No news for anyone on line who is using more than Comcast’s news updates (all about cleavages at the Grammy’s, I’m afraid) that Benedict XVI has resigned the office of pope, effective February 28, 2013. What may be news, however, is the last paragraph of his resignation:
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
It is an odd phenomenon for Protestants to think of praying (i.e., “implore) to Mary. For a recent convert like Christian Smith, Protestant discomfort is simply a symptom of evangelicals’ “allergy” to Mary. He goes on to write (How to Go from Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic):
Evangelicals trust in the Bible, on which they say they base their beliefs. But, when it comes to things even only remotely and by association “too Catholic,” like Mary, the verses are read over and past and ignored. It is like Mary hardly matters, as if the verses were not in the Bible, as if Mary deserves no theological reflection. (48)
Never mind that Smith never cites any verses associated with Mary, or shows the theological reflection of the apostles (like Peter and Paul’s epistles) on the mother of Jesus. (He does get a lot of mileage in his case for Mary — wow! — out of the discovery that “Faith of Our Fathers” was a Roman Catholic hymn.) Never mind as well that even the Catholic Encyclopedia says of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, “No direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma can be brought forward from Scripture.”
Still, the allergy, if that’s what we want to call it, is the idea of praying to Mary. Praying to Mary is not something that should be surprising to Protestant observers. For instance, this is how Pius IX concluded Nullis Certe Verbis:
And so that God may incline His ear to Our prayers and yours and those of all the faithful, We ask first the recommendation of the Virgin Mary, who is our most beloved mother and most trustworthy hope and ever present guardian of the Church. Nothing is more powerful with God than her patronage. We also implore the support of Peter, then of his co-apostle Paul, and of all the heavenly citizens who reign with Christ in heaven. We do not doubt that in the light of your outstanding religion and priestly zeal, you will obey these Our prayers and petitions. Meanwhile as a pledge of Our burning charity toward you, from Our deepest heart and with a wish for all every true happiness, We lovingly impart Our Apostolic Blessing to you yourselves and all the clergy, and faithful laity committed to each of your vigilance.
And when Pius XI wrote an encyclical (Ad Caeli Reginam) which asserted the queenship of Mary over all other creatures, he closed with this:
Earnestly desiring that the Queen and Mother of Christendom may hear these Our prayers, and by her peace make happy a world shaken by hate, and may, after this exile show unto us all Jesus, Who will be our eternal peace and joy, to you, Venerable Brothers, and to your flocks, as a promise of God’s divine help and a pledge of Our love, from Our heart We impart the Apostolic Benediction.
But since Jesus taught his disciples to pray to God the Father (as in the Lord’s Prayer), the idea of praying to Mary is odd. I know apologists like Smith try to distinguish veneration from worship of saints. I also know that the CTCers have made their peace with Mary as Co-Redemptrix. But I am still wondering how praying to someone doesn’t give the impression that the entity to whom the prayer is being directed is anything less than divine. I also don’t understand why you wouldn’t simply pray directly to Christ, whose work as priest now is to intercede at God’s right hand. Is he too busy to hear?