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Did God tell us to pray to Mary in the Bible?

A Xt3 Member asked at 9:13am on August 2nd 2018
Did God tell us to pray to Mary in the Bible? I have recently wondered that but all I can find is when Jesus said, "Behold your mother". When did God tell us to pray to her? Thank you!



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Hi Gabriel, as you know, Mary appears at key moments in the New Testament-obviously at the Annunciation, in her visitation to her cousin Elizabeth, then throughout the birth of Jesus, and at the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. Then there's the time Jesus, Mary and Joseph go up to the Temple when Jesus was twelve years old. Later she appears at the wedding feast of Cana, and at least once during her Son's public life, when he's told she and members of his family are waiting to see him. Then she's standing by him as he's dying on the cross, when, as you point out, he says to St John, 'behold your mother,' and the Gospel goes on to say that he took her into his own keeping. Soon afterwards, St Luke in the Acts of the Apostles tells of her presence at Pentecost. And in chapters 12 and 22 of St John's Apocalypse, the last book of the New Testament, St John shows us how Mary, the Mother of God, fulfils the prophecy God made to Satan in the first book of the Bible when he promises to make 'the woman' the enemy of Satan, whose Son ('offspring') will crush the evil spirit's head.

Obviously the first task of the early Church was to clarify who Jesus was and what the Blessed Trinity was-so the earliest Church Councils developed our understanding of Jesus as One divine Person with two natures, divine and human. This was to deal with the Arian heresy, which regarded the humanity of Jesus as if he were a separate being, somehow taken up into the Second Person of the Trinity. Arianism was condemned at the Council of Nicea (325 ad). Since later, another heretic, Nestorius, held that Mary was the mother of the man Christ, a century later, the Council of Ephesus (431ad) declared that she was the 'Mother of God, Theotokos.' But even earlier in the life of the Church, there was deep appreciation of the role of Mary-already outlined by St John, with Saint Irenaeus calling her the 'New Eve' about 180ad.

The devotion the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have for Mary, the Mother of God, then flows naturally from who she is in relation to her Son, Jesus. The Holy Spirit lives in the Church, as Jesus told us when he said: 'When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth...He will declare to you the things that are to come...he will take what is mine and declare it to you' (Jn 16: 13, 14). So the Church's Tradition (what we know from the writings and practices of the Church after the Resurrection up to the later centuries of the first millennium) and Teaching Office or Magisterium, not to mention the writings and lives of many saints, all inform our understanding of and devotion to Mary-and I think could be seen to be an expansion of those words Jesus said to John which you quote, 'Behold your mother.' It's in that light that the later Marian dogmas, of her Immaculate Conception (1854) and her Assumption (1950), can be understood, as expressing the Church's growing understanding of the mystery of the Mother of God. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Cussing v. Cursing

A Xt3 Member asked at 1:29pm on May 22nd 2018
Is cussing a sin and is it different from cursing?

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These are just different ways of saying the same thing, I think.

I used to swear a lot when I was younger, until I realized that swearing was a bit like the way a peacock spreads his huge multicoloured feathers to make a big impression. I came to see that my using strong language was a kind of verbal violence, and that even the people I thought might be impressed by me in fact - even if they didn't say it at the time - ended up with a lower impression.

And I used to think that I couldn't help swearing, until I thought back and saw that not once did I ever let fly a bad word when my parents were around. In other words, I wasn't that out of control that I couldn't stop using bad language when I was afraid of what my folks would say to me if they heard me. Very best, Fr Brendan
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A Xt3 Member asked at 11:25am on May 10th 2018
Can angels, specifically archangels, be incarnated as humans?

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Hi Anthony, since angels are pure spirits, and therefore invisible, they're often mentioned in the Bible as appearing in human form - for example the three 'men' who appeared to Abraham in Genesis 18:2 then show up as two angels who appear to Lot in Sodom (Genesis 19:1). Then there are the various appearances of angels in the Gospels, at with Gabriel appearing to Mary at the Annunciation. At the Resurrection, an angel moves away the stone at the entrance to the tomb and sat on it, terrifying the soldiers, with an appearance 'like lightning' and clothing 'white as snow' (Mt 28:2). Luke 24:4 tells how Peter and John see in the grave 'two dazzling apparel.'

But there are no accounts of angels doing what the Risen Jesus does, being embraced, eating fish, allowing Thomas to put his hands in his wounds, and so on. So that even in his risen body, Jesus is still incarnate, while there's no attempt to depict these angels as other than appearing in human form. Since God is all powerful, I don't think we could exclude the possibility that angels could be incarnated as humans. But it seems clear from these and other accounts that their God-given power is limited to appearing in our space-time world, without ever becoming embodied in human flesh. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Shorinji Kempo

A Xt3 Member asked at 2:15pm on May 9th 2018
I have recently taken up a martial art called Shorinji Kempo in order to keep fit. It seems to be a good class and I've enjoyed it thus far.

