Tuesday, March 1, 2011

There really is something about Mary

This is something I wrote awhile back when I was maintaining a blog for our parish RCIA program.

One question that just about everybody who becomes Catholic asks is, who is Mary according to the Church? Do you pray to Mary? Do you worship Mary? Another question is about the pope being infallible. Do you believe that everything the pope says or writes is infallible, that is, absolutely and irreformably accurate? I want to address all of this questions in short order. So the answers, respectively, are: Mary is the Mother of God; In a way, yes; No; No.

More seriously, it is important to note that since the dogma of papal infallibility was formally promulgated by Pope Pius IX at the behest of the fathers of the First Vatican Council in 1870, despite the fact that many would argue the council participants were papally coerced, there has only been one infallible teaching: Mary's bodily Assumption into heaven, which was promulgated by Pope Pius XII in 1950.

The role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the oikumene (i.e., economy) of salvation is inarguably important because being chosen as the woman through whom the divine and eternally begotten Son became human is important, to say the least. Another Marian dogma, her Immaculate Conception, was promulgated by Pope Pius IX (Pio Nono) in 1854, some years prior to his summoning of the First Vatican Council, which was never completed. With all that it is useful to define terms. As regards God, Mary, and the Saints the terms involved are all Greek:

latria= worship
dulia= venerate
hyper-dulia= super venerate

Latria is due to God and God alone. Dulia is how we approach the Saints. Praying to the Saints is not exactly the same as asking someone else to pray for you, it is significantly more than that, but certainly stops well short of latria. Hyper-dulia is due only to Mary. It falls somewhere between latria and dulia. This status fully recognizes the unique role of our Blessed Mother in God's oikumene (=economy of salvation).

By calling Mary our Mother as well as Mater Ecclesiae (Mother of the Church), hyper-dulia takes on something of the status of the fourth commandment about honoring one's parents, falling as it does between loving God and loving your neighbor. Because of her unique status, which is further set forth in the twin dogmas of her Immaculate Conception and her bodily Assumption, she is uniquely position to intercede for us.

Indeed, there's something about Mary. Of course, this can only be realized by praying the rosary, entrusting your intentions to her and seeing what happens.


  1. The archetype mother is an interesting one and yet for many people their experience of mother is a very bad one and they can't easily relate to Mary.That's why the Mary Magdalene archetype is often a more accessible route for some.

  2. Not being a Jungian, or one who wants to psychologize my faith, I don't see our Blessed Mother, or St. Mary Magdalene, to whom I also have a great devotion, as archetypes.

  3. I wasn't trying to psychologise and even if I was it wouldn't detract from being devoted to either. Sorry if I offended you but I am used to archetypes being used freely in discourse with Catholics and non Catholics without it being a point of contention. However, leaving out the archetype my point is that there are people who I know who can't relate to The Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother for the reasons given. That's all!

  4. You did not offend, but I do like reducing Mary to some kind of an archetype nor psychologizing faith, as my last homily would surely indicate.

  5. I think we differ in the concept of what archetypes mean and the value of psychology in exploring spirituality, I see them as expansive terms and not reductionist at all as do many other Catholic theologians and authors. Even
    Pope Benedict XVI and Hans Urs Balthazar are comfortable in using archetypes to describe Mary and the Church. They wrote a chapter devoted to it in their book : Mary The Church At Source. The link is here.

  6. Philomena, I agree many Catholic theologians and spiritual writers have used the concepts of archetypes in their writings. it is rooted in the early patristics, the earliest theology of Mary is the New Eve which St Irenaeus develops in an archetypical way. Spiritual writers like Merton and Bede Griffiths have also rooted their spiritual way in the Marian archetype (see Merton's work Hagia Sophia). this is not a reductionistic process but one that deepens the reality of the incarnation and the response of faith. IMHO

  7. Being something of a devotée of Balthasar and of Ratzinger, I understand where they are coming from, namely using the term in its original form, meaning a pattern or type of all things of the same kind. In more ways than one, Mary is unique, which is the whole point of my post. Using Philomena's contrast between our Blessed Mother and St. Mary Magdalene, the latter is certainly more of an archetype, if not a stereotype, of a redeemed sinner, whether you associate her with the prostitute in the house of Simon the Pharisee, or see her as the one from whom, as Luke tells us, Jesus cast out demons.

    In the Jungian sense an archetype is either a culturally conditioned or universal way of thinking present in your subconscious. I guess it helps to define terms. Not being a Freudian nor a Jungian, I think to see in Mary this kind of an archetype is, indeed, a reduction because it tends to de-historicize her, if I may employ a neologism.

    Thanks for letting me clarify.


A political non-rant

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