Throwback Thursday: The Immaculate Deception

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 15, 2015 and has been revised.

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The Catholic church likes to present itself as the holy repository and guardian of God’s unchanging truths, but even a casual study of the church’s history will quickly burst that bubble. This post will illustrate how “unchanging” Catholic truths have evolved over time.

God’s Word makes only relatively minor mention of Mary, so how did devotion to her within Catholicism grow to match and even eclipse the devotion offered to Jesus Christ? Capture112In the early years of Christianity, a fringe, heretical group called the Collyridians (from collyris, Greek: the ritual offering cakes used in goddess worship) adapted elements of pagan mother-goddess worship into the worship of Mary. Beginning in the late-300s, aspects of this Mariolatry began to creep into the mainstream church. Because Marian worship had no explicit support in the Bible or in the writings of the early church “fathers,” Marianists spawned their extra-biblical novelties with the syllogistic argument that since it was possible for God to do thus-and-thus regarding Mary, then He “must have.” Devotees were soon extolling Mary as the new Eve, Mary as a type of Elijah, Mary as Wisdom, Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant, Mary as God’s beloved spouse, etc., as they advanced the new Mary-goddess ideology. The common folk eagerly embraced Mother Mary as the “Christian” alternative to their former, beloved pagan mother goddesses. For information on the Collyridians and the pagan roots of Mariolatry see the excellent, “The Virgin: Mary’s Cult and the Re-emergence of the Goddess” (1976), by historian Geoffrey Ashe.

Marian devotion continued to grow within Catholicism and was flourishing by the Middle-Ages. Constantly pushing the envelope, her enthusiastic followers began to claim that Mary was born without sin, just as Christ was. Devotees could not conceive of Mary, the alleged “ark of the new covenant,” being a sinner yet carrying the sinless Jesus in her womb. Catholic religious orders routinely opposed each other on a wide variety of doctrinal issues and this evolving belief in the “immaculate conception” of Mary was no exception. The Franciscans strongly supported the notion of Mary’s immaculate conception while the Dominicans strongly opposed it. Dominicans Thomas Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux, who were both eventually canonized as “saints,” denied the theological novelty as did fellow Dominican “saint” and “mystic,” Catherine of Siena. Now here’s where it gets really interesting. Catherine claimed to have been visited by Christ many times and the church enthusiastically acknowledges those visits as authentic credentials of her sainthood. However, in 1377 Catherine asserted that Christ had visited her and personally informed her that Mary was NOT conceived without sin as the Franciscans and the others claimed! Click here for more information.

Over the centuries, opposition faded and popular demand for the official recognition of the doctrine of the immaculate conception reached a feverish pitch and was finally defined as binding dogma by pope Pius IX in 1854. As an official dogma of the church, Catholics are bound to believe Mary was born without sin. Denial of the dogma is a “mortal” sin and is alleged to incur eternal hell fire.

But who is right about the dogma of Mary’s immaculate conception? Is pope Pius IX correct or is the jesus apparition who visited “saint” Catherine in 1377 correct? If Catherine’s jesus was wrong about this issue, what else was he wrong about? The church canonized Catherine in 1461, although she did not believe in the dogma of the immaculate conception. So did God send her to hell in 1854 when the doctrine was officially defined? And whatever happened to the jesus who appeared to Catherine in 1377 and told her Mary was not immaculately conceived? Did he appear to other saintly mystics and give them erroneous information, also? Or was that jesus actually right about the immaculate conception and the pope wrong? If it was necessary for Mary to have been immaculately conceived in order to be the sinless “ark” of Jesus Christ, wouldn’t it logically follow that her mother, and grandmother, and great-grandmother and so on would also have had to been sinless as well?

Catholics around the world are compelled to “celebrate” the feast of the immaculate conception by attending mass on December 8th every year under threat of mortal sin, although the majority don’t. But Catholics still pray to Mary as their mediator and co-redeemer. Mary would be sorely grieved by the worship Catholics accord to her.

“And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” – Luke 1:46-47

“As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one.” – Romans 3:10

“But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” – Matthew 15:9

Catholicism’s Flying House!

The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto: Spreading Catholicism in the Early Modern World
By Karin Vélez
Princeton University Press, 2019, 292 pp.

