Why Mary?

As this post goes out, we celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I have to admit, coming from protestant tradition, I have been surprised by how many Marian feast days there are. Protestants of course range in their reverence towards Mary, from “she was just a woman” to a nicely formed Mariology, you will find all form of Mariology in Protestantism.

We should look at why we revere Mary.

Mary was born without original sin, she was made specifically to give birth to the son of God. This alone should warrant celebration. That God would create such a woman, that He would bless the human race with someone worthy to carry God’s son. But we tend to be selfish; “why her?” “Why don’t I get that special treatment?”

My answer to this is we did all get special treatment. We all have ministries here in this life. We were all specially made for our ministry. The problem is, we all seem to want our neighbors ministry, not the one God gave us. We look at our life and we think it is not that special. If only I had my neighbor’s job, or if only I could have more prestige or money.

As the old saying goes, “the grass is always greener”.

But the truth is, life is always better when we all do our job. When we let those called to lead, lead, those called to manage manage, and those called to work, work; this is when we have our best results.

Mary was called to carry Jesus, she accepted this honor from her own free will. As we look at Mary and ask “why her”, we should also look at what she gave up to complete this task. She kept herself pure. This certainly should be seen as a gain instead of a loss, but we should know that keeping pure requires giving up many of the things we find enjoyable in this life. The venial sins that lead to mortal, the idleness that leads to sin, it is a sacrifice to get back to productive work and not take that extra break. It is work keeping pure in this world, and she performed that work without fail. It has been told and told again, but Mary’s betrothal and pregnancy was dangerous. She could have been stoned, or at least shunned. We all know that through the message of an angel to Joseph she would be saved, but she did not know that when she said “yes”. The trip to Egypt while pregnant, the birth in a stable, what hardships she endured! Raising her son only to see Him executed as an innocent.

The grass is not always greener. We should celebrate the birth of this great woman, we should marvel at what she accomplished in her life. We should rejoice that she still comes to us through apparitions. We should make every attempt to model our life after hers.

God made us all for a reason, we should always ask ourselves; “are we living up to God’s call”? Pick up your cross, just as Mary did, and further the kingdom of God here in the Church militant.

Fr Scott

How Mary helped me to the Catholic Church

I was newly ordained as an Episcopalian minister, and I had been assigned to All Saints Episcopal church as their youth director. (among other jobs). A summer mission trip had already been planned by the rector (pastor) of the church, so of course he was all too happy to let me take the lead on the trip, though he would also go. (Just as an aside for my SJV readers, this is where I would meet Fr Stephen Jones, as he was just entering the process for discernment to ministry, and he had volunteered to go on the trip as one of the chaperones.). The trip was to Cuernavaca Mexico, flying into Mexico City and taking a bus to Cuernavaca.

My youth group was huge to my experience, as my previous group in Wisconsin was around 20 strong, this trip alone would have over 50 teens. I had never had to use the “number system”, but this group required it. Every so often I would yell “count”, and they would all count in order from one to fifty-each had their own number. This made certain that all were present even when I could not see them all, like when in crowds. We boarded the plane and headed to Mexico.

When we landed, we boarded another bus and headed for Cuernavaca, but with one stop, the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As I mentioned in the last article, I had no problems with Mary, and to be honest I knew very little Mariology. But I was excited as a former architect to see the churches associated with the shrine. As we unloaded and counted at the shrine, I could see this was a youth ministers nightmare. People everywhere! My first thought was to tie them all in a line like kinder-gardeners do, but for many reasons, including lack of a rope, I decided against it. So off we went, I told everyone to meet at the bus at a set time; it was going to be impossible to keep track of them through the shrine.

The first thing that hit me about the shrine were those people crawling on their knees across the plaza to the shrine. Episcopalians were known, for right or wrong, as the “frozen chosen”. We were formal in liturgy, music, and life. We might believe strongly, but to give an outward display like crawling across a public plaza was out of the question. There were many, many people selling rosaries, and their business was quite brisk. I had never bought a rosary, I had no idea how to pray one.

