St. Bonaventure: Mary, with God, formed the world?

An anti-Catholic brought this to my attention:
St. Alphonsus de Liguori

Hence St. Bernard with reason says, “that for this Blessed Virgin, who was to be his Mother, God created the whole world” (“Propter hanc totus mundus factus est”—In Salve Reg. s. 3). And St. Bonaventure, that its existence depends on her will. He says, addressing her, "The world which thou with God didst form from the beginning continues to exist at thy will, O most holy Virgin" (“Dispositione tua Virgo, perseverat mundus, quem et tu cum Deo fundasti ab initio”—Psalt. B. V. ps. 118); the saint adhering in this to the words of Proverbs applied by the Church to Mary: I was with Him forming all things (“Cum eo eram cuncta componens”—Prov. viii. 30).

I usually refrain from attempting any sort of ‘debate’ on YouTube, but I could not leave this unchallenged:

… did Jesus ever say that Mary was co creator “with Him forming the world…”? No He didnt, but the RCC & popes & “doctors” and “saints” of the catholic church say she was. thats heresy & blasphemy of the highest order …

This poster responded with some silliness but also with some quotes from The Glories of Mary.

The Church has never officially taught that Mary was present at creation. So what does the quote from St. Bonaventure mean? Why did St. Alphonsus de Liguori point this out?

  • Reg.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Gospel of St John 1: 1-5

**The gospels are the inspired word of God. **If the saints did say things like that… it remains true that saints may be holy, but it doesn’t mean they got everything right.
Saints, however good, cannot speak ‘ex-cathedra’ unless they are also popes speaking ‘ex-cathedra’ not merely pious opinion but the inspired inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

                                                                           Genesis 1:1 [NIV]("")                                  The Beginning 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2Now  the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the  deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.   3And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. ....... 31God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

From the Glories of Mary.

The blessed Virgin, because she is the mother of God, has a certain infinite dignity from the infinite good, which is God; and in this respect nothing greater can be created. St. Thomas of Villanova says the same thing: Certainly there is something infinite in being the mother of the Infinite One. And St. Bernardino says, that the state to which God exalted Mary as his mother was the highest, so that he could exalt her no higher. And this is confirmed by Albertus Magnus. The Lord conferred on the blessed Virgin the highest gift which any pure creature was capable of receiving, namely, the maternity of God. Therefore St. Bonaventure wrote that celebrated sentence, that God could make a greater world, a greater heaven, but could not exalt a creature to greater excellence than by making her his mother.

St. Bernard therefore, with reason, says that God has created all the world for this Virgin, who was to be his mother. And St. Bonaventure says that the preservation of the world is at the disposal of Mary. The saint in this place adheres to the words of Proverbs, applied by the Church to Mary: I was with him forming all things: ‘Cum eo erarn cuncta componens’. St. Bernardine adds, that God, for love of Mary, did not destroy man after the sin of Adam.

To conclude then: this divine mother is infinitely inferior to God, but immensely superior to all creatures; and if it is impossible to find a Son more noble than Jesus, it is also impossible to find a mother more noble than Mary. This should cause the servants of such a queen not only to rejoice in her greatness, but also to increase their confidence in her most powerful protection; for, being mother of God, says Father Suarez, she has a certain right to his gifts, to obtain them for those for whom she prays.

Catholic teaching and belief
regarding God and Creation,
from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

It may be that the poster couched these quotes in terms which weren’t helpful to the catechesis of non-Catholics
Some of the pious expressions of devotional persons can easily be misquoted or misunderstood.
God bless!

From the official Catechism of the Church,
the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding Mary, Mother of our Redeemer:

969 "This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation … Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix."510

970 "Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin’s salutary influence on men . . . flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it."511 "No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source."512

I think we can easily read it as God forming the world with her in mind, i.e. for her sake. And then it is simply ‘continues to exist’.

Excellent points from JM.

