Five Ways To Avoid Talking to your Protestant Friends About Mary

 

Over at The Coming Home Network this week, I’ve written a post about five Catholic devotional titles for the Virgin Mary that protestants can safely use, because they apply to beliefs about Mary that pretty much all Christians can affirm. For example:

Seat of Wisdom

Some concepts get confused because they are taken too literally.  In the case of Mary’s recognition as the Seat of Wisdom, it gets confused because it’s not taken literally enough.  In local government, for instance, a “county seat” means an administrative center, where a courthouse containing a repository of official archives are stored.  It is the source and center of civic life.  But even that idea comes from a more literal interpretation of the word “seat,” denoting the place where the administrator of the local government officially “sits.”

In the case of Mary, the icon of her as Seat of Wisdom features-  guess what- the child Jesus on her lap.  Jesus Christ is the true personification of Wisdom, who as a child sat on his mother’s knee just as any child might.  Again, the “seat” in this case receives her importance from the One who is seated upon her.

Read the rest here.

mother-of-god-453514_960_720Here at the Fairyland Business Journal, I’ve decided to make a complementary list that I hope can be similarly helpful when it comes to discussing Mary with your protestant friends.  Only this time around, I’ve decided to list five ways of referring to the Blessed Mother that are pretty much guaranteed to freak out your Evangelical buddies and make them think you’re engaged in some form of idolatry.  Here you go:

Coredemptrix

If you’re used to talking about Mary’s cooperation with God’s plan in poetic and effusive terms, this is not a big deal.  If you’re of the persuasion that Catholics worship Mary, this title sounds like a dead giveaway that Papists revere Jesus’ Mom as some sort of She-God
in a four person Trinity.

Here’s the thing.  I work for JonMarc Grodi at The Coming Home Network.  He is the Director; I am merely the Communications Coordinator.  We are coworkers, but he’s the boss.  Mary cooperates in our redemption, yes, but Jesus accomplishes it.  When protestants hear co-, they don’t hear “co-operator with Jesus.” They hear “co-equal with Jesus.”  You know what you mean by referring to Mary as Coredemptrix, but it’s best not to lead with that title in your next ecumenical dialogue.

Queen of Heaven

Catholic Answers has practically made a cottage industry out of explaining this title.  It’s from the Jewish tradition of the Queen Mother, whose son was the sitting King. Because of her relationship to him, she was afforded special respect.  Kinda like Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey.  She doesn’t make the rules, or execute the decisions, but you want to take her opinions into consideration, however salty they might be.  Mary’s like a much holier version of that.

What your protestant friend thinks when they hear “Queen of Heaven” is based on their knowledge of both medieval monarchy and the modern egalitarian concept of marriage.  Again, if you understand the Jewish tradition, this is a perfectly reasonable title for Mary.  If you don’t, you might have the opinion that Catholics see the Blessed Mother as Elizabeth II and Jesus as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.  And now you know the name of Queen Elizabeth’s husband.  You’re welcome.

Mediatrix of All Graces

Jesus is the source of all graces.  He was born of a woman.  He mediated himself to us through her womb.  Theologically, it’s a pretty simply explained concept.  However, this is another title that just sounds huge.  Say “Mediatrix” out loud and try not to sound ominous.  Matter of fact, just avoid any theological terminology containing the suffix “-trix.”  They were all ruined in the lead-up to the French Revolution.

Immaculate Conception

I know I’m going to take some heat for this, but I think there are a lot of handier and clearer ways to refer to Mary when explaining her to your protestant friends.  The Immaculate Conception isn’t explicitly referred to in Scripture,  even though the description of Mary as “full of grace” at the Annunciation implies way more than her just being a good person in that moment, as any Church Father would tell you.  The average internet-trained fundamentalist will immediately accuse the Church of inventing the concept in 1854, and suddenly your conversation ends up going down a rabbit hole where you’re having to explain sensus fidelium and Papal Infallibility, and the point you meant to make at the beginning about Mary being a pure vessel for the incarnation gets lost in the shuffle.  It’s happened to me before.  Maybe you’ve had better luck than I have in this area, but I’m just warning you from my personal experience.

And finally, unless the protestant you’re talking to has expressed a significant sympathy toward the Catholic understanding of Our Lady, it’s definitely best to be careful about introducing them to…

St. Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort’s Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary

Even most Catholics are intimidated by the concept.  Unnecessarily, I might add.  It’s a challenge, but it’s certainly doable.  Nevertheless, there are several reasons that people can be scared off by this devotion.  First, its main proponent is a guy with a really ostentatious French name, which makes it sound complicated right off the bat.  Second, the words “total consecration” are not for the faint of heart.  No one wakes up one morning and on a whim decides they’re going to totally consecrate themselves to something.
Actually, there’s probably a hagiography out there about someone who has, but it’s not common.

Basically, unless they’re on board with a bunch of other theological concepts about Mary, your average protestant is going to think that involving her in this consecration is a distraction.  Of course, if they were to read de Montfort, a great many of their fears would be assuaged.  But if your protestant coworker who attends Bethel Harvest Community Fellowship Chapel of the Redeemer asks you about Mary, and you just hand them this book, you may not get a very positive reaction.

*****

Of course, with any of the above titles, you never know- sometimes God works in mysterious ways, and Our Lady has been known to break through to hearts in remarkable fashion (Guadalupe, anybody?).  That being said, it’s always good to know your audience, and where their points of hesitation might be before you bash them over the head with some of the more intimidating-at least on the surface- Marian concepts.

About Matt Swaim

Matt Swaim is the Communications Coordinator for the Coming Home Network and the former host of the Son Rise Morning Show on EWTN Radio. His books include "Prayer in the Digital Age" and "The Eucharist and the Rosary." His shorter hot takes on the state of the cosmos can be found on Twitter: @mattswaim
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