To my disappointment, the oldest of the shrine churches was under construction and closed. Disappointed as I was, I then bolstered my spirit with the knowledge that at least I would have nothing keeping me from shepherding my young flock. (like studying an older church that not many would be interested in) So I turned to the main, modern church and decided to wander in.

I should take a moment here to say, at this moment in time, summer 1999, I had heard of Our Lady of Guadalupe, but I had no idea of the story, or even that this “lady” was the Blessed Virgin; I was what most would call completely ignorant.

I walked in, and wandered, and to be honest I could not tell you where I went first. Eventually though, I found myself on the escalator that moves everyone beneath the Tilma. Many of my group were going up, so why not, follow as many as I could! As I ascended, I saw the Tilma, and I was absolutely entranced. I stumbled off the escalator and found a place to stand and look from a distance, and time stopped for me.

God gives us signs in many ways, it is up to us to stop and listen. To say I was busy at the moment was an understatement, I had 50 teens wondering around a busy shrine in the middle of Mexico City! I had no reason to stop. I had no knowledge of what I was looking at.

I have no idea how long I stayed there, but it was until I was bumped by a chaperone. The chaperone was weary of the crowds and wanted to start collecting the kids. I came back to reality and agreed. I knew two new things though. I needed a rosary, and I needed to learn about this Tilma. So on the way out I bought a rosary, and if it were the modern age, I would have gotten on the web and found out what this Our Lady of Guadalupe was about…but it was the dark ages, that would have to wait till I was back in the states.

What then did this have to do with my conversion to the Catholic Church 18 years later? The rosary. I have no idea where that rosary I bought in Mexico ended up, but my knowledge of the peace it brought never left me after that day. That encounter with our Blessed Mother would cause me to not only begin devotion to her, but started my learning of Mary. Questions like “why ever blessed?” “Why ever virgin”? “Why the rosary”? “Why the devotion”? Over the years, as I learned the answers to those questions, I became more and more Catholic. But what is more, I became closer with Christ. Mary brought me to her Son, and this might raise a question, I was already a pastor, was I not already close to Christ? All through life we come closer and move further in proximity to Christ. At times we can be right at His feet and not be listening to what He is trying to tell us. We can and should from time to time concentrate on coming close to Jesus, times such as retreats or times rich in prayer for us can help us in this. The interesting thing about Mary is that in devotion to her, she takes us by the hand and takes us close to her son, and this almost always brings us to the Catholic Church.

Regardless of your background or knowledge base, if you open your heart and allow the answers to your questions you might have about Mary enter in; she will bring you to her Son, and to His Church. How amazed I was when I heard other converts say that Mary brought them to Catholicism; I was far from the only one she lead home.

Fr Scott

Mariology in brief.

Mary bring souls to the Catholic Church

I was told once that when you start to pray the rosary regularly that it is only a matter of time until you come home to the Catholic Church. I would have to agree. Mary is both a great stumbling block for the protestant, but also she is a great docent, leading us to her Son.

I never had an issue with Mary, I believe this to be a huge help in my conversion. Mary held a special place in my belief system, she gave birth to Jesus, my savior. As a child, having no knowledge of any Mariology, I knew that Mary was revered. Our chapel at St Johns Episcopal was named after her, as many Episcopalian chapels.

If you are protestant and having a problem getting past Mary, let me offer the following.

The original problem was original sin. We were separated from God because we sinned. Lets not give this fact only a cursory thought. God cannot have anything to do with sin. Atonement had to be made. While mankind remained in sin, nobody could be in heaven. Obviously, not going to heaven is a big deal for we mortals, but lets not forget how big of a deal it is for God. God made us to love, and He very much wants our love. If we cannot be with Him, He still loves us but we cannot love Him. We are eternally separated. This messes up all of God’s plans! Can you imagine being sovereign of all the universe but still having your plans foiled by freewill? But there it was, we were separated. God wanted love which can only be given freely, so He could not simply “wave” the freewill thing.

