Book Snippets

True devotion to Mary also strongly objects to idolatry of Mary

4 min • Digitized on May 11, 2023

From A Defense of the Teachings of Mary, page 108
By St. John Henry Newman

6. And, now at length coming to the statements, not English, but foreign, which offend you in works written in her honour, I will frankly say that I read some of those which you quote with grief and almost anger; for they seemed to me to ascribe to the Blessed Virgin a power of “searching the reins and hearts,” which is the attribute of God alone; and I said to myself, how can we any more prove our Lord’s divinity from Scripture, if those cardinal passages which invest Him with divine prerogatives, after all invest Him with nothing beyond what His Mother shares with Him? And how, again, is there any thing of incommunicable greatness in His death and passion, if He who was alone in the garden, alone upon the cross, alone in the resurrection, after all is not alone, but shared His solitary work with His Blessed Mother,—with her to whom, when He entered on His ministry, He said for our instruction, not as grudging her her proper glory, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?”

And then again, if I hate those perverse sayings so much, how much more must she, in proportion to her love of Him? and how do we show our love for her, by wounding her in the very apple of her eye? This I said and say; but then on the other hand I have to observe that these strange words after all are but few in number, out of the many passages you cite; that most of them exemplify what I said above about the difficulty of determining the exact point where truth passes into error, and that they are allowable in one sense or connexion, and false in another.

Thus to say that prayer (and the Blessed Virgin’s prayer) is omnipotent, is a harsh expression in every-day prose; but, if it is explained to mean that there is nothing which prayer may not obtain from God, it is nothing else than the very promise made us in Scripture. Again, to say that Mary is the centre of all being, sounds inflated and profane; yet after all it is only one way, and a natural way, of saying that the Creator and the creature met together, and became one in her womb; and as such, I have used the expression above. Again, it is at first sight a paradox to say that “Jesus is obscured, because Mary is kept in the back-ground;” yet there is a sense, as I have shown above, in which it is a simple truth.

And so again certain statements may be true, under circumstances and in a particular time and place, which are abstractedly false; and hence it may be very unfair in a controversialist to interpret by an English or a modern rule, whatever may have been asserted by a foreign or mediæval author. To say, for instance, dogmatically, that no one can be saved without personal devotion to the Blessed Virgin, would be an untenable proposition; yet it might be true of this man or that, or of this or that country at this or that date; and if the very statement has ever been made by any writer of consideration (and this has to be ascertained), then perhaps it was made precisely under these exceptional circumstances. If an Italian preacher made it, I should feel no disposition to doubt him, at least as regards Italian youths and Italian maidens.

Latest book snippets