worship her we have swung too far the other way and not aknowledged how big it is the special assignment God gave her was. She was a young girl in a world that bannishes at best, stones at worse those that commit the sin of adultery yet she not grudgingly accept but humbly and willingly accepteded a very big mission. It is hard enough to raise my child that is a gift from God and not second guess everything but to raise a child that is God??? Even her character before God chose her for this postition, yes she was an ordinary human who sinned the same as King David, Saul/Paul or my favourite Apostle Peter who loved to open mouth and insert foot (I can so relate to him more than a perfect person) she found FAVOUR with God. He can see her heart, read her thoughts and He knew she was the one he wanted to mother God, wow!

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Gordon Payne

December 13, 2012  6:46am

So, the example of Christ, Himself, is inadequate? The emaculate conception wasn't "pontificated" until Vatican I. Thomas Aquinas was no fan of Mariolotry. And Brown's attempt to resussitate myth to support feminist expression is no satisfier, indeed, compounds the offense to Divinity, going beyond the Arian, and there to attributing inadequacy without a 'helpmate'.

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