Divine providence often furnishes Catholic converts with ironic stories about the twists and turns on their journeys home to the Catholic Church. In my case, as a former Protestant minister, with deep anti-Catholic convictions, it was my Saul-like crusade against Mary that was wondrously transformed by God’s grace into a deep filial love for the Mother of God. As they say, the bigger they come, the harder they fall—in love.
But if, prior to my entry into the Church at Easter, 1986, I had encountered a movement like Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici, The "Voice of the People for Mary Mediatrix," I would have been quite appalled, my worst suspicions confirmed. Indeed, I can almost hear myself loading the cannon fodder, "What do you mean, Mary as ‘Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate for the people of God?’ At last, proof positive that Catholics supplant Christ’s prerogatives with Mary!"
"Over My Dead Calvinist Body!"
For many years, I considered Marian doctrine and devotion to be symptomatic of a mortal infection within Catholics; indeed, it represented what was most wrong with Catholics. I initially opposed the definition of the dogma, for various reasons, but mostly because I feared that it would only add to the confusion already out there.
Yet as a teacher, I had to ask myself, what’s the best thing to do when you come across confusion? You dispel it. And the best way to do that is to get in line with the Church, proclaim what the Pope proclaims, and then explicate it—the job of a theologian.
Paradoxically, my former anti-Marian views have resulted in an appreciation for the common objections frequently raised against the Church’s teachings about Mary, as well as the prospect of a new Marian dogma being defined by the Pope. As an Evangelical, the one overarching reason why I opposed Catholic teaching about Mary was that I believed that it undermined the perfect work of Christ, and robbed Him of His glory. Today, the one overarching reason why I embrace the Church’s teaching is that I now see Mary as the perfect work of Christ, and greatest revelation of his glory. She no more steals the Son’s glory than the moon steals the sun’s.
In view of the potholes and detours I have encountered along the road to Rome, perhaps it would be useful to clarify how this Evangelical came to accept the Church’s teachings, and to explain why I would welcome a definition of a new Marian dogma, if that is what Pope John Paul II decides to do.
The Gospel of Jesus Embodied in Mary
Jesus announced the gospel, and then proceeded to fulfill it. But the gospel didn’t change the second Person of the Trinity. The eternal Son did not gain a single drop of glory for himself—after living, dying, and rising as a human—which he lacked beforehand. God did not create and redeem the world in order to get more glory, but rather to give it. There is no tug-of-war between the Creator and His creatures. The Father made and redeemed us through the Son and the Spirit, but they did it for us—starting with Mary, in whom it was accomplished not only first but best.
Do we thus detract from Christ’s finished work by affirming its perfect realization in Mary? On the contrary, we celebrate his work, precisely by focusing our attention on the human person who manifests it most perfectly.
Mary is not God, but she is the mother of God. She is only a creature; but she is God’s greatest creation. Just as artists long to paint one masterpiece among their many works, so Jesus made his mother to be his greatest masterpiece. To affirm t