- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
This booklet gives a short outline of the origins of the devotions to Mary and the saints, the way in which saints are proclaimed today, and the place apparitions of Mary have in the context of the Church. The hope is that catechetical leaders will find here a resource that will help explain the place of Mary and the saints within the context of the life of the Church.
Many of the most touching images in the Catholic imagination are those of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of favorite saints. We imagine, for example, the young Mary facing an angel who asks her to make a choice not only for herself but for the world as well or the image of a sorrowful mother at the foot of the cross. We also imagine the saints and their heroic love for God and others: the joy of St. Francis of Assisi preaching to the birds; the sacrifice of St. Maximillian Kolbe giving up his life so another can live.
This book gives a short outline of the origins of the devotions to Mary and the saints, the way in which saints are proclaimed today, and the place apparitions of Mary have in the context of the Church.
—From the introduction
Catholic Basics: A Pastoral Series offers an in-depth yet accessible understanding of the fundamentals of the Catholic faith for adults, both those active in pastoral ministry and those preparing for ministry. The series helps readers explore the Catholic tradition and apply what they have learned to their lives and ministry situations. Includes study questions and suggestions for further reading.
Catholic Basics: A Pastoral Ministry Series offers an indepth yet accessible understanding of the fundamentals of the Catholic faith for adults, both those preparing for lay ministry and those interested in the topics for their own personal growth. The series helps readers explore the Catholic tradition and apply what they have learned to their lives and ministry situations. Each title offers a reliable introduction to a specific topic and provides a foundational understanding of the concepts.
Each book in the series presents a Catholic understanding of its topic as found in Scripture and the teachings of the Church.
Each of the authors has paid special attention to the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, so that further learning can be guided by these core resources.
Chapters conclude with study questions that may be used for small group review or for individual reflection. Additionally, suggestions for further reading offer dependable guides for extra study.
The initiative of the National Conference of Catechetical Leadership led to the development of an earlier version of this series. The indispensable contribution of the series editor, Dr.
Thomas Walters, helped ensure that the concepts and ideas presented here are easily accessible to a wide audience.
NATIONAL RESOURCES FOR CHURCH MINISTRY Each book in this theology series relates to standards for theological competency identified in the resources listed below.
Three national church ministry organizations provide standards for certification programs that serve their respective ministries.
The standards were developed in collaboration with the United States Catholic Conference Commission on Certification and Accreditation. The fourth resource is the latest document, and it was developed to identify common goals of the three sets of standards.
Competency Based Certification Standards for Pastoral Ministers, Pastoral Associates and Parish Life Coordinators. Chicago: National Association for Lay Ministry, Inc. (NALM), 1994.
These standards address three roles found in pastoral ministry settings in the United States. The standards were the earliest to receive approval from the United States Catholic Conference Commission on Certification and Accreditation. Copies of the standards are available from the National Association for Lay Ministry, 5420 S. Cornell, Chicago, IL 60615-5604.
National Certification Standards for Professional Parish Directors of Religious Education. Washington, DC: National Conference for Catechetical Leadership, 1998.
NCCL developed standards to foster appropriate initial education and formation, as well as continuing personal and professional development, of those who serve as Directors of Religious Education (DREs). The standards address various areas of knowledge and abilities needed in the personal, theological,
and professional aspects of the ministry. Also included is a code of ethics for professional catechetical leaders. Available from the National Conference of Catechetical Leadership, 3021 Fourth Street NE, Washington, DC 20017-1102.
NFCYM Competency-Based Standards for the Coordinator of Youth Ministry. Washington, DC: National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, 1996.
This document lays out the wide range of knowledge and skills that support ministry with young people as well as the successful leadership and organization of youth ministry wherever it may be situated. The standards are available from the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, 415 Michigan Avenue NE, Suite 40, Washington, DC 20017-1518.
Merkt, Joseph T., ed. Common Formation Goals for Ministry. A joint publication of NALM, NFCYM, and NCCL, 2000.