So He came up with a plan. He would give His own Son for reparation. Jesus would die in reparation for our sins. But there is still a problem. How does Jesus, God the Son, get to be a human? Being born of a human of course. But wait, all have sinned. God cannot be apart of sin, as we just discussed. Problem. Solution? God could make a woman without sin to be His tabernacle for the gestation period so that Jesus could be born, fully God, fully man. Here we have the Immaculate Conception. It really could not have happened any other way.

Next, Why the whole virginity thing? Mary was to be the tabernacle of God. Here we should think of our church. There are things you do in front of the tabernacle and things you don’t. I’ll leave that at that. If you come from a protestant background that meets in an auditorium, this might be a harder thing to comprehend. Imagine coming before God. Would you walk up and give Him a high five? I know some that would. So lets go back to scripture. Why did Moses have to take off his shoes when approaching the burning bush? Why did people die when they touched the ark of the covenant? Why could only the high priest open the ark? Why do people get healed by simply touching Jesus? The answer to these questions is those things were holy, or set apart for God. If we want to be respected, we meet important people not by a high five, but by a respectful handshake. If we want to live, we should approach God with reverence and respect. Mary was full of grace, in other words, she was holy, set apart. To be radically set apart, which I think holding God in her womb qualifies, she cannot have been with any other man, whether married or not. Holy and set apart does not go away. She was consecrated to God. After the birth of Jesus she remained a virgin and sinless, as she was full of grace. This explains “born of a virgin” and “ever virgin”. The ark cannot be found, it was of God. Jesus was raised, He was God. Mary was also assumed, as she was just as the first ark, she was holy.

Why do we revere Mary? Because she said yes. She gave her life to be holy. Even though born without sin, she still could have chosen another route away from God. She lived a holy life in preparation for a ministry she had no idea of. Had she been told as a small girl that she would give birth to the Christ, maybe, but she remained holy without knowing why she was doing so. Then as a young teen, God came to her by the message of an angel. She was to be made pregnant by the Holy Spirit, but she was not married. This is a stoning offense. She risked death in order to follow God. Finally, after Christ was born, she walked Him to the cross, a trial I hope I will never have to perform with my own children. How hard must that have been. So many of us might be angry at God, but she glorified Him. She is venerable. But whats more, she is in heaven with Jesus and God. Since she is in close proximity, why not ask her to intercede for us to God? Why not ask her to pray for us?

If we open our hearts to Mary, she will take us to her Son.

Fr Scott

What I Found in the Catholic Church

After leaving the Episcopal (Anglican) church for scriptural reasons that I explained in last week’s blog, I came to the Catholic Church. Here is my personal story of what I found.

I remember leaving St Peter and St Paul, my last pastorate in the Anglican church. I had a week to move out of my office, so by Friday of that week I was pretty much done, and so I was looking forward to the weekend, as moving is always so much fun! I had yet to renounce my orders in the Anglican Church, but having been convicted by scripture and called by God to the Catholic Church, Stephanie and I had no intention of going to an Anglican service that Sunday. So we went to St Stephen’s Catholic in Weatherford.

I was prepared. I knew that the Catholic Church was short on clergy, so the pastor might be rushed, english might not be his first language, and we would have to get used to a new liturgy. When we got to the church, all those concerns didn’t matter. Not that those issues went away, they just did not matter. We walked in and knew that we were home. The pastor, Fr Mike, was an Irishman who has a God given talent of making all feel welcome. Everything was just so peaceful. Stephanie and I knew that we had made the right choice. But this was simply a feeling, and I know that all feeling pass; it was the life of a Catholic that was the true gift that God was about to give us.

The first step of any future Catholic is to enroll in an RCIA (Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults) class. We had a team of four people teaching the class, all lay. Four people who had answered a call to teach neophytes the faith, they cared about Jesus’ great commission. Every week from mid September to late May they would meet on Wednesday nights and have an hour and a half class. I soon noticed that this was not a voluntary class, there were no exceptions ( even for those who had a masters in divinity!). In most denominations, including Anglican, such an “intro” class is voluntary, not in the Catholic Church. These guys were prepared and knew their stuff. Over the weeks the class became a family of sorts. People who once spread out over the large meeting hall were now sitting together and asking each other how the week had gone, the class became a fellowship very quickly. We looked forward to Wednesday nights. RCIA was not a requirement, it had become a pleasure.

