No Ordinary Woman

Mary is not the poster child for either the prosperity gospel or liberation theology; she is the one who declares that God “has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree.”

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My wife recently discoveredvideo featuring an audio recording of Bishop Fulton Sheen reciting the 15-decade rosary. Sheen’s riveting prose, coupled with his commanding voice and bejeweled with a slide show of some of the finest sacred art ever produced, makes for a thoroughly engaging experience.

When I first viewed this recording and contemplated the mysteries of the Annunciation and the Visitation, my mind drifted to an experience long ago. 

I had been invited to attend and sing some hymns at a meeting of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International (FGBMFI), a Christian organization with roots in Pentecostalism. In selecting the hymns, I drew from the only tradition I knew: I performed four Catholic hymns that I knew well, one of them being a rendition of the Blessed Mother’s “Magnificat.”

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There were only a handful of people in attendance, but they applauded jubilantly for all of the songs except one, the “Magnificat.” It was easily the most biblical of the four and, in my opinion, the musically superior piece—the only one of the four that I had committed to memory—and yet, the response was crickets. 

I was stunned. I was in my twenties at the time, and had been raised in a thoroughly Catholic environment, so I just didn’t get it. The “Magnificat” is recorded in St. Luke’s Gospel. I’m quite certain that Luke was not in attendance at Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth, which means that the Blessed Mother recalled to him the details of the event and the words of her canticle (inspired by the same Holy Spirit that inspired John to leap in the womb); he recorded them expressly so that these things could instruct Christians for millennia to come. 

Add to that the fact that nearly every line in the song approaches a paraphrasing of the words of various Old Testament prophets, and you have Scripture3 (for the non-mathematical, that’s Scripture to the third power).  

On the “About” page of the FGBMFI’s website, under point #8 of its “Statement of Faith,” one reads, “We believe in the baptism in the Holy Ghost, accompanied by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives utterance, (Acts 2:4) as distinct from the new birth, and in the nine gifts of the Spirit, listed in 1 Corinthians 12, as now available to believers.” 

So why the problem with Mary praying in the Spirit? 

We celebrate the feast of the Annunciation today, with the feast of the Visitation shortly following. What are we to make of the feast-less killjoy of our estranged brothers and sisters in the faith?

In many Protestant and Evangelical (i.e., Protestant 2.0) communities, there is more than a little holy smugness in the notion that God is just itching to help each of us get wealthy, and that all that is keeping it from happening is our lack of faith in Him and/or in the abilities that He has given us. As always, such thinking reduces Christianity to a self-serving zeitgeist, and it directly opposes the one who declared,

He has shown strength with his arm,
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
he has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
(Luke 1:51-53)

In 2019 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby spoke at a service commemorating 150 years since the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, saying, 

God is interested not in palaces, but in justice. God looks not for wealth, but righteousness. God cares not for privilege, but he looks for us all to be so full of His grace that it overflows abundantly in service to others.

We also see that God is deeply rooted in and concerned for the politics of the day. Do not accept, do not teach and do not believe the lie that the church has nothing to do with politics. For politics is the science of how we live together and if we have nothing to do with that let’s tear out two thirds of the New Testament. Let’s get rid of the Beatitudes. Let’s get rid of that stuff in the Old Testament about the orphan and the widow. That’s his call to us.

We sang the Magnificat, we can forget that: he’ll cast down the mighty from their thrones and lift up the humble and meek. The East India company before 1856 banned the singing of the Magnificat in evensong because it didn’t want the wrong people to get the idea about casting down the mighty from their thrones.

The poorly-catechized among us seem either to promote the Blessed Mother as a vehicle for political change—just another revolutionary focused on societal political structure and social justice—or to discard her as little more than a simple, sinful but necessary vehicle for supplying a human body and soul for the Redeemer. 

Mary doesn’t sing, “He will cast down the mighty” but that “He has cast down the mighty.” Then, as now, we are living the kingdom of God. In Mary’s time (and perennially to the end of time) every great past civilization had been reduced to rubble, and yet the people of God had always remained: meek, humble, scattered, diminished, but remaining nonetheless. 

Painting our Blessed Mother as ordinary is one thing, making her the poster child for liberation theology is considerably more insidious, going so far as artwork depicting her  as a homely defiant wench shaking her fist at heaven.  Painting our Blessed Mother as ordinary is one thing, making her the poster child for liberation theology is considerably more insidious, going so far as artwork depicting her  as a homely defiant wench shaking her fist at heaven. Tweet This

Justice is what we should dispense if we are believers, and yes, justice should be what we vote for, but the justice or injustice rendered by others is not our first focus, and focus is what determines outcome: it is the focus of our minds, hearts, and souls that makes or breaks any human endeavor, especially if our intention is to do the will of God. 

To do that, one’s focus must be on God. We cannot effectively focus on love of neighbor if we are not already madly in love with Christ—love struck. Captivated. Engrossed. Encompassed. Engulfed. 

If Christ is not our first focus, nothing we attempt, that is, nothing with any eternal value, will ever be achieved. No political system will ever be a beacon of justice without Christ at the center of the populace’s lives. 

Making Mary ordinary is the devil’s favorite play. It is no accident that this demonic methodology bleeds over into our lives as well—nobody wants to be accused of coming off as a “holier than thou.” When I look at our current culture, it seems certain that we better try to be holier than somebody, because there appears to be an ongoing race to the bottom—a contest to see who can get a foot in hell’s door first. 

All this, of course, goes a bit deeper than simply protecting the prosperity-theology house of cards with which too many Evangelicals are enamored. Satan’s scope is all-encompassing and includes each and every one of us. If he is successful in destroying Christian exceptionalism and promoting spiritual egalitarianism he will be able to herd a multitude of deluded, lukewarm souls into his dark domain. 

What is canonized sainthood other than a declaration of spiritual exceptionalism? Protestants largely only use the title saint for the apostolic period (after which they illogically claim that the Church en masse was no longer following the promptings of the Holy Spirit). And yet, the very Mother of the Redeemer, though obviously a huge contributor—the sole eye witness in a multitude of instances—to Sacred Scripture, the Evangelist Extraordinaire, is not honored by them with the title of saint. 

Anti-canonization is sold with the lofty notion that the acknowledgement of human or angelic spiritual excellence is a distraction from the perfection of God. Acknowledging the excellent, the exceptional, they claim, may, like any cult of the person, by means of distraction, diminish the Perfect in our minds. 

Potentially? Yes. People can overdo or under-do anything. Still, what about spiritual egalitarianism’s ugly underbelly: spiritual tepidity. Christ said, “So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). 

If we’re not working toward sainthood, we’re unworthy of God’s grace. If we are seeking canonization for its own sake, we are unworthy of it and it is beyond our grasp. However, if we love the Lord with our whole minds, our whole hearts, and our entire will, we are no longer tepid, we are exceptional, and exceptional saints are not primarily concerned with the six P’s: peer pressure, prosperity, position, prestige, pleasure, and power.

My dear saints, being spiritually exceptional is clearly our only option. Let us heed the example of the Mother of God, the Evangelist Extraordinaire. 

Author

  • Jerome German

    Jerome German is a retired manufacturing engineer, husband, father of eleven, and grandfather of a multitude. He contributes articles to Crisis Magazine and Catholic Stand. A singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, he has recently (under the pseudonym Jerome Linus) taken up the long-overdue task of recording and publishing songs that he has been writing for most of his life. His first effort, In God We Trust, hit stores worldwide on January 12.

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