Rev. Joseph Merkt compared the documentation of standards cited by three national organizations serving pastoral, youth, and catechetical ministries. The resulting statement of common goals identifies common ground for those who prepare persons for ministry, as well as for the many people who wear multiple hats.
Copies are available from NALM, NCCL, or NFCYM.
INTRODUCTION Many of the most touching images in the Catholic imagination are those of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of favorite saints.
We imagine, for example, the young Mary facing an angel who asks her to make a choice not only for herself but for the world as well or the image of a sorrowful mother at the foot of the cross. We also imagine the saints and their heroic love for God and others: the joy of St. Francis of Assisi preaching to the birds; the sacrifice of St. Maximillian Kolbe giving up his life so another can live; and the steadfast faith of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whose “little way” gives modern Christians an accessible means to travel the path to holiness.
Pope John Paul II wrote a post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the Church in America, Ecclesia in America (EA). In chapter
1, “The Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ,” the Holy Father writes about the important role of devotions to Mary and the saints in American spiritual life (11). The life of devotion is intense and takes place in all levels of society. The devotions are carried out in practices such as pilgrimages to shrines of Mary and the saints; the use of sacramentals like water, oil, and candles;
and the popular devotion of praying the Rosary. The pope notes that these forms of piety are important ways in which the faithful can learn both genuine spiritual values leading to a life of conversion and practical ways to care for others. When practiced within the context of the life of the Church, they lead to the inculturation of Christian values in the local cultures.
The General Directory for Catechesis (GDC) also acknowledges that the devotional life is a “vital dimension in Catholic life.”
Popular devotions to the saints can arouse in the faithful a capacity for self-dedication and even heroism in professing the faith.
Through popular devotions, people can arrive at a “keen sensitivity”
to the virtues of God: “his fatherly compassion, his providence,
his benevolence and loving presence” (#195, as quoted from Evangelii Nuntiandi [EN], On Evangelization in the Modern World, #48). When devotions are prayed in balance,
[they] can develop in the inmost depths of man habits of virtue rarely to be found otherwise in the same degree, such as patience, acceptance of the Cross in daily life, detachment, openness to other men and a spirit of ready service.
(GDC, #195, as quoted from EN, #48)
When not prayed in the context of the teaching of the Church, however, devotions can lead to “dangers arising out of its errors or fanaticism, superstition, syncretism, or religious ignorance
. . .”(#195, as quoted from EN, #48). This caution extends to devotions to Mary: Certain forms of Marian devotion . . . ,
because of long usage, require a renewed catechesis to restore to them elements that have become lost or obscured (GDC, #196).
This book gives a short outline of the origins of the devotions to Mary and the saints, the way in which saints are proclaimed today, and the place apparitions of Mary have in the context of the Church. The hope is that readers will find here a resource that will help explain the place of Mary and the saints within the context of the life of the Church.
Mary in the New Testament
When we consider the great impact Mary has had on the history of Christian spirituality, and the impact she continues to have on the daily life of Christians today, we can be surprised that there is so little written about her in the New Testament. In fact, there are more verses about Mary in the Qu?an, the sacred text of Islam, than there are in the New Testament, where Mary appears in the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.
Mary in the Gospel of Mark In the Gospel of Mark, there are no scenes in which Mary appears alone. She appears only once in company with the rest of her family (Mark 3:21, 31–35) at a point in Jesus’ life when he is beginning his ministry to a wider audience. His family appears embarrassed with his activities and attempts to take him home:
“When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind’” (Mark 3:21).
Later in the chapter, while Jesus is preaching, his family once again gathers and calls for him. When the crowd tells him of his family’s presence, he replies:
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
This scene, in which Jesus presents the importance and intimacy of discipleship, does not instill in readers a desire to form a close relationship with Mary. Neither is Mark’s critical outlook alleviated at 6:1–6, when the locals at Nazareth are astounded at Jesus’ religious prominence: “‘Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’” (Mark 6:3).
