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Marian Devotions

Dear Rodger:

Book burnings: Remember the good old days when people appreciated a good book burning? There was Bishop Tunstall who purchased and burned Tyndale's Bibles because he found over two thousand errors in the text. Martin Luther burned the books of Canon Law and the Bull of Pope Leo X. Henry VIII ordered that all Tyndale's and Coverdale's Bibles were to be delivered up and burned. And then there was that Michael Servetus. He was the worst of the whole lot. He had the audacity to put notes in his Bible that were not to the liking of John Calvin. Calvin burned all the copies he could get of Servetus1 Bible and went one step further and threw Servetus in the fire. I certainly hope Mr. Servetus learned his lesson. I'll bet he'll never do that again. Yes those were the good old days when people appreciated a good book burning.

It now appears that the good old days may be returning. Bill Jackson, editor of "Christians Evangelizing Catholics," is advocating the burning of Dr. James Dobson's books. I would get every 'Focus On the Family' magazine, every 'Club House' magazine, every Dobson book in my home and do to them exactly what they deserve - what the believers did in Acts 19:19 (burning books about magic).  I would not like Jesus to visit my home and find a 'Playboy' magazine, nor would I want Him to see Dobson literature that sounds like it has psychological help, but is produced by a man who dishonors the name of Christ... Let's have some public book mornings of this material in the churches that truly desire to honor Christ and His glorious completed work for our salvation (1).

I have listened to Dr. Dobson many times and I must confess that I rather enjoy the great diversity of topics he covers. So just what has Dr. Dobson done that is so terrible that his books merit burning? Is he advocating books on magic or Playboy Magazine? No, none of these. Apparently Focus on the Family's youth magazine Clubhouse, late in 1989, showed, on its cover, a picture of Mother Teresa with the title,  Mother Teresa, Friend of Children. Bill Jackson read the accompanying articles and was told, she gets up every morning at 4:30 to pray. Okay, fine, so whats so bad about that? Isn't prayer a good thing at any time of day? Jackson's difficulty is that She, Is an avowed devotee of the Blessed Mother (2).

Here again, we have the issue of Jesus versus Mary. You cannot be devoted to both Jesus and Mary. Jackson does not seem to realise that Mary and Jesus are not at odds with one another in the Bible.  He, believes that you cannot obey Mary, only Jesus. Never mind the fact that Jesus was devoted to His mother Mary and His foster father Joseph, and even obeyed them;

He [Jesus]... was obedient to them (Lk. 2:51). Apparently, Jesus did not know that He was supposed to obey Himself alone.

Mother Teresa's devotion to Mary would manifest itself in the prayer of the rosary. The rosary is a meditation on the lives of Jesus and Mary. The rosary consists of 15 scenes, from the Annunciation"(Lk 1:31) to the crowning of Mary Queen of Heaven (Rv 12:1). While meditating on these scenes, there is a repetition of prayers, the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be to the Father. And because there is the repetition of many words, there are those who believe that the Christian rosary is pagan babbling, because Jesus says, "And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words" (Mt. 6:7). 

One of the prayers that is repeated no less than 16 times in the rosary is the Our Father. If the repetition of the Our Father is what is meant by babbling on like the pagans, then why did Jesus say, This is how you are to pray (Mt. 6:9), and then teach the words of the Our Father.

And so, it's not just the repetition of words by themselves that makes prayer pagan Gentile babbling, otherwise Jesus would be contradicting himself. Jesus is not speaking against Christian prayer but repetitive gentile Pagan prayer. Jackson takes the Bible out of context by confusing Christian prayer with repetitive gentile Pagan prayer.

And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words (Mt. 6:7).

I have, on occasion, asked the question: how do you call Mary blessed in your life and in your Church? Some Christians tell me that this is idolatry, and we should only bless Jesus, not Mary. Here we have it again, Jesus versus Mary. I then repeat Mary's words in the Gospel: Behold from now on will all ages call me [Mary] blessed (Lk. 1:48). And then I ask the question again: how does your Church in this age call Mary blessed? I am then told that what they just referred to as idolatry (calling Mary blessed) is practiced by their Church at Christmas time. This of course is a very good thing, because it is the Biblical thing to do. I call Mary blessed too, only I do it with far greater frequency, every time I say a  Hail Mary.

Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb (Lk. 1:42). Both Jesus and Mary are called blessed.

There are people, with the best of intentions, who believe that the word Hail is a term of worship that is used for God alone; thus to them its use in relation to Mary is idolatry. What they don't seem to realize is that the term hail is a greeting that simply means, hello. As for the rest of the prayer Hail Mary, it is actually taken from Scripture. This is interesting because there are those who believe the Hail Mary is not Biblical.

  • Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is With Thee (Lk. 1:28).
  • Blessed are Thou Amongst Women, And Blessed is The Fruit of Thy Womb, Jesus (Lk. 1:42).
  • Holy Mary, Mother of God (Lk. 1:43),
  • Pray for us sinners, Now and at the hour of our death, Amen, Mary interceding at Cana (Jn. 2:3).

Along with the Scripture testifying to the essence of the Hail Mary, we have the Father of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, defending the prayer Hail Mary: Whoever possesses  a good faith says the Hail Mary without danger (4). Again, Marian devotions and teachings were not a problem for 16th century Protestants. If Christians today would take a good look at the teachings about Mary from a Biblical and historical perspective, they would have no problems with Mary and definitely would not see her as competitor to Jesus, but one who points to Jesus. The problem lies not with 16th-century Protestant theologies but with 20th-century anti-Catholics who in an attempt to discredit the Catholic Church must discredit Marian teachings as well. Their venom towards the Catholic Church is so great that they even try to discredit Protestants, such as Dr. Dobson, for carrying a book on Mother Teresa. According to Jackson, Dr. Dobson is a friend to God's enemies and promotes a pseudo-gospel of self esteem (5).  And so, along with being anti-Catholic, Jackson and others are ultimately anti-Protestant as well. Unfortunately, too many Protestants and Catholics have fallen prey to the unscrupulous tactics of the anti-Catholic organizations.

Another difficulty for some with Marian devotions is that various Scripture verses are quoted out of context. Here is an example. They will quote: Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me' (Jn 14:6). And then say this means you cannot pray the rosary because the only way to the Father is through Jesus, not Mary. One way to respond to this is to ask the question: How many ways can we come to Jesus? It's very strange; there are people who do not like this question. They will either move away from this question as fast as they can go or they will say you can only come to Jesus directly: you cannot ask Mary to intercede on your behalf.   Again,  these people only know the Scripture in part because at the wedding feast at Cana, Mary acted as an intermediary, interceding on behalf of the wedding party. We can put the request directly to Jesus or we can ask Mary to intercede for us just as was done in the Bible.

Some people say to me: I don't know why I have to come to Jesus through Mary. I respond to this by asking this question: Who told you that we have to come to Jesus through Mary? Generally, at this point I get silence because there is no requirement to come to Jesus through Mary by any Christian Church. Some times people allege that the Catholic Church requires that we must come to Jesus through Mary. I then ask the question: In the two thousand year history of the Church, which official Church council requires us to come to Jesus only through Mary? Again, I get silence. The point is simply this, there is no such requirement. It is only an option; the same option that the wedding party exercised at Cana. The central act of worship in the Catholic Church is the Mass. The rosary and other Marian devotions are secondary.

What I have just given is a good answer for well-intentioned people who, innocently enough, quote the Scripture out of context. However, answering this way is not the best way because it does not give the proper sense of John 14:6. The key here is understanding what the verse, No one comes to the Father except through me, means. Does it mean; no one can pray to the father except through Jesus. Or does it mean exactly what it says; no one can come to the Father except through Jesus? In John 14:6, is praying to the Father the same as coming to the Father? The answer to this is found in looking at the preceding verses to John 14:6.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to my self, so that where I am you also may be. Where [I] am going you know the way. Thomas said to him, 'Master, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me' (Jn. 14:1-6).

The first thing to notice is that there is no mention of intercessory prayer either by people on this side or people on the other side. So when Jesus says, "No one comes to the Father except through me," He is not saying, No one can pray to the Father.  From the text, we can see that Jesus is going away to prepare a place for us and will later come back for us. This is a reference to redemption because the way that Jesus goes to the Father is by dying on a cross, later rising from the dead, and ascending into Heaven.  That is why Jesus says I am the way, the truth, and the life because without Him redeeming us on the cross, He would not be able to come back for us.  Jesus is the way and the only way.

