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.


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

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.

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.

Graven Bread: An Unexpected Twist

Graven Bread: The Papacy, the Apparitions of Mary, and the Worship of the Bread of the Altar
By Timothy F. Kauffman
White Horse Publications, 1994, 207 pages

Most books written by evangelicals that critically examine Roman Catholicism cover the various doctrinal differences in regards to such issues as justification, purgatory, Mary, confession, etc.

In “Graven Bread,” Timothy Kauffman takes a unique approach. The author demonstrates the symbiotic relationship between the papacy, the alleged apparitions of Mary, and the eucharist/consecrated bread wafers and the possible roles they will play in the future.

Popes have enthusiastically endorsed the church-approved Marian apparitions and even several unsanctioned apparitions such as those at Medjugorje, Bosnia. For their part, the Marian apparitions have consistently encouraged loyalty and unwavering devotion to the sitting pope. To complete the triumvirate, both popes and the Marian apparitions have strongly admonished Catholics to worship the consecrated eucharistic bread wafer, which they believe to be the literal body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. Many “signs and wonders” have been attributed to the apparitions and to consecrated Jesus wafers.

After convincingly demonstrating the interdependent relationship between the three entities, Kauffman takes an unexpected turn and posits the possibility that the three may someday fill the roles of anti-Christ (the pope), false prophet (Marian apparitions), and the image/mark of the beast (the consecrated wafer) spoken of in Revelation 13. Far fetched? Perhaps so, perhaps not. As Kauffman points out, belief in the consecrated wafer as the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ was THE litmus test by which popes and the Catholic church once rooted out and executed heretics for multiple centuries and the author suggests that submission to belief in the consecrated Jesus wafer could also be the future defining mark referred to in Revelation.

I would recommend this book only to those who are already familiar with Catholic dogma and might be interested in giving a hearing to the author’s end-times hypothesis. Kauffman does an excellent job of examining the interrelationship between the papacy, Marian apparitions, and the eucharist, a tack I’ve never come across previously. Have no fears; this isn’t a Jack Chick-style, conspiratorial hyper-polemic. The author presents his views on the possible roles the papacy, the Marian apparitions, and the eucharist will play in the framework of Revelation 13 strictly as the theory that it is. Personally, I’m of the strong opinion that the pope and the Marian apparitions will play significant roles in the end times.

Used copies of “Graven Bread: The Papacy, the Apparitions of Mary, and the Worship of the Bread of the Altar” are available from Amazon here.

Mary: A humble sinner saved by grace or an exalted semi-deity?

A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Mary: Mother of God?
By Leonardo De Chirico
Christian Focus Publications, 2017, 106 pages

There’s little doubt that the most important difference between Biblical Christianity and Roman Catholicism is how a person is saved. Christianity proclaims the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone while Catholicism teaches salvation by sacramental grace and merit. But the difference between how each group views Mary is also quite significant. Evangelicals take the Biblical view of Mary as a humble believer who submitted to God’s will, but was still a sinner who needed to trust in Christ by faith alone for her salvation. In contrast, Catholics exalt Mary as Advocate, Mediatrix, and Co-Redemptrix, offices that belong to Jesus Christ alone.

“Taken up to heaven, she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.” – quoted from Lumen Gentium, paragraph 62

When Catholics read the New Testament for the first time, they’re amazed by the relatively small amount of emphasis Mary is given in Scripture in comparison to her exalted position in Catholicism, which rivals and sometimes even exceeds that of Jesus Christ (Mary is not mentioned directly in the last 170 chapters of the NT).

How did Mariolatry start? What sustains it? Leonardo De Chirico answers these questions and more in “A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Mary: Mother of God?” Don’t let the size of this book fool you. It’s an excellent, well-written, well-researched primer on the origin and development of Mariolatry within Roman Catholicism.

Pastor De Chirico is an expert on the Roman Catholic church. He’s previously written a pocket guide on the papacy (see here), he writes an informative monthly blog about Catholicism (see here), and he leads a ministry, The Reformanda Initiative, which seeks to educate evangelicals regarding Roman Catholicism so that they will continue to reach out to Catholics with the Gospel of grace (see here). Praise God for Dr. De Chirico and I pray the Lord continues to use him to reach out to Roman Catholics.

Order “A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Mary: Mother of God?” from Amazon, here.



New book examines Mariolatry

Thanks to Maria at Pilgrim’s Progress revisited – Christiana on the narrow way for making me aware of this forthcoming book devoted to the topic of Mariolatry. “A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Mary: the Mother of God?” by evangelical pastor and leader of an outreach ministry to Roman Catholics, Leonardo De Chirico, is due to be published on December 1st. Amazon is currently accepting pre-orders. See here. De Chirico’s previous book, “A Christian’s Pocket Guide to the Papacy: Its origin and role in the 21st century” (2014), is excellent and is available at Amazon. See here.