Last week they gave me a piece of paper that contains their philosophy called "The Dokun". This gets repeated at most training sessions and before all grading, to move up the belts.

The points on it are all generally good, however in one point it says: "we are grateful that we are endowed with our souls from Dharma and our bodies form our parents".

I just wondered how problematic this would be for a Catholic to be saying.

Many thanks

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Hi Stuart, from what I could find out, Dōshin Sō, the founder of Shorinji Kempo, came from a Buddhist (and later Taoist) background, and Dharma is the Sanskrit word meaning more or less the overall order of everything in the world. So you're quite right in thinking that statement wouldn't be acceptable to a Catholic, since it almost certainly implies a kind of cosmic divinity rather than the Jewish and Christian understanding of a personal God, and the Christian understanding of God as Three Persons in One. But from what you say, the martial art in itself seems to be good exercise and you're not doing it in search of some kind of spiritual enlightenment. I'd say as long as you refrain from statements like the one you mention, I can't see any harm in it. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Unforgiveable Sin

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:20pm on May 8th 2018
Hi Father Brendan.

My question is about the "unforgivable" or "eternal sin" of blasphemy against the holy spirit.

I've come into my faith in a very healthy, strong and loving way over the past decade. This week I started saying the rosary daily. I attend Adoration when I can. I feel extremely close to Christ, St. Jude Thaddeus, Archangel Michael, and The Blessed Mother.

My journey to my faith has been pretty diverse.

I recently gave up a strong desire to Direct and Produce Horror Films. It wasn't feeling appropriate anymore as there is less and less "horror" in my life - as I become closer to God.

I am also a Psychotherapist who has dedicated his life to helping others overcome mental illness and struggle.

However, I did direct an independent film at one point which focused on possession, etc .. I luckily scrapped that film and it never was publicly seen - as it didn't even feel right to me after I made it. This was in 2007, in my early twenties. Thereafter, I came wholeheartedly to God - more or less .. traveling that path brought me into God's hands.

I am also Gay .. I don't believe I am an abomination to God, in any way. I feel I was undoubtedly born this way - and have love in my heart to give to a spouse.

But at that time in my life ..

I felt very rejected and disconnected from God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit - as a result of my feelings about the church. I also dabbled in the New Age Movement for a period, although always sort of directing those actvities in the direction of God and Angels (Doreen Virtue, Angel Mediumship, Astrology, Etc ..)

I am much healither now than ever before, being exclusively in a spiritual relationship with my roman catholic spirituality.

But is directing a blasphemous film in the past, which went against all things I now value, including the holy spirit .. considered to be "unforigvable"?

I've read extensively that the unforgivable sin is "continuing to reject the holy spirit. having a hardening of the heart. and not accepting the holy spirit into your life".

I just want to ensure that .. wanting to be forgiven for my past .. and the desire to please God .. IS forigveness for something described as "unforgivable".

Or is it .. you act blasphemous toward the holy spirit once .. and you're more or less "done for".

You've helped me so much via reading other people's post. This is my first one.

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Hi Anthony, allow me to recycle an answer I gave a few years ago re the sin against the Holy Spirit:

The Gospels mention this sin, for example Mark 3, 28-30: 'whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin. He said this because they [the Scribes] were saying, 'He has an evil spirit...'" God can only forgive a sin when the sinner repents - our cooperation is essential. The sin that can't be forgiven can only be because the sinner persists in refusing God's grace, as some of the Scribes were doing by saying Jesus was healing with the power of the devil.

So the only sinner whose sin can't be forgiven is the one who doesn't want to be forgiven. It's not clear to me that making a horror film, including one about possession, would have been in itself sinful, but even if it was blasphemous (where you would have had to intend that blasphemy with full knowledge and consent to it as blasphemy), it's clear from what you write that you've fully repented of it. All that would remain to be done, if you haven't already done this, would be to mention it in Confession so you could receive sacramental absolution for it.

Being gay certainly doesn't make you an abomination to God! God loves each human being immensely, no matter who they are, no matter what they do. What the Church has always asked is that those strongly inclined to same-sex attraction live chastely just as men and women who are not gay and not married, including those who are engaged to get married, are also asked to live chastely. And of course all those who have consecrated their lives to God in priesthood or religious life are bound to live chastely too. So quite a lot of your fellow human beings have to struggle and embrace the cross to conquer their own freedom in this area, and to repent of and confess any falls they've had, always receiving in the sacrament of reconciliation the grace from God to start again.

