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.
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?
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?
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.