4 Stars

About a month ago, as part of my Throwback Thursday series, I republished a post about the so-called Holy House located in Loreto, Italy. Catholic tradition has it that the small (13′ x 31′), stone structure was the childhood home of both Mary and Jesus in Nazareth in Judea and that angels miraculously transported the building, first to Trsat (in modern Croatia) in 1291. The inhabitants of that city were said not to have accorded the holy relic the proper degree of veneration, so the angels moved it to Recanati, Italy in 1294, and to an initial and then final location within Loreto in 1295. My those angels were quite capricious!

I had learned that a scholarly work on the “flying house” had recently been published and I discovered that our library had a copy much to my delight. Well, delight quickly turned to frustration as I began reading the book. The acadamese was as thick as pudding and I suspected the book was an expanded doctoral dissertation. A quick internet search confirmed that to be the case. Anyway, either my brain adapted to the affected pomposity or the author gradually toned it down because the last three-quarters of the book read pretty easily.

Okay, back to the “flying house” itself. The author barely examines the actual origins of the flying house myth, which she attributes to imaginative Catholics who had immigrated from Dalmatia (Croatia) to Recanati and Loreto. However, Vélez provides some fascinating information regarding the following:

  • Medieval Europe was awash with religious relics attributed to Jesus and Mary and claimed to have been brought from the Holy Land. Bishops and parish priests vied for the most spectacular relics. However, few relics could compete with the supposed house that both Jesus and Mary had allegedly inhabited.
  • The Holy House of Loreto myth was spread via the writings of influential 16th century Catholic writers. The pilgrimage destination of the Basilica della Santa Casa encompassing the Holy House, which was encased in an elaborate, carved marble “screen,” was largely completed by the end of the 16th century.
  • In that superstitious era, great spiritual powers were associated with relics. Pious pilgrims journeyed for hundreds of miles to view and possibly touch the relics. Vows were made and monies were contributed to the churches. It was big business. Evangelicals (and most modern Catholics) have no idea how popular pilgrimages once were as part of Catholicism. Many of the pilgrims to the Holy House scraped and collected dust from stone walls as a religious souvenir until the practice was prohibited. In a religion devoted almost exclusively to the sensory/tactile, a visit to the Holy House was to walk in the footsteps of the divine.
  • Another important relic, a painting of Mary attributed to Gospel writer, Luke, was initially displayed within the Holy House. Pilgrims journeyed to Loreto to view the painting as much as the Holy House. Inexplicably, the darkened painting was at some point replaced with a darkened statue of Mary and baby Jesus with no explanation. Luke was also claimed to have painted the famous Mary and Jesus icon located at Jasna Góra monastery at Częstochowa, Poland. Existing painted icons attributed to Luke number at least 28 (see here) although they are clearly different artistic styles.
  • Ignatius Loyola and the early Jesuits were champions of Marian veneration (i.e., worship) and adopted the Holy House of Loreto (174 miles from Rome) as their paramount Marian shrine. As part of their efforts to spread Catholicism throughout the world, they erected imitations of the Loreto flying house at several of their mission sites. While many of the painting and statue icons in Europe were purposely darkened to suggest antiquity as part of the relics charade, such as those at Loreto, in marked contrast no attempt was made to darken the icons created in Asia and the Americas because they clearly fell outside of the Medieval relics sham.

Despite its uniquely outrageous claim to contain the actual physical home of Mary and Jesus, the Basilica della Santa Casa was eventually eclipsed by other Marian shrines as pilgrimage destinations, such as those at Lourdes and Fatima. As a Catholic grammar school student, the nuns regaled us with tales of Lourdes and Fatima, but I don’t recall ever hearing about the Holy House of Loreto. No doubt the plausibility factor chipped away at confidence in the authenticity of this relic. Lourdes’ and Fatima’s apparition mythologies were safe and unassailable by comparison.

Although this book got off to a very slow start, I ended up really appreciating “The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto” for how it “deconstructed” Catholic relic “mythohistory” by example of the bogus flying house. The Holy House mythology and all of its trappings stands in marked contrast to the Gospel message of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

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Above: In this fanciful mural, Mary with baby Jesus sits atop the Holy House as angels fly it up, up, and away.
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An ornately carved, marble shroud encases the alleged “Holy House” within the Basilica della Santa Casa in Loreto, Italy
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Pope Francis meditates inside the bogus “Holy House.” Note the icon of Mary and infant Jesus above the “altar.”
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The capricious flight of the “holy house” from (1) Nazareth, Palestine to (2) Trsat, Croatia, to (3) Recanati, Italy, to (4) two locations in Loreto, Italy.

