1 year, 9 months ago #22485
I heard this prayer a year or so ago and it really bothered me. It still bothers me now even though I understand the framework for these devotions better:
Mother of Perpetual help, thou art the dispenser of every grace that God grants us in our misery.
For this reason He hast made thee so powerful, so rich, and so kind that thou might help us in our needs.
Thou art the advocate of the most wretched and abandoned sinners, if they but come to thee.
Come to my aid for I commend myself to thee.
In thy hands I place my eternal salvation; to thee I entrust my soul.
Count me among thy most faithful servants. Take me under thy protection; that is enough for me.
If thou doth protect me, I shall fear nothing: not my sins, because thou wilt obtain for me their pardon
and remission; not the evil spirits, because thou art mightier than all the powers of Hell;
not even Jesus, my Judge, because He is appeased by a single prayer of thine.
I fear only that through my own negligence I may forget to recommend myself to thee and so lose my soul.
My dear Lady, obtainest for me the forgiveness of my sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance,
and the grace to have recourse to thee at all times, Mother of Perpetual Help.
Is it kosher? Surely Mary isn’t protecting us from Jesus.1 year, 9 months ago #22486
It is definitely the kind of florid language that one tends to find in some forms of Marian devotional prayer. Essentially, the part you’re bothered by is the part where it says that you don’t even fear Jesus, your judge, when Mary’s interceding for you.
Of course, the breakdown of this is that you’d really be fearing your own sin, which is what condemns you, rather than Jesus. Still, I understand why this one would make you a little nervous. As a convert myself, this is the kind of prayer that I don’t exactly want to lead with when explaining Mary to my protestant family members…
Part of what helped me understand over-the-top devotional language in Marian prayer was the idea of over-the-top love poetry, and how common we accept it as something that’s just trying to make a point. We know nobody’s going to actually cross the Sahara, swim the ocean, or walk on broken glass for their lover, but it gets the point across regarding the level of love and devotion.
Don’t know if this is helpful to you, but it certainly was helpful to me in trying to temper some of the extravagant devotional language one finds in Marian prayer books.1 year, 9 months ago #22488
Yes, it’s kosher. Here is a doctrinal breakdown:
- “Mother of Perpetual Help” is a Marian title dating back many centuries. There is a popular icon (Catholic from Italy, but done in Byzantine fashion) dating from the 14th century by this name. The title refers to the fact that Mary is our help in every circumstance, throughout all ages.
- “Dispenser of every grace” (or “mediatrix of all graces”) is a doctrinal teaching of the Church. All divine grace flows to us through her hands, just as it flows through the Church’s hands, because Mary and the Church are paradigms of each other. This is the import of Revelation 12, where the figure of the Woman could be either Mary or the Church; we say it is both/and.
- “In thy hands I place my eternal salvation” refers to the fact that Mary is the mediatrix of all graces. If this is so, we have confidence that she will pass on to us all the grace that we need to be saved. In this way, she protects us from all evil.
- Matt has taken the part about appeasing Jesus as exaggerated language. I prefer to see it as a literal expression. Why? Because we fear God’s judgment, of which Jesus, as Pantocrator, is the Person who will judge us on the last day (see Matthew 25:31ff). These days, however, the emphasis is on God’s mercy rather than his judgment, and we should be mindful that, although we are sinners, we are also forgiven by our Judge through the Sacrament of Penance. This may be the reason we do not cotton to the older forms of expression.
- “Obtain for me the forgiveness of my sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance…” is a list of the things we need to gain heaven. First, forgiveness, as explained in the previous point. Second, love, according to what Jesus says in John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This is not an admonition so much as a statement of fact, for it is through love that we are able and willing to keep God’s commandments. Third, final perseverance. This perseverance is vital. If we stop keeping the commandments, if we stop loving God and fall away, we will not attain salvation. Therefore, we pray for the grace to persevere to the end and thus receive our reward.