In response, Jesus says that a prophet is not at home in his own country, and leaves his hometown for the wider world.
Again, these events do little to convey a positive image of Mary.
Mary in the Gospel of Matthew In Matthew’s Gospel, Mark’s dismissal of Mary along with the other blood relatives of Jesus is softened with a greater recognition of her position in the mystery of salvation. Matthew does not present Mary in a direct way. Rather, Matthew presents her through the story of Joseph’s calling by an angel to his vocation as Jesus’ guardian.
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
The angel reveals to Joseph that Jesus is Emmanuel, “God with us,” the fulfillment of the greatest hopes of Israel. The role of Mary is also revealed as that of a virgin who is totally dedicated to God, living in intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit.
In proclaiming that Jesus was born of Mary, Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ humanity and places him within the context of the Jewish faith. He also emphasizes Mary’s role as a partner with God in fulfilling his plan for the salvation of humankind from all eternity. Mary was the pinnacle of the faith of Israel in its relationship with God.
Matthew softens the image of Mary as found in Mark. Mary is not just the blood mother of Jesus who is left behind as Jesus fulfills the requirements of his ministry. She is the Virgin Mother of Israel, the one who is related to the Holy Spirit, the one who,
through her cooperation with God, provides the possibility of Israel’s hope.
Mary in the Gospel of Luke The Gospel of Luke is the primary source for the warm images of Mary that are most popular in the Catholic world. While Mary receives passing mention in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, she is a principal player in Luke.
THE ANNUNCIATION In Luke, Mary first appears at 1:26–38. She is a teenage girl greeted by an angel who tells her that she will be the mother of the Messiah. In Jewish culture of this time, the normal age for betrothal was soon after a girl’s twelfth birthday.
Mary is no doubt puzzled by the angel’s greeting: “Greetings,
favored one! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28).
The greeting, translated by St. Jerome in the Latin Vulgate as
“full of grace,” implies the giving of unmerited favor from one who is all-powerful to someone who receives it as blessing. It is a sign of God’s willingness to form a special, personal relationship with Mary, who is his choice and love.
The angel then informs Mary of the nature of the special relationship God is entering into with her.
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.
He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
When Mary asks how this will be done since she is a virgin,
the angel replies:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” (1:35)
Mary is the first to hear that the promise of salvation—the promise that is the hope for her people and for the world—will be fulfilled. She responds, “‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord;
let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:38).
Mary gives God her absolute consent—and in giving her consent,
she becomes the first and most faithful of Jesus’ disciples.
THE VISITATION Mary, having learned from the angel of Elizabeth’s pregnancy,
goes to visit her in Judah, a week’s walk from Nazareth. Mary’s kindness and concern for Elizabeth are seen in her immediate decision to visit her cousin and share the good news with her. As Mary arrives, Elizabeth is moved by the Spirit to proclaim her blessed among women:
And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” (1:41–45)
Elizabeth’s acclamation is important for a number of reasons.
For the first time in Luke’s Gospel, the title “Lord” is used for Jesus. It is the word used in Greek to translate the name of God,
Yahweh. It is a name for God that is full of awe and mystery.
Elizabeth recognizes Mary’s blessedness on two accounts.
First, because Mary has accepted God’s will that she be the mother of the Messiah; second, because Mary has believed. She has become the model of what it means to be a disciple.
THE MAGNIFICAT Mary’s response to Elizabeth has been for centuries the source of inspiration for artists, musicians, and poets. It is also her song that is sung every day in the prayer of the Church.
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home. (1:46–56)
Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s proclamation reflects the meaning of her life and the memory of the early Church regarding what she means to the Christian community. Mary’s song is one of rejoicing in the action of God—in the history of Israel and in her life. The song reflects the Exodus experience, when the Hebrews were a hated and despised people who were freed from slavery. It reflects their experience in the desert, where they were totally dependent on God. In the period of the judges the spirit came on charismatic individuals who fought for the people. In times of wealth the ruling classes of Israel and Judah themselves became the oppressors of the poor. But the experience of the Babylonian captivity again reminded the people that they were totally dependent on God. The later books of the Old Testament show dependence on God for love and mercy as the central theme of Jewish spirituality.
