I just finished reading Rome Sweet Rome by Scott and Kimberly Hahn earlier this week. I didn’t particularly enjoy the book purely as a book. There are a few reasons for this and a major one is it is somewhat a book of its time. These days both the author and his wife are so well-known in Catholic circles that it might surprise younger Catholics that they were ever Protestant. Another is that it was written for a particular audience and probably more intended to be passed around the general laity and pushed into the hands of Protestant friends and family. I’m not saying I’m above the general laity, just that I do read serious Catholic works as a hobby and not just when it strikes my fancy or when someone passes one my way.
Whatever the books merits, I did still find some parts interesting and it has prompted me to come back and flesh-out the limited notes I had for the topic of this post.
One of the major barriers to joining the church that both Scott and his wife had was unsurprisingly the veneration of Mary. As Protestants they had assumed that Catholics “worship” the Holy Mother, which of course is false. One of the interesting points that Dr. Hahn made in the book is that from the Catholic perspective; Protestants don’t worship anyone. Catholic’s worship Christ at the altar during Holy Mass. The hymns at the beginning and end of the Mass are actually before the Mass begins and after the Mass has concluded and the Homily is something of an intermission.
In most Protestant services today, they have everything but the part that involves the worship of Christ Crucified. They really only have what my church growing up called “Prayer and Praise” every other Sunday evening. As the name suggests, there were prayers and singing of contemporary Christian songs. So in a sense, it is understandable that Protestants believe we worship Mary because we venerate her in the same way that they venerate Christ but in reality, Christ is given much more in any Catholic Church.
What is more important than any arguments about was is truly meant by “worship” or “honour” or “veneration” is the fact that Mary was chosen, when God didn’t have to. God could have done something like how the film Terminator 2: Judgement Day begins. Jesus Christ could have appeared naked out of a bolt of lightning at age thirty, walked into the nearest dwelling and said, “I need your robe, your sandals and your colt” to the startled man within. From there he could have begun his ministry much as he did and accomplished his mission the same way. If this were the case, it would have had the side benefit of stopping people wondering about what happened between his being lost in the temple and finding John the Baptist many years later.
The fact is though, that he didn’t. Mary was chosen to bring our Lord and Saviour into the world. She was there at his birth and one of the few standing by the Cross at His death. When Catholics go to Mass they do as Mary did and kneel at the foot of His Cross.
A response to this might be that it was necessary to fulfill prophesy that Jesus come from the House of David as promised but this merely backdates what God had planned to do all along. He didn’t have to. This was God’s plan. He did not have reveal himself in this way but he chose to.
This is why Catholics throughout generations have called her Blessed. I think that might even be in the Bible somewhere.
On a side but related note, a Catholic who prays the Rosary daily throughout their life will have said, “Blessed are thou amongst women and Blessed is the Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus” over one million times. That’s not even counting all the other times one might say it.
Pray the Rosary!