It’s a couple weeks ago now that my RCIA class talked about Mary. Chris missed that class, even though he’s my sponsor, since our babysitter had to cancel on us. We talked about it afterward and of course the first thing he says is, “Why haven’t they had a class on Jesus? Understanding who Jesus is would go a long way to understanding Mary.” I found myself trying to defend the class organizers, but he’s right. My guess as to why they don’t have a “who is Jesus” course is that they either think it’s covered in the creed and the Trinity, or this class is really just a Protestant to Catholic conversion tool, and they find that people already know who Jesus Christ is. The latter seems more likely since all the classes seen to be focused on issues that Protestants have with Catholicism.
It was fairly well done, as well as can be expected in a two hour intro course on Mary. They included handouts for reference that went more in depth and had a question and answer session. I found myself grimacing at all the usual objections that people raised. “Didn’t the Assumption of Mary just become a doctrine? How do we know that it’s true?” “Wasn’t that a ground up doctrine and the people made the Pope do it?” “Doesn’t the Bible say Jesus had brothers?”
The control freak in me was itching to jump up and answer these questions. I did put my two cents in occasionally, like when I said that although the people may have called for the Assumption to be a doctrine, it was already believed, the people didn’t invent the belief and then make the Church dogmatize it. Of course, I think that comment was lost in the wind.
I even asked a question myself when the Immaculate Conception came up. They said one of the reasons we believe Mary was conceived without original sin (remember, sex isn’t a sin, this has nothing to do with sex!) is because Christ received his sinless nature from her. I said something like this a while ago, in my ponderings on Mary, but someone had told me it wasn’t true. So I questioned the catechists, asking why God couldn’t have just intervened at Christ’s conception and gave him a sinless nature, and why Mary didn’t need to get her sinless nature from her parents. The answer from the lady leading the discussion was akin to: “That’s just the way it is.” Thankfully, another catechist piped up and told me that Mary’s sinless nature isn’t just God intervening on her behalf, like I was thinking. If He was just intervening, then my objection would make sense. However, the salvation of Christ was applied to Mary at her conception. It’s more of an outside-of-time application of grace than just a snap of the fingers and she’s sinless. I think I get it.
Our parish’s new, enthusiastically orthodox “baby-priest”, Fr. Andrew, who co-blogs (in theory) at Shameless Popery, repeatedly made the point that Mary is special to us because we have become one with Christ. She is our mother, since she is Christ’s mother. The images of Mary holding Jesus are images of Mary holding us. It’s hard for me to get into that mindset though. I still suffer from remnants of Mary aversion, and even when praying the rosary I tend to focus more on Mary being special because she is the mother of Our Lord, and let that paint a picture for me about how wonderful and mysterious God incarnate actually is. Mary herself I don’t understand. I’m getting to know her though, partly because the awesome humility of Christ shows me exactly what perfection looks like, and that is mirrored in Mary’s surrender to God’s plan. She is, afterall, the Lord’s servant, pointing the way to Christ.