Mary, quite contrary

Do Catholics worship Mary, and would they be right to do so. Surprise! Surprise! Yes they do. It might be tactless to claim this in non Catholic company because most people think of worship as an attitude to God, whereas it means recognising the worth of someone (‘worthship’) – just as I worship my wife. We worship Mary as mother of God who was appointed by her son to play an important part in our redemption. But it is only God whom we adore.

References to Mary in the Bible, direct and indirect, appear in many places: from Genesis (“I will put enmity between you and the woman…“) to the Apocalypse (“Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.”) And, in between, many other references with which most Catholic are familiar. You will find a useful list at But in this post I want to look at just three of these, before turning to the questions raised by claimed appearances of our Lady in modern times.

The first is when Jesus, apparently lost on the way back from the Temple, says: “Why were you searching for me? Do you not know that I must be in my father’s house? (Luke 2:46-49) The second is the marriage feast at Cana. You will remember that Mary’s concern about the wine was greeted by what reads as a snub from Jesus: “My time has not yet come.” Mary’s response is basically: “Pull your socks up.” (John 2:3-10). The third is when Jesus is told that his mother and his brothers are waiting outside for him. Again a snub; he looks away to his disciples and claims that these, rather, are his mother and his brothers. (Matthew 12:46)

These occasions when Mary and Jesus appear to have a moment of difference are clearly important – otherwise the Evangelists would have omitted them or described them in a gentler way. Given the inspiration of Scripture, what is the message you take from these three incidents?

Our own St Joseph has asked us to consider the, rather more recent appearances of Mary – for example: Fatima, Lourdes, Knock, Guadalupe, Medjugorge etc. I understand that all of these, except the last, has formal approval from the Church – although no one is obliged to accept them. I have had cause only to study Lourdes, because some years ago I wrote a play on the subject which was well received in my large parish. (The script is available for any parish which wishes to use it.) Here I find the evidence convincing. But some may be opposed – taking such occasions as a temptation to superstition, and potentially leading to a Marian ideology.

Which leads me to my third point. Is there a danger that the strength of devotion to Our Lady leads us to put her son on the backmarker? After all, Mary appeals directly to our imaginations – the concept of mother is woven into our hearts from birth. It certainly looks odd to other Christians, who from time to time claim this devotion to be superfluous, and a distraction from our focus on Christ. I willingly confess to going more often to Mary rather than to Jesus. My wife says it’s because I always go to a woman rather than a man in times of need. True, I fear.

About Quentin

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65 Responses to Mary, quite contrary

  1. Martin Kirkham says:

    In spite of the Church’s traditional misogynistic attitude towards the fairer sex, could it be that its devotion to Our Lady is prompted by the Holy Spirit? Perhaps the Holy Spirit is preparing the ground for the time when the Church comes round to a more enlightened view of the spiritual equality of women.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Martin Kirkham
      You say ‘ Perhaps the Holy Spirit is preparing the ground for the time when the Church comes around to a more enlightened view of the spiritual equality of women.’
      Holy Mother Church has always had an enlightened view of the spiritual equality of women.
      Women have always been enlightened for their Sainthood over the centuries, we have dedicated holy Nuns carrying out their religious vocations all over the world.
      Jesus said to St John at the foot of the Cross ‘this is your Mother’, ‘woman this is your son’, placing males in the hands of women, as mothers of the Church. and to follow Her example, because they are not Ordained priests does not make them spiritually inferior.
      Jesus was preparing the ground for women to follow Our Blessed Mothers example.

  2. Iona says:

    “My time has not yet come” doesn’t have to be interpreted as a snub. Further on in John’s gospel the phrase is used twice when people wanted to attack Jesus but didn’t or couldn’t because his time had not yet come; and later still in reference to the time of his death / of his glorification. When he used the phrase at Cana, perhaps he meant that he was not ready to make any sort of public display. He did then go on to solve the wine problem, but quietly and in such a way that “only the servants who had drawn the water knew”.
    His reference to his disciples being his “mother and brothers” is paralleled by his response to the woman who calls out “blessed is the womb that bare you”, – “rather, blessed are they that hear the word of the Lord and do it”; not so much a thumbs-down to his blood relatives as a thumbs-up to his close followers.

  3. Galerimo says:

    Good theme Quentin. Thanks.

    Its only because she means so much to Jesus and I can’t leave her standing there in front of me all unsure and awkward when he pushes her forward like he did.

    For me she models a good way of putting up with Him, because she knows how he can be so unpredictable.

    And another thing – God incarnated in her before there was any sign of Jesus and that’s another thought that blows me away.

    Some not very theological approaches to the girl herself.

  4. John Nolan says:

    ‘Worship’ and ‘adoration’ are practically coterminous in modern English. The older idea of ‘worth-ship’ only survives in the formal manner of addressing mayors or magistrates. ‘Adore’ is from the Latin ‘ad+orare’ (to pray to) and we certainly pray to Mary. Theologically we distinguish between ‘latria’ which is due to God alone, and ‘dulia’. The veneration due to the Mother of God is ‘hyperdulia’.