Mary’s prayer summarizes the needs of the poor. It shows what it means to be confident in the power of God’s mercy from generation to generation. The proud are scattered, and the mighty are brought down from their thrones. The hungry are fed, and the rich are sent away empty. More than any other single passage, the Magnificat shows Mary as a symbol of hope and a sign of God’s care for the needy and helpless in this world.
THE BIRTH OF JESUS Mary remains a major figure in Luke’s Gospel through the narratives of Jesus’ birth and early years. The shepherds and other witnesses are amazed at the events surrounding Jesus’ birth—and Mary treasures the events in her heart (see Luke 2:19). When Mary and Joseph take Jesus to be presented in the Temple, Mary hears from Simeon that her own life will not be without pain:
Then Simeon blessed them and said to [Jesus’]
mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (2:34–35)
Mary’s sorrow is evident in the final scene of the Luke infancy narrative, when Jesus reaches the age of twelve. Mary and Joseph have come with Jesus to Jerusalem on pilgrimage. When they are returning home, Mary and Joseph discover that Jesus is missing. They return to Jerusalem and, after three days, discover Jesus speaking with the elders in the Temple.
When his parents saw him they were astonished;
and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. (2:48–51)
THE FAITHFUL DISCIPLE The incident between Jesus and his family that we saw in Mark
3:21, 31–35 loses its bite in Luke’s Gospel. When Jesus’ family comes to where he is teaching, and he learns that they are there,
he says to the crowd, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21). In Luke, Jesus’
mother and relatives are considered faithful disciples, showing up at Pentecost among the believers awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:13–14).
Mary in the Gospel of John The Gospel of John contains two important passages in which Mary appears. She first appears in the marriage at Cana, where she is instrumental in the beginnings of Jesus’ ministry. She then appears at the foot of the cross, where she is named the Mother of the Church.
THE MARRIAGE AT CANA In John’s Gospel, the wedding feast at Cana is the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus and his disciples have been invited to the wedding of a family friend. In the course of the celebration,
Mary discovers that the family will be short of wine, which will be a major embarrassment to them.
Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.”
And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them,
“Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.”
So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs,
in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (2:2–11)
The wedding scene of Cana is John’s story of Jesus’ introduction to his ministry. In this introduction, the “mother of Jesus”
plays a decisive role. She serves as the one who helps Jesus make the transition into his public ministry. Jesus’ objection that his hour has not yet come is met with Mary’s silent faith, and she initiates the event that will lead to his final hour. Mary is present at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, as she will be at the end, when Jesus is glorified through his death on the cross.
Jesus addresses Mary as “woman.” She is addressed as “woman”
again at the crucifixion (John 19:25–27). This could mean that John is alluding to Mary as the new Eve, who was called “mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20). Mary will be seen as the mother of all who live in faith.
THE CRUCIFIXION As we have seen, John also presents Mary at the scene of Jesus’
final hour, his death on the cross.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. (19:25–27)
We have seen the relationship of Mary to Eve, a theme that we will see again, as the mother of the living in the New Covenant.
Jesus reveals Mary as the mother of the disciples. It is clear that there is a spiritual dimension to Mary’s role in the economy of salvation.
All of Jesus’ disciples will also be “sons of Mary.”
Brothers and Sisters of Jesus?
From ancient times, the Church has believed that Jesus was Mary’s only child and that Mary was perpetually a virgin. Yet the Gospels talk about Jesus’ “brother’s and sisters.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) comments:
Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus (cf. Mark 3:31–35; 6:3; 1 Corinthians 9:5;
Galatians 1:19). The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, “brothers of Jesus,” are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls “the other Mary” (Matthew 13:55; 28:1, cf. Matthew
27:56).They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression (cf. Genesis 13:8;
14:16; 29:15; etc.). (#500)
SUMMARY In the New Testament, we see that Mary is presented in a variety of ways. In the Gospel of Mark, there is no individual portrait of Mary, and she is presented with Jesus’ relatives who seem to be embarrassed with his ministry. Matthew presents Mary as a partner with Joseph, cooperating with God to bring about the salvation of the human race.
