Catholics Don't Pray to Mary - 05/14/2005

Contender Ministries,

While I found your site interesting, and was expecting Catholicism to be labeled as a false religion, I do have two points I would like to make. I do not expect this to prove anything right or wrong, but I felt it was important to point these things out to push for better understanding between Christian faiths. I will try to keep this short, but feel free to respond if you would like to get into a more lengthy discussion of my points.

1. Praying "to" Mary.
As doctrine, Roman Catholics do not actually pray to Mary as your site suggests, just as Roman Catholics do not pray to any of the other saints. Some Catholics may misunderstand the teachings of the church and therefore act against the teachings of Catholicism, however Catholics are not supposed to actually pray to anyone other than God. What they are actually supposed to do is offer up their prayers to God, and ask for the intercession of Mary (or any other saint). This may seem one in the same, but I assure you, it is not. A simple comparison would be the common evangelical practice of intentions. Offering up a prayer to God and asking for the intercession of Mary is supposed to be like unto simply asking other Christians to pray for you. The prayer is still to God, however Catholics are also asking Mary to pray to God for their intentions as well. I can offer you a more lengthy explanation if you would like, but I wanted to keep this short.

2. Salvation only through the sacraments.
While your site was correct in noting that Catholics traditionally believe that salvation is only attainable through the sacraments (more or less correct at least), I feel it should be noted that it is simply as you have stated it: traditionally. Post-Vatican II, Catholic doctrine teaches (in a very basic, shortened version) that salvation may be easiest to attain through following the teachings of the Catholic church, however it is not the only way. The Catholic church no longer teaches that you must be Catholic and obtain the sacraments to receive salvation, though it does believe that is the surest way.

I realize that this will not change your point of view, and that is not my intention. Truly, I feel you can only strengthen the point of your own arguments through presenting a more factual discertation of this matter. However, you only weaken yourself by presenting falsehoods as facts. I hope that I have not offended you with this letter, as I only intended to open the lines for discussion so that we may learn to better understand one another.

With respect,
Jimi





CONTENDER MINISTRIES RESPONSE:


Hi Jimi.  While we do disagree on things, we appreciate that you were willing to engage in civil and polite discourse on a couple of main points.  As far as praying to Mary, you said, "Roman Catholics do not actually pray to Mary as your site suggests..."  I beg to differ on this.  First, let's start off with the most obvious prayer to Mary, the "Hail Mary."  While I'm sure you could quote this from memory, I want you to look at the text objectively:
Hail Mary,
Full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.
Amen.
The "Hail Mary" starts off with a salution to the object of the prayer -- Mary.  This is a prayer that is undeniably directed TO Mary.  Don't forget the Consecration to Mary, which starts off, "O Mary, Virgin most powerful and Mother of mercy, Queen of Heaven and Refuge of sinners, we consecrate ourselves to thine Immaculate Heart. We consecrate to thee our very being and our whole life; all that we have, all that we love, all  that we are. To thee we give our bodies, our hearts and our souls; to thee we give our homes, our families, our country."  This is one of many prayers to Mary.  Notice the salutation to Mary, and the giving of our very souls to Mary.   I'm sure you can understand how blasphemous this sounds to give our souls to anyone but Jesus Christ!  Now I know that some will argue that only the magisterium of the Roman Church can declare doctrine.  Well, the Catechism of the Catholic Church admits that prayers to Mary are doctrinal:
2675 Beginning with Mary's unique cooperation with the working of the Holy Spirit, the Churches developed their prayer to the holy Mother of God, centering it on the person of Christ manifested in his mysteries...[emphasis mine]
2679 Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends his Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciple we welcome Jesus' mother into our homes, for she has become the mother of all the living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope. [emphasis mine]
So as you can see, it is a matter of doctrine in the Roman Church to direct prayers TO Mary -- even to the extent of gifting her our soul and calling her our redeemer.  Prayers invoking the intercession of dead saints are also prayers TO those saints.  Think of the salutation in those prayers.  Are you greeting Jesus or the Father?  Or are you greeting the saint?  The only Persons who can hear our prayers and answer them are divine. Scripture instructs us to pray to the Father or the Son - not to anyone else.  Scripture instructs us to pray for each other.  However, as I am alive, I can hear your request to pray for you.  The saints can't hear you.  God can.  That's such an awesome gift for Him to give us, and so troubling that many are willing to pass on that. 
 
Now, moving on to the sacraments, and whether or not they are necessary for salvation.  Notwithstanding your position, the Catechism states the following:
 1129 The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.
Now semantics aside, the position taken by the Roman Church is unscriptural.  Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast."  Now the last clause is very revealing.  I think you'd agree that good works are the fruits of true faith.  James made that point so eloquently in his epistle.  True faith will be evidenced by good works.  However, it is equally true that no works will save us, whether they be works of faith (such as giving to the needy, caring for the downtrodden, exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit, etc.), or works of the law.  The latter are analogous to the liturgical works (sacraments) of Christendom.  No, we will not be saved because we are meek and patient, or because we faithfully performed the sacraments.  We will be saved because we placed our faith in Jesus Christ.  That was Jesus' teaching as well. 
 
Jimi, you seem like a decent person.  You seem very devoted to your religion.  However, your religion has become based more on traditions of men than on the divinely inspired Word of God.  It is His Word we should be using to test the traditions of men.  When there is conflict, always side with what He has inspired.  That is my prayer TO GOD, for you. 
 
In Christ,
 
Ben Rast
Contender Ministries