David1 year, 9 months ago #22489
Thank you. It is definitely extravagant language so the love poetry analogy does help.
the breakdown of this is that you’d really be fearing your own sin, which is what condemns you, rather than Jesus.
This is helpful. So is the fear of Jesus and His judgement because of my sin in the face of His holiness and perfection?1 year, 9 months ago #22490
Thanks David, this is useful information.
2. “Dispenser of every grace” (or “mediatrix of all graces”) is a doctrinal teaching of the Church.
This is challenging because it appears on the surface as Mary usurping Jesus. But I recently had a conversation with a Catholic friend where he said that Mary is “the one whom He loved most.” He elaborated that its because God did more for her than other people in making her sinless, and choosing her to be mother to Jesus etc. This at first made me uncomfortable, until I thought about it in the context of the Trinity, of self-giving love, and of the church as people incorporated into that relationship:
God did in a way love Mary more because He did more for her and gave her a special role. But it was “active” because of her consent to bear Jesus and care for Him and be a support throughout His earthly ministry, her role in the plan of salvation. But it doesn’t stop with her. God blessed all of us through the special graces He gave Mary by giving us His Son. It’s passed through her to everyone else (in the same way that the Father gives Himself to the Son, and the Son gives Himself to the Father and to us, and we should give ourselves to Him and each other). If I’ve got that right, is that why she can be called mediator of all graces? Its the “big picture” of the story of salvation rather than micromanagement of every request and need.
4. Matt has taken the part about appeasing Jesus as exaggerated language. I prefer to see it as a literal expression. Why? Because we fear God’s judgment, of which Jesus, as Pantocrator, is the Person who will judge us on the last day (see Matthew 25:31ff). These days, however, the emphasis is on God’s mercy rather than his judgment, and we should be mindful that, although we are sinners, we are also forgiven by our Judge through the Sacrament of Penance. This may be the reason we do not cotton to the older forms of expression.
This was the most problematic part. I’ve seen opinions both for and against it by Catholics. I don’t like the idea of Mary pitted against Jesus. But I can see that it doesn’t need to be read that way. I was reading something this afternoon about the royal priesthood of all believers (protestant source).The book said the church is “ruled and authorised by the ascended Christ alone and supremely”. It occurred to me that this could be a framework for understanding this line of the prayer:
Christ is our king, our high priest, and our judge. In Him all believers can be called royal. Our familial identity and worth comes from Him. So does Mary’s; she takes the place of queen mother, as in Davidic Kingdom, to bring the intercession of the people including the King’s family. He is king and judge so we must obey and try please Him. (This is motivated by love, but also perhaps legitimately fear of offending Him.) But the queen mother can ask favour for us when we fail, which we invariably do because He is perfect and we are not. That forgivness is granted because Jesus is also our high priest and has merited our salvation. This way of thinking about Jesus isn’t the “cuddly” or “fuzzy” Jesus. It is the holy, perfect, almighty Jesus. Perhaps remembering this aspect of Jesus makes His willing sacrifice and merciful love even more overwhelming. Is this a legitimate way of thinking about it? Or have I mixed up ideas that don’t belong together?
It is so different from what I’ve previously known that I sometimes wonder whether I’m slowly learning to understand a richer truth, or whether I’m allowing myself to be deluded into accepting increasingly elaborate distortions. I don’t know how to tell the difference.1 year, 9 months ago #22491
God did in a way love Mary more because He did more for her and gave her a special role.… But it doesn’t stop with her. God blessed all of us through the special graces He gave Mary by giving us His Son.
When we were investigating the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ, we laid the foundation for this understanding. As I mentioned above, Mary is a paradigm of the Church (see Catechism of the Catholic Church §963–975; compare 2674), and as such, she reflects the intercessory aspect of the Communion of Saints. In this way, too, we all become filled with Christ to the point that we are His ambassadors and mediators to our neighbors. This is one of the deepest and most important aspects of evangelization: we become “other Christs” to our neighbor, bringing him to the Father, according to Jesus’ own words (John 14:6): “No one comes to the Father, but by me” — the “me” taken in the sense of Acts 9:4, where the voice of Jesus clearly refers to his Mystical Body. Mary, more than anyone, personifies this conduit of divine grace through her singular holiness.