Sociological forces that turned Lourdes into a national and continental phenomenon

The Happening at Lourdes: The Sociology of the Grotto
By Alan Neame
Simon and Schuster, 1967, 323 pp.

5 Stars

I recently submitted a post about the alleged Marian apparitions at the Massabielle Grotto in Lourdes, France in 1858 (see here), which prompted me to check our local library system to see if they had any books on the topic and found this fifty-two-year-old gem. Don’t let the age of the book dissuade you. Its revelations are still quite pertinent.

Author, Alan Neame, takes a very skeptical view of the Lourdes apparitions. Some of the cogent points include:

  • Fourteen-year-old Lourdes visionary, Bernadette Soubirous, had been thoroughly indoctrinated into Catholic Mariolatry and was quite familiar with the Marian myths that originated in the nearby towns of Bétharram and La Sallete, where Mary had allegedly appeared to two children just twelve years previous in 1846. The peasant folk of the French Pyranees region were steeped in religious superstition/cultism to a degree that would be shocking to a 21st century observer.
  • Devotees of the Lourdes cult often cite Bernadette’s claim that the apparition referred to herself as the “Immaculate Conception” during its sixteenth appearance as a proof of authenticity. Pope Pius IX had declared the Immaculate Conception of Mary as dogma only four years before in 1854 and they argue that Bernadette, an illiterate, could not possibly have learned of this dogma prior to the alleged visitation. The author points out that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception had been declared a Holy Day of Obligation one-hundred-and-fifty-years previous in 1708 by pope Clement XI and that all Catholics, especially those steeped in Mariolatry like the Soubirous family, were intimately aware of the doctrine.
  • French Catholic conservatives/traditionalists seized upon the Lourdes apparitions as a symbol of resistance to the militant secular state and the ongoing national political upheaval. The French National Pilgrimages (FNP) to Lourdes, which began in 1872, would become a rallying event for French political and religious conservatism. The rise of Lourdes as a national and European shrine coincided with the fall of the Papal States to the forces of Italian unification. Catholic conservatives from all across Europe would make the journey to Lourdes in symbolic support of the papacy and Roman Catholic traditionalism.
  • Interestingly, Bernadette Soubirous and all of the other Marian visionaries had contrasting versions of the apparition’s physical features and clothing.
  • After the apparitions were accepted as authentic by the church, the local parish priest, Dominique Peyramale, fought with the diocese to retain control of the grotto site. The apparition site eventually came under diocesan control and then the control of the French Catholic church. Credulous Lourdes devotees are oblivious to the “behind-the-scenes” ecclesiastical infighting among clerics over control of the apparition site that Neame examines with a good amount of detail.

Most evangelicals have no idea of just how popular pilgrimage destinations like Lourdes once were in Catholic-majority countries. In the small city (population: 13,946), there are still 200 souvenir shops and the second-highest number of hotel rooms in France after Paris. But the number of pilgrims has declined steeply in recent years. Lourdes used to boast of six million pilgrims per year only a decade ago, but the number is now half that.

“The Happening at Lourdes: The Sociology of the Grotto” is a revealing examination of the rampant cultic devotion to Mary that gripped Southwest France at the time of Bernadette’s alleged visions and of the forces that turned the Massabielle Grotto into a beloved symbol of religious and political traditionalism and conservatism in France and beyond. For anyone interested in the “back story” behind this “Mecca” of Marian cultism, this book is quite illuminating. Highly recommended.

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This old aerial photo shows the massive railroad facilities that were installed at Lourdes to handle the 16,000 pilgrims who descended upon the humble town daily. Those are all passenger trains. The grandiose Marian shrine complex (123 acres) in the distance is circled in yellow.

The Deception of Lourdes

There have been hundreds of purported appearances of Mary around the world over the centuries, but the Catholic church only officially recognizes a small number (16?). I would guess the two most famous alleged appearances were at Lourdes, France in 1858 and at Fatima, Portugal in 1917. There are VERY large shrines at both sites to accommodate the millions of pilgrims who visit each year. For the purpose of this post, let’s take a closer look at the alleged Lourdes apparition.