    • pnyikos says:

      The following contrast gets to the heart of the difference between latria and hyperdulia. On the one hand, the Publican beats his breast and says, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

      On the other hand, in the second half of the Hail Mary we merely ask Mary to “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

  5. Nektarios says:

    When it comes to Mary, my heart fills with love for her and what she has to say to us.
    Instinctively, I go to the first chapter of Luke where we have the intimation by Gabriel to her.
    Then her going to Elizabeth.
    She did not understand what Gabriel had told her. To her the thing was impossible as she knew not a man.
    But entering the house and met with Elizabeth, she being filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth said to her, ‘Blessed art thou among women, and blessed it the fruit of thy womb. But why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me.’
    Luke 1:42 ‘ Blessed is she who believed for there will be a fulfilment of those things which were told her from the Lord.
    Mary has now come to understand, and she launches into her song, known to you all, I know, as the Magnificat.

    I will stop here for now and continue later, where I will show you Mary does not point to herself, but to God and what He was about to do.

  6. Brendan says:

    Good start so far.Thank you.

  7. John Nolan says:

    ‘She did not understand what Gabriel had told her. To her the thing was impossible …’ (Nektarios).

    This is not how Catholics interpret it. Mary’s question is, in the Vulgate, ‘Quomodo fiet istud, quoniam virum non cognosco?’ (How shall this be done, since I know not man?) It’s not ‘how CAN this be done?’

    When the Angel says ‘quia non erit impossibile apud Deum omne verbum’ (because no word shall be impossible with God) he is not telling Mary anything she does not know already. And he has her answer – ‘Ecce ancilla Domini: fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum’.

    St Bernard has a beautiful commentary on this passage.

  8. pnyikos says:

    I have sharply divergent attitudes to alleged Marian apparitions. Positive: Guadalupe, Lourdes. Neutral: appearances to Catherine Laboure; Negative: Fatima, Medjugore. The last has been discouraged by the local bishop, but the Vatican has yet to make a definitive official declaration on it.

    Guadalupe (the name given to apparitions on Tepeyac hill) is my favorite: the message to Juan Diego is that of a loving and caring mother; the abolition of human sacrifice in Mexico and the conversion of millions to Christianity can be largely attributed to the apparitions; and even at the height of the early 20th century persecutions of the Catholic Church in Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe was such a part of Mexico’s heritage, that the government dared not suppress the pilgrimages to the cathedral where the image was housed.

    Rather than dwell on the other apparitions now, I would like to call everyone’s attention to a marvelous book: Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate, by Dwight Longnecker and David Gustavson.

    It is by far the most even-handed treatment of two sharply divergent views on any religious subject that I have ever seen. It covers a breathtaking range of themes, including the controversies over “Mediatrix, Co-Redemptrix, Advocate” and various devotional practices and legends about Mary. Very often, the two participants — a Catholic priest (who has in the past been an Anglican and before that, an Evangelical) and a broad minded Evangelical lawyer — wind up agreeing to disagree. They are invariably courteous and respectful of each other, and of the other’s point of view. Catholic though I am, I often found myself thinking the Evangelical, Gustavson, had the stronger points on a number of issues. One was where he came down hard on the attitude displayed by the apparition at Fatima, as depicted by the three visionary children.

  9. Nektarios says:

    What Mary is giving us in this wonderful magnificat as it is called, is not as some have presumed
    to focus our attention on her. Not at all.

    What we have -well lets look into it .

    Luke 1:46- 55. Mary starts in a state of awe and worship. ‘ My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit
    has rejoiced in God my Saviour’.
    The word rejoiced is not a fully correct translation, it is a stronger word and means ‘worships’ in God my Saviour.
    She now has been given the understanding of what is happening to her.
    To cut down from doing a whole commentary on the Magnificat, Mary is seeing the fulfilment of all that the prophets, and seers and psalmists had spoken about the Saviour going all the way back to Genesis. In other words she is telling us what the whole of the OT is all about as they all looked forward to the Messiah who would come according to God’s promise.

    Mary, is understanding, that the words of promise against the devil, in Genesis 3:15.
    There was a Deliverer coming, that was the promise.

    She knows what the OT is saying, Genesis 17. 1- 7; 19. We have the covenant between God and Abraham and his descendants.
    Mary had grasped the promise that was given to Abraham and his descendants. But this promise to Abraham and those of faith out of all nations whom Abraham as the father of the faith are covered by this promise was till that moment in time was a promise of a promise.
    As you know the whole Israelite was built on various rites and sacrifices and ceremonies, but she knew as we do, (I hope) it was a promise to cover their sins in the blood of bulls and goats, you are all familiar with it I am sure. But the Promise of Deliverer had not yet come. Man was still in his sin. Man could not ascend to God for death stopped them.

