How to Talk to Your Protestant Friends About the Blessed MotherROD BENNETT
Imagine yourself a Christian living in the year 55 AD, at the Greek city of Ephesus in Asia Minor. You’re probably either a housewife or a fisherman, or perhaps a farmer growing olives on a hillside near your home. Your political sovereign is the Emperor Nero at Rome. The pastor of your church is St. John the Apostle…
If you happened to be an Evangelical Protestant in that church at Ephesus (an impossibility since Protestantism won't exist for another 1462 years — but that, of course, is a topic for a different article!) you might even begin seeking the prayers of someone called a "prayer warrior." That is, you might try to recruit one of your fellow Christians in the church — often an older woman — who has a special reputation for holiness and for constancy in intercessory prayer. And this would simply be good old-fashioned Protestant piety, based on the principle of James 5:16: "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (KJV).
Well, you're in luck — an ideal candidate suggests herself: the widowed Mary of Nazareth, whom church historians tell us was still alive and well and living at Ephesus at this time, sharing a home with St. John her appointed guardian. What better prayer warrior could there be? Who better to beseech the Savior for mercy than His own mother, who dandled Him on her knee once upon a time, who suckled Him at her breast, who herself, with St. Joseph her husband, taught Him to say His own prayers before bedtime? Here she is, ready made, the perfect prayer partner, full of grace [Luke 1:28], blessed above all women [Luke 1:42], and living right in your own hometown! Don't miss this chance, friend — put her to work right now!
Yet at this point another voice makes itself heard — the voice of neither Catholic nor Protestant, but rather of skepticism and unbelief, pure and simple. "Why bother with all this?" the voice asks. Why should you need to get her involved, or anyone else for that matter? Can't you go to God directly, just you, yourself alone? Why should you need any help in your prayers? Is God hard of hearing? Do Christians need to gang up on Him to make themselves heard? Is He waiting around to see how many of your friends are willing to join in before He decides whether to help you or not? And after all, isn't this all just rank paganism, this rounding up of supplications for the deity, imagining that your God is more likely to hear you because of your "much speaking"?
All of these are excellent questions. And honest Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant, are forced to admit that we don't have the answers to most of them. We don't know how prayer works. We can't imagine why or how an Almighty God like ours could allow fallen, sinful creatures like us to have input into his inscrutable decrees. All we know is that this is Christianity. This is the faith we received from Jesus and the Apostles. Christians must pray. And all Christians may say, as Paul did to the Thessalonians, "Brethren, pray for us," [1 The 5:25] and expect it to make a difference.
Very well then — let's look at the matter from Mary's perspective. Isn't it one of Mary's blessings as a Christian that she really can open her heart to God and cast all her burdens upon Him? When one of her friends suffers she needn't stand mute, waiting to see what happens so that she may understand what was God's will in the matter. No, Mary can pray, and she can expect her prayers to be heard and taken into account somehow, even if she doesn't know the exact whys and hows.
Now let's imagine that a bit more time has gone by and that Mary, your prayer partner, has passed away (or at any rate, gone away). Has she lost these wonderful privileges now? Now that she has gone to her reward is she less in heaven than she was on earth? Does she long to continue praying for you and yours, only to find that she's no longer able to do so or that God no longer listens? Or has she ceased to care about you and your struggles and lapsed into a kind of exalted indifference?
Some Evangelicals may pipe up at this point with the notion that the redeemed souls in heaven are cut off from their loved ones on earth, that they can no longer see them and have no awareness of them anymore. Ask them to show you this completely unscriptural idea in the Bible. And relax, because they won't be able to. (For help on what the Bible actually does say on this subject, you might refer to the archived article in this section titled It's There In the Book).
The Catholic truth is that Mary is more able to pray for us now than ever, that she is concerned about the Church today, vitally concerned, and that she still accepts prayer requests — just as all the saints in heaven accept them. St. Jerome, the first scholar to translate the Bible into the vernacular, expressed this wonderful truth well in 406 AD: "If the Apostles and martyrs while still in the body can pray for others, at a time when they ought still to be solicitous about themselves, how much more will they do so after their crowns, victories, and triumphs?"
As to the question of why Catholics have traditionally taken these requests more often to St. Mary the Virgin than to the other saints, well, let's set that subject aside until Part Two of this series.
For now, let's be content to establish this first, foundational point — and to establish it on principles common to both Catholics and Protestants: that the effectual fervent prayers of a righteous man (or woman!) avail much, whether offered by members of the Church on earth or by the greater, more glorious Church in heaven.
And that Blessed Mary, the mother of our God and Savior Jesus Christ, is still alive, still awake, still praying, still hoping — the perfect prayer warrior for all Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant.
Rod Bennett "How to Talk to Your Protestant Friends About the Blessed Mother." CatholicExchange.com.
Reprinted with permission of CatholicExchange.com
Rod Bennett is the editor and publisher of the late, lamented WONDER magazine; a cult-favorite movie & television journal which for 10 years took an award-winning look at that mysterious link between faith and fantasy first pioneered by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. His writings have appeared in other interesting publications as well — from Cornerstone Magazine to Gadfly. A regular speaker at Christian arts festivals and the author of Four Witnesses; the Early Church in Her Own Words (soon to be published by Ignatius Press), Rod lives in Atlanta with his lovely wife and two children.
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