If this literally meant, as some would suggest, that you can not pray directly to the Father except through Jesus, then you could not pray the prayer the Our Father because we would be praying directly to the Father. There is nothing here, or in all of chapter 14, that is a prohibition against people interceding for us or cooperating with Jesus. What is being talked about here is redemption.

Mary intercedes for us, and we intercede for one another. If we could have no effect on one another's salvation, there would be no point in interceding for one another. We aid in one another's salvation, and Mary specifically aids in our salvation. This is because of the great sorrow she experienced at the cross with Jesus.  Some will say that Mary has no role; they believe in Jesus Alone and any emphasis on Mary takes away from Jesus.  These people do not have a Biblical problem, they have a traditional problem the Bible through Simeon speaks of her role, you [Mary] yourself a sword will pierce.

Simeon said to Mary, Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed (Lk. 2:34-35).

Devotion to Mary is referred to, by some, as Mary worship. Loraine Boettner, in his attempt to discredit Marian devotions, says: "It Is Important that all understand the difference between the matter of honoring Mary, and the grossly unscriptural  practice of worshipping her (6).

Boettner quotes from an old book called The Glories of Mary in an attempt to prove that the Church gives to Mary the worship due to Jesus. The Holy Church commands a worship peculiar to Mary (7). And herein lies the problem for some. We honor the Saints and worship God. After all, the Bible says, You must worship the Lord your God (Mt. 4:10). And so why is the word worship applied to some one other than God in certain old books. The reason is because the word worship is used in an archaic sense in these older books. Although the word worship today in English is usually used for God alone; it was not always used that way.

Begin with the word Itself. It comes from the Old English weorthscipe, which means the condition of being worthy of honor, respect, or dignity. To worship in the older, larger sense is to ascribe honor, worth, or excellence to  someone, whether a sage, magistrate, or God. But there are different kinds of worship as there are different kinds of honor.  The highest honor, and thus the highest worship, is given to God alone, while the honor or worship given to living men or to saints in Heaven is of a different sort.  Idolatry thus does not simply mean giving worship (in the old sense) to living men or to saints; it means giving them the kind reserved for God (8).

There are people who are surprised when they see the word worship applied to persons other than God. In the United States judges are addressed as Your Honor while British magistrates are referred to as Your Worship. I don't know of anyone who accuses the British of idolatry for referring to their magistrates as Your Worship.

Here is a quote from another old book: And all the Congregation blessed the Lord the God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshiped the Lord, and the king [Solomon]. In this old book they were not only worshipping the Lord but also the king and doing both at the same time. I realize that there still may be people who have difficulty with this because most of us are not used to using the word worship for anyone other than God. However, if we throw out this old book, we are throwing out the King James Bible because that's where the quote came from (1 Ch 29:20). The reason that this Bible uses the word worship in relation to Solomon the king is because this is an older English version.

Loraine Boettner and others are critical of the Catholic Church because in old English books the word worship is used for people other than God. They would do well to read and understand their own King James Bible. Then they wouldn't see the need to be so critical.

William Kimball, another anti-Catholic, speaks against the prayer Hail Mary and refers to this as blatant idolatry specifically forbidden by Christ (9).  And as proof of his allegations, he quotes from the Jerusalem Bible: You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone (Mt. 4:10). The problem lies in the fact that Kimball fails to take Mathew 4:10 in its proper context. The solution to this is to quote all of verse 10 and verses 8 and 9.

Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, 'I will give you all these,' he said, 'if you fall at my feet and worship me.' Then Jesus replied, 'Be off, Satan!' For Scripture says: 'You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone' (Mt. 4:8-10).

The first thing we can say is that Jesus is not speaking against the prayer the Hail Mary as Kimball would allege. Jesus is speaking against Satan. In the Hail Mary or in all of the rosary there is nothing that asks Jesus to bow down and worship Mary as God. Kimball seems not to be able to differentiate between the arrogance of Satan and the humility of Jesus' mother Mary. Satan pointed to himself and his own self glorification: If you fall at my feet and worship me (Mt. 4:9). And Mary humbled herself and pointed to God: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word (Lk. 1:38). Mary, in her humility, wanted to be Handmaid of the Lord," and Satan, in his arrogance, wanted to be Lord.

