Why Do Catholics Honor Mary?

Fr. Michael Phillippino

Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God
January 1, 2011

The following is an excerpt I read recently. I include it as you may find it interesting, but also because again I was rushed as our bulletin service wanted this in the Friday before Christmas, and my poor secretary was feeling anxious that we had nothing to put in the bulletin for this weekend.

Today’s feast answers the question, “Why do Catholics honor Mary?” Non-Christians sometimes believe that we Catholics worship Mary as a goddess who gave birth to our God. Non-Catholics argue that there is no biblical basis for honoring Mary, and that Catholics worship her and make her equal to God. They fail to understand why we honor Mary and name churches and institutions after her. They do not understand what we mean when we call her Mother of God. The truth is that we Catholics do not worship Mary as we worship and adore God. We honor her, respect her, love her, and seek her intercession, praying, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners.” We do not ever equate her with God, nor replace God with her. Rather, we honor her, primarily because God honored her by choosing her to become the mother of Jesus, second person in the Holy Trinity, when He took on our flesh and became man.

Biblical Basis: We learn the great truth that Mary is the Mother of God from St. Luke’s Gospel, in the message given by the angel to Mary, “You are going to be the mother of a Son, and you will call him Jesus, and He will be called Son of the Most High.” When the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth, after the angel had appeared to her and told her that she would be the mother of Jesus, Elizabeth said, “Why should this great thing happen to me, that my Lord’s mother comes to visit me?” (Lk. 1:43). The Holy Scriptures teach us that Jesus was both God and man. John writes: “The Word became flesh and lived among us” (Jn. 1:14). St. Paul refers to this event when he writes to the Galatians, “God sent forth his Son, born of a woman” and as “eternally begotten of the Father.”

The doctrine of the Church: Based on these references in the New Testament and on the traditional belief of the early Church, the Council of Ephesus affirmed in AD 431 that Mary was truly the Mother of God because “according to the flesh” she gave birth to Jesus, who was truly God as well as truly man from the first moment of His conception by Mary. Twenty years later, in AD 451, the Council of Chalcedon affirmed the Motherhood of Mary as a dogma, an official doctrine of the Holy Catholic

Church. Since Jesus is God and Mary is his mother, she is the Mother of God, Mother of the Messiah, and Mother of the Christ, our Divine Savior. We also learn from the Holy Scriptures and Sacred Tradition that God filled the mother of His only Son with all celestial graces, freed her at the moment of her conception from original sin through all the merits of the death of Jesus, allowed her to play an active role in the redemptive work of Jesus, and finally took her to heaven, body and soul, after her death. As He was dying on the cross, Jesus gave us the precious gift of His own mother to be our heavenly mother.

I wish you all a Happy New Year filled with God’s blessings as you earnestly strive through the year to seek Mary’s help in making Christ present in your lives.


A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
January 1, 2012

Solemnity of Mary Mother of God: Mary, Mother of Faith
A while back I had a discussion with a young man about Jesus. The young man was seriously searching and needed to be respected for where he was in his journey in faith. He told me that although he called himself a Christian, he did not believe that Christ was God. He said that he believed that Jesus was just a great man. I asked him how being a follower of Christ for him would be any different from being a follower of Marx, or of Ghandi, or of Martin Luther King or any other figure from history. He left pondering an answer to this question because he knew that he recognized Jesus as far more than a historical figure.

The Power of a Blessing
At the beginning of the baptism ceremony, the priest (or deacon) welcomes the child with a sign of the cross on the baby’s forehead. He then invites the parents and godparents to also mark their child with the same sign of our Savior. During the baptism homily I always encourage the parents – and godparents – to continue that practice. When the mom places the child in the crib, she can call to the dad to bless his child. Then she does the same. This blessing has great power.