Fourteen-year-old, Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, the eldest daughter of a miller, claimed that a Marian apparition, which she named “Aquero” (translated “that which I am speaking of”), appeared to her eighteen times at the grotto of Massabiell (French-Bigorre dialect: ancient rock) between 11 February and 16 July 1858. The messages from the alleged apparition were simple, including the need for prayer and “penance.” As part of the sixteenth appearance, Aquero was alleged to have identified herself as the “Immaculate Conception.” Pope Pius IX had declared the immaculate conception of Mary as a dogma of the church only four years prior in 1854. When news of Bernadette’s allegations spread throughout the area, the local people were divided as to their authenticity, but some began to claim miraculous healings from the spring water at the grotto. The Catholic church launched an investigation and in 1862 ruled that the apparitions were authentic.

Bernadette joined a religious order, the Sisters of Charity, in 1866 and died in 1879 of tuberculosis at the age of thirty-five. Pope Pius XI canonized Bernadette as a saint in 1933. Her wax covered corpse, which is claimed to be “incorrupt,” is displayed at the Chapel of Saint Bernadette at the mother house of the Sisters of Charity in Nevers, France. The story of the alleged apparitions at Lourdes was actually made into a Hollywood film, “The Song of Bernadette” in 1943.

What to make of the Marian apparition at Lourdes and elsewhere? The purported entity never speaks of the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, but always admonishes the visionary/visionaries to double-down in their attempts to merit their salvation, with exhortations for more and more prayer, penance, reliance on sacramentals (e.g., religious medals, rosary, holy water, scapulars), obedience to church authorities, and works-righteousness in general. Bernadette, like the other visionaries, was either a religious hysteric or a tool of a demonic entity. The bottom line for all of these apparitions is they encourage devotion and worship of Mary among pious Catholics. Six-million Catholics from around the world visit the shrine at Lourdes, France each year. Yes, folks, that’s 6,000,000 souls per year or 16,438 per day.

Out of curiosity, I checked Amazon to see if there was any commerce in the “holy water” of Lourdes and sure enough there were MANY examples (see photo above for just one example). Poor, credulous Catholics chase after apparitions that exhort them to work harder at meriting their salvation, while the genuine Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, goes unheeded.

Below is just one example of the popular Mariolatrous views within Catholicism:

“God the Son imparted to his mother all that he gained by his life and death, namely, his infinite merits and his eminent virtues. He made her the treasurer of all his Father had given him as heritage. Through her he applies his merits to his members and through her he transmits his virtues and distributes his graces. She is his mystical channel, his aqueduct, through which he causes his mercies to flow gently and abundantly.” – from “Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin” by St. Louis de Montfort

In contrast, the Bible mentions nothing about Mary in connection with salvation.

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” – John 3:36

In fact, Mary is conspicuously missing in all of the epistles of the New Testament.

Are the apparitions of Mary really Mary?
https://carm.org/are-the-apparitions-of-mary-really-mary

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Postscript: Writing this post motivated me to check our local library system to see if they had any good examinations of the apparitions at Lourdes. Sure enough, they had “The Happening at Lourdes: The Sociology of the Grotto” (1967) by Alan Neame. I’m about one-third of the way through this very interesting book, which I will be reviewing down the road.

 

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Photo above: Catholic Mariolaters gather at the Massabiell grotto at Lourdes. Bernadette Soubirous claimed Mary appeared to her eighteen times in the rock cleft where a statue has been placed.

Was Mary really sinless?

Roman Catholicism teaches that Mary was conceived without original sin and lived a totally sinless life. Why do they teach such a thing? Because Mary holds such an exalted place in Catholicism and is claimed to share many of the offices of Jesus Christ (e.g., Advocate, Mediatrix, Co-Redemptrix, Channel of all Graces, etc.), Catholics argue she must necessarily have been sinless just as Jesus was since they allege she also played a role in redemption.

But doesn’t the Bible say all men are sinners?

“As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” – Romans 3:10-12

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – Romans 3:23

How do Catholics get around those passages in defending the sinlessness of Mary?

