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That Catholics are rightly apt to consider the practical implications of the Blessed Virgin’s life and derive her dignity and a devotion from it

3 min • Digitized on May 5, 2023

From A Defense of the Teachings of Mary, page 55
By St. John Henry Newman

The only question is, whether the Blessed Virgin had a part, a real part, in the economy of grace, whether, when she was on earth, she secured by her deeds any claim on our memories; for, if she did, it is impossible we should put her away from us, merely because she is gone hence, and not look at her still, according to the measure of her earthly history, with gratitude and expectation.

If, as St. Irenæus says, she did the part of an Advocate, a friend in need, even in her mortal life, if, as St. Jerome and St. Ambrose say, she was on earth the great pattern of Virgins, if she had a meritorious share in bringing about our redemption, if her maternity was earned by her faith and obedience, if her Divine Son was subject to her, and if she stood by the Cross with a mother’s heart and drank in to the full those sufferings which it was her portion to gaze upon, it is impossible that we should not associate these characteristics of her life on earth with her present state of blessedness; and this surely she anticipated, when she said in her hymn that “all generations should call her blessed.”

I am aware that, in thus speaking, I am following a line of thought which is rather a meditation than an argument in controversy, and I shall not carry it further; but still, in turning to other topics, it is to the point to inquire, whether the popular astonishment, excited by our belief in the Blessed Virgin’s present dignity, does not arise from the circumstance that the bulk of men, engaged in matters of the world, have never calmly considered her historical position in the gospels, so as rightly to realize (if I may use the word a second time) what that position imports.

I do not claim for the generality of Catholics any greater powers of reflection upon the objects of their faith, than Protestants commonly have, but there is a sufficient number of religious men among Catholics who, instead of expending their devotional energies (as so many serious Protestants do) on abstract doctrines, such as justification by faith only, or the sufficiency of Holy Scripture, employ themselves in the contemplation of Scripture facts, and bring out in a tangible form the doctrines involved in them, and give such a substance and colour to the sacred history, as to influence their brethren; who, though superficial themselves, are drawn by their Catholic instinct to accept conclusions which they could not indeed themselves have elicited, but which, when elicited, they feel to be true.

However, it would be out of place to pursue this course of reasoning here; and instead of doing so, I shall take what perhaps you may think a very bold step,—I shall find the doctrine of our Lady’s present exaltation in Scripture.

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