If Mary is the Mother of Jesus, why isn’t the Holy Spirit called his father?
St. Matthew makes it very clear that Mary is truly the Mother of Jesus, and this is affirmed also in the other Gospels many times over. Throughout the Gospels and in the Church’s Tradition, Mary is called the Mother of Jesus. Indeed, we know that (because Jesus is one divine person) Mary is truly said to be the Mother of God.

However, given that Mary is the Mother of Jesus with respect to his humanity, why do we not call the Holy Spirit the Father of Jesus? Since it was by the power of the Holy Spirit that Mary conceived, and since Mary is called the spouse of the Holy Spirit, why does the Church refuse to say that Jesus is the Son of the Holy Spirit in his humanity?

The Heavens Proclaim the Glory of the Lord
Many people that I have come across say that they believe in God, and might even acknowledge the need to conform to a moral code (quite how they discern it is another matter) but see no reason for ‘organised religion’, which they see as arbitrary creation of mankind. I think that the beauty of the cosmos provides an answer to this question and here’s why.

An Overlooked But Powerful Reading from the Christmas Cycle
There is a Scripture reading proclaimed at the Christmas Liturgy that usually gets overlooked. And yet it should elicit considerable reflection since it is proclaimed at the Christmas Midnight Mass, one of the Church’s most prominent Liturgies. It is from the Letter to Titus in the Second Chapter. I would like to reproduce it in full and then give some commentary following.

The TWENTY-PLUS Days of Christmas???
As many are aware, it’s still Christmas. The Christmas season only begins on Christmas.

But when does it end?

If you go by the famous phrase “the twelve days of Christmas”—immortalized in the well-known song (which really *is not* a crypto-catechism after all; sorry.)—then you might guess they end on January 5, the eve of Epiphany, counting Christmas Day as the first day. Or if, according to some versions, you count the day *after* Christmas Day as the first day then the twelfth turns out to be January 6, the traditional day of Epiphany.

“That Your Joy May Be Full”
The second day after Christmas is dedicated to John the Evangelist, John the Divine, John the Apostle, John the Theologian. The first Mass reading begins John’s first epistle, with the memorable words: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes. . . .” Three verses later, John tells us that he writes these things “that your joy may be full.”

Teen Loses Cancer Fight After Delivering Son
…”She told the nurse, `I’m done, I did what I was supposed to. My baby is going to get here safe,’” said Diana Phillips, Jenni’s mother . . . her family and friends insist her legacy is not one centered in tragedy, but rather in sacrifice.….

Pope to renew attack on ‘moral relativism’ in New Year’s message
In a message for the 2012 World Peace Day of January 1, Pope Benedict said that neither peace nor justice was obtainable if the objective norms of morality expressed in the Ten Commandments continue to be rejected.

He words represent another severe criticism of moral relativism, the humanistic creed that holds there can be no objective standard on which to base morality.

Shame…what happened to it?
1.) a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety
b : the susceptibility to such emotion
2.) condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute : ignominy
3.) something that brings censure or reproach; also : something to be regretted.

He felt shame for his lies.
How could you be so rude? Have you no shame?
Her crimes brought shame upon her family.
He had to endure the shame of being fired.

QUESTION: Many Protestants believe we are saved by Faith Alone and they say Catholics believe they can “work” their way into Heaven. How do you answer that?
First of all, I ask them to show me where in the Catechism, the official teaching of the Catholic Church, does it teach that we can “work” our way into Heaven? They can’t, because it doesn’t. The Catholic Church does not now, nor has it ever, taught a doctrine of salvation by works…that we can “work” our way into Heaven.

Second, I ask them to show me where in the Bible does it teach that we are saved by “faith alone.” They can’t, because it doesn’t. The only place in all of Scripture where the phrase “Faith Alone” appears, is in James…James 2:24, where it says that we are not…not…justified (or saved) by faith alone.

There’s always hope
British Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking on December 16, 2011 at Oxford’s Christ Church celebration of the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, shook the very foundation of that college city when he said the Bible “was relevant today as at any point in its 400 year history. And none of us should be frightened of recognizing this.”

