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Monday, December 12, 2016

Bloody but still standing: Facebook Follies and an Imaginary Conversation

I just extricated myself from a circular firing squad at Patrick Archbold's Facebook page where I am considered a "Neo-pelagian who prefers sentimentality to the truth".  I'm still kind of laughing considering my history of getting into trouble over the "tone" of my newsletter and blog for being too rigid in proclaiming the truths of the faith.

But setting that aside for the moment, it all began over a discussion of the Christmas song, Mary, Did You Know? I confess that I know the song implies that Mary did not know (and, of course she did) and that the song reflects the Protestants' disbelief in the Immaculate Conception, in the lines, "Mary did you know...that the child that you delivered would soon deliver you." (And, of course, Jesus delivered Mary at her conception). But, really, the song was written by a Protestant Christian who is recognizing Mary's central role in the Nativity. Is there nothing here to celebrate?

Are serious Catholics never allowed to appreciate a song despite the fact it fails to uphold Catholic beliefs? I suspect some of the same folks shooting at me on Facebook have no problem appreciating songs by the Beatles that glorify drug use or some of the modern secular songwriters like Billy Joel singing about Catholic girls. Not only that, but if you pick up a Catholic hymnal you find many songs written by Protestant heretics like Martin Luther and John Wesley.

So pardon me if I get chills when I hear Haley Westenra's rendition of Mary. She sings like an angel.

Having reflected on all this, however, I thought what a great discussion one could have with young people about the faith using Mary, Did You Know as a catalyst. Let's have an imaginary conversation with one of my well-catechized grandchildren after listening to Haley Westenra's version of the song.

Me: What do you think? Doesn't she sing like an angel?

Child: I like it. Let's listen to it again. (Play the video again.) She's pretty.

Me: Yes she is isn't she? What do you think? Did Mary know that Jesus was God?

Child: Yes, because the angel Gabriel told her.

Me: Right! You have a great memory! Do you remember what the angel said?

Child: (Thinking) You're going to have a baby and... he's going to be the Son of God.

Me: Right! Did Mary believe the angel?

Child: Yes, but she wanted to know how it could be since she promised God she would always be only His.

Me: So, what did the angel tell her?

Child: That the Holy Spirit would come over her and her baby would be the Son of God.

Me: Wow! Mary is really special isn't she?

Child: Yes. (proudly) But I know something else the angel said.

Me: What?

Child: That her cousin Elizabeth was going to have a baby even though she was too old.

Me: That's right. Elizabeth was an old woman like me. And I can't have babies any more because I'm too old and God knows babies need young parents. So for Elizabeth to expect a baby was a miracle. Do you know who Elizabeth's baby was?

Child: John the Baptist. He was Jesus' cousin.

Me: That's right. You are really smart!

Child: In Advent Mommy teaches us all about Jesus' family tree. We have a Jesse tree and every night we light the wreath and say prayers and have a story about Jesus.

Me: Wow! Your mommy is doing a great job teaching you!

Child: And then we open the little door on our Advent calendar and take out an ornament to put on the tiny tree in our bedroom.

Me: Sounds like Advent is a really fun time for you.

Child: It's fun to do something every day to get ready for Christmas. Tomorrow we're wrapping presents for poor children to put under the giving tree at Church. We earned the money by doing chores and then went and picked out the presents. I bought a doll and a toy train.

Me: That is a great thing to do! And I'm really proud of you. You will be helping other families have a merry Christmas.  I have another question. Why do you think the angel told Mary about Elizabeth? Was there a special reason do you think?

Child: (thinking for a minute) Ummm. I'm not sure.

Me: Well, Mary needed to know for sure that the angel was a true messenger from God. The Bible tells us that sometimes the devil can appear as an angel of light. So God gave Mary a miracle to show her that the angel was really His messenger. The song talks about miracles too. Can you remember any?

Child: (Slowly, pausing to think) Umm...the blind will see?....the deaf will hear...Jesus will walk on water...umm...

Me: That's great! I can tell you were really listening. Do you think Mary knew about those things ahead of time?

Child: (Slowly) Well...I'm not sure. Wouldn't she have to know the future?

Me: Not completely. Mary had the Old Testament and it predicted that the Messiah would do all sorts of wonderful things like curing the blind and helping the lame to walk again. So she couldn't know all the specifics, but she wasn't surprised when he performed miracles because she knew all the things the prophets said about Jesus.

Child: What's a prophet?

Me: A prophet is a person chosen by God to speak a special message he wants people to hear. Moses was a prophet. And John the Baptist was a prophet. And I know you are reading some of the Bible passages from Isaiah. He is prophet we often hear in church during Advent.

Child: Was Noah a prophet?

Me: We don't think of him as a prophet, but he was a good man who obeyed God. I'll bet you know about a prophet who ran away from God because the message God wanted him to give was hard.

Child: (Puzzled look)

Me: Oh, I know you know. Remember, he got swallowed by a big fish.