    Mary is seeing after all the long history from Adam, Israel was still waiting for their Redeemer.
    As in a flash she realises that what is about to happen is going to be the fulfilment of all the promises given and the One within her womb was the Lord himself

    Mary in her soul exalts God and she worships Him in her spirit for the Saviour is coming.

  10. Iona says:

    John Nolan: how about the pre-Vulgate Greek? Does that imply “How can this be done?” or “How shall this be done?”? – I don’t know any Greek, but someone on here surely does.

    Pnyikos – Why not Fatima (or would I have to read the book to find out)? And what about the La Salette apparitions? And Knock?

    • Quentin says:

      Presumably Mary spoke Aramaic, so even the Greek would not help. There has been learned commentary on Mary’s question. But the simplest interpretation is that she realised that this was about to happen — and she wanted to know, as anyone might, how this was to be effected given that she was a virgin. Some have suggested that she and Joseph had made a vow of virginity — but this appears to be gratuitous, reflecting the old Catholic view that sex and sin could never in practice be entirely separated..

      • pnyikos says:

        The vow of virginity comes from the Pseudepigraphia, a storehouse of various early stories about Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. It is discussed in that Longnecker/Gustavson book. From one pseudepigraphic “book” come the story of Mary’s vow of virginity; of Mary being barely past puberty and Joseph being an elderly man when they were married; a fairy-tale like story of how Joseph was chosen to be Mary’s husband out of many suitors; and a rather explicit story about how midwives found that Jesus had been miraculously born without passing through Mary’s birth canal.

        Some of these stories have found their way into various traditions within the Catholic Church, and in response to some rather heavy criticism from Gustavson, Longnecker hints that the author of this book may have not meant for the story to be taken as literal truth, but merely to lay stress on some qualities of Mary that he thought deserving of emphasis.

    • pnyikos says:

      Iona, I do not know enough about La Salette or Knock to have much of an opinion about either one. But Fatima has been a sore point for me for all my adult life, and the main reason isn’t dwelt on in the book I’ve been heartily recommending. It has to do with hell – the visions the children have of it, and one sentence that had a devastating effect on me at the age of 21 when its significance sank in.

      In one translation it goes like this: “Many sinners go to hell because there is no one to pray for them or to make sacrifices for them.” To begin with, it unequivocally negates the universalist saying, “Hell exists, but it’s empty.” But far worse is the lack of divine justice in that “because,” which literally makes the difference between an eternity of happiness and an eternity of suffering for some people depend on some factor other than the actions or omissions of that person. And to couple that with the horrific vision of what hell is like — one of the children felt that only the assurance that they would NOT go there kept them from dying of fright — was enough to make me seriously doubt, for the first time in my life, in the existence of a benevolent God.

      Very recently, I read a different translation which had a different word than “because,” one that did not have the destructive power that “because” had over me. I can’t help wondering how very different my spiritual odyssey would have been, had I read that translation instead. But even so, the idea of sending someone to an eternity of torment for any evil, no matter how heinous, is still fatal to the idea of God being just, let alone merciful. The traditional argument, used by Aquinas, that infinite punishment is deserved because it is an offense against the infinite God, leaves me completely cold. As Job put it long ago: “Suppose I had done wrong — what have I done to YOU, you tireless watcher of mankind?”

      It was only after reading C.S.Lewis’s book “The Great Divorce,” that I became acquainted with an entirely different conception of hell, one that is compatible with a healthy understanding of justice. Without it, I don’t think I could keep alive my hope of there being a God at all.

      • Quentin says:

        Nykos, you are writing here about a very important question. We all have an inbuilt (by God) sense of justice. And so we believe that whatever God may do is in accordance with that. If through catechetics, or indirectly through a story, we are faced by an account of God behaving against justice we must disbelieve the account.

        When Professor Dawkins argues that some aspects of religion taught to the immature constitute abuse I agree with him. I hope things are better now, but earlier generations were not so lucky. I remember from public night prayers at prep school how I went to bed with the warning that, if I died in the night, I might end up in Hell. I was eight at the time. Though intellectually I have long grown out of this, at the emotional level I still find it there from time to time.

        Would you describe C.S. Lewis’s approach to Hell, in a line or two – if that can be done.

      • Martha says:

        As none of us can fully appreciate the extent of the greatness of God, how can we have a sense of justice about the way He deals with us? On the one hand He is our Creator, on the other He is our Saviour and has demonstrated His love for us in a way which would be unimaginable if it had not actually happened.
        The tension between God’s love and mercy and His justice has been a great difficulty for me in my life, and I still do not know whether this is because of the way it has been taught, the way my particular temperament responds, or the intrinsic nature of our relationship with God. Our Lord’s own words emphasise both His huge demands of us and his great compassion.
        I do know that the concentration of spirituality now on mercy is very reassuring and helpful, apart from a little voice which still intrudes from time to time and wonders if it is perhaps all too good to be true.
        I can’t think there can be much doubt that the messages of Fatima are genuine, but the visions of hell are certainly very shocking and disturbing, and one particular reply of Our Lady to the 7 year old Francisco, that he would go to heaven but that first he must say many rosaries, has always worried me, as very few children of that age would normally receive such teaching from the Church or their parents.