Was thinking, “Hey, that’s a reference to Proverbs, right?” and reread your post, and so it was.

So looking at Proverbs 8:

22 “The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works,[c][d]
before his deeds of old;
23 I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world came to be.
24 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth,
when there were no springs overflowing with water;
25 before the mountains were settled in place,
before the hills, I was given birth,
26 before he made the world or its fields
or any of the dust of the earth.
27 I was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
28 when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
29 when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
30 Then I was constantly[e] at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
31 rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.

If you’re rabidly curious, you might try v. 1 ch. 5 of City of God by Mary of Agreda— it spends a whole chapter dissecting those verses.

The long and short of it is, it refers to both Christ and his mother in certain parts, God the Father in other parts. Once it was determined by God that Christ would incarnate, it naturally followed that he would have to have a mother. As CoG puts it, “She was foreseen when only the ancient Uncreated was, and before any ideals of the future creation were formed.”

So in that sense, she had been conceived in God’s mind— not on earth, but in his mind— long before there were oceans and mountains, or angels, or anything else. Likewise, even before that, it was determined that God would assume human form and be a mediator, a model, a king, and a head for humanity to imitate. (And it goes into great depth on that subject in ch. 6.) Basically, the universe and all of humanity were subsequently created to give Christ a people in the first place— he should not only be honored because he redeemed the human race, but because he “furnished the motive for its creation”. And in order to create a fitting mother for himself to become Man, God put more care into her creation than into the entire universe.

A horribly mangled and abbreviated summary, but it’s easy enough to track down if you want to read it properly.

Sorry, I don’t believe that Mary formed the world. That is anti-biblical and you are only arming Protestants to criticize you with. Mary did not form the world. God did.

It’s important to note that saints are not infallible. It’s a shame I see Catholics turning the writings of saints into some kind of divinely inspired works. They are not. St. Catherine of Siena, for example, once denied the Immaculate Conception and said it was not real. Saints were humans just like you and I, and they often held erroneous views. Please take that into consideration.

This is an excellent explanation.

I’ve been checking this out and would like to know if it is in the original text.
Some references suggest that that quote "“The world which thou with God didst form from the beginning continues to exist at thy will, O most holy Virgin” from Psalter of the Blessed Virgin, which that quote attributed to St Bonventure is from (Psalter of the Blessed Virgin. Ps 118E), is falsely attrbituted to St. Bonaventure.

I’ve also checked other, older, English versions of the Glories of Mary and that specific quote is not in them, nor is it in the Italian versions that I have found. I don’t know if it’s in the original text.

Even if it is in the original text, the very next paragraph makes a distinction between God and Mary
“In conclusion, then, this divine Mother is infinitely inferior to God, but immensely superior to all creatures;”

OK. I did find it in an Italian version from 1774.

Ond’ebbe ragione S. Bernardo de dire, che Dio per questa Vergine, che doveva esser sua madre, ha creato tutto il mondo: Propter hanc totus mundus factus est (serm 6. in Salve Reg.): e S. Bonaventura, che 'l mondo preserva a diposizion di Maria: Dispositione tua, Virgo sanctissima, preseverat mundus, quem et tu cum Deo ab initio fundasti (Ap. il P. Pepe Lez. 371): aderendo il Santo in cio alle parole de’Proverbj dalla Chiesa applicate a Maria: Cum eo eram cuncta componens (Prov. 8)

Mary is with God in Heaven. (Heck, she was with Him in Nazareth.)

God exists in eternity. Eternity is beyond space and time; no time exists in eternity.

If Mary (or any saint) is with God in Heaven, she is with God in eternity.

If she (or any saint) is with God in eternity, she is with God as He creates the world.

Heck, anybody who’s a body part of the Body of Christ is in the Son at the Creation. If He is in us, we are in Him throughout eternity and throughout His earthly existence in time, and we live in Nazareth too. (Assuming we are in Christ, and that He doesn’t tell us at the Last Judgment that he never knew us.)

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