Child: (With a smile) Jonah!

Me: Right.  Now there's one thing in the song that isn't right because it was written by a Protestant and those churches only teach part of the truth. Do you know what it is?

Child: (Shakes her head no.)

Me: Shall we listen again and see if you can figure it out? (Watch the video.) Can you guess?

Child: No.

Me: I'll play it for you.  (Go to the spot on the video where Hayley sings,,,,"The child that you delivered would soon deliver you.") Do you know why that's wrong?

Child: (Looking puzzled.) No.

Me: Remember when we watched the movie about St. Bernadette?

Child: (Nods) I like that movie. Mommy says when she was little she dressed up like St. Bernadetter on All Saints Day.

Me: Yes, I made her costume.  Do you remember what Mary said when Bernadette asked her what her name was?  She said, "I am....(waits a minute to see if child remembers, but gets no response)...It's hard. She said, "I am the Immaculate Conception." That means that Jesus saved her from original sin. Something immaculate is perfectly pure and conception is when the baby's life begins. So Mary was saved from sin at the very moment she was conceived in her mother's body. She was a pure tabernacle for Jesus so no stain of sin could touch her. So the song is wrong because it says Mary's son would deliver her...

Child: I know..."soon"...but he really delivered her already.

Me: Absolutely right! So when you hear that song, pray that Protestants will come to know Mary as the Immaculate Conception. Can you say that with me?

Child: Immaculate Conception.

Me: I love you and I'm so proud of you. Let's say a Hail Mary to thank Our Lady for saying "yes" to the angel Gabriel and for giving us our Catholic faith.


  1. Well, 5 days ago I extricated myself from a line of 180 comments of vile anti-Catholic hatred from evangelicals and protestants on a popular blog. When I said I was leaving the blog – for good – they accused me of needing a “safe space”. They merely wanted someone to spar with much like a cat spars with and/or plays with a chipmunk batting it around and up in the air until it – the cat – pounces in for the kill. I just don’t have time for all that.

    So…since I have more than one name/persona online I waited until today when most of the commenters had exhausted themselves (and their rather…er…not too smart brains) and entered the “debate” once again. I made a comment and received one answer. Made another comment and got no answer. I supposed they have all gone on to other vicious anti-Catholic pastures, so after another 3 comments and no answers I declared myself the winner.

    So…don’t argue and fight…just declare that you’re the winner because after all, no one is voting and it really makes them angry when they see the words, "I win!"

  2. And of course we all know that the Catholic Church contains all truth so ipso facto, in a "debate" with evangelicals, we win.

  3. I wasn't in a debate with evangelicals, Susan. I was in a debate with Catholics who couldn't stand that I like the song Mary, Did You Know. But I guess we have plenty of Catholics who act the same way. Actually the worst treatment I've ever had is from a sedevacantist Catholic who thinks I'm going to hell because I'm not Catholic enough. Of course, he is his own pope who had declared the chair of Peter empty since -- well I'm not sure who was the last pope he accepted. But, I have to say I think Facebook is pathetic. People think because they can't see you they can be as rude and uncivil as possible. It's the millennial generation I'm afraid and it isn't limited to incivility from unbelievers. Rudeness and disrespect is epidemic. Makes me want to watch a Jane Austen movie.

    I miss you friend and look forward to that thrift store adventure!

  4. An even bigger problem with the song is that line (said to Mary)"He came to make you new.). That flies in the face of the dogma of the Immaculate conception. She didn't need to be made new of course. Protestants don't know that but we do. Can we give that a pass without doing disservice to the truth and to protestants themselves?

  5. Of course these differences of opinion in no way justify any disrespectful treatment of you.

  6. Thanks Janet,

    I appreciate your comments, but can we appreciate a song for itself? I mean, "Puff the Magic Dragon" was a glorification of weed and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" a glorification of LSD. Is it wrong to enjoy those songs? I know the Arians spread their heresy with hymns, but we KNOW the Protestants don't have it right. Can we still enjoy what they DO have right? I think the Church has always celebrated the truth in other religions and even in paganism. St. Thomas made Aristotle acceptable in the Church. So I celebrate the truth in this song and will use my enjoyment of it to discuss with others the theological points that are wrong. Grace builds on nature after all.

  7. Mary was betrothed to Joseph at the time of the Annunciation. Under Jewish law, therefore, she was already technically married even though she and Joseph had not come together yet. The completion of the marriage would be a second stage. This is why Joseph considered whether to put her away quietly, i.e. to divorce her. The Angel told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary, his wife, into his home. St. Thomas Aquinas said that God would not dishonour Mary by making her look like an unwed mother. This also made Jesus the legitimate son of Joseph in the eyes of the Jewish people because He was conceived when Mary and Joseph were legally married.

  8. Thanks Ellen, I realized when I read your comment that the statement I had the child make about Mary "never getting married" was confusing. I know you're right about the "betrothal" in Jewish law. I've amended that part of the conversation. Thank you for the clarity.