It is not wrong for Kimball or anyone  to quote a partial verse such as Mathew 4:10; You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone. However, there is a responsibility to quote this in its proper context. The other half of Mathew 4:10 speaks against Satan, the great adversary; Then Jesus replied, be off Satan! (Mt. 4:10). This could be applied to someone other than Satan provided, of course, the person is an adversary of the Lord.  This disqualifies Mary. She is not an adversary of the Lord.  She is the mother of the Lord.

It absolutely astounds me that someone would take verses from the Bible that have to do with a rebuke of Satan then        attempt to apply these same verses to discredit Mary.

Their hatred of the Church and Mary is so great that it prevents them from seeing that they are using the Bible out of context. The issue is not that we bestow honor or worship on someone, but that we give the greatest honor or worship to God and a lesser honor or worship to others.  The Church is very specific: we honor the saints (Dalia), we give a still higher honor to Mary (hyperdulia), and the highest honor or worship always goes to God (latrai). And so the Church really does not give Mary the worship that is given to God alone as some would allege. Their attempt to show the Church deifying Mary, as a false God, fails. 

However, there is a question that should be asked here. Does anyone, anywhere, advocate making Mary into a god?  Sandra Schneider,  a professor at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley is quoted in Time Magazine discussing this very issue. There has been a stupendous upsurge in goddess research and the feminine divinity as an antecedent to the male god. It's not unrelated that the Virgin Mary's popularity has also increased (10).

Schneider's suggests that there is a correlation between Mary's rise in popularity and feminine divinity; however, I believe she is dead wrong. The radical feminists can do all the goddess research they like; however, they will never make Mary into a feminine divinity, because if they do, then they will have to listen to her.

Her message is this; Do whatever He [Jesus] tells you (Jn. 2:3).

And these radical feminists are not going to do any thing any he tells them to do, even if that He happens to be Jesus. Remember, in their goddess research, they are not looking for Jesus. They are looking for a feminine divinity as an antecedent to the male god.

Not all feminists are radical feminists. There are feminists who believe in such things as equal wages for men and women.  They have no problem with accepting Jesus as God.  They don't have to make  up a female god because they have no problem with Jesus being male. They are totally against abortion and they deserve are admiration.

Donna Steichen, author of Ungodly Rage says: Secular feminism is largely about abortion. Religious feminism is also involved in supporting abortion (12). In front of one of the abortion clinics in Milwaukee, I heard this chant by the radical feminists: I asked god and she's pro-Choice (pro-abortion). Who is this she-god, who is pro-abortion? Could it be Mary the Mother of Jesus? No, this could never be, because Mary listened to the angel of the Lord and gave birth to her Child, while the radical feminist listens to another angel.

  • The angel Gabriel said to Mary;You will conceive in your womb and bear a son [Jesus] (Lk. 1:31).
  • And the angel of the radical pro-choice feminist she-god says; you will conceive in your womb and abort a son (or daughter). 

Mary fails to be the goddess of the radical feminist because she gave birth to her child. Pro-choice (pro-abortion) was not Mary's choice and pro-choice is no choice for the child being terminated by abortion in the womb of its mother.

The cover of Time Magazine (Dec. 91), asks the question: "Was the most revered woman god's handmaid - or the first feminist?" Their very question, by the way it is asked, is acknowledging that she is either one or the other. Is Mary "handmaid" or [radical] "feminist"? I believe the best qualified person to answer this question is Mary herself: Mary said, 'Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord (Lk. 1:38). Now, I think that's pretty clear. Radical feminists are not interested in being handmaids of the Lord. They are interested in goddess research and feminine divinity.

Mary did not live for herself but for her Son Jesus. Mary said; "Let it be done to me according to your word" (Lk. 1:38), and the radical feminists, while clamoring for political power within the Church are saying, let it be done to me according to my word. The radical feminist will never want Mary as their goddess because they do not want to follow her example of humility or her Son Jesus.