      • pnyikos says:

        Quentin, there is no substitute for reading C.S. Lewis’s book, but I’ll do my best in a small space. Hell is depicted as a dismal place, though not one of literal torture, where people are wrapped up in themselves and are unable to get much satisfaction from interactions with others. There are free buses from hell to heaven, and people sometimes take advantage of them, but most wind up deciding to go back to hell because, in order to have a permanent place in heaven, one must let go of some cherished vices. And so, with a pretty accurate idea of what both places are like [heaven is far more beautiful, of course] most still willingly continue to choose hell.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Pope Francis seems to have confused the issue of there being a Hell.
        Also the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.
        According to LifeSite News along with some other of the Popes speechs!
        Is he making his own definition of scripture?

      • pnyikos says:

        St. Joseph, in what way did Pope Francis confuse the idea of Hell? This comes as news to me. And what did he say about the feeding of the five thousand?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Does that answer your question?

      • pnyikos says:

        Thank you for the link, St. Joseph. I was astounded to see Pope Francis cheapening the word “miracle” to claim that the multiplication of loaves and fishes was not a miracle in the usual sense of the word. [The Church still asks for real miracles for canonizations, not mundane though laudable things like getting people to share food with each other.] I’ve heard this “demythologizing” allegation about what Jesus did, but never dreamed a Pope would endorse it. All I can say is, it’s a good thing he wasn’t speaking ex cathedra!

        I am not so disturbed by Pope Francis’s comments on Hell. The words of Jesus do not necessarily contradict the annihilation of the soul after a finite period of time. “Their worm does not die” only says that Hell itself may is everlasting, but does not say that any lost soul will experience that eternity. Still, I’m surprised to see him go out on a limb like this (again, not ex cathedra!) and I do prefer C.S. Lewis’s take on Hell in The Great Divorce.

      • overload says:

        Pnykos and st Joseph
        My understanding is that pope Francis is not denying the miracle of the feeding of the 5000; he sees it as referring to the celebration of the Eucharist, which is not a far-removed cloning-multiplication of the host; it is a living sharing in one bread.

  11. John Candido says:

    I don’t find Mary relevant to me in the least. I don’t think of her at all, really. I don’t have much knowledge of Fatima and all of the other places and tend to have a very dim view of them. I question their relevance and find them akin to a serious dose of superstition. I just know that some of the regular commentators on Secondsight are wetting their lips right now. Will I be drawn and quartered or simply shot on sight? I think I prefer to be given some Hemlock. At least that will be stylish end.

    • John Nolan says:

      John Candido

      To quote Chesterton: ‘For your God or Dream or Devil you must answer – not to me’. There may be some on this blog who want to evangelize you, but I am not one of them. I shall, however, continue to call you out when you write nonsense, for the simple reason that I like doing so, although it’s a bit like shooting a sitting duck.

      • John Candido says:

        ‘I shall, however, continue to call you out when you write nonsense, for the simple reason that I like doing so, although it’s a bit like shooting a sitting duck. (John Nolan)

        Likewise. My sentiments exactly.

      • John Candido says:

        That is an interesting reply John Nolan. You were patently incapable of shooting any sitting duck when I exposed the corruption of bishop synods conducted under the auspicies of popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. All that I got was repeated silence. I say ‘repeated’ because I posted my conclusions about Vatican synods about three times from memory. That is hardly shooting at all, Duck!

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Candido.
      Jesus is alive and truly present Body Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament , do you consider that to be a serious dose of superstition too?
      Jesus has stepped out of ‘the Book’ what makes you believe that Our Blessed Mother hasn’t stepped out of the Book too!

  12. John Nolan says:

    Quentin, I think you have nailed it. A modern and superficial understanding (and I have even heard this from the pulpit) is that Mary was incredulous: ‘Sorry, I can’t possibly get pregnant, since I haven’t had sex’.

    Catholics have always maintained that the Holy Ghost has a message for man in the Bible beneath and beside the letter of the text, and it is the saints and doctors such as Augustine, Gregory and Bernard who, inspired by the same Spirit, attempt in their discourses to reveal this. These discourses are used in the Divine Office at Matins and are therefore part of the Liturgy.

    The reason using for my quoting the Vulgate is that it remains the definitive version of Scripture for the Catholic Church, and that St Bernard in his famous discourses ‘Missus est’ would have based his commentary on this text.

    Nektarios appears to be suggesting that Mary only believes after some weeks have passed, when Elizabeth salutes her with ‘Benedicta tu …’ . She then realizes the truth ‘in a flash’; and proceeds to recite the Magnificat. Yet Elizabeth herself, filled with the Holy Ghost, has already said to Mary: ‘Et beata, quae credidisti’ (and blessed art thou that hast believed). Her husband Zachary, remember, had been sceptical before the angel Gabriel and had been struck dumb.

