This mini discourse on Mariology, given by Rev Fr Joseph Stephen on 29 May 2019, was attended by about 200 people at the Church of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, Ipoh. Many found this teaching to be very beneficial to our Catholic faith and also added knowledge to our limited understanding. Fr Joe's talk was entitled: Catholic Understanding of the Role of Mary.
Fr Joe explained that the Christian Church accepted teachings on Mary until the 1500s. Even Martin Luther (1483-1546) and King Henry VIII (1491-1547) had honoured Mary and accepted the Catholic Church’s dogmas regarding Mary.
Martin Luther, a Catholic monk, had translated the Bible from Latin to German and had it printed (the printing press was invented then) and circulated to the masses. It was John Calvin (1509-1564), a Swiss who later began to remove statues and sacramentals from the church and introduced Sola Scriptura as a way of life. This was enhanced by John Knox and later Karl Barth (died in 1968), a renowned Swiss reformed theologian whose Gratia Scriptura [gratitude towards scripture] taught the Reformed Protestant churches that only scripture matters and nothing else.
Fr Joe explained that in Catholic Theology, Mary’s presence is manifold; such as in scripture, liturgy, in doctrine, devotion, art, spirituality, personal witness, theological tradition and special places of pilgrimages. On the other hand, Mariology has its problems such as the exaggeration of popular devotion, exaggeration which assigns Mary disproportionate role in Christian life, protestants saying that Catholics worship Mary and at times we find a fine edge between superstitious practices and expression of genuine confidence in Mary’s intercession. As Church, the teachers must recognize the deep significance of popular devotion and fill them with sound doctrine. Fr Joe encouraged us to look at Mariology systematically.
Mary holds an important place in our Christian life in that she is a model disciple whom the Heavenly Father favours to be the Mother of His Son. Mary listened and responded to what God asked of her. Her “yes” played a role in mankind’s salvation.
Acknowlegement: Above article and photographs by Kenna Lau.
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(29 May 2019)