Pope Francis’ Protestant Meditation on Our Lady
Pope Francis’ Protestant Meditation on Our Lady
Our Lady may have thought, “Lies! I was deceived!”?
By John Vennari
Pope Francis delivered a homily on Friday December 20, in which he gives the impression that the Crucifixion of Our Lord was something that took Our Lady by surprise, and that she may have been tempted to believe the Angel’s promise to her were ‘lies’, and that she was “deceived”.
We will first present Pope Francis’ text from Vatican News Service and then provide the Catholic response.
“The Mother of Jesus was the perfect icon of silence,” the Pope said. “From the proclamation of her exceptional maternity at Calvary.” The Pope said he thinks about “how many times she remained quiet and how many times she did not say that which she felt in order to guard the mystery of her relationship with her Son,” up until the most raw silence “at the foot of the cross. The Gospel does not tell us anything: if she spoke a word or not… She was silent, but in her heart, how many things told the Lord! ‘You, that day, this and the other that we read, you had told me that he would be great, you had told me that you would have given him the throne of David, his forefather, that he would have reigned forever and now I see him there!’ Our Lady was human! And perhaps she even had the desire to say: ‘Lies! I was deceived!’ John Paul II would say this, speaking about Our Lady in that moment. But she, with her silence, hid the mystery that she did not understand and with this silence allowed for this mystery to grow and blossom in hope.”*1
Pope Francis is certainly a newsmaker, as he continually utters confusing statements that leave Catholics reeling the world over. The above statement about Our Lady is certainly one of the most troublesome.
Pope Francis, by claiming Our Lady was probably surprised and confused by the drama of the Crucifixion, actually promotes a Protestant reading of the Blessed Mother that emphasizes her “humanity” over the unique exalted gifts she received as Mother of God. Whether he realized it or not, Pope Francis’ statements are actually a denigration of Our Lady, and the first who would say so is Saint Alphonsus Ligouri.
Queen of Martyrs
In The Glories of Mary, one of the greatest treaties on Our Blessed Mother, St. Alphonsus explains that Our Lady’s understanding of Old Testament prophecies surpassed the understanding of the prophets themselves.
Citing saints and holy teachers, St. Alphonsus writes that the Blessed Virgin Mary, even before she become Our Lord’s Mother, “[knew] how much the Incarnate Word was to suffer for the salvation of men.”
Saint Alphonsus explains that this profound understanding of Our Lord’s suffering was one of the great sufferings of her life, for when She gave birth to Our Lord, when she nursed Him and warmed the baby Jesus in her arms, she was aware of the death that awaited him, and this sword continually pierced her Immaculate Heart.
Thus Saint Alphonsus teaches that Our Lady was the “Queen of Martyrs,” as we recite in the Litany, since her martyrdom was “longer and greater than that of all the martyrs.”
In short, the Passion and Crucifixion of Our Lord did not take Our Lady by surprise, as Francis would suggest, nor did she misunderstanding Scripture to mean that the “kingdom” would be a glorious rebirth of a kind of Davidic Kingdom.
A “Continuity” of Confusion
Saddest of all, Pope Francis hearkens back to Pope John Paul II as the basis of his meditation. In this Francis is accurate.
In the new Way of the Cross, composed by John Paul II, we read the following or the fourth Station of “Jesus Meets His Sorrowful Mother”:
The mediation contains a flashback to the Annunciation, and a recounting of the prophecy of the Angel regarding Our Lord, “…and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
John Paul’s Fourth Station continues:
“Mary heard these words. She often returned to them in the secret of her heart. When she met her Son on the Way of the Cross, perhaps these very words came to her mind with particular force, ‘He will reign, His Kingdom will have no end,’ the heavenly messenger had said. Now, as she watches her Son condemned to death carrying the cross on which He must die, she might ask herself all to humanly, ‘So how can these words be fulfilled?’ In what way will He reign over the house of David. And how can it be that His Kingdom will have not end?’ Humanely speaking, these are all reasonable questions. But Mary remembered that she first heard the angel’s message, she had replied, ‘Behold, I am the handmade of the Lord. May it be done to me according Your Word.”*2
Again, the text gives the false impression that the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus was something that took Our Lady by surprise. It was as if, during the Way of the Cross, she was baffled as to how the prediction of “His Kingdom shall have no end” could square with the present reality of the bloody Passion, before He had ‘established’ His Kingdom.
In one sense, this meditation puts the Queen of Prophets on the same level as the blind Pharisees who had no idea of what Our Lord was talking about when Jesus told them He was establishing His Kingdom, which is the New Covenant of His Holy Catholic Church, purchased by His Precious Blood. John Paul’s text simply said she made an act of Faith in something she probably did not understand. Pope Francis’ words simply claim Mary had the prudence to “keep silent” about something she did not understand.
How much more satisfying, and more Catholic, is the teaching of Saint Alphonsus Ligouri wherein he embodies the teaching of saints on this topic:
“’The Passion of Jesus began with his birth.’ Says Saint Bernard. Now just as Jesus suffered through his whole life, so Mary, too, in all things like her Son, endured her martyrdom throughout her whole life. One of the meanings of the name of Mary, Albert the Great tells us, is ‘bitter sea,’ Hence the text of Jeremiah is application to her: Great as the sea is your destruction [Lam 2:13]. Just as the sea is extraordinarily bitter and salty, so was the life of Mary always full of bitterness, for the thought of the Passion of her son was always present in her mind.”
Tragically, in their befuddled teaching on the Blessed Virgin Mary, Popes John Paul & Francis tell us more about their maimed theological formation than they do about Our Blessed Mother.
Contrary to the irreverent claim that Our Lady in her humanity may have thought to herself “Lies! I was deceived!”, Saint Alphonsus, in union with saints and holy Catholic teachers, assures us Our Lady was fully aware of the suffering Our Lord would endure. She was not confused about Our Lord’s predicted “kingdom” as were the blind Pharisees. The Passion did not take her by surprise or cause her to doubt in any way.
“Mary is the Queen of Martyrs” writes St. Alphonsus, “because her martyrdom lasted longer [the entire life of Christ] and was more severe than that of all other martyrs.”*3
1. "Pope: silence guards one's relationship with God," Vatican.va, Dec. 20, 2012
2. Pope John Paul II’s Way of the Cross was published in L’Osservatore Romano, May 13, 2000.
3. For quotes, see The Glories of Mary, St. Alphonsus Ligouri, [Ligouri Publications, 2000] 250th Anniversary edition, pp. 282-298.
Posted December 22, 2013