    I would suggest that Nektarios read ‘Missus Est’. St Bernard is a better authority on Scripture than Modernists and Nonconformist preachers. Or rather, he is an authority and they are not.

  13. Nektarios says:

    John Nolan

    You have read what stories abound from others above. Much about Mary is symbolism and has led to many myths, venerations and even worship. Also attributing to Mary titles she does not have
    like, redemptrix, co-redemptrix, Advocate, Queen of Heaven, and so on.
    Mary herself is not a myth, but the symbolism that has grown up around her over the centuries are errors and I would go so far as to say heresy.

    You see John, there is an antithesis between symbolism and revelation.
    What you have in the Bible is the revelation from God OT and NT.

    What I was going to go on to show, but this will save time is this: In the Magnificat in Luke 1 and further development doctrinally in Collisions 3 and again in Romans 4 was, Mary never draws attention to herself. The revealed will of God in the plan of Salvation is showing in the Magnificat
    the reason for her exaltation and worship of God.
    She is seeing that child within her womb is the fulfilment of all that the prophets has spoken about,
    perceived, but did not obtain. Now the salvation of Israel and the whole world was about to be born.

    That is the Revelation from the Word of God. Symbolism on the other hand is the antithesis of Revelation from God and proceeds from Man.
    It has led into many errors, heresies, confusions, and deliberate hiding of the truth.

    • pnyikos says:

      Nektarios, you are ignoring the line in the Magnificat: “Henceforth, all generations shall call me blessed.” Even if we use the definition “happy” for “blessed,” there can be no doubt that Mary is drawing attention to herself in this line.

      • Nektarios says:


        I have not ignored the text you mention, just had not quite got round to it, though my reply
        to John Nolan goes some way towards it.
        Yes, pnyikos, a common misunderstanding. All one has to do is read the magnificat in context.
        Mary has been magnifying God. What she is telling us is simple enough to understand in context.
        Mary understands what God has in regarding her as the one that would bear the Saviour,
        what this event would mean for all mankind everywhere, she says, ‘ for behold, that is Look, henceforth, all generations will call me blessed’.

        She is not pointing to herself, but to God, and the One in her womb, and what He would do in and for mankind.
        On account of that fact, because of Him, not herself, all generations will call me blessed.

    • pnyikos says:

      Sorry, Nektarios: you explicitly said that Mary never draws attention to herself, but her “generations will call me blessed” does just that. Moreover, I believe that it is a valid basis for all official Church venerations of Mary [let me know if you disagree]. This includes the Hail Mary prayer, which is solidly Biblical from beginning to end. Even the words “Mother of God,” so easily misunderstood, are merely an acknowledgement that Jesus was God when still in her womb. That is what the Greek “Theotokos” really amounts to.

  14. John Nolan says:

    Sorry, Nektarios, you might have switched Churches, but your Protestant antecedents shine through. You can take the girl out of the country but … (you know how it goes).

    The earliest prayer to the Virgin is the ‘Sub tuum praesidium’ dating from around 250. The theology concerning Mary begins to develop in the 4th century, at the same time as the NT canon was being finalized. Mary as Queen of Heaven has some antecedents in the OT but Revelations 12:1 (mulier amicta sole, et luna sub pedibus ejus , et in capite ejus corona stellarum duodecim’ was always interpreted as referring to the Virgin. ‘Mediatrix’ also appears in the writings of the Greek fathers.

    Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of all Graces has been advanced by some groups as requiring dogmatic definition but Rome has made it clear that this will not be forthcoming; the theology might be sound but the pre-eminent position of Christ as Redeemer and Mediator might be obscured in the minds of the simple faithful. Devotion to Mary is essentially Christological.

    You give little evidence that you understand Revelation apart from a Protestant ‘sola scriptura’ interpretation. The Litany of Loreto gives many titles to Our Lady – Morning Star, Tower of David and so on; they are honorifics that heap praise on her but are allegorical. Only a died-in-the-wool Protestant could take objection to them. In which case, If I were you I would be wary of using the word ‘heresy’.

  15. Nektarios says:

    Jon Nolan
    What you have in the the RCC is ‘fides implicita’. The implicit faith. And that implicit faith is to adhere to the Church and is considered by the hierarchs as satisfactory for laity. What utter nonsense and practices it has led the RCC into.
    If you think I am arguing the point from a merely denominational view point, the answer is no I am not, but from an Apostolic and spiritual view point.

    • John Nolan says:

      Sorry, Pope Nektarios, you are advancing a personal argument and absurdly claiming Apostolic authority for it. You have very little knowledge of what you insultingly refer to as ‘the RCC’ and it would appear that your knowledge of the tradition of the Eastern Churches isn’t much better.

      I would suggest that you do what most heretics do, and go off and found your own ‘church’. You can then preach to your heart’s content, and no-one will be around to gainsay you.

      • Nektarios says:

        John Nolan
        Please remember many others read this blog and hurling unwarranted insults are not advancing your case or argument.