We got used to going to mass on Saturday nights, and to St Timothy’s Catholic (Ordinariate) on Sunday mornings. As we came out of mass one Saturday evening, there was a group of men handing out forms to all the men exiting the church. They were asking for men to become Knights. I had heard of the Knight of Columbus and was eager to join. As I became active in the council, I found that the Knights met monthly and planned and executed many charitable events, as well as helped with whatever Fr. Mike needed. We put on fish fry’s for the parish in lent, we brought awareness to the horrors of abortion by having a walk for life, and we had fundraisers that helped us give to local charities. The knights opened for me a door to providing charity to the community. To offer charity is often too big of a job for one person, we need to have groups come together to help the needy, the knights are just such a group.

Worship, education and charity towards others, this is a Christian life. But there is one more surprise that awaited me in the Catholic Church; confession. Of course I knew coming in that Catholics were expected to go to confession. We had the Anglican version of sacramental confession in the Anglican church, but this was different. In the Anglican church, the famous phrase, all may, some should, none must, permeates the church’s teaching on confession. This created a sporadic at best practice of coming to the confessional. Some clergy refused to hear confessions, as it was too “pope-ish”. But in the Catholic Church it is expected on a regular basis. If a Catholic is in mortal sin, they should not receive the Eucharist until they visit the confessional. I quickly discovered that frequent (monthly) visits to the confessional made me a better person. Better, not just because I was in a state of grace, but better in that I focused more on the sins I committed, as after having to speak them monthly, I had decided to fix some of these issues. The confessional convicted me to live a life of grace; as opposed to living a life of typical sin and getting grace in the confessional. This, for me, was the greatest discovery I made in the catholic Church. We all may think that we live a pretty good life, but it is only when you have to study your life monthly that you find that you have more short comings than you imagined. Add to that the fact that you must confess those faults to a priest, who then identifies the sin and gives you penance, these “extra” steps truly make for a graceful Christian.

Worship, education, service and living in and by grace, this is the Catholic Church. I have been a Christian since birth, but have never been more habitually close to God. It is the lifestyle of the Catholic that facilitates the closeness to our heavenly Father. And after experiencing all this, I quickly found that there is so much more to the Church! Devotions to Mary, the saints, and the Eucharist. Novenas, adoration and countless methods of prayer. And maybe most importantly, millions of fellow catholics that are one in faith and there to help. I would urge all to at least give the Catholic Church a chance and find out what they have been missing!

Fr Scott

Why I Became Catholic, Biblically Speaking.

As a convert to Catholicism, I tend to wonder why everyone does not see that the Catholic Church is the one true Church. After all, I spent years studying before my conversion, doesn’t everyone do that kind of research before picking a church? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is no, they do not. Now I could write a series of lengthy papers on what issues I have with other churches theologies…or…I could just write about what I found that drew me to Catholicism. I think the positive is always the best practice, so lets look at the first reason I am Catholic; scripture.

 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.  And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Acts 19:41-42

This is what the original Church looked like. Believers were baptized, they were catechized, they were in fellowship, and they shared the breaking of the bread. Lets take these one at a time.

They were baptized. How? Well Jesus had cleared that up before He ascended.

 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

Matthew 28:19


They were to be baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Now I know many lift up the thief on the cross, or the fact that no reference is made to the baptism of the apostles, but let me ask a question. When you told your child to clean his room, is there anything more maddening than him telling you that “Billy (his friend) never cleans his room and he and his family are just fine with it”? I may be an overly strict parent, but my stock response was “I don’t care what Billys family does, clean your room”!

Let us not study how many people apparently did not have to be baptized, let us do as Jesus commands.