A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to the 1/15/19 podcast of the “Called to Communion” Catholic talk radio show and apologist, David Anders (above photo), attempted to deftly sidestep Scripture’s clear and unambiguous teaching on the sinfulness of all mankind, including Mary. We begin at the 48:35 mark of the podcast:

Tom Price, show moderator: This (question) is from Andy, checking us out on Facebook. “My brother-in-law and I are discussing the sinlessness of Mary. He used Romans 3:23 as a proof-text that all have sinned, including Mary. How do I respond to that?”

David Anders: So Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. What’s Paul’s point in the argument? His purpose in writing the book of Romans is not to speculate on the doctrine of Mary. Mariology doesn’t enter into the thing at all. He’s talking about the grace and “Judential”* relationships in relation to the Law of Moses. It’s just not even concerned with Mariology. And we use this kind of language all the time in an imprecise way. I remember Colin Donovan (Catholic theologist) used this illustration when he said, “Everybody went to the ballgame.” Well, NOT EVERBODY went to the ballgame, but you know what he meant. Or “Nobody goes to that restaurant anymore because it’s too crowded” as Yogi Berra would say. This is just colloquial language in how St. Paul’s speaking. He’s not making an argument about Mariology one way or the other. If you want to go for Mariology go to the Gospel of Luke.

Tom Price: Yeah, and don’t get hung up on the word “all” in this particular case.

David Anders: Right.

We can all agree that people sometimes use “all” as a generality without meaning every specific case, but was that Paul’s intention in Roman 3:23? The “no, not one…not even one” of Romans 3:10-12 precludes Anders’ sophistry. Mary acknowledges she was a sinner in need of the Savior in Luke 1:47. She also offered up a sin offering along with a burnt offering in Luke 2:22-24. Yes, Mary was a sinner in need of the Savior as we all are. Catholic apologists must deviate from the precise and crystal clear meaning of Scripture in this example in order to justify their doctrine of the sinlessness of Mary.

*Anders routinely invents words during “Called to Communion” broadcasts, such as this example; “Judential.”

A Prayer to Mary?

We know from Scripture that only Almighty God is worthy of our worship. The Bible is not fuzzy about this; it commands us to worship God alone.

“You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” – Matthew 4:10

But Roman Catholics dedicate a large portion of their religious devotion to Mary. Protestants have even charged Catholics with worshiping Mary. Our Catholic friends strongly deny that they worship Mary. They claim that they simply honor her with the veneration she deserves as the mother of Jesus and “mother of the church.”

Despite the denials, the line between “veneration” and “worship” is not altogether clear in regards to how Catholics actually relate to Mary. Let’s focus on just one example; the celebrated Catholic saint, Alphonsus Liguori.

Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) was an Italian Catholic bishop who founded the Redemptorists religious order of priests and brothers and is considered one of Roman Catholicism’s greatest saints. He was canonized in 1839 by pope Gregory XVI and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church (i.e. an honorific title bestowed upon the church’s 36 preeminent theologians) by pope Pius IX in 1871.

Liguori is best known for his absolute devotion to Mary. His book, “The Glories of Mary,” was first published in 1774 and became the standard work in promulgating devotion to Mary within Catholicism.

Below is a petition to Mary written by Liguori. I ask all evangelicals to read this “prayer” with open eyes:

“Most holy Virgin Immaculate, my Mother Mary, to thee who art the Mother of my Lord, the queen of the universe, the advocate, the hope, the refuge of sinners, I who am the most miserable of all sinners, have recourse this day. I venerate thee, great queen, and I thank thee for the many graces thou has bestowed upon me even unto this day; in particular for having delivered me from the hell which I have so often deserved by my sins. I love thee, most dear Lady; and for the love I bear thee, I promise to serve thee willingly forever and to do what I can to make thee loved by others also. I place in thee all my hopes for salvation; accept me as thy servant and shelter me under thy mantle, thou who art the Mother of mercy. And since thou art so powerful with God, deliver me from all temptations, or at least obtain for me the strength to overcome them until death. From thee I implore a true love for Jesus Christ. Through thee I hope to die a holy death. My dear Mother, by the love thou bearest to Almighty God, I pray thee to assist me always, but most of all at the last moment of my life. Forsake me not then, until thou shalt see me safe in heaven, there to bless thee and sing of thy mercies through all eternity. Such is my hope. Amen.”

In this prayer to Mary, Liguori fleetingly mentions Jesus Christ, God the Son, and God the Father, but the passion of the prayer is devoted entirely to Mary.