    • pnyikos says:

      Nektarios, your heavy-handed language (“What utter nonsense” ) is generating more heat than light. Yes, there are excesses in popular piety and even in Church dogma. I for one think that it is most imprudent of the Church to take Jesus’s words to Peter, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven” to such extremes as to declare that eating meat on Friday is a mortal sin.

      But let’s stick to this week’s theme, shall we? What “utter nonsense” do you see in official Church dogma about Mary? John Nolan brought up plenty of specific topics which tend to rub Protestants the wrong way, yet you seem not to have anything to say about them. I get the impression that you were stung by the “sola scriptura” taunt –yet you don’t even try to counter it; instead you deliver a counter-taunt of “fides implicita” as though two wrongs made a right.

  16. ignatius says:

    This is becoming quite an interesting thread. Reading Pyknos and Quentin on visions of hell I am tempted to be grateful for my atheistic upbringing… though I must say that the ‘ Sex and drugs and rock’n roll’ diet of the Sixties wasn’t much help in later life either..
    As far as I understand it, though described as ‘worthy of belief’, the Fatima project still comes under the heading of individual revelation and as such remains a voluntary matter in terms of whether we buy in to the visions or not. I have tended till now to mix up Fatima with Faustina so am new to the particular game. Faustina I know a little more about being a devotee of the Divine Mercy image and chaplet.
    This all began entirely by accident during a long retreat when someone had left the divine mercy image blue tacked to the back of the door in my room at the retreat house in Liverpool. Having gotten a little involved with Faustina though I noticed that this kind of thing is quick to stir up that certain urgent gleam in the eye of some who then tend to become somewhat overzealous concerning the object of their affection. Having noticed this I am rather cautious about individual revelation, all the more so for my Charismatic Evangelical roots back in the mid 80’s when much of the church seemed to be happily engaged in beliefs and pursuits that, in retrospect, seem frankly bonkers.
    It seems to me generally speaking that the Catholic Church has the balance about right in that while accepting that one’s deeds can possibly lead one so far from God as to exclude oneself from His presence, the overall focus is on Mercy and the power of God for salvation and growth in love, holiness and righteousness.
    There is a saying that ‘paganism tugs at the hem of the Catholic robe’ and this saying appears to me to be true which is why the individual conscience remains important. It remains the case today, for all of us, that we see through the glass as darkly and will continue to do so until we are fully free. As to the argument that symbolism and revelation are in antithesis, well this might have some relevance if we were fruit flies, but since we are human beings, living among symbols by our very nature, then it remains a worthless contention.

    • Nektarios says:

      The full argument why symbolism is the antithesis of revelation, as I said previously
      is, one is of God, and the other is not. It would take me about 138 A4 sheets of paper to run through all the arguments on this.
      Let me put it this way: If Symbolism were to replace the Revelation of God and His Salvation for us, then make us fall backwards from conscious to unconscious religion.
      To the pagan or one who is a pantheist it would be a worthless contention, but for the Christian who has received the revelation God and believed it, lives, walks and breathes it,
      it is far from being a worthless contention, but the difference between a Christian worldview and a pagan worldview.
      So are we socially and religiously accepting all the symbolism in both areas, living as pagans?

      • ignatius says:


        “…Let me put it this way: If Symbolism were to replace the Revelation of God and His Salvation for us, then make us fall backwards from conscious to unconscious religion…”

        This sentence doesn’t even make literal sense let alone anything else, at least read your stuff through before you post it.

  17. John Nolan says:

    I share Pnyikos’s reservations with regard to Fatima and for similar reasons. The Faustina ‘divine mercy’ cult is dubious on a number of levels; I think JP II’s enthusiasm for his countrywoman’s ‘revelations’ clouded his judgement. Yes, she (and he) are canonized, but so is John XXIII who put her writings on the Index in 1959.

    One of the more bizarre stories is of Hosts flying out of the tabernacle and her catching them . Do we really need a patron saint of Communion in the hand? I suppose she could be the patron saint of slip fielders – HOWZAT?!

    • ignatius says:

      John Nolan,
      Yes, I think ‘cult’ describes the reality of these things. I’m a fan of the divine mercy image simply because I like it and it appeals to me symbolically if you like but that is about it. I can never bring myself to pass on the full claims of the image or the chaplet but as an aid to prayer it is ok especially for those , like me, who have a strong visual sense. The chaplet functions rather like the ‘Jesus prayer’ and is a neat formula if you like something to occupy you while you pray but find the Rosary a bit too ornate.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I have often wondered about the Holy Father Pope Benedict’s sudden retirement, where it has been suggested that it may have been something to do with the Third Secret of Fatima!
      Perhaps we will never know!

    • St.Joseph says:

      It is not enough that we should exhort the faithful to pray the Rosary. They also have to be helped to understand it.
      The author of ‘A Catechism of the Holy Rosary’ has achieved this with a doctrinal content which has been based on a sound biblical foundation, with an easily accessible style and in the way in which brief commentaries are given on each of the fifteen Mysteries.
      This booklet written by the late Father Edwin Gordon with an Nihil obstat. and an Imprimatur by the late Bishop of Clifton 13th July 1988.
      We teach our children to pray properly and contemplate on these Mysteries, the Holy Rosary is recommended from St Pius the V onwards even more so since Leo X111.