I'd strongly suggest reading the various books by Fr John Harvey, like The Homosexual Person, Homosexuality and the Catholic Church: Clear Answers to Difficult Questions, and The Truth about Homosexuality: The Cry of the Faithful. Keeping you and your work very much in my prayers, Fr Brendan
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A Xt3 Member asked at 9:37pm on March 26th 2018
Should I fear the Lord. On first sight that seems
Very different from loving the Lord. Can you please explain why fearing the Lord is actually a good thing.??

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Hi Peter, the 'fear of the Lord' we read about in the Bible isn't fear in the sense of being scared - the word 'reverence' better conveys what's meant. The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber wrote an essay called 'Distance and Relation,' which I think is a help here. He points out that before we can properly enter into relation with any other person, any 'Thou,' we must first of all 'set them at a distance,' that is to say, respect them fully for who they are. It's only on the basis of this deep respect for each one's uniqueness that I can, as an 'I' relate to them as a 'Thou.'

Here are just a few of the many references in the New Testament to fear of the Lord: 'Honour all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honour the king' (1Pt 2:17). 'And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell' (Mt 10:28). 'Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God' (2 Cor 7:1).

St John writes in his First Letter, '...perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love' (1 Jn 4:18). The fear he's referring to here is what we normally mean by fear, in the sense of fear of punishment. There's surely nothing wrong with that fear of God, much as a child can have fear of being punished if it's done something wrong. I think what St John is saying in his Letter is that the greater our awareness and appreciation of God's love and mercy for us, the less our 'fear' will be fear of punishment and rather become the deepest reverence for the One who told Mary Magdalene that he is ascending 'to my Father and your Father' (Jn 20:17). Very best, Fr Brendan
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Why Was “Thou Shalt Not Bring Unto Thee Any Graven Image” Replaced With “Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wife?”

A Xt3 Member asked at 1:47am on March 25th 2018
I was watching the Ten Commandments and I saw that "Thou Shalt Not Bring Unto Thee Any Graven Image" was a commandment, however "Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Wife" was not. "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery" was but I am Catholic, 38 years of age and I was taught "Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Neighbor's Wife" was a commandment and I never learned "Thou Shalt Not Bring Unto Thee Any Graven Image." What happened to that commandment. Here's the ones I learned:

1. "I am the Lord Thy God, Thou Shalt Not have any other a Gods before me."

2. "Thou Shalt Not take the name of the Lord the God in Vain"

3. "Remember the Sabbath Day and to Always Keep it Holy"

4."Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother"

5. "Thou Shalt not Kill"

6. "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery"

7. "Thou Shalt Not Steal"

8. "Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor"

9. "Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Wife."

10. "Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Belongings."

Nowhere did I ever learn about a "Graven Images" commandment, and when I watched the film, it removed the coveting thy neighbor's wife commandment for that one. Why? What ever happened to that commandment?

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Hi John, there are two, slightly different versions of the Ten Commandments, one in Exodus 20, the other in Deuteronomy 5. Both of them have the same 1st commandment you have, and both have as a 2nd commandment the prohibition of making graven images. Since they count the graven images prohibition as a separate commandment, they both have as their 10th commandment the general prohibition of coveting, with slightly different order in Ex and DT to what's not to be coveted.

I guess because God became man in the Incarnation, Christianity does not, unlike Judaism and Islam, prohibit images of God. That's because the Incarnation gives a whole new perspective on matter, and more importantly on how, in the Incarnation and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, God raises matter to a whole new level. So that 2nd commandment wasn't considered as important in Christianity, and dropped from the list of commandments.

And what in Ex and Dt was the 10th commandment, was separated into the two prohibitions on coveting you list - the 9th against wrongly desiring people and that 10th against wrongly desiring things. According to my Jerusalem Bible, it was St Augustine that gave us what became for the Church this later version of the 10 Commandments we all learnt at school and is still basic Catholic teaching, clearly and brilliantly set out for example in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 3, Section 2. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Why do priests wear a gown and not trousers?

A Xt3 Member asked at 3:17am on December 20th 2017
Is it for comfort or just tradition?

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Hi Benedetto, it can be both! When I was a student in Rome many years ago, we always wore what are called cassocks or soutanes, which in warm weather, were quite cool, and in cooler weather, warm enough. But they're just remnants of what were traditional male clothing for everyone hundreds of years ago. In some countries, like Mexico until recently, and Ireland up to the early 20th century it was illegal to wear a cassock in public.