The most important difference between Catholics and Bible Christians is their contrasting beliefs on how a person is saved. Catholics believe in salvation by sacramental grace and merit while Bible Christians believe in the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Another major difference between the two groups is their opposing views on Mary. Catholics believe Mary was sinless and shares in the offices of Jesus Christ as the Mediatrix, Co-Redemptrix, and Channel of all Graces. Catholics in error go to her regularly in prayer, asking for her help in their efforts to merit salvation. Bible Christians believe that while Mary was certainly blessed to be chosen as Jesus’s mother, she was still a sinner who needed to accept Christ as her Savior by faith alone. Nowhere in the New Testament does it say sinners must entreat Mary as Catholics do. In contrast, the Bible specifically warns against elevating Mary to a position she certainly would oppose.

“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

In all its theological force and devotional ramifications, Mariology is an inescapable, all-embracing, and fundamental tenet of Roman Catholic theology and practice. Moreover, it is a deeply troubling development because it is impossible to see a linear and coherent connection between this Marian devotion and the more sobering account of what the Bible actually says […]

via Go read! Leonardo De Chirico — Pilgrim’s Progress revisited – Christiana on the narrow way

Postscript: It’s a small point but I must say I’m not a fan of the cover designs for the two books; far too nondescript.

A bullet in the crown of the “Queen of Heaven.”


Catholic talk radio is abuzz with chatter about Fatima. This year, Catholics round the world will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the alleged apparition of Mary to three peasant children at Fatima, Portugal in 1917. Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Fatima on May 12th and 13th when he will declare the three children, Lúcia Santos and Francisco and Jacinta Marto, as “saints.”

Catholicism ranks Fatima as the most important Marian apparition. Pope John Paul IIFAT was devoted to “Our Lady of Fatima” and was convinced she had saved him from an assassination attempt in 1981. One of the bullets that was removed from John Paul’s body was mounted in the crown placed on the statue of Mary at the sanctuary at Fatima (see photo of crown with bullet protruding under blue globe).

With Fatima we have another example of Mariolatrous pageantry and ceremony, with absolutely no attention given to accepting Jesus Christ as personal Savior by faith. Splendid religious ritual and solemnity devoted to Mary have pushed aside simple, saving faith in Christ.

Catholics proclaim that Mary is the Queen of Heaven and that she rules as Mediatrix of All Graces and as Co-Redeemer. But God does not share His glory with another.

“The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger.” – Jeremiah 7:18

“But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster. But since we left off making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.” And the women said, “When we made offerings to the queen of heaven rand poured out drink offerings to her, was it without our husbands’ approval that we made cakes for her bearing her image and poured out drink offerings to her?” Then Jeremiah said to all the people, men and women, all the people who had given him this answer: “As for the offerings that you offered in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, you and your fathers, your kings and your officials, and the people of the land, did not the Lord remember them? Did it not come into his mind? The Lord could no longer bear your evil deeds and the abominations that you committed. Therefore your land has become a desolation and a waste and a curse, without inhabitant, as it is this day. It is because you made offerings and because you sinned against the Lord and did not obey the voice of the Lord or walk in his law and in his statutes and in his testimonies that this disaster has happened to you, as at this day.” Jeremiah said to all the people and all the women, “Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who are in the land of Egypt. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: You and your wives have declared with your mouths, and have fulfilled it with your hands, saying, ‘We will surely perform our vows that we have made, to make offerings to the queen of heaven and to pour out drink offerings to her.’ Then confirm your vows and perform your vows!” – Jeremiah 44:17–25

Fatimah was the favorite daughter of false prophet, Muhammad. As a consequence, many Muslim girls are given her name. Fatima, Portugal was named after a Moorish princess. Christians would be surprised to learn that Muslims venerate Mary. She is mentioned much more in the Quran than the Bible. Many Muslims make the pilgrimage to Fatima. Could another Marian apparition at Fatima someday be the catalyst for a one-world religion?

See a live webcam of the Marian statue with the bullet crown at the Fatima sanctuary here.

Fatima 2017 – Capitalizing on religious fervor


One of the high points for the Roman Catholic church this year will definitely be when pope Francis visits Fatima, Portugal on May 12th and 13th in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the alleged appearance of Mary to the three children there in 1917. Fatima is widely viewed by Catholics as the most important Marian apparition.

