Blessed Mary, Ever Virgin

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2011/07/22 at 10:11 PM

One of the more notable differences between Catholicism and Protestantism’s is their respective attitudes toward Mary, the Mother of Christ. Catholicism shows a great veneration and respect for her while Protestantism gives her little attention or a token mention on Christmas. (This attitude will vary in degrees among various denominations.) Many prospective converts to the Catholic Church find the Marian doctrines sometimes difficult to grasp, mainly because of what they have heard from or been told by fellow Protestants. Some have heard that the Church worships Mary which is not true.Others have heard that Catholics consider her divine, on a par with God, which is also not true. Probably the most common difference is the respective beliefs about the perpetual virginity of Mary.  Or, to ask it another way, did Mary have other children conceived the normal way?  This is a relatively recent idea because the founding fathers of Protestantism, Martin Luther and John Calvin, both believed that Mary lived and died a virgin.

The Christian Church from the beginning has always believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary.  It is so stated in the Apostles’ Creed. Later Protestants began to question this doctrine  and offered unconvincing arguments that Mary had had more children.  One of the arguments in favor of perpetual virginity is that the Catholic Church has always believed it, and, since the Catholic Church is under the protection and guidance of the Holy Spirit, it cannot teach doctrinal errors. If this were an error, it would have died out  in the early days. Thus, the Catholic Church has taught this doctrine for two millennia without objection, as it were, from the Holy Spirit. God would simply not allow the Church to preach a false doctrine.

The Church has always maintained that the word “brothers” referring to Christ’s relations was not limited to siblings but  included extended family. Protestants reject this idea out of hand.  They take the word brother in a very literal sense.  (Interestingly, they do not take other Gospel words literally when those words do not meet with their approval.)  Yet, at the same time, in many denominations, “Brother” and “Sister” are freely used among members with no thought that they are referring to siblings.

The reason for this insistence on Mary’s non-virginity is the Protestant doctrine of “Sola Scripture”, the Bible alone contains all the truth. (Yet, the Bible itself do not say this.)  The effect of this doctrine is to close off Protestants to the writings of the early Church Fathers, the ecumenical Church councils and writings of various Popes on the subject.  Just as we read the writings of the American Founding Fathers to shed light on their beliefs, so the Church Fathers tell us more than what is in the Bible about early Christian beliefs. The Bible is not self-explanatory; this is why there are so many thousands of Protestant denominations.

Joseph is heard of no more after the incident of finding the Child in the Temple.  If he had fathered other children prior to that, why is it not mentioned? This would preclude any accusations of immorality against Mary, his wife.

If Mary and Joseph had had other children, it would have been an odd family set-up: one sinless divine child with a sinless mother and other normal children with all their good and bad actions. It would have been an untenable situation.

If Christ did have siblings, why were none of them at Calvary? Normally, at least one would have bonded with Christ, but there was no sign of any kinsmen at Calvary (except Mary)

We can assume that at the of the Crucifixion Mary was probably a widow; otherwise, Joseph certainly would have been there. In a few hours, Mary would be alone in the world, but no son would allow that if he could do otherwise. Thus, Mary is entrusted to St. John, the beloved disciple. If Mary had had other children, it would be  normal  for one or more of them to assume her care.

Mary and Joseph were both holy people attuned to the Divine Will. She was called “full of grace”, and he was described as a “just man”, a high accolade in the Bible. This being the case, they would have deemed even licit marital relations to be unbecoming, almost anticlimactic in the light of the extraordinary supernatural events they both experienced. The body that housed and delivered God would seem very unsuitable for natural children. Based on Jewish practice at the time, it is not unreasonable to assume that,  like some married couples, they took a vow of virginity as a means of pleasing God. (Of course, in our culture that would make you verifiably loony.)

Why then does so much Protestant teaching stress the children of Mary? I offer an opinion, and it is only an opinion. For a long time, Protestantism has been watering down or discarding Christian doctrine and morals. Many now accept abortion, contraception, women clergy, active homosexual clergy, same-sex unions and marriage. This would have been unheard of 75 years ago. It seems to me that many Protestants, especially leaders, do not have a valid idea of who Christ is and what He signifies. This is why they have abandoned so much of His teaching, particularly that of the Eucharist.

Thus, the emphasis on Mary’s multiple children is another attempt to denigrate the Incarnation, and without that, Christianity is dead. If Mary is just another women who experienced a unique event, then there is not much special about her or the event. It is a short step to the idea that Jesus Christ was merely a good man, a great teacher, a philosopher but no one eternally significant.

Ideas have consequences, and false ideas lead to negative consequences. The worst consequence of this particular false idea about May’s perpetual virginity is that the Protestant world has lost out and is still losing out by rejecting the one human being that God Himself selected and crafted from the beginning for a special role in salvation and human history. The Catholic world is full of the effects of the positive role of Mary in the life of the Church and the individual Catholic.

You may rejoice in the Father and the Son, but without the Mother, your spiritual family is simply not complete.

  1. As a convert to Catholocism at age 13, I appreciated very much your article “Blessed Mary, Ever Virgin.”

    I first met Mary one day when I was walking from school to my “catechism” class at the Presbyterian Church I regularly attended. Everytime I went to that class, I had to pass by Sacred Heart Church and I was always tempted to go in. This particular day, without giving it a second thought, I just walked straight up to the front door, pulled it open and went in. I stood there in absolute awe! I knew this was a holy place! I felt it! I didn’t know then why I felt that way, but I knew I wanted to feel that way everytime I went to Church. Of course, now I know it was the real Presence of Christ in the tabernacle I felt. That same day I saw a beautiful statue of Mary!

    Unlike most protestants, I was drawn to Mary. Not long after my visit to Sacred Heart Church, my two sisters and I were sent to stay with our father in North Carolina because our mother was sick. A few months later she died and, at age 12, I was devastated!

    About a year after my mother died I became a Catholic. As I got older and looked back on this, I was pretty sure it was the Holy Spirit who took my hand and led me into Sacred Heart Church that day –the day He introduced me to the Eucharist and to our Blessed Mother. He knew I was going to need them both very soon!

    The day I became a Catholic was the most important day of my life, because all the other days and events that followed — my marriage, births of my children, every Christmas and every Easter, etc., etc., had so much more meaning and importance celebrated in the Church. I thank God for all his gifts that we as Catholics share — the Eucharist, all the other Sacraments and, of course, His mother, Mary, Ever Virgin!

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