My grandmothers have always had at least ten images in the house of just the Virgin of Guadalupe, not counting all of the other crucifixes, statues of Saints Joseph and Jude, and countless other articles of religious kitsch.Mr. Vasquez takes a firmer line on Marian devotion than one finds from Catholic Answers. For example, Mr. Vasquez insists:
Devotion to the Virgin Mary is not "optional" -- or, to put it another way, it is not something that you can ignore.Contrast that with Catholic Answer's Q/A:
Q:“Is it required that Catholics be devoted to Mary?”(Michell Arnold in This Rock, Volume 17, Issue 4 - 2006)
A: Devotion is an emotional attachment, which cannot be required of anyone. All that is required is assent to those doctrines that the Church has declared to be true and binding upon Catholic consciences. As long as a Catholic gives assent of the will to the Marian doctrines, it is not required that he have any particular emotional attachment to the Blessed Mother.
That said, devotion can be developed just like emotional attachment to any person can be developed, and it is a pious action for a Catholic to develop a devotion to his spiritual Mother. One means of developing such an attachment is to learn more about the Blessed Mother through reading Marian apologetic and devotional literature.
But Mr. Vasquez gets even more extreme in his claims and in doing so demonstrates that his devotion to Mary comes at the expense of Scripture and History:
Thus, to be Catholic is not simply to become grafted into an institution in the here and now, but it is also an assent to the being of the Church as it comes down to us from history. In the experience of the Christian people, the motherhood of the Virgin Mary given to us by Christ on the Cross is not a sentimental add-on to the Faith, but part of its very essence. Mary takes care of us like any mother does. She has held back hostile armies, cured the sick, or perhaps just found us work. There is no apostolic Christianity where Mary is not present, no ancient Church where prayers to her are not said. A dream of Christianity sans Mary is like a dream of Christianity without the Cross. For without her, there would have been no Body to be offered on it for the life of the world.Contrary to Mr. Vasquez' claims, however, we note that the motherhood of Mary was transferred at the cross not from Jesus to all of us, but from Jesus specifically to John.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, "Woman, behold thy son!" Then saith he to the disciple, "Behold thy mother!" And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
John understood that he was personally responsible to take care of Mary as though she were his mother, and Mary understood that as well. Notice that the terms are all singular, though two other disciples (Mary the wife of Cleophas and Mary Magdalene) are also there, Jesus does not say, "Woman, behold thy children," but simply "thy son." And Jesus does not say "Behold your (plural) mother" but "Behold thy (singular) mother."
Furthermore, while many churches that call themselves "ancient" today may pray to Mary (the Anglicans would be an exception, "Article XXII. Of Purgatory.: The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God."), this is a development - not the ancient and universal practice. Indeed, when one reads through the writings of the apostolic and ante-Nicaean fathers, one finds little hint of this sort of improper devotion to Mary. The first portion of the Hail Mary is adapted from Scripture, but the apostles and the early church fathers didn't pray the Hail Mary. In fact, the form of the Hail Mary that is used among Roman Catholics (including a petition to Mary) is apparently a late 15th century innovation that was more widely adopted in the 16th century due to the influence of the Council of Trent.
Vasquez' comparison between Mary and the Cross is itself pretty shocking. As we saw above, he wrote: "A dream of Christianity sans Mary is like a dream of Christianity without the Cross. For without her, there would have been no Body to be offered on it for the life of the world." One wonders, though whether Vasquez feels the same way about each of the men and women in Jesus' family tree back to Adam and Eve? One seriously doubts it. While a virgin was necessary, God's selection of Mary was gracious (indeed, she was highly favored and blessed by God) not merited. It is not as though God particularly needed Mary and could not have used another virgin from David's line.
Christ's death on the cross, however, is the ultimate sacrifice - the once for all offering that is central to the Christian faith. The cross takes the central place of focus in Paul's gospel, and in the gospel of the ante-Nicaean fathers. If we were going to draw any kind of comparison between Mary and the cross, it would be between Mary as an instrumental means of Christ's nurture and entrance into this world in the flesh, and the physical wood and nails of the cross as an instrumental means of Christ's loss of human life. A comparison between a root from the stock of David from which Jesus sprang after the flesh and a tree upon which Christ's body was hung.
Being a Christian means being part of a family; it means being taken into a way of life that has been going on for centuries. To use another Augustinian axiom: Unus christianus, nullus christianus (one Christian is no Christian). No greater sign exists of this than Mary herself, the most important member of God's own family and the icon of the Church Universal.Poor Augustine would be rolling over in his grave if he could hear this. But there is worse error in Vasquez' comment than the misapplication of Augustine's words. Notice Vasquez' claim: "Mary herself, the most important member of God's own family ... ." But recall Jesus own words:
And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.
At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Mr. Vasquez offers only a brief response to criticism:
Indeed, more love for Christ's mother seems only ever a good thing. And to all those who think it distracts too much from the devotion that we should have to her Son: I am sure He doesn't really mind.Perhaps the reason that Mr. Vasquez thinks that God doesn't mind is that Mr. Vasquez is unaware of Scripture. One of God's names is Jealous, and God wishes to be served alone. I realize that Mr. Vasquez may think that God is quite willing to be served along side or together with Mary, but almost everyone can recognize that there comes a time when the devotion to Mary is excessive, where it elevates her to the position of a goddess, even though the word is not used.
Exodus 34:14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
1 Samuel 7:3 And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.
Exodus 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee. For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.
Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.
Joshua 24:19 And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.
Nahum 1:2 God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.
Matthew 4:10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
Luke 4:8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
1 John 5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.