Coincidentally (or rather, strategically), the Vatican has just announced that Francis has officially recognized the miracle attributed to the intercession of two of the Fatima children – “Blesseds” Francisco and Jacinta (photo, middle and right), thus paving their way to sainthood. The third child who witnessed the alleged apparition, Lúcia Santos, has already been green-lighted for canonization. Could Francis declare all three individuals to be “saints” when he visits Fatima in May? That seems to be the case from the story below. Can anyone spell “opportunistic”?

It often takes the Vatican multiple centuries before they declare someone a saint but if a person was extremely popular the church has been known to capitalize on their fame by expediting the process (see pope  John Paul II, mother Teresa, and Fulton Sheen in the very short-term once the dioceses of New York City and Peoria, Illinois stop fighting over his remains).

Catholicism’s non-biblical concept of a “saint” fits their theology. For Catholics, a saint is someone who lived an extraordinarily holy life and is rewarded with a mediatorial presence in Heaven. In contrast, God’s Word says no one is good.

“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

“Not even one” includes Mary.

The Bible refers to the saints (“hagios” – set apart ones) as all those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and are reborn spiritually. And what about all those Marian apparitions? Mary is in Heaven worshipping her Savior. These alleged apparitions that point people to the Catholic gospel of sacramental grace and merit can either be attributed to religious hysteria or demonic activity. Evangelicals would be amazed at how much veneration/worship is accorded to Mary by Catholics in comparison to Jesus Christ. Catholics, on the other hand, would be amazed at just how little Mary is mentioned in the New Testament.

Nowhere in the Bible do believers pray to anyone other than God. In contrast, the Scriptures specifically warn against trying to communicate with the dead. Put man-made traditions aside and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and then ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area. See here.

Pope Francis to proclaim Fatima visionaries saints during Portugal trip

For more on Catholicism’s unbiblical teachings on “saints,” see here.

For more on Catholic Mariolatry, see here.

The “Hail Mary” pass strikes again!

I used to watch a lot of football in my younger days. On Sundays, I was pretty muchhm glued to the television set from noon until 7 p.m.; it didn’t matter who was playing. But my football- watching days are pretty much behind me at this point.

Yesterday, I felt a little sluggish so I just sat on the couch and watched the Giants-Packers playoff game. The Giants controlled the first twenty-six minutes of the game although they were only ahead, 6-0. Packers QB, Aaron Rogers, then drove downfield and threw a touchdown pass to put Green Bay ahead, 7-6. The Packer’s “D” subsequently smothered the G-Men’s offense, forcing them to punt after a three-and-out. Rogers then took over and with seconds left in the half, threw a 60-yard “Hail Mary” pass into the end zone for another touchdown. The Pack never looked back and won the game handily, 38-13.

But what about the “Hail Mary” pass? How did that term become part of the popular lexicon? I did a little research and found out the phrase got its start in the 1930s at the Catholic University of Notre Dame (“Our Lady”). Members of the football team coined the phrase to denote a “long, low-probability pass attempted at the end of a half when a team is too far from the end zone to execute a more conventional play, implying that it would take divine intervention for the play to succeed.” Divine intervention from Mary? Catholics ascribe many characteristics of deity to Mary and believe she shares with Jesus Christ the offices of Mediator and Redeemer. Many Catholics pray to Mary rather than to God the Father or Jesus Christ because they have been taught she is more sympathetic to their circumstances and will more readily help them merit their salvation.

The phrase was pretty much isolated within Catholic college football but NFL commentators began talking about the “Hail Mary” pass in connection with the Dallas Cowboys’ Roman Catholic quarterback, Roger Staubach, in the 1970s.

Doug Flutie of Boston College (Catholic Jesuit) then became the king of the “Hail Mary” pass with his legendary, game-winning touchdown heave against Miami (FL) in 1984.

So the “Hail Mary” pass has become standard football parlance. You’ll even hear born-again believers in Jesus Christ who are football fans commenting on an unbelievable “Hail Mary” pass they witnessed over the weekend.

Yet, Mary would want everyone to turn from her and turn to Jesus Christ. Mary cannot save anyone. She was a sinner herself. Repent of your sins and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.

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

“And there is salvation in no one else (but Jesus Christ), for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12

What is the “Hail Mary” that Catholics say so often?

What does the Bible say about the virgin Mary?

Was Mary sinless?

Tomorrow, Thurday, December 8th, marks the Feast of the Immaculate Conception ofiv Mary on Catholic calendars. The Catholic church teaches that Mary was conceived without a sin nature and that she did not commit one single sin during her entire life. This teaching defies God’s Word, which says there is not one human being who is without sin. The claim that Mary was sinless began to gain traction in the 4th-century. In 1854, pope Pius IX defined Mary’s immaculate conception as infallible, binding dogma.