You liken this action to the Father, through the Son, in union with the Holy Spirit, bestowing of divine grace upon us humans. If there is yet another person, a member of the community of saints, participating in the transmittal, does this make the grace any less valuable or effective? It is, after all, God’s initiative and action for our benefit to send us the help we need, and He guarantees that his aid will arrive intact. And if he does it through a secondary cause, is it any less divine grace?
I don’t like the idea of Mary pitted against Jesus.
Nobody does. As you say, it is a false reading. Christ acts in and through his saints: “Be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44, 45; compare Matthew 5:48 and 1 Peter 1:15–16). If this were not so, we would remain in our sins and never attain heaven.
In Him all believers can be called royal. Our familial identity and worth comes from Him.
Correct, straight out of 1 Peter 2:9. Mary has her role in the Kingdom of God, just as we all do. To deny this is to deny her faith, her humanity, her very existence.
It is so different from what I’ve previously known that I sometimes wonder whether I’m slowly learning to understand a richer truth, or whether I’m allowing myself to be deluded into accepting increasingly elaborate distortions. I don’t know how to tell the difference.
Yes, you do know, Cosbap, because you find it embodied in Scripture as well as in the unchanging teaching of the Church, ever ancient and ever new. It rings true because you resonate with it, grasping it by intuition, as well as seeing that it is reasonable and logical. All of this richness and harmony shows you Who is behind it, just as chaos and violence show who is behind the untruth. You are traversing the desert, on your way to the Promised Land.
David1 year, 9 months ago #22500
Thank you David.
There really is no competition between Mary and God is there. Even when the most “poetic” language is used. I almost don’t want to admit this, but I can’t object to any of the Marian doctrines on an intellectual basis. They are too grounded in the bible, too historic, and the arguments are too sound. If I argue more against it, I won’t be arguing against actual Catholic teaching, but my fears of what it might mean.1 year, 9 months ago #22501
That is one of the clearest statements of faith I have ever encountered, Cosbap. You have come a long way since December.
David1 year, 9 months ago #22502
I appreciated the following statement and wondered if you would elaborate some on the role of intuition? My mind is having fits with so much of this process and yet the intuitive faculty peacefully guides…
“It rings true because you resonate with it, grasping it by intuition, as well as seeing that it is reasonable and logical. All of this richness and harmony shows you Who is behind it, just as chaos and violence show who is behind the untruth.”1 year, 9 months ago #22504
I’ve read your previous posts in the Clergy group, together with your background, so I’m aware that you are on the journey from Non-Denominational. Cosbap, with whom I am conversing in this thread, has a Baptist and Presbyterian background, as you can see in her user profile.
In the quote you reference, I am speaking of psychological and spiritual discernment. Cosbap and I have had extensive private communication as she investigates various religious questions, and from the beginning I have been amazed at her intuitive grasp of the Catholic faith. I won’t go into details, but when she communicates to me what she has been mulling over and praying about, without having researched the subject, her understanding is nearly always spot-on with Catholic doctrine. It just resonates in the depths of her being, telling her, “Like it or not, this is the truth.” That is intuition at work.
I also mention the ordinary reasoning process, because she is proficient in that area, too. A really sharp thinker.
Above, Cosbap speaks of encountering a “richer truth” in Catholicism, but she has doubts about whether she can trust her intuitive grasp of things, or if she needs to plow through the reasoning process, at least as a double check. I am an intuitive thinker myself, and over the years I have learned to trust my intuition most of the way, but I do run reasonability checks on the important things to make sure that I am not deceived.
People sometimes speak of “hunches” or “gut feelings.” These images may also show intuition at work. It can involve a sensitivity to the attitudes and motives behind people’s behavior, or it can be a bypass to the reasoning process to find solutions to problems. Finally, it can provide inspiration to the working out of one’s relationship to God.