Among other offices and attributes, Liguori honors Mary as the following:

  • Queen of the universe, the advocate, the hope, the refuge of sinners.
  • Bestower of many graces, in particular the deliverer from hell.
  • Source of all hopes for salvation.
  • Deliverer from all temptations.

At the end of the prayer, Liguori pleads with Mary to assist him in his efforts to merit salvation, especially at the time of his death.

Evangelical believers must surely read this prayer with astonishment and revulsion. Liguori attributes to Mary all of the offices that uniquely belong to Jesus Christ: Advocate, Savior, and Deliverer. Catholics protest that they do not worship Mary out of one side of their mouth, and yet worship her unabashedly out of the other side.

Believers praise the Lord for Mary’s example of obedience in Scripture, but Mary was a sinner in need of the Savior as we all are. Mary would be sorely grieved by the veneration/worship Catholics accord to her.

The Redemptorists’ website says the following about their founder, Liguori, in his old age as he approached death:

“(Liguori)…was plagued with spiritual afflictions, scrupulously fearing he hadn’t done enough to serve the God he loved so much. To help him through these times, his confreres gathered with him to pray. They always included the Litany of Our Lady, usually followed by the rosary. They read to him from his own writings about the glory of Mary and how, as heaven’s queen, she welcomed all her true and faithful servants at the hour of their death. Early in the evening on July 31, 1787, Alphonsus made one final request. “Give me my lady,” he whispered. They placed a picture of Mary in his hands. He spent the night in prayer with the Blessed Mother. The next day at the stroke of the noon Angelus, Alphonsus died at the age of 91.”

Liguori was not trusting in Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone. He led millions upon millions into error by teaching them to worship Mary and to attempt to merit salvation through Mary with their own unrighteous works.

When the day comes when I approach the valley of the shadow of death, I will turn to my loving Savior and Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and say, “Take me home, Lord.”

Crowning the statue of Mary on May Day

Back when I attended Catholic grammar school in the 1960s, the nuns would have all of the students assemble every year on the first weekday of May to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. Weather permitting, the students would line up by class on a field adjoining the church, and then proceed in order into the church singing Ave Maria. Bringing up the rear of the procession was the May Queen and her two attendants. The nuns inevitably chose the prettiest and smartest eighth grade girl to be the May Queen. She was dressed to the nines for the occasion and carried a small crown of flowers. After she entered the church and proceeded to the small Marian altar to the right of the main altar, she placed the crown on the statue of Mary, honoring her as the Queen of Heaven.

Little did we know at the time how un-Biblical all of that “veneration” (aka worship) of Mary actually was. According to the Bible, Mary was a humble servant of the Lord who rejoiced in her Savior. She would be mortified by the idolatrous worship accorded to her by Roman Catholicism.

“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” – Luke 1:46-47

Roman Catholicism, Mary, and Idolatry
https://carm.org/roman-catholicism-mary-idolatry

Below are some additional photos of Catholic May Day coronations:

MD1 MD2 MD3 MD4

Beware the rabbit hole: Mary’s “immaculate conception” and Catholicism’s other man-made traditions

This morning, I was listening to the 12/22/17 podcast of the “Calling All Catholics” talk radio show (The Station of the Cross, WLOF – Our Lady of Fatima, 101.7 FM, Buffalo, NY) and moderator, Mike Denz, and priest-host, Dave Baker, were discussing Mary. It was Mary this and Mary that. Don’t get me wrong, Mary is an example to us of a faithful servant of the Lord, but she was also a sinner saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone and she would be grief stricken if she were aware of Catholicism’s idolatrous worship (aka “veneration”) of her.

Scripture actually has relatively little to say about Mary (she is not mentioned in the last 170 chapters of the New Testament), so Catholic Mariolaters had to extrapolate their extensive Marian dogmas from thin air in order to justify her elevation to semi-deitifical status. The rationalization often used was, “Since God could and should have done such and such in regards to Mary, then it MUST have happened.” With this type of pushing-a-square-peg-through-a-round-hole thinking, such non-Biblical dogmas as the immaculate conception and assumption of Mary were concocted.