Another Path to Holiness
When I think of a holy person, it is Mother Theresa who comes foremost to my mind. She is a role model of heroic virtue — chaste, devout, humble, compassionate, her life totally surrendered to the Father’s will. Looking at her, I wonder how I could ever be holy. At the most, it seems like I can be a ‘good’ Catholic by attending Mass every weekend, saying daily prayers, giving what I can, and just maybe I won’t have to spend much time in Purgatory.

What I did not realize—and I wonder if this is something that most do not realize—there are more paths to holiness then becoming a nun or a priest. There is hope for the “average” person, even the married. In fact, marriage is considered to be a primary call to holiness, a vocation in itself. How can this be?

Good news on the grave sin of despair
Wifey planted a pocket sized Catechism booklet in the toilet, which she does if she wishes me to read something, as I’m given to reading and pondering on the ‘throne’.

Anyway, a few days ago I felt a little rocked when I read the following:

What are the sins against hope?

The sins against hope are despair and presumption.

This was the first time I’d realised that despair was considered a grave sin and this ironically caused me no small amount of despair, as I am prone to the same.

Fighting Abortion With the Eucharist
The Eucharist is moving into enemy territory as a powerful weapon against abortion. Across the country, adoration chapels are being set up next to abortion businesses. It’s a growing movement that Father Steve Imbarrato, chaplain of Holy Innocents Chapel in Albuquerque, N.M., says he hopes will increase.

“I want to promote Eucharistic adoration to fight abortion,” Father Imbarrato said. As the director for Project Life, he said everything he does to promote life involves the Eucharist. “The chapel is the spiritual center of all our pro-life work,” he stated.

Two American holy women to be saints
On Dec. 19, Pope Benedict XVI granted his personal approval for the canonization of seven blesseds. Two of the soon-to-be-saints have special significance for the United States: Blessed Marianne Cope was a nursing sister who joined St. Damien de Veuster at his mission to lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha was a Mohawk Indian who converted to Catholicism. Blessed Kateri will be the first Native American to be proclaimed a saint.

Commentary: History shows contributions of Catholic Church to Western civilization
About the least fashionable thing one can do these days is utter a kind word about the Catholic Church. The idea that the church has been an obstacle to human progress has been elevated to the level of something everybody thinks he knows. But to the contrary, it is to the Catholic Church more than to any other institution that we owe so many of the treasures of Western civilization. Knowingly or not, scholars operated for two centuries under an Enlightenment prejudice that assumes all progress to come from religious skeptics, and that whatever the church touches is backward, superstitious, even barbaric.

Learning from The Excommunicated Saint
Today we continue our regular series here at The Thin Veil called “Learning from the Saints”. Our guide is saint-expert Bert Ghezzi, a dear friend of mine and the author of numerous books including Voices of the Saints, Saints at Heart, and Adventures In Daily Prayer. His newest book is Discover Christ: Developing a Personal Relationship with Jesus. You can learn more about Bert and his work at http://www.BertGhezzi.com.

Today, Bert shares the interesting story of St. Fabiola, a fourth-century saint and today’s patroness, who was actually excommunicated from the Church before her canonization. Read below to learn more.

My Favorite Links of 2011
Merry Christmas! I hope you all had a lovely celebration of the birth of Christ. Ours was a beautiful, prayerful day: the children were filled with gratitude for even the simplest gifts, and joyfully shared their new toys with one another. I felt completely satisfied that I had chosen just the right presents for everyone, and was able to linger over the Christmas roast without having to jump up to deal with a single potty / random screaming / food throwing emergency. (Okay, okay, I made all that up. I’m writing this two days before Christmas, and I couldn’t help but indulge in a little fantasy about what Sunday might be like. I will probably throw my head back and laugh manically when I read this on Monday.)

5 things you should stop doing in 2012
I am loathe to jump on the end of the year band wagon, but this IS a good time to take stock of where we’re at in our spiritual lives. With that, 5 things you should stop doing in 2012.



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