      • ignatius says:

        Hi St Joseph,
        I run a rosary group in our prison. We have been doing catechism about it for about 4 months now..a seemingly inexhaustible source of inspiration. I have a one hour session on the Lords prayer planned for this week.

  18. John Nolan says:

    In theology, a symbol is ‘a creed, a compendium of doctrine, or a typical religious rite, as the Eucharist’ (Chambers). So Nektarios’s dichotomy is theologically illiterate.

    My personal attitude towards the Divine Mercy cult is conditioned by an antipathy to popular devotions and repetitive prayers which I have had since early childhood. In those days the Sunday afternoon fare in most parishes was ‘Rosary, Sermon and Benediction’. The first two bored me rigid; the last, with its bells, smells and chanted Latin captivated me, as did the Sunday High Mass (actually a Missa Cantata) to which I was taken as soon as I could walk.

    That is why I find the vernacular Mass (introduced when I was a teenager) such a monumental turn-off. We are all to an extent products of our upbringing (Nektarios included – despite flirting with Orthodoxy he can’t seem to shake off his Protestant prejudices).

    Regarding apparitions, my father (an Irish Catholic) was highly sceptical about Knock – he put it down to the hallucinatory effects of poteen.

    • Vincent says:

      In fact Christianity is full of symbols. We refer to the sacraments as “outward signs” of inward grace. e.g. the cleansing water of baptism. And the bible is full of them: the sacrifice of Isaac and Noah’s Flood may or may not he history but they symbolise aspects of salvation. Jesus, too, refers to his coming death through symbols — one assumes not fully understood except in hindsight. Being human we often need the tangible to understand the intangible

      • pnyikos says:

        Evangelical Protestants have their own symbolism. Accompanying the baptism by immersion which many of them practice, I have heard the words “buried with Christ” when the catechumen is immersed, and the words “risen with Christ” when they come back up for air. They also have their traditions, like the tradition that “wine” can just as easily mean “grape juice” the way it is used in the Bible; and they celebrate the Lord’s Supper accordingly.

        They also tend to agree with Catholics that unleavened bread should be made of wheat. This despite the fact that one of the “prefigurings” of the Eucharist was the feeding of the five thousand, where the people ate of barley loaves, not wheat bread.

  19. Nektarios says:

    John Nolan & Ignatius

    Name calling and hurling insults does not answer the issue being discussed.

    To answer John’s assertion, that I am theologically illiterate. I was trained in it. Are you?

    Secondly, John’s assertion about theology, is not a description of theology, but a description of a creed which is not a symbol per se but an assertion of belief.

    To answer Ignatius. You are quite right, it does seem on the ordinary use of language does not make much literal sense – theologically it does.

    Conscious, relates to the Revelation of God that has been received by the understanding.

    Symbolism, relates to the unconscious, that is, to the realm of sensations and feelings.

    In our liturgical churches, the use of symbolism is in practically every aspect, including the Eucharist. We either have Him or we don’t. If we have Him he is not a symbol, for He is with us the living Lord in the midst.
    In symbolism the feeling and sensations hold sway but without understanding, no matter how clever in is constructed by man. Our liturgical churches are full of symbolism, but when understanding comes, the use of symbolism has been done away with that which symbolism represents. Is God in our midst, or merely some symbol.
    So, in all this, all I would call for is a reform of Liturgics.

  20. ignatius says:


    “To answer Ignatius. You are quite right, it does seem on the ordinary use of language does not make much literal sense – theologically it does……”


    ““…Let me put it this way: If Symbolism were to replace the Revelation of God and His Salvation for us, then make us fall backwards from conscious to unconscious religion…”

    Get someone other than yourself to read this sentence and ask them what it means. As I say the sentence, grammatically speaking, is illiterate; READ IT AGAIN !!!!!!

    In terms of theology, other than your own invention that is, as others have said your argument simply lacks any foundation since God converses with man through signs and symbols. You have as usual made up your own definitions and then pilloried anyone who dares disagree with you.

    • Nektarios says:

      I agreed with you in part, then I have explained it, conscious and unconscious religion.
      I am well aware that God used symbols in the OT and even until the day of Pentecost.
      No need for your arrogant stance, nor your instructing me to do anything.

      God does not converse with man through signs and symbols for the Revelation of the Son of God is given. I am not pillorying you, just stating a fact. Argue with a fact if you like
      but it does not change a fact.

  21. John Nolan says:

    By the way, Nektarios, I do not ‘hurl insults’. I am constantly reminded of the words of Alexander Pope who wrote:
    ‘Satire’s my weapon, but I’m too discreet/To run amuck and tilt at all I meet’.
    Like many conceited and self-opinionated people you conflate criticism of your writings with an attack on yourself.
    I am not offended if anyone criticizes what I write (and many do). I would expect them to get their facts right before they do so, which spares me having to point out the obvious. Otherwise I regard myself as fair game. This is the English debating tradition.


