Written By: Gregory Watson
Many Protestants make the point, when talking to Catholics, that Jesus is the main thing for us as Christians. And they are absolutely right. Everything that we believe as Catholics focusses on and orbits around Jesus, as the earth orbits the sun.
Focused on Christ
We must remain focused on Christ, and remain in Christ. He is our Salvation. And at every Mass, we have the opportunity to actually have Communion with Jesus, to receive Him, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, into ourselves in the Eucharist! Experiencing the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist reminds me that He is Present in His Church, and He is our ultimate and absolute focus!
Mary leads us to Christ
But there are many, many doctrines in the Church, and not all of them obviously teach about Christ at first glance. Among those doctrines are the Church’s beliefs about His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. For many, especially Protestants, she seems rather to be a stumbling block and a hindrance to a full relationship with Jesus Christ, rather than one who draws us closer to Him. But this is not the truth!
Christ has given us His Mother as our Mother (John 19:26-27; Revelation 12:17). She helps us to know Christ even more intimately. And through her prayers for us, we can find strength in Christ to live for Him. For her whole raison d’être is to give glory to God, and to bring people to her Son, Jesus Christ (Luke 1:46-47; John 2:5).
This issue of Marian beliefs and Marian devotion was one that I struggled with right up until even shortly after I became a Catholic. I couldn’t understand, as many Protestants can’t, how she leads us to Christ without somehow getting in the way. Since becoming a Catholic, I have begun to understand her better, and certainly to love her more. This really began when I took up what is possibly the most famous Catholic devotion: The Rosary. In this series of prayers and meditations, John Paul the Great tells us, “We meditate with Mary on the life of her Son.” We ponder with Mary the mysteries of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and come to a fuller and greater understanding of Him–and at the same time, pray perseveringly for our needs and the needs of others!
St. John Paul the Great, on March 8th, 2003, said to us, “My Dear Young People! Today, I am handing you the Rosary beads. Through prayer and meditation on the mysteries, Mary leads you safely towards her Son! Do not be ashamed to recite the Rosary alone, while you walk along the streets to school, to the university, or to work, or as you commute by public transport. Adopt the habit of reciting it among yourselves, in your groups, movements and associations.”
Many Protestants claim that the Rosary violates Jesus’ condemnation of “vain repetition” in our prayers, since we repeat each prayer several times (Matthew 6:7-8). However, it is important to understand two things here:
- Not all repetition is vain. Otherwise, many of the Psalms would fall under Jesus’ condemnation, making Jesus a contradiction, since the Psalms are the inspired word of God. See, for example, Psalm 136, where the second line of each of its 26 verses is “For His faithful love endures forever.” Now that’s repetitious!
- The focus of the prayer isn’t on the words being said. They form a prayerful backdrop for the key part of the prayer–meditating on the life of Christ with Mary. Without this exercise of meditating on Christ, then yes, the Rosary would be vain repetition! The mysteries are the entire point of the Rosary!
The Mysteries of the Rosary
By “mystery” it is meant an aspect of our faith that is miraculous, that we cannot comprehend. When it comes to the life of Christ, we will never comprehend how the Infinite, Almighty God could become a Man and live among us. Thus, everything that Christ did is a “mystery”. In the Rosary, there are 20 mysteries, divided into four sets of five. One “rosary” is the praying of a set of 5, thus going around the loop.
The mysteries focus on Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. When we meditate on each mystery, it is important to focus on it as if we ourselves were there, witnessing the event. How would we have felt, or reacted, in that situation? When we do this, we go right into the pages of the Gospels with Mary, as she shows us her Son more clearly. As such, it is important that we read and learn the stories from the Bible itself.
Just as you or I might pray for each other, in the hard times, when we don’t know how to continue, our Mother, who loves us, prays for us and brings us to Christ, her Son and our Older Brother, who walks with us. We truly will never walk alone!