Doing so takes out Mormonism, Jehovah witnesses, any church that believes in “believers baptism”, and any church that does not use the proper designations for “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. These include but are not limited to “creator, redeemer and sanctifier”.

If you have not been baptized in the name of the Father , the Son and the Holy Spirit, please see me so that you can be soon.

Well this first bit knocks out quite a few churches in our search. But let us go on to the second, catechism. This seems simple enough, almost every church has some kind of teaching. But which teaching? Of course, the Bible. Seems simple enough, but did God really mean for us to obey ALL of it?? It is a lengthy book. God does address this. Whereas I will not publish the entirety of scripture here in my essay, I will pick a few of the most pertinent.

Deuteronomy 12:32 “Everything that I command you you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to it or take from it.

Revelation 22:I warn every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if any one adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if any one takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Matthew 5:17…(Jesus says) “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished

Just a few, there are so many more. What does this tell us? God wants us to obey ALL of the Bible. Don’t add, don’t deduct. It tells us that God has specific teachings that He wishes to impart upon us. This creates a problem; give any 10 people a Bible and tell them to read it and give you a synopsis; you will in short order have 10 different reports on who God is and what He asks of us.

So here we have a dilemma. It is estimated that there are 22,800 protestant denominations, and around 60 different Orthodox rites, and one Catholic Church. Who is catechizing correctly? Well we already knocked out more than a few with the baptism test, but that does still leave us with a number of really friendly churches.

How did I solve this? I studied the fathers of the Church. They were undeniably Catholic. So if those who actually knew Jesus were Catholic, shouldn’t I be also? The teachings of the fathers, and of scripture, form the basis of the teaching of the Catholic Church. If this is not true about the church you attend, you should question as to why. The Church fathers were there, and they were willing to die for what they knew and practiced as Catholics. What was true about God and His wish for us was true then and is still true now, God does not change.

There is a small issue here though; what about Orthodoxy? My first reasoning here is that the Orthodox fight, a lot. The Orthodox have in the United States several of their rites, Greek, Russian, Antiochian, just to name a few. Those in the Antiochian are under constant attack to even exist from those in other rites. But even that did not prevent me from considering the Orthodox. But as I thought of all their fighting, and with my experience of the constant fighting of the Anglican Church I was a part of, I always wished someone would stand up and lead. Not for the power and the glory, but for God. Kind of like a pope. Then it hit me, mankind will always fight, it is in their broken nature. This is why you need a central authority to arbitrate. But in this arbitration, I don’t want them to decide right and wrong on their own, or on the winds of societal decrees, but on biblical truths. Truths that can not be touched or changed; kind of like dogma. So we need dogma and a pope…that brings us to one church; the Catholic Church.

But we still have one more item. (well two, but doesn’t every church have fellowship?? …and if they don’t, run!)

The last was the breaking of the bread. What was Luke speaking of when he wrote this in Acts? Just a dinner party? St Paul seems to think not:

When you meet together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal, and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not

1 Corinthians 11:20

So this is no dinner party. Then what is it? Jesus Himself answers this.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.

John 6:53.

The breaking of the bread is not dinner, it is not fellowship, (though it is communion…I’ll cover this in a yet to be written paper) it is partaking of the very body and blood of Christ. Paul adds an explanation mark on this fact:

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.

1 Corinthians 11:26

So not only is this the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, we also need to take it only in a state of grace, through confession.

So baptism, unity of catechism, and the true Eucharist are all biblical reasons to come home to the original Church of Christ, the Catholic Church.

God Bless

Fr Scott

1Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Ac 2:41–42). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.
2Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Mt 28:19–20). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.
3Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Dt 12:32). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.
4The Revised Standard Version. (1971). (Re 22:18–19). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
5The Revised Standard Version. (1971). (Mt 5:17–18). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
6The Revised Standard Version. (1971). (1 Co 11:20–22). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
7The Revised Standard Version. (1971). (Jn 6:53–58). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
8The Revised Standard Version. (1971). (1 Co 11:23–26). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
9The Revised Standard Version. (1971). (1 Co 11:27–29). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.