What is the least Marian a Catholic can be?

I, along with several seminary friends, are very close to converting to Catholicism, but the Catholic veneration of Mary - as co-mediatrix, mediator of graces, etc. is the main thing (if not only thing) holding us back.

There are two Marian dogmas we simply don’t believe: the assumption and immaculate conception. Although we can submit to the authority of the church to dictate many beliefs we may not understand, the historical fact of the assumption just doesn’t seem to have sufficient evidence and I can’t turn belief on and off like a water faucet (anymore than I could turn on belief in Santa Claus).

I assume over time that my belief in Marian doctrines would grow, but right now as one whose come out of Protestantism (and still looking for a place to land), I am not there.

So my question: what is the least Marian I can be and still be a Catholic?

Dear friend,

The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches have roots that go back to the earliest days of Christianity and they have always honored the Mother of God. It is only the latter day churches that have questioned the giving of any special attention to her. This is even a more recent phenomenon for Protestantism, since even Martin Luther believed in Mary’s Immaculate Conception. His tomb has a base relief of her Assumption.

The concern that non-Catholic Christians have over the Immaculate Conception is that it is not explicitly stated as such in Scripture. Of course, the Holy Trinity isn’t either. But like the Holy Trinity the reasons for it ARE found in Scripture. “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you! (Lk 1:28). In the past, whenever an angel appeared to anyone, it was the angel that received homage. But in this case, it was the angel who GAVE homage. Certainly, this was appropriate. What God said to Mary through his angel is greater homage than any mere mortal can give. She was told that she had found favor with God and would bear a Son whom she was to name, Jesus. He was to be called Son of the Most High. The child to be born of her would actually be called holy, the Son of God.

This being established, would you consider that Jesus doesn’t deserve the kind of mother that the early Christians as well as current Catholics and Orthodox honor? We only believe that Mary was pre-exempted by Her Son’s Passion and death from the effects of Original Sin so that He could be conceived in a pure place, free from the corruption of sin. It is only because of who Jesus is, that we single her out. Honoring Mary doesn’t take honor away from Jesus. On the contrary; it gives more honor to Him. It is only because He is so much more special, that she is special at all. He is so special that those who are the closest to Him must be special as well. As for the matter of co-redemptrix, this means that she co-operated in His work of redeeming us. But she is not the only one who co-operated in His mission of redemption; St. Joseph, St. John the Baptist, the Apostles–even the Angel Gabriel did so as well. But by providing the place for His incarnation and nourishing Him at her breasts, Mary is truly unique. She alone is the actual channel through which He became Man. You tell me what is the least that the Church can say about this? And why should it be the least?

When we pray the rosary, we echo the words of the Angel Gabriel and the words of her relative, Elizabeth. Throughout the whole rosary we honor the Incarnation of Jesus. That is all that the Hail Mary prayer is about; that and the fact that we ask her to pray for us. Mary is all about Jesus; not about herself. I understand how it can take some time for our emotions to catch up with our intellects. Give yourself some time. We will ask the Lord to help you in this and we will ask Mary to pray for you as well. Feel free to write me privately by clicking on my name above.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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