Mary is a mother. She is the mother of Jesus and our mother too. And for that mother and father who were duped into sacrificing their child on the altar of the abortionist, Mary as a mother waits for you. She wants to comfort you, to wipe away your tears, and to lead you to her son Jesus so that you may experience forgiveness. She understands your pain. Remember, Mary's child was sacrificed too, on Calvary. Mary can be a comfort and a help to us just as she was to Elizabeth whom she remained with for about three months (Lk. 1:56). Although Mary is not God, it is never the less a great privilege and honor to have Mary present with us. Elizabeth expressed this when Mary came to visit her.

"And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord                                         should come to me" (Lk. 1:43)?

John the apostle: Woman behold your son (Jn. 19:26). It was at this point that Mary became our mother too. And so Mary is the Mother of God, the mother of the apostle  John, and our mother as well.

In summary, we find that repetition of prayers such as the "Our Father" is not babbling on like the pagans but the way Jesus taught us to pray. The prayer, the "Hail Mary," comes from Scripture and Martin Luther defended it. The word "hail" is a greeting that simply means "hello." The 16th-century Protestants did not have the same difficulties with Mary that 20th-century anti-Catholics do. Anti-Catholics in their extremes are also anti-Protestant as well. There are people who will, without realizing it, quote the Bible out of context in an attempt to portray Marian devotions as not Biblical. The Mass is the primary public worship where Jesus is being offered. The rosary and other Marian devotions are secondary devotions and not required. The Scripture, "No one comes to the father except through me" (Jn. 14:6), is not a prohibition against saints on the other side interceding for us or the prayer the "Hail Mary." "You must worship the Lord your God, and serve Him alone" (Mt. 4:10) is a partial quote that is used by some against Mary and Marian devotions. Jesus is not speaking against Mary or Marian devotions. He speaks against Satan: "Then Jesus replied, Be off, Satan For Scripture says: 'You must worship the Lord your God, and serve Him alone.1" The adversary of Jesus is Satan; not Mary, His Mother. The word "worship" in older Catholic and Protestant books is used for people other than God. In the King James Bible it says that the whole congregation, "bowed down their heads, and worshiped the Lord, and the king" (1Ch. 29:20). The word "worship" means honor with the greatest honor or worship always going to God alone. According to Donna Steichen, "secular feminism" and "religious feminism" are both involved in supporting abortion. Mary is not pro-abortioni She gave birth to her Child. Mary is neither radical feminist or goddess. She is both handmaid and mother. It is a great privilege for Mary to be among us just as it was for Elizabeth 2,000 years ago (Lk. 1:43). Mary interceded for the wedding party at Cana. 

Leonard T. Alt

1.       "Christians Evangelizing Catholics," August 92  pg. 6, by
Bill Jackson, P.O. Box 99141, Louisville, KY 40269

2.       Ibid. pg. 7

I have removed 3

3.       "The Catholic Answer," The Real Martin Luther, by Dave
Armstrong, pg. 35, Sermon,  March 11, 1523

5.       Supra note 1

6.       Roman Catholicism,, pg. 155,  Loraine Boettner, 1989,
The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company,
Phillipsburg, New Jersey

7.       Ibid.  pg. 130

8.       Catholicism and Fundamentalism,  pg. 259, Karl Keating,
1988 Ignatius Press, San Francisco, California

9.       "The Bible and Roman Catholicism," pg. 14, William R. Kimball
1985,  Christian Equippers International,  P.O. Box 16100
South  Lake Tahoe, CA 95706

10.   "Time," Dec. 91, Handmaid or Feminist, page 66
Richard M. Ostling

11.   I use the terms "radical feminist" to mean those
feminists who are involved with "New Age,"  witchcraft,
or pagan female  goddesses and advocate abortion.  I make
this distinction because there are feminists who are very
traditional and orthodox in their belief and who are
definitely not pro-abortion.

12.   "Ungodly Rage" audio tape 2,  Donna Steichen,  St. Mary's
Elm Grove WI, March 15, 1992 - Donna 25 years ago used the
the term "feminist" to refer to herself.  She  will no
longer do so because this term is so frequently associated
with pro-abortion.  She has put the "radical feminists"

on the defensive because of her book, Ungodly Rage where she documents Catholic feminism and its connections with New Age, witchcraft, and goddess worship.

13. Fr. Steve Scheier, audio tape,  1991 Marian Conference,
Tulsa, Oklahoma