The virgin birth of Jesus Christ is a foundational truth of Christianity. From Scripture, we learn that man’s sin nature is passed down through the human father (see here), but Jesus’s virgin birth uniquely circumvented the transmission of the sin nature to Him. Jesus was conceived without sin within Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Without any Biblical warrant, Mariolaters claim that Mary MUST also have been born without sin, since she was the vessel that bore the sinless Christ. That is un-Scriptural nonsense. Jesus had close relationships with many people during His thirty-three years in Palestine, but His close, physical proximity to them did not require that any of them be sinless as He was. In contrast, God’s Word states several times that there is not a single person who is without sin, no, not even one (see here). No exception is made. Not for Mary, not for Joseph, not for John the Baptist, or anyone else (some Catholic dreamers even go a step further and postulate that Joseph and John the Baptist were also conceived without sin, like Mary).

But let’s follow this anti-Biblical claim of Mary’s sinlessness to its fallacious conclusion. Catholics assert that Mary’s parents were named Anna and Joachim, although there is no Scriptural or verifiable proof of that outside of fanciful post-Biblical traditions. But if Catholics are going to claim that Mary HAD to be sinless because she was the chosen vessel of Jesus Christ, then they must carry their argument to its logical extension. If Mary was conceived without sin, then it follows that Mary’s mother, who Catholics call Anna, was also conceived without sin, since she was the vessel of “sinless” Mary. And if Anna was conceived without sin, then her nameless mother must also have been conceived without sin since she was the vessel of Anna. And likewise Anna’s grandmother, her great grandmother, her great-great grandmother, and deeper and deeper we go down this bottomless rabbit hole!

Christians stand upon God’s Word and the Gospel of salvation by Gods’ grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Catholicism’s traditions and false gospel of sacramental grace and merit are one dangerous rabbit hole after another. Stand on God’s Word alone. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone.

“As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” – Luke 11:27-28

“Immaculate Mary”: A sad song from my past

Every once in a while, we come across something that triggers a memory from very long ago; a memory that we had completely forgotten about. I’m currently reading through a new book about Roman Catholicism (review to follow in a few days) and in a chapter about Mariology/Mariolatry, the author referenced a hymn from my Catholic past; “Immaculate Mary.” Wow! I had completely forgotten about that song.

I remember that our teachers (both nuns and lay teachers) had us students sing “Immaculate Mary” quite often throughout my nine years (1961-1970) in Catholic grammar school. It’s possible that we may have sung it more than other song. The song was also a staple at Sunday mass. Wikipedia states that “Immaculate Mary” “was composed in 1873 by French priest and seminary director, Jean Gaignet, for pilgrims to the site of the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes,” which is why it is sometimes also referred to as the “Lourdes Hymn.”

I thought it would be interesting to examine “Immaculate Mary” from the perspective of forty-seven years later as a follower of Jesus Christ. Below are the song’s lyrics with my commentary in red:

Immaculate Mary, thy praises we sing,

Factions within the Catholic church debated for centuries whether Mary was immaculately conceived without sin. Franciscans pushed for the doctrine while Dominicans (including Aquinas and Catherine of Siena) strongly opposed it. Pope Pius IX finally proclaimed Mary’s immaculate conception as infallible dogma in 1854. What is meant by this teaching is that Mary was born without “original sin” and that she never committed a single sin in her entire lifetime. In contrast, the Bible says in several passages that there is not one single human being on Earth without sin (e.g., Romans 3:9-20). Mary herself recognized her need of the Savior in Luke 1:47. Catholics praise Mary as a semi-deity.

Thou reignst now in Heaven with Jesus our King.

Catholics teach that Mary reigns as the Queen of Heaven at the right hand of Jesus Christ, but nowhere in the New Testament does it indicate that Mary would have this position or honor. In fact, the last time Mary is mentioned in the New Testament is Acts 1:14. There’s not a single direct reference to Mary in the following 170 chapters, many of which touch on the most significant aspects of church belief and practice.

Ave, Ave, Ave Maria! Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!

In Luke 1:28, the angel Gabriel visits Mary in Nazareth and greets her with “Hail,” from the Greek word, “chaire,” which also translates as a simple “Greetings” or “Hello.” In the Latin translation, the word that’s used is “Ave,” which was sometimes used as a formal salutation for an honored personage. When the Roman Caesars appeared at a function, they were greeted with the expression, “Ave Caesar!” We later see this same salutatory obeisance to German dictator, Adolf Hitler, in the use of “Heil (hail) Hitler!” Likewise, Catholics use the term, “Ave,” as a reverential and worshipful salutation to their mother, Mary.