In my reply, I then move on to the question of who is behind the richness and harmony that Cosbap is encountering in the Catholic faith. If God created the world and everything in it, He has to be the source of all its harmonious operation and the richness she is encountering. The Evil One, of course, counters with chaos and violence to try to undo God’s work, and things can turn ugly and revolting when he is interfering in our life. Boredom and depression are some of the most common symptoms of evil inspirations gnawing at our soul.
Finally, it is important to understand that the move from Protestant/Evangelical to Catholic is more than learning the doctrinal differences and the reasons behind them. There is a paradigm change, a whole new world opens up, both exciting and fearsome, and one’s life has to change on a very fundamental level to be truly Catholic. This is the experience of most of the inquirers I have worked with over the past 15 years. Reliance on one’s intuition (if one is blessed with it; not everyone is) is one aid to survival during the transition. Another is patience, both with the process, which often will seem imperfect and even unreasonable, and with oneself, when the realization hits that inner change is required on several levels, both conscious and subconscious, in exterior behavior and interior attitude. But most important is humility, which is the realization of the truth about one’s being and relationship with God. It begins with “He is God; I am not,” but there is much more to it, and true humility is not the same thing as self-deprecation.
David1 year, 9 months ago #22528
Thank you for your in depth response. This Catholic ‘whole new world’ has indeed opened up and now I am being called to enter. It is indeed as you put it, exciting and fearsome. There are times when my reasoning cooperates and there are other times when it is my worst adversary. However, the mystical intuitive draw seems to be the glue…not in an irrational way but transrational. Whatever the case, Augustine said to love God and do as we please. God have mercy! Blessings and gratitude…1 year, 9 months ago #22530
Augustine said to love God and do as we please.
Yes. If we truly love God, we will be of the same mind and will as He. If we then do as we please, we will be truly free and yet always in harmony with God’s will. This is what St. Paul refers to when he says, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), and why he says of the spiritual man that he “judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one” (verse 15).
I wish you well, Tom. One step at a time will get you there.
David1 year, 3 months ago #24685
I thought there were only two infallibly defined Marian doctrines. Are we really supposed to believe all graces flow through Mary? That’s really a stretch for me. Where is that defined as dogma?
This isn’t to say I’m not coming to appreciate Mary–there have been a couple of instances where she had really rescued me from spiritual despair. So I’m open, but it would be a stretch, as I say….1 year, 3 months ago #24689
There are four Marian dogmas, Luvadoxi:
- Mother of God (Council of Ephesus, 431 AD)
- Perpetual Virginity (Council of Constantinople II, 553)
- Immaculate Conception (Pope Pius IX, 1854)
- Assumption, Body and Soul, into Heaven (Pope Pius XII, 1952)
There are also a few accepted doctrines that have not been formally defined (doctrines but not dogmas): Mediatrix of All Graces and Co-Redemptrix are the main ones.
How do all graces flow through Mary? The same way they flow through the Church. The Church, as you know, is described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the Sacrament of Salvation. The Council of Trent stated that, because the Church is the Sacrament of Salvation, therefore, all the graces of salvation are channeled from Jesus Christ through his Body, the Church, to the individual recipients, including those who are beyond its institutional confines. Mary, who is a paradigm of the Church — there is a whole section on this in the Catechism — essentially does the same thing personally, because she carried Jesus in her body as well as her soul from the very beginning, just like the Church. Both, Mary and the Church, bring Christ into the world. Therefore, they also bring the grace of Christ into the world.
David1 year, 3 months ago #24693
It is definitely easier to understand if you can grasp the fact that Mary birthed the Christ, and therefore she birthed the Church both its Head and the Body (because you can’t have one without the other) – and then following through on that thought – that if grace flows through the Church’s sacraments, then they had to flow through her first as Mother of that same Church (or Mother of Christ if that is easier for you), and THAT is why she was and still is full of grace. See how that works? Tricky, isn’t it. Lol.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.