The Blessed Virgin Mary
Chosen to be the Mother of God
In a little town called Nazareth, God chose a woman to bear His Son. Her name was Mary. God sent His angel to give her the news.
"Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of David his father, and He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end." -Luke 1:31-33 NAB
Imagine being Mary. She was a virgin, and she was already betrothed to marry Joseph. Can you imagine telling your soon-to-be husband that you are pregnant, but you are still a virgin? Yet, Mary held strong to her faith.
"Mary said, 'Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to Your word.'" -Luke 1:38 NAB
Without hesitation, Mary was willing to accept the plan God had for her life. How many times have we questioned God's will for our lives? For many of us, it is a constant battle to follow God's plan for our lives. Often times, we are focused solely on our plans and our will. We forget to follow His will. Mary, faced with the challenge of following God's will, did not falter. She pledged her complete devotion to the plan God had for her life.
The Debate Over Mary
As someone new to the Catholic Church, I had a number of questions during my time in RCIA. Like many non-Catholics, I did not understand where many of the doctrines about Mary came from. The Catholic Church had different viewpoints than my Protestant roots. But, as I learned more about the Catholic teachings, I began to see their respect for the Blessed Virgin.
Mary's Place in the Church
In general, many question why Catholics hold Mary in such high regard. Many see her as just a woman. In some respects, she was just a woman. But, Mary's faith and trust in God were far beyond any woman, or man for that matter, before or after her. To bear His Son, God protected Mary from sin so that she would be the perfect mother for >Christ. Mary was pure, strong, and devoted to the Father and her Son. She is an example of how we should live our lives, in complete to devotion to our Lord.
The Immaculate Conception
This is one of the most highly debated topics, but it is one that is often misunderstood. The belief is that Mary was born free from Original Sin. Some mistakingly think that she was conceived in the same way as Christ, but this is not the case. Instead, it means that Mary was conceived without sin so that she may be a better vessel for Christ. By taking the time to understand this more, it completely changed my viewpoint on the matter. Does it change yours?
Another topic of debate, the Catholic tradition teaches that Mary was brought to heaven immediately at the end of her life, body and soul. Unfortunately, there are no Bible Scriptures that discuss this topic. Instead, it is based on traditions that go back to the early church. Two others, Enoch and Elijah, were Old Testament figures that were taken into heaven as well. So, the idea is not unique to Mary, but it is simply not found in the Bible itself.
One highly debated topic is turning to Mary and the Saints in prayer. Often misunderstood, many non-Catholics believe that Catholics are worshiping Mary. I, for one, struggled with this as I went through RCIA. Through our discussions, I learned that we are not worshiping Mary, but asking her to pray on our behalf. Because of her special place with God, she can ask Him for special favor on our behalf. At the same time, I can see how this could become a pitfall for Catholics. As Catholics, it is important that we remember to ask Mary to pray for us on our behalf, and that we do not begin to worship her instead.
Open Your Heart
Before becoming a Catholic, I was very hard-hearted about the subject of Mary. I had a number of preconceived notions that I was not willing to let go of. As I began the RCIA process, the subject of Mary was one that I was afraid to face. I was afraid that it may be the subject that would not make me complete RCIA. In the end, I decided to open my heart and listen with fresh ears. As I began to study more about Mary, my whole view on the subject has changed. With a better understanding, I can now see Mary through the eyes of a Catholic.