Yesterday my wife and I went for a walk after having some frozen yogurt. The local Catholic church had a summer carnival going on and at the same time, some sort of Wednesday night service. My wife asked me, “Should we go in?” I said, “Sure, let’s see what it is like.”
We noticed a bunch of women wearing head coverings and typical of Catholic churches, an ornate inside. We saw the priest was a young guy, maybe a little older than me…but I suppose I’m not that young anymore!
Soon we figured out why the women were wearing headcoverings–It was a Latin Mass, and I suppose the crowd there wanted to kick it old school. Having it been years since I went to a Catholic Mass, all I remembered was that the order of service was the same as the Lutheran Church. As for the content and everything, I didn’t remember. I suppose I expected the sort of stuff I read online–hyper-Mary veneration and an emphasis on sacraments.
Well, I was right about that. The priest gave a homily which talked about Mary endlessly. I’m not kidding. I heard about how Mary intercedes for us, how Mary strengthens our spirits, and how Mary loves us. Jesus was mentioned two or three times, always in connection with Mary (“Mary and Jesus…”)
My mind immediately raced to Chrysostom’s Homilies, Augustine’s sermons, and all the stuff I read in the church fathers. Sure, sometimes one of the later church fathers affirms a modern Catholic doctrine on Mary such as Augustine’s teaching of Mary’s supposed sinlessness. However, what I found quite striking was the vast difference in emphasis. Other than one short fourth or fifth century hymn on Mary, I do not remember anything written during the Church’s early period that spoke only about Mary other than polemical works (like Jerome’s The Perpetual Virginity of Mary.) Even then, the name of Jesus is mentioned 15 times. The homily I heard wasn’t some sort of defense of Mary. It simply was a really long praise of her, telling the congregants to cast their cares upon her shoulders because she knows how difficult our lives are and stuff.
Catholic apologists should seriously consider the following: if they believe what the Church has always believed, why is it that it is par for the course to have such long homilies on Mary today while this is unheard of in the ancient church? Don’t cherry pick a quote here or there. Find me a book or homily where that’s all it is about. You won’t find it.
And there seems to be a good reason for that: because Mary does not know what’s in our hearts. Only God knows all the thoughts of men (Ps 94:11). Christ intercedes on our behalf with the Father. The Holy Spirit strengthens us. Mary is a human being, she does not do what God Himself does. Mary can only theoretically respond to prayers addressed to her, and then pray on our behalf’s to God, and then God can do these things for us. However, this technical distinction which would prevent the priest’s homily from being heresy is sorely lacking.
The homily had one other false teaching of note, which again I have not read among any of the church fathers. “We are saved by our fruits,” he said. No. Any orthodox theologian will tell you we are saved by faith, and fruits are the result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They are a blessing given to those that by faith, are saved, a grace given to those that God has already given grace.
My heart goes out to Catholics that are so clearly deceived. “[T]hey have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom 10:2). The apologists laugh at Protestants for going to churches that bare no resemblance to the ancient ones, yet the beam in their own eye prevents them from seeing how clearly disconnected they are from the early church. Remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can remove the speck from ours.
We left a couple Gospel tracts there and hope to go back to the carnival tonight and give some more out. Please pray for us!