In the Gospel of Luke, Mary is presented in her full glory as the one on whose decision the future of the salvation of humankind depends (Luke 1:26–38). Luke also presents Mary as speaking for the needs of the poor and outcast (Luke 1:46–56).
She is the witness of faith who ponders in her heart all of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:48–51). This is the image of Mary that warms the heart of Christians who see in her the model of Christian discipleship.
In the Gospel of John, Mary is presented as the new Eve, who helps initiate Jesus’ ministry at the wedding at Cana (John
2:2–11), and who is present at the foot of the cross (John
19:25–27), where Jesus proclaims that she will be the mother of all his disciples.
The number of verses on Mary in the Bible is relatively few.
But the images that they describe are the foundation of the Church’s theological reflection on Mary and will continue to be the source for artists and writers who reflect on the meaning of Mary’s life for all generations.
1. Mary made a decision in faith as a young woman. When the direction of your own life was unclear, how did you hear God calling you?
2. Mary’s song, the Magnificat, describes God’s concern for the poor, the outcast, and others on the margins of society and is a warning to those who would use power to make others suffer.
How can you identify with the poor who are God’s chief concern?
How might you use your own power over others in ways that are not pleasing to God? (Consider, for example, those for whom you may have responsibility, such as a spouse, children,
aging parents, students, or coworkers.)
3. Mary acted in faith at the wedding at Cana. In what ways have you experienced God responding unexpectedly and generously?
About the Series viii Certification Standards: National Resources forChurch Ministry ix Introduction xi
CHAPTER 1:MARY IN THE NEW TESTAMENT 1
Mary in the Gospel of Mark 2
Mary in the Gospel of Matthew 3
Mary in the Gospel of Luke 4
Mary in the Gospel of John 9
Brothers and Sisters of Jesus? 11
For Reflection 12
CHAPTER 2: THE DEEPENING UNDERSTANDING OF MARY IN THE EARLY CHURCH 13
The Development of the Doctrine of Mary 14
Early Church Fathers on Mary 15
Mary as Theotokos 17
For Reflection 21
CHAPTER 3: SAINTS IN THE EARLY CHURCH 22
Martyrs in Early Christendom 23
The Practice of Veneration of Martyrs 25
Martyrs as Intercessors 25
Sainthood after the Persecutions 26
For Reflection 30
CHAPTER 4: SAINTS IN THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES 31
Saints as Sources of Spiritual Power 33
The Use of Relics 35
The Prayer of Intercession 36
For Reflection 37
CHAPTER 5: MARY IN THE MIDDLE AGES 38
The Importance of the Monasteries 39
Growth of City Life 40
Developing Images of Mary 41
The Later Middle Ages 42
Mary as Mediatrix of Grace 43
Queen of Heaven 45
The Origins of the Rosary 46
For Reflection 48
CHAPTER 6: SAINTS IN THE LATER MIDDLE AGES 49
Saints as Helpers 50
Reforms of the Avignon Papacy 51
Growing Popularity of Saints 51
Saints in the Later Middle Ages 55
Council of Trent Responds to Luther 56
The Process of Canonization Today 57
For Reflection 59
CHAPTER 7: APPARITIONS OF MARY 60
Apparitions of Mary 61
Norms for Authenticity of Apparitions 70
For Reflection 72
CHAPTER 8: MARY AND THE SAINTS IN THE MODERN WORLD 73
Mary and the Second Vatican Council 74
Marialis Cultus 77
Mary and the Latin American Episcopate 79
Pope John Paul II and Mary 80
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux 80
For Reflection 85
About the Author 94