Because Mary’s immaculate conception is a binding dogma, Catholics who do not believe it commit mortal sin. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is one of the Catholic church’s “holy days of obligation.” Catholics are obligated to attend mass on Thursday. If they fail to attend mass without a valid reason, they commit mortal sin and are doomed to hell if they do not confess the sin to a priest.

Relatively few Catholics take their church’s rules seriously. Only 35% of U.S. Catholics “always,” “frequently,” or “usually” attend mass on holy days of obligation. The overwhelming majority, 65%, either “seldom” or “never” attend mass on holy days of obligation (see the cara link below).

My heart is saddened for Roman Catholics who venerate/worship Mary and attempt to merit their salvation by obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules as they’ve been taught. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and come out of religious legalism. Worship God alone.

Click to access masseucharist.pdf

“I prayed 19,345 prayers this past year but they weren’t prayers to God”

A few days ago I wrote about “good Catholics.” It’s generally agreed among Catholics thatros those who follow the prescribed rules of the church – like going to mass every Sunday and going to confession regularly – are “good” Catholics. There’s a very small percentage of those “good” Catholics who take it even a step further and do things like go to mass daily or say the rosary daily.

Evangelicals know that many Catholic use rosaries but they may not know some of the details involved. The standard rosary is made up of 59 beads. When a Catholic uses the rosary they will say 53 “Hail Mary” prayers and 6 “Our Father” prayers along with some other standard prayers mixed in.

What exactly is said in the “Hail Mary” prayer? Let’s take a look:

“Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

The first portion of the Hail Mary prayer comes from excerpts from Luke 1:28 & 42 (see the Catholic Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition). The first line says Mary is “full of grace” but Bible scholars agree the meaning of the Greek text is something closer to “favored one” (NASB and ESV). Yes, Mary was favored and blessed by the Lord to bear Jesus in her womb. But Mary was a sinner as we all are and was trusting in the Lord for her salvation (“…my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” – Luke 1:47)

The second portion of the prayer is a creation of the Catholic church and didn’t appear in print until Savonarola’s “Esposizione sopra l’Ave Maria” in 1495. Mary is not holy. Only God is holy. Mary was given the title, “Mother of God” ( theotokos – God bearer) in the 400s in reaction to heresy which emphasized Christ’s humanity over His divinity. The thinking was that since Jesus is God, then Mary was the mother of God, which eventually led to elevating Mary to a position of semi-deity. Catholics believe that, like God, Mary is omnipresent and able to hear the millions of prayers said to her every day throughout the world. Catholics believe Mary, the sympathetic mother, intercedes and mediates on behalf of their salvation before a harsh and judging God. God may not forgive but soft-hearted Mother Mary does and she will intercede for her followers. Catholics believe that by giving birth to Jesus and witnessing His death on the cross, Mary plays an active role in the redemption of sinners. So, Catholics believe that Mary shares Christ’s intercessory offices of Mediator and Redeemer and that she is also the channel of all of God’s graces. Catholics believe that salvation comes through their church’s sacraments which dispense grace channeled through Mary so that the partaker is able to obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules in order to merit Heaven. Catholics must constantly work at meriting their salvation so they pray to Mary and the saints for assistance in helping them live a good life right up until the “hour of (their) death.”

If you were a devoted Catholic and prayed the rosary every day you would spend 122 hours a year praying to Mary (20 minutes x 365 days = 7300 minutes or 122 hours). In one year you would pray 19,345 prayers to Mary (53 beads x 365 days = 19,345 prayers).

Mary was a sinner who loved the Lord and accepted Christ as her Savior like every believer. Mary is currently in Heaven worshipping her Savior. She is not omnipresent like God. She does not hear prayers. Nowhere in God’s Word does any believer pray to anyone other than God. Salvation does not come by receiving the sacraments and by obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!). The Law only shows us that we are all sinners in need of a Savior. Yes, God is a Holy Judge but He is also loving and merciful. He loves us so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life and die for our sins. But Jesus rose from the grave, defeating sin and death and offers the free gift of salvation to all who repent of their sins and accept Him as their Savior.

Mary would be sorely grieved by all the devotion given to her. She would want you to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, just as she did, and to worship God alone.

Mary, Full of Grace, and Luke 1:28

Roman Catholicism, Mary, and Idolatry

When Catholics read the New Testament for the first time, they are surprised by how little Mary is mentioned. As the early church became increasingly institutionalized, it syncretized many of the Roman pagan beliefs and practices including worship of the mother goddess. For how Mariolatry evolved see “The Virgin: Mary’s Cult and the Re-emergence of the Goddess” by distinguished British historian, Geoffrey Ashe.