Thursday, November 17, 2011

Holy Things

I sometimes listen to Catholic Answers on my way home. Its one of those call in radio shows where people across the country can have their questions about Catholicism answered. Some of those calls are doozies- people seem to freak about about stuff that would never cross my mind. Someone called in the other night to talk about the rosary & brown scapular which were supposedly given by Mary. The caller wanted to know why the Protestants hadn't seen Mary or been given these things too.

For those who don't know, the rosary is essentially a string of beads with a crucifix. The story goes that it was given to St. Dominic by Mary herself. One meditates on various scenes of Christ's life in prayer & keeps track on the beads. There are "promises" associated with the rosary- 15 of them in fact- and one even has to do with the assurance of salvation. The same is true of the Brown Scapular, given to St. Simon Stock. If I were ignorant, I would be so excited that I wouldn't have to do much more than pray on a string of beads & wear a little brown piece of cloth in order to get to heaven.

So I got to thinking about the origin of the rosary & scapular. The promises associated with these things are not especially Biblical... Firstly, when did God ever hand people a thing uncreated by human hands & tell them how to use it? In the Old Testament, we often see Him instructing people to build something (an ark, an ephod, stone tablets, a tabernacle, utensils, etc.) & then He gave them ceremonies to consecrate these things to His service. The holy things were designed by God, but man made. The way things became holy was designed by God, but man had to enact the rituals.

So where did Mary get a rosary or a scapular? How could these things have such weighty assurances attached? Perhaps its just the stuff of legends- in reality, someone was inspired by Mary to fashion these things but in the retelling of origin, we see Mary holding out a rosary or a scapular. That is, perhaps its not a literal understanding, but figurative. Perhaps the "promises" imply that the saving power actually comes from Christ, though I've yet to see that little disclaimer anywhere.

So why don't Protestants "see" Mary? I've heard that maybe they don't want to... Or they lack faith b/c they don't believe she lives & is in heaven. But I'm wondering why I haven't seen her either. I have faith too...

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