In Heaven the Blessed thy glory proclaim,

In this verse, it is claimed that those who are in Heaven proclaim Mary’s glory. But in God’s Word we find that the saints and angels in Heaven worship God alone (e.g., Revelation 19:5-7). The Bible specifically states that God will not share His glory with another (Isaiah 42:8).

On earth we thy children invoke thy fair name.

The Catholic church teaches Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces, while God’s Word says that Christ alone is the Mediator between God and mankind (1 Timothy 2:5). Nowhere in the New Testament does a believer pray to anyone other than God.

Ave, Ave, Ave Maria! Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!

Again, the worshipful salutation.

We pray for our mother, the Church upon earth

In this verse, the Catholic church as mother is entwined with Mother Mary.

And bless, dearest Lady, the land of our birth.

Here, supplicants acknowledge Mary as deity with the powers to bless their native country. Yet the Bible states that God alone has this kind of power (e.g., Psalm 86:10).

Ave, Ave, Ave Maria! Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!

The song closes with the third and final worshipful salutation to Mary.

Mary was a humble believer who accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior just like every other Christian. If Mary could speak to us today, she would rebuke all of Catholicism’s idolatrous worship of her and plead with everyone to repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone.

I sang this song many times as a child and (disinterested) teen. I didn’t know Christ as my Savior at that time and neither did any of my Catholic classmates. We were all (somewhat) following a complicated religious system with its many man-made traditions including Mariology/Mariolatry. None of us had come to Jesus as sinners in need of the Savior through faith alone because we were not taught the Gospel. We were taught that salvation had to be merited by receiving the sacraments and obeying the Ten Commandments. Accept Christ!


For information on an excellent resource on the orchestrated rise of Mariolatry within Catholicism, “The Virgin: Mary’s Cult and the Re-emergence of the Goddess,” see here.

For a video of the song, “Immaculate Mary,” see here.

What does the Bible say about the virgin Mary?
https://www.gotquestions.org/virgin-Mary.html

Catholic Shrines: “Holy” sites or whited sepulchres?

I listen regularly to Catholic talk radio show, “Calling All Catholics,” The Station of the Cross (101.7 FM, Buffalo, NY), and one of the priest-hosts is Peter Calabrese who works at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima here in Western New York

Making a pilgrimage to a “holy shrine” used to be a very popular endeavor for Catholics, although I’m sure much of the enthusiasm has faded among the younger generations. The Roman Catholic church teaches that its members can earn indulgences that remit temporal punishment in purgatory by visiting officially sanctioned, “consecrated” shrines.

There are many shrines all over the U.S., but the closest shrine to me is the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Lewiston, NY, around 100-miles west of Rochester. The shrine church was completed in 1965. It’s a glass-domed structure that depicts the Northern Hemisphere. A 13-foot-tall statue of Mary, “Queen of Heaven,” stands atop the dome (see photos).

On the 16-acre grounds are 150 statues of Mary, Jesus, and various saints. Special prominence is given to statues depicting the alleged Marian apparition at Fatima, Portugal in 1917.

Imagine the many thousands of souls who have walked the spacious grounds of this shrine over the last 52-years, stopping before the many statues and offering prayers to Mary and the saints, asking for their intercession and help in bringing them to salvation. Most of what is presented at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is un-Biblical and even anti-Biblical. Many would say the shrine buildings and grounds are beautiful and inspiring. The lights. The statues. It’s all meant to appeal to the flesh. But genuine Christians worship the Lord God in spirit and in truth. Salvation does not come by pilgrimages to shrines and other religious exercises. Salvation is by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Buildings crumble and fall but Christ is the solid Rock of eternal salvation. Put your faith in Him and nothing else. That is what Mary really desires.

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23-24

Just imagine, if you can, the apostle Paul and Barnabas, walking together through Lewiston and coming upon this shrine with its many statues and its focus on the “Queen of Heaven.” They would think they were seeing an idolatrous pagan Roman shrine rather than someplace supposedly associated with Christianity.

Below is a listing of all the Catholic shrines in the USA:
http://www.catholicshrines.net/

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