DEVOTION TO OUR LADY AND THE SAINTS
by Fr. William Most
1. Worship: Do Catholics worship her? Protestants often claim that. But let
us examine the command of Our Lord: "Judge Not".
We distinguish two things: a) the objective rating of an action,
e.g., murder is gravely sinful. We can say this independently of the
interior dispositions of anyone who does it. If I see someone put a gun to
another's head and pull the trigger, it is not "judging' to say I saw
b) The interior dispositions of the sinner - here we must not judge, for
at least in general, we cannot know much if anything of the interior. It is
to this that the Gospel command applies.
Therefore: as to Marian devotion: a) the forms it takes, asking her
to intercede with her Son, lighting candles etc -these are not in
themselves worship. What of the eternal flame at the grave of JFK?
b) The interior attitudes of Catholics:to insist they mean it to be
worship, i.e, the kind of honor due to God alone - this is simply rash
judgment, and is forbidden by "Judge not." So those who make the charge are
guilty of objective sin, and of violating the Gospel.
2. Honor in general: Jesus obeyed the fourth commandment to honor Father
and Mother, for He went down to Nazareth and was even subject to them. If
He honored her, we can and should imitate Him. God Himself has honored her
so greatly. For anyone to say: I reject her, will not honor her, would be
an affront to His judgment.
3. Only One Mediator: 1 Tim 2:5: That is true in three senses: a) There is
only one who is by nature a mediator, having both divine and human natures;
b) there is only one whose mediation is strictly needed; c) there is only
one who can mediate by His own power. -- Others, including Our Lady and the
Saints, can act only by His power. So to say they do it does not detract
from Him, but rather shows the greatness of His power in that He can even
make creatures capable of doing something, not of course the same as what
He does, as we have said.
4. Need?: In itself, She and the Saints would not be needed at all. But Our
Father loves good order. He likes to have one thing in place to serve as
the reason or title for doing the second (cf. St. Thomas, Summa I. 19. 5.
c) Thus though He could grant prayers simply, He preferred to bind Himself
by the promise:
"Ask and you shall receive." Similarly with the covenant.
In redeeming us, He had several options to choose from:
a) forgive all sin without any makeup. But this would not satisfy His love
of good order, nor be so rich for us.
b) Appoint any human to do any religious act, perhaps an animal sacrifice,
and then count it as redemption, even though it would be less than the
weight of all sin.
c) Send His Son to be born in a palace, with every possible luxury. He
would not need to die. The mere fact of becoming man would be enough to
earn all grace and to make satisfaction, for an incarnation is a "comedown"
for a divine Person. He could have added a little prayer,"Father, forgive
them", and then He could have ascended without death. This would be
infinite in worth. But Our Father in His love of good order and love of us
wanted to go beyond infinity and He did it.
d) Go beyond the palace to the stable, beyond a short prayer to the
terrible death of the cross. Then He could not only forgive, but do it
lavishly, which is what He does. For He gave to the Apostles and their
successors the power to act in His name: "Whose sins you shall forgive,
they are forgiven them." (For someone to attempt to bypass His generous
arrangement is of course wrong, to ask Him to forget the means He
established, and just forgive without it).
e) He did not need Our Lady for anything but to furnish the flesh, of the
human family, in which He could die. But He chose to use her much more.
Starting with St. Justin Martyr, c. 145-150, the Fathers speak of her as
the New Eve: Just as the first Eve really shared in bringing down original
sin, so the New Eve would really share, by her obedient acceptance of God's
plan, in reversing the damage. Today, the Church sees still more, that He
willed to have her obedience joined with that of her Son (Rom 5:19) on
Calvary. This would melt, as it were, with His to form the obedience which
is the covenant condition of the New Covenant. In that, of course, she
could do nothing on her own, but it shows His power that He could and did
will to associate her with Him, to make all richer for good order and
richer for us.
Thomas Aquinas expressed this principle well in Summa I. 19. 5. c:
God in His love of good order likes to have one thing in place to serve as a
reason for His giving of the second, even though that reason or title does
not move Him. In the OT God promised to accept the prayer of Job for his
three "friends" who were not worthy in themselves" Job 42:8. Often Moses
reminded God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - would refer to His promises to
them, but probably also to their intercession or merits.
5. The Saints: Only Our Lady was taken into the objective redemption, the
great sacrifice, the once for all earning of a title or claim to all
forgiveness and grace. But in the process of giving out those fruits, the
subjective redemption, it pleased our Father again to bring still others
into the work. Hence, the other Saints, and her too of course.
Calvary earned all grace and forgiveness infinitely. But He wanted to
provide, in the subjective redemption, a title for the giving out of the
fruits of Calvary. So He ordered:"Do this in memory of me". He wanted us to
join with His dispositions, to form part of the condition for giving out
that which was once earned. This is accord with St. Paul's picture of the
Christian regime, the syn Christo theme: We are saved and made holy if and
to the extent that we are members of Christ, and like Him: cf. Romans 8:17:
"We are heirs with Him, provided we suffer with Him, so we may also be
glorified with Him." St. Paul in Col 1. 24 said:
"I fill up the things that are lacking to the tribulations of Christ in my
body, for His body, which is the Church." There is nothing lacking of
course to the sufferings of Christ the Head. But there can be lacking the
things our Father wills, for rebalancing the objective order, in members of
Christ. By the unity of the Mystical Body, one can make up for another. St.
Paul did much of that.