Then, at least in the 1950s and 1960s, public wearing of cassocks (as distinct from in church) went out of fashion among many clergy, at least in the English speaking world. As a recently ordained priest studying in Leuven, Belgium, I was surprised in the early 1970s to see priests there still wearing them. But it's a free choice, and some, often younger, clergy, choose to wear cassocks in public, while members of various religious orders, like the Capuchins, generally wear their religious habit in public too.

Still, let's not forget the kind of clothes we should all wear, priests and laypeople, when he writes: 'Put on the Lord Jesus Christ' (Rm 13:14), and 'Put on then, as God's chosen ones... compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience... and over all these put on love' (Col 3:12-14). Very best, Fr Brendan
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Rod and staff

A Xt3 Member asked at 9:48am on December 14th 2017
Hi Father,

Have a happy and holy Christmas.

I just wanted to ask a quick question. Hypothetically if Jesus held out a rod and staff to a person what might it mean? I can only find protestant interpretations.

Thank you.


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Hi Camilla, that's a tough question to answer, since we've no record Jesus ever did such a thing! But Psalm 22 (or 23), the one beginning with 'The Lord is my shepherd,' addresses the Lord with great confidence: 'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.' For Christians, that's a beautiful reference to the hands on care of the one who said of himself, 'I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep... I know my own and my own know me...' (Jn 10: 11, 14).

I was in St Peter's Square for the homily Pope Benedict XVI gave at the Mass for the Year of the Priest on June 11th, 2010, and what he said I think fully explains the meaning of that reference you're asking about:

The shepherd points out the right path to those entrusted to him. He goes before them and leads them. Let us put it differently: the Lord shows us the right way to be human. He teaches us the art of being a person. What must I do in order not to fall, not to squander my life in meaninglessness? This is precisely the question which every man and woman must ask and one which remains valid at every moment of one's life. How much darkness surrounds this question in our own day! We are constantly reminded of the words of Jesus, who felt compassion for the crowds because they were like a flock without a shepherd. Lord, have mercy on us too! Show us the way! From the Gospel we know this much: he is himself the way.

Then there is the phrase about the "darkest valley" through which the Lord leads us. Our path as individuals will one day lead us into the valley of the shadow of death, where no one can accompany us. Yet he will be there. Christ himself descended into the dark night of death. Even there he will not abandon us. Even there he will lead us. "If I sink to the nether world, you are present there", says Psalm 139(138). Truly you are there, even in the throes of death, and hence our Responsorial Psalm can say: even there, in the darkest valley, I fear no evil. When speaking of the darkest valley, we can also think of the dark valleys of temptation, discouragement and trial through which everyone has to pass. Even in these dark valleys of life he is there. Lord, in the darkness of temptation, at the hour of dusk when all light seems to have died away, show me that you are there. Help us priests, so that we can remain beside the persons entrusted to us in these dark nights. So that we can show them your own light.

"Your rod and your staff - they comfort me": the shepherd needs the rod as protection against savage beasts ready to pounce on the flock; against robbers looking for prey. Along with the rod there is the staff which gives support and helps to make difficult crossings. Both of these are likewise part of the Church's ministry, of the priest's ministry. The Church too must use the shepherd's rod, the rod with which he protects the faith against those who falsify it, against currents which lead the flock astray. The use of the rod can actually be a service of love.

Wishing you and all who visit the xt3 website a grace-filled and hope-renewing Christmas, Fr Brendan
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Prayer and Free Will

A Xt3 Member asked at 6:24am on November 30th 2017
How will God respond to one's prayer about praying for specific person to fall in love with her/him? I am aware that God does not intervene the person's free will. Recently, I've just learned that there is no really the one for each person in this world.

If I am praying to God to open the heart and mind of this particular single man (that I knew personally) to see my feelings and to possibly reciprocate it, am I doing it in a wrong way?

Or should I pray to remove this desire from heart?

How does this differ from praying for a person's conversion?

Thank you.

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Hi Youkai, surely there's nothing wrong with praying for someone to fall in love with you in the hope of your marrying the right person to share your life with in marriage. It's always good to remember that behind every prayer we say, since our prayers are taken up by Jesus to his Father, is the intention of his own prayer in the Garden of Olives: 'Father, let not my will, but yours be done.'

That means what you're praying for is what God knows is best for this man and for yourself. And by praying for that, you're respecting his freedom too, since what you want is his free choice, please God, to share his life with you in matrimony. I'd be inclined to entrust your prayers also to St Rita of Cascia, who's a great saint for obtaining difficult or almost impossible intentions - you'll find plenty prayers to her on the internet.

It's different to praying