  22. Nektarios says:

    John Nolan,
    I am sorry to tell you my facts as I presented them are correct as I understand them. I don’t mind being corrected where I am wrong. But don’t pose errors to be facts when they are clearly not.
    Now can we get back on topic please, thank you.

    • John Nolan says:

      Nektarios, what is your topic, apart from attacking the Catholic Church? You recently used the expression ‘utter nonsense’ to describe her teachings.

      As well you might, since she teaches that heretics and schismatics are ‘deceived by the wiles of the devil’.

      • Nektarios says:

        John Nolan
        Do you see what I said as attacking the Catholic Church? Did I not start with Mary’s song the Magnificat? What exception to you make to what I said. Some of the RCC’s teachings, lets say, need reforming.
        Ah it is a devil’s wile to push men from one extreme to another.
        But we are not ignorant of his devices.
        But I am tired of this exchange and so end it.

  23. G.D. says:

    When all is said and done, any theological expression, including evangelical feeling evaluations and/or doctrinal intellectual evaluations (both of which are valid in their own right) are mere symbols that people use as references to try and explain the mystery of the God Head (Trinity in Christian terms).
    God is always more than any individual can intellectually think and/or intuitively feel.

    Assuming our own particular symbolic expression(s) is the only reality that can be attributed to God & creation, no other being acceptable – ‘I am for Paul I am for Apollos’ – is to let the devils in, and is not ‘for Christ’. No matter how much the individual(s) is convinced it is.

    Cherish the knowledge and understanding God has given – but don’t try and turn that into God. It’s not!

    If what you accept as the reality of God is threatened by another expression don’t fret. God is big enough to cope with it, God doesn’t need defending.
    God asks for love. To be accepted and given – despite the crucified thoughts and feelings we all have when our symbolic ‘understandings’ of God are threatened.

    Standing up for ‘my understanding’ of God, expressing it and living it i will; but to let that become a weapon for an entrenched defence, against perceived attacks, to destroy others is a nonsense. And not of God’s doing.
    Jesus, the Christ, is the supreme example of that.

    And Our Blessed Lady, immaculate birth and all that, was The Only Purely (in both senses of the word) Human Example of the above ‘sacrifice’. And was such before Jesus was born!
    The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary ….. … ‘How can this be … done unto me’ .. and the word was made flesh.
    Her response wasn’t I ‘know’ it was ‘how’ .. and the Word was.

    • Nektarios says:


      This is one of the best replies yet, Bless you G.D. What you say initially is well balanced an accurate. Thank you for your posting.

      One more thing before I finally leave this topic, is concerning the Book of Revelation.

      This Book of Scripture is full of symbolism. Some might think I have contradicted myself from what I said earlier, but no I haven’t.

      The reason the Book of Revelation is full of symbolism is the fact that it is primarily a prophetical book.

      Prophecy uses symbolism because such things that are in that book are yet to be fulfilled.
      Like the OT the prophets used symbolism as they looked forward to the One who would come and save Israel. So, the Apostle John is led to use the same prophetical means of symbolism.

      Lastly, the prophetical symbolism was well understood then, but I am not so sure it is well understood by the Church now, if You Tube is anything to go by.
      When Christ was born, the people could see that the prophecies concerning Christ was then fulfilled. But the religious elite would not have Him, then, as they will not have Him today.

      • John Nolan says:

        ‘Some may think I have contradicted myself’. Nektarios, you are a mass of contradictions.

  24. Nektarios says:

    John Nolan

    It is the lot of mankind to be living lives that are full of contradictions. I am working on my own, and I trust and pray, John, you are working on your own?

  25. Brendan says:

    As a young man I was full of insecurity. My ‘faith’ was weak; my understanding of my self within society at large was at best a tenuous affair, characterised by bouts of erratic behaviour , held in check by a sense of my ‘ Catholic ‘ nature/nurture. Sounds familiar ? There are of course other ‘ beliefs ‘ in life which predominate in the nurturing our fellow travellers.
    Ones formative years are full of contradictions, which are fed by ones insecurities in living them out. Mary , I have come to understand was the model of security ( a paradox is her life being one of incessant insecurity ) because of her entire trust in Gods ineffable Providence….so her fiat then…., ” be it done unto me according to your will ” . Yes, the Immaculate Conception…but she was still given free will.
    Please God, with the ‘ certainties ‘ of Catholic Faith my insecurities have/will entirely dissolve by time in that path called ‘ holiness ‘ …as Mary found .Evidence of the final breaking of the chains of insecurity in myself and the complete certainty that trust in God gives to eradicate ‘ contradictions ‘ in my life , will be when I reject the worlds call to………” Don’t ever be the first to stop applauding.”
    ( Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s ” The Gulag Archipelago “. )
    As a Catholic I look as always for my fellow travellers to supply me inspiration.

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