The Catholic Church has many teachings that can be very difficult for people to accept. These teachings are difficult to accept for various reasons, which generally relate more to the person who finds them hard to believe, than with the reasonableness or credibility of the Church’s teachings themselves. Or put another way, it often seems that the beliefs hardest to accept are the ones that most challenge our particular lifestyles and worldviews. So, the same-sex attracted individual may find the Church’s condemnation of homosexual acts to be particularly difficult, while the business-savvy rich capitalist balks most at Catholic social teaching and her preferential option for the poor (explaining away their lack of acceptance by knee-jerk labeling Pope Francis a socialist who’s not infallible on economic issues and insisting that the way one lives out social justice is a “prudential matter”). For the Muslim or the Jew, the triune nature of God or the divinity of Christ are the biggest stumbling blocks, while Protestants have a veritable laundry list of issues that usually essentially boil down to safeguarding the divinity of Christ by accusing Catholics of some form of idolatry or other. My own biggest hurdles when converting centred around the Eucharist and the Virgin Mary–especially Mary.
Having wrestled through my issues by God’s grace, and coming to understand and submit to the Church’s authority (however imperfectly), I’ve found that I can usually discern the reason the Church teaches x, y, or z, and when I find I can’t, I’ve been able to trust that the Church is right even if I’m not clever enough to see it yet. After becoming convinced about the Eucharist and Mary, nothing was left to shock my preconceived ideas enough to bother me.
I recently read a wonderful book by the great Dominican Thomist, Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, titled Mother of the Saviour and Our Interior Life, in which Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange makes the claim that Mary is the most loved creature–that God loves her more than any other creature, and, indeed, more than all other creatures combined. But that wasn’t even the most shocking part. It was the idea implicit in the claim that God loves Mary more–the idea that God does, in fact, love some people more than others–that really bothered me.
“Wait!” my brain screamed. “God loves us all equally! Doesn’t he?”
Then Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange dropped this bomb:
“For since God’s love is the cause of goodness in things… no one thing would be better than another, if God did not will greater good for one than for another” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, I, 20, iii).
Earlier in the same Question, St. Thomas defines love as willing good for something, so if God wills greater good for something, that means He loves it more.
Growing up here in Canada, the land of egalitarianism, this teaching is startling! God loves some people more than others?! That’s intolerable! Who can endure such teaching? As with so many things, though, taking this line out of context can lead to confusion and wrong conclusions. To that end, it’s important to read and ponder the entire response of Article 3 of Question 20:
I answer that, Since to love a thing is to will it good, in a twofold way anything may be loved more, or less. In one way on the part of the act of the will itself, which is more or less intense. In this way God does not love some things more than others, because He loves all things by an act of the will that is one, simple, and always the same. In another way on the part of the good itself that a person wills for the beloved. In this way we are said to love that one more than another, for whom we will a greater good, though our will is not more intense. In this way we must needs say that God loves some things more than others. For since God’s love is the cause of goodness in things, as has been said (article 2), no one thing would be better than another, if God did not will greater good for one than for another.
God loves us all (otherwise we wouldn’t even exist!) and the intensity of the love He wills for us is equal, eternal, and unchanging. The difference is in the particular good He wishes for each of us, and that variation stems from His providential care for the whole world, and our roles and ultimate destinies within that plan.
And since, in that plan, the Blessed Virgin Mary was eternally predestined to be the Mother of God, God loves her most of all created things, and willed her the greatest goods in keeping with the exalted role He had planned for her: her immaculate conception and preservation from all stain of sin, the preservation of her virginity before, during, and after Jesus’ birth, and finally, her glorious Assumption into heaven at the end of her life, where she sits as Queen of Heaven and brings our needs and prayers, weakly offered by us in this valley of tears, and perfecting them, offers them to her Son, the source of all the goodness and grace in Mary, and in us.
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