1. We don't worship Mary. Seriously, for the 1 billionth time we. don't. worship. Mary. We've never worshiped Mary. A non-Catholic friend asked me recently if we worshiped her. Her mom, a former Catholic, said we did. I just have to wonder where her mom got that idea. Was she just not paying attention all those time she went to Mass where absolutely no Mary worship is going on and she's barely even mentioned? So then, all some Evangelical Christian had to do was tell her that Catholics worship Mary and perhaps she remembered a Mary statue or a painting of her and thought, "You know what? I guess we do," and left the Church.
So my friend wanted to clarify, "but you guys used to worship Mary, right?"
No, never in the history of the Catholic Church were we officially or unofficially taught to worship Mary. This doesn't mean that some lay people misunderstood what they were taught and decided that Mary is some kind of Goddess BUT I have yet to see it in practice. I honestly don't know of such things.
What about the the Rosary, you ask? Well, that prayer is derived from parts of the gospel of Luke chapter 1 starting with verse 28. The Our Father is also prayed often and the whole purpose of the prayer is to meditate on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. So the focus always goes back to Jesus which is precisely what Mary continues to do for us to this very day. She faithfully and fervently points us to Him. So what's the deal with Mary then? Well what's the deal with St. Paul for the Protestants? It seems they're quite fond of him. Does that mean they worship him? Does admiring and honoring another Christian mean the same thing as worshiping him?
Let's examine our love and honor for the Mary. She is the Mother of God. That's pretty huge. So we do ask for her to pray for us. Because she's pretty great at getting her Son to answer our prayers. Remember the wedding at Cana? He told her it wasn't His time yet but then He went ahead and performed His FIRST miracle! What did Mary say? Do whatever He tells you. This is her request for all of God's children. Do whatever He tells you. So Jesus listened to Mary's prompting because He honors His mother. He follows the commandments of His Heavenly Father and shows us how to follow His commandments. He sets the example for us. We're to follow Him and be like Him. We are to imitate Him. He shows us the proper way to honor our parents and even though He is the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, He humbles Himself so that we may learn to humble ourselves. So while we love and honor Mary and she loves us we do not worship Mary.
2. We don't worship statues and we don't worship Saints. The Catholic Church has never ever taught idolatry other than it is a grave sin. Is the photo of your mother an idol? Are you worshiping it or her? Doubt it. So it's the same with whatever statue of Mary or Padre Pio that you may come across. Saints inspire us because they lived exemplary Christian lives. Kind like how your older sister was so smart and pretty and you wished you could be like her. Well, genetics doesn't limit us in this case. By God's grace we are all called to be saints.
3. I borrowed from fellow Catholic blogger Leila at Little Catholic Bubble. She knows her stuff and actually taught RCIA. She addresses papal infallibility. This is one of the most misunderstood of Church teachings. So here is how Leila illustrates it. Enjoy! For more of her lessons on Church teaching please check out her blog.
Many people believe that the pope wields a strong and potentially tyrannical power over his flock. The concept of an infallible teacher leads them to imagine a dictator (even if benevolent) who can force doctrines upon Catholics at whim, leaving the faithful either a) anxious and uncertain about what dogmatic changes will come next to disturb their lives, or b) ready to run like lemmings off whatever cliff the Supreme Pontiff decides to lead them. Sure, maybe the current pope is mentally and emotionally stable, but what of the next? And the next? Think of the havoc he could wreak! Who in his right mind would put his life under the pope's authority?
In reality, however, the pope is not quite as powerful as one might think.
They say: "The pope has forbidden Catholics to use contraception!"
The reality is: For twenty centuries, the Church has taught that contraception is wrong. No pope in any era has the authority or power to reverse a teaching of the Deposit of Faith.
They say: "The pope won't allow women to become priests!"
The reality is: For twenty centuries, the Church has never admitted women to the priesthood. No pope in any era has the authority or power to reverse a teaching of the Deposit of Faith.
They say: "The pope says women can't have abortions under any circumstances!"
The reality is: For twenty centuries, the Church has taught that any and all abortions are intrinsically evil (even when there's been debate over the issue of "ensoulment"). No pope in any era has the authority or power to reverse a teaching of the Deposit of Faith.
They say: "The pope won't approve pre-marital sex or homosexual activity!"
The reality is: For twenty centuries, the Church has taught that sexual activity outside of marriage is gravely sinful. No pope in any era has the authority or power to reverse a teaching of the Deposit of Faith.
They say: "The pope won't let people defraud the poor!"
Wait... what? The Church-bashers don't take issue with that part of the Catholic Faith? Well then, they might be happy to hear this:
For twenty centuries, the Church has taught that defrauding the poor is evil. No pope in any era has the authority or power to reverse a teaching of the Deposit of Faith.
Are you seeing a pattern here?
The pope has no power to change the Deposit of Faith. None. Nada. Zip and zilch. He can't change the moral law. He can't change the tenets of the Creed. He can't touch the truths of faith and morals because he has no authority to do so.
As my friend Kim relates in her conversion story (a mustread!), infallibility doesn't give a pope carte blanche to invent any doctrine he wants to make up; instead, infallibility is actually a highly limiting doctrine. Jesus' teachings are preserved and protected, leaving them intact throughout the centuries.
And our dear pope, thank God, is powerless to change a single truth.
Stay tuned for more additions of Know Your Faith