CATHOLIC DIALOGUE #8
(Jesse and Butch are just getting off shift. It has been a few hours since their conversation about the Virgin Mary and Butch has had time to digest the information. He would still like to "win" the discussion, but is starting to realize that his arguments are very weak.)
Jesse: Hey Butch, do you need a ride home? My sister Jenny is picking me up and I'm sure she won't mind driving you home first.
Butch: I could use a ride home. Thanks.
Jesse: Well don't thank me yet, she's always late and today doesn't look like an exception.
Butch: That's ok. I have a question for you while were waiting.
Jesse: Ok, go ahead.
Butch: What does the Assumption mean?
Jesse: The what?
Butch: The Assumption. You said that the Church defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in the mid 1800's. I understand that you believe that Mary was conceived without sin and you call that the Immaculate Conception. You also mentioned the Assumption. What does that mean?
Jesse: Catholics believe that at the end of her earthly life, Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven.
Butch: You're kidding. How did they come up with that one?
Jesse: Well, it only stands to reason that if she was conceived without sin and then preserved from sin all through her life, that her body would not be subject to corruption which is the result of sin. Doesn't that sound like a logical conclusion?
Butch: I'm not sure.
Jesse: What do you mean?
Butch: I mean I don't accept it, but I can't explain why.
Jesse: That doesn't make any sense Butch. It sounds like you can't accept it only because it's a Catholic belief.
Butch: It's not just that. I mean, it's obvious that your Church has given this a lot of thought, and I haven't. I just know that it's hard for me to accept.
Jesse: Let me explain something to you Butch. A great man once said, "The mind is like a parachute. It only works when it's open." The human brain is capable of abstract reasoning and logic. For you to say that you haven't thought about something, but you don't believe it is illogical. Butch, you seem too intelligent for that.
Butch: Well maybe you could explain it in more detail.
Jesse: Not unless you're going to approach the subject with an open mind.
Butch: Ok. So you Catholics believe that Mary went to heaven body and soul, the way Jesus did right?
Jesse: Not exactly. What Jesus did was to ascend. Mary was assumed.
Butch: What's the difference?
Jesse: Jesus could ascend because He was God. Mary was assumed into heaven by God. You see, all of our Marian beliefs are based on God's actions on her behalf. We don't think she did anything by her own power. She did not go up to heaven. She was taken up into heaven by God. Can you understand that?
Butch: Have you got any proof?
Jesse: If you mean scientific proof, there isn't any.
Butch: Well without proof, how can an intelligent man accept it?
Jesse: Easy. When we talk about scientific proof, we mean grave sites or bones. The Church calls them relics. In early times the relics of saints were highly prized. The first Christians would gather up the bones of the martyrs to keep in their local Churches. Cities were proud to be known as the final resting place of a saint.
Butch: Ok, so what about your non-existent proof?
Jesse: That's just it. The evidence does not exist. As His mother, she was probably very dear to the followers of Christ, but no city claims to be her final resting place, and there are no relics. There is not even any mention of her actual death in any of the early Christian writings. It seems that she just stopped existing physically.
Butch: Well why didn't they say something about this in the Bible? I mean, don't you think that the mysterious disappearance of the Lord's mother should have raised a few eyebrows?
Jesse: It probably did, but one reason that they might not have mentioned it is that the Bible is not the story of Mary. It's the story of man's salvation. The Gospels only cover the life of Jesus. The only time His mother or anyone else is mentioned is to describe their involvement in the work of the Lord. Hey, here's my sister. Hi Jen. You're late. Can we give Butch a ride home?
Jenny: Sure, but make sure your shoes are clean. I just vacuumed this car.
Jesse: (Whispers sarcastically to Butch) Charming, isn't she?
Butch: I really appreciate the ride Jenny. Do you want some money for gas?
Jenny: No, that's ok.
Jesse: We can finish our discussion later Butch.
Jenny: What were you guys talking about?
Jesse: Butch had a few questions about our Catholic beliefs and I was trying to help him understand.
Jenny: Questions? What kind of questions?
Jesse: Watch what you say to her Butch. She knows our faith very well and is the captain of the high school debate team. She's also your ride home.
Butch: Well Jenny, we were talking about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Jesse explained to me about the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. The question I have for you is why do you guys think she was a virgin for her whole life. The Bible says that Joseph had no relations with her until she gave birth to Jesus.
Jenny: So you think that the Bible is saying that they did have relations after Jesus was born and that they had other children right?
Butch: Sure seems that way.
Jenny: Not really. That is just an expression. It would be like saying, "Butch fastened his seat belt and was safe until he got home." That doesn't necessarily mean you were injured after you got home does it? I think it would be good for you to think of the scene at the foot of the cross. We know that just before He died, Jesus said to St. John, "Behold your mother", and that John took care of her for the rest of her life. Don't you think that if she had any other children they would have taken care of her? I mean, it was Passover. Every Jew in the "world" was in Jerusalem. Where were her other children?
Jenny: There weren't any.
Butch: But why doesn't the Bible come right out and say that?
Jenny: Why should they make a statement that everyone already knew? Much of the Bible is made up of documents that were written to the early Christians. Why would they say, "and by the way, Mary doesn't have any other children." These people knew her. They knew she didn't have any other children. The Bible doesn't just come out and say that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make up the Blessed Trinity, but by what it does say, we reason that it does exist. How is it that you can accept that and not the beliefs about Mary?
Butch: I'm not sure?
Jenny: Well I'll tell you what I think. I think that Marian beliefs were accepted right from the beginning of Christianity. It was only after the Protestants rebelled against the Church that any objections were raised. The interesting thing is that we believe Mary had no relations with her husband and the Protestants have attacked that belief. Why is their objection focused on Mary while St. Joseph is hardly every mentioned?
Butch: I don't know.
Jenny: I think it was their chauvinistic attitude toward women. They let the man off scott free while they belittled the woman. I think it is just that sort of small mindedness that negates their position. The whole point is that you have to keep an open mind, use your power of reason, and God will let you see the wisdom He has blessed our Church with for the last 2000 years.
Butch: Jenny, your brother told me that when I am ready he will tell me about Fatima and Guadalupe. Why did he call that was so important?
Jenny: Well if he meant that they were the strongest arguments in favor of our Church then he was wrong. As a Church, our central focus is the Eucharist. We are the only ones who are authorized by God to consecrate a host into the Body and Blood of Jesus. For Christianity as a whole, the high point is the Resurrection. St. Paul says that if there is no Resurrection then our faith is empty. What Jesse probably meant was that the stories of Fatima and Guadalupe are sensational. They have taken place in our modern times, and are very convincing. I'll let him tell you about that himself. It's worth hearing.
Butch: Well this is my house. Thanks for the ride and the conversation Jenny. I think I understand you guys a lot better.
Jesse: Hey Butch.
Jesse: Remember this morning when you thought I was avoiding you because I "lost" our last debate?
Butch: Yes. I'm sorry about that.
Jesse: Well I was just thinking that if you really do understand our Church a lot better, then you are the "winner" after all.