Monday, February 7, 2011

Why Mary is important to us as Church

Devotion to Mary is a very common Catholic tradition. Even people who don’t know anything deep or essential about Catholicism, the illiterate or the uneducated have been known to say that the difference between Protestant Christianity and Catholic Christianity is that the former is the ‘Jesus’ one, and latter is the one that has Mary in it.

But the essentials about why we have great devotion to Mary are lost to many because they hardly see that great connection between faith in Jesus, and the love of Mary. We all know that we don’t worship Mary, and neither do we adore her as a goddess. Besides, Mary would never want that from us, because only God alone deserves worship and adoration. But why then do we have this great devotion to Mary as Catholics?

In life, there are essentials and less-essentials. And it is found in almost every aspect of life. You name it – from things as mundane as clothing and personal grooming, to things as elaborate as cars and computers, there are the essentials and less-essentials. What is the essential in clothing? Basic covering and protection. Just cover up what needs to be covered up, and you have clothing. You can use bearskins, or fig leafs. But what is less-essentials would be the additions or decorations, or attachments, or adornments if you like. So skirts can have long trains, dresses can have long sleeves, huge collars, lace, sequins, appliqué, one can wear hats, gloves and stockings to complete the look.

In the computer world, what is essential is the CPU, keyboard and monitor. But we all know that you can add so much to this combination, upgrade it, and soup it up and it can just about run the entire household.

In our faith, what is essential? The Word and the Eucharist. Those are non-negotiable. Our essence and our object are intimacy with Jesus and the Holy Trinity. Not Mary. The Word and the Eucharist are what brings Christians together. We should never substitute devotion for the Word and Eucharist. Thus, praying the Rosary during Mass is just bad form. When we are too caught up in devotion, we can lose sight of the essentials and end up missing the forest for the trees.

But why does the Church then have devotions, especially Marian devotion? Simply put, it appeals to the heart, that human side of us, that romantic side of us that makes us human. Devoid of this, we may have the essentials, but in the context of a meal, we may have just the main course, (the meat and potatoes, for those whose diet is largely of a western palate) but what completes a meal, what transforms a meal from being one of basic sustenance to become an experience, is when you have not just the basics, but the appetizers, the entrees, the salads, the wines and the desserts to complement the main course. And a meal is unbalanced with the other things overshadow and take the attention away from the main course.

Same for Marian devotion and any other devotion that is not Word or Eucharist. We need them also because not all of us are deep theologians and liturgists who understand every aspect of theology. I suppose the deep theologians can just receive spiritual nourishment from the basics. But having said that, if one were a deep and honest theologian, one would know that there is a great beauty and spiritual necessity for good Marian devotion too.

I believe that most of us are in need of a spirituality that has a humanism that speaks at least to the romantic side of us. Marian devotion in particular speaks to the side of us that longs to be touched and the feminine in Mary does that in ways that Eucharist does, but perhaps on the level of the cerebral. Mary touches us in the heart.

When we lose sight of Mary, we can end up being cold and wooden. Do you notice that in any Marian apparition in the world, she somehow doesn’t appear to the rich, the well educated and the theologians? Instead, she has always appeared to the poor, the uneducated, the children and those at the bottom. That tells us that if we lose Mary, we may lose our heart. A heart for the poor, a heart for the masses, and a heart that makes us human.


  1. Gd Morning Fr Luke..

    a happy new year to you..

    allow me to speak my 2 cents thoughts..

    many non catholic friends when asked abt the catholic faith.. they would say "oh.. they worship mary".. i can't fault them when they say this..because they do not know the basics of our faith..

    why such high regard for mary.. firstly, she the highest among all saints.. or mother of all saints.. 2nd.. she is co-participant of the salvation of mankind.. she is co-redemptrix.. With her Yes to God.. she is part of God's plan for the whole salvation of humanity.
    3rd.. "to Jesus thru Mary".. She loves us. because everyone of us is her children cos she is the Mother of all people (regardless of the faith that you are in)and want to bring us closer to Jesus in our spiritual life.

    To tell you the truth.. Mother Mary is very part of my life.. when i was away from the church for a long time. i believe it was her intercession to bring me back to her son, Jesus.. She didn't want me to lose my soul..

    All i can say.. "thank You, Mother Mary for always praying and interceding for me and my loved ones" Amen..

  2. hey frLuke, if you would allow me to share FJSheen's teaching :
    "The key to understanding Mary is this: We do not start with Mary. We start with Christ, the Son of the Living God! The less we think of Him, the less we think of her; the more we think of Him, the more we think of her; the more we adore His Divinity, the more we venerate her Motherhood; the less we adore His Divinity, the less reason we have for respecting her. .... Never will it be found that anyone who really loves Our Lord as a Divine Saviour dislikes Mary. .....

    It is on account of Our Divine Lord that Mary receives special attention, and not on account of herself. Left to herself, her motherhood would dissolve into humanity. But when seen in the light of His Divinity, she becomes unique. Our Lord is God Who became Man. Never before or since did Eternity become time in a woman, nor did Omnipotence take on the bonds of flesh in a maid. It is her Son who makes her Motherhood different.

    A Catholic boy from a parochial school was telling a University professor who lived next door about the Blessed Mother. The professor scoffed at the boy, saying: "But there is no difference between her and my mother." The boy answered: "That's what you say, but there's a heck of a lot of difference between the sons." - The World's First Love


  3. Hi Fr Luke

    Happy Lunar New Year!

    Thank you for this very insightful and beautiful post on Marian devotion.

    The word Marian has had a great influence in my life. Even though my family was not Catholic at the time of my birth some 33 years ago, it was by divine providence that my parents named me Marian and it appears on all of my identification documents. When I was younger, I never knew the significance of my name. All I knew was that I was teased incessantly in primary school, especially when a male classmate called Robin came about (ref Robin Hood and Maid Marian). I had often wondered why they had not simply called me Mary and saved me all that grief in my school days.

    During my RCIA journey in 2003, I learnt the significance of the word Marian and in 2004, I was prompted to keep the same name as my baptism name.

    It says in the Bible, the name that God calls you forth with, is for eternity. And for me, it speaks volumes about how God wants me to live, to be a Marian Marian. Amazingly it's both an adjective and noun stemming from the word Mary. It is a constant reminder and inspiration to look to our Blessed Mother, to live as how she had lived, with such peaceful and unwavering faith in our Heavenly Father, yet always supple to His will.

    With all my human fallacies, it is a tough job, living up to this name, literally!

    However, it humbles me greatly and I am very grateful, that God had arranged for such a meaningful way (amongst many other resources) to guide and inspire me during my earthly life.

    Best regards,

  4. HellO Fr Luke

    I would aruge that Marian devotion is essential for a well rounded Catholic life because if as Pope Benedict XVI shared, "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person," Jesus Christ. If that is the case, one can paraphrase that authentic Christian discipleship is also not about lofty ideals etc but also an encounter with a person, Mary the perfect and sinless disciple.

  5. Dear Father,

    It is a great joy to read your blog; and it is certainly edifying to read this entry on devotion to our Lady. Sometimes, I lament that many priests in the Catholic Church throughout the world have ceased to preach the glories of our Blessed Mother on the pulpit, choosing to avoid mentioning her name in the name of false ecumenism. Indeed, devotion to the Queen of Heaven and Earth is one of the chief difference between the Catholic Church and the Protestant sects.

    Please, Father, continue to preach about our Blessed Mother. She will certainly bless and guide you in your ministry in the holy Priesthood of her Divine Child.

    I will remember you in my poor prayers, Father, and if you will, keep me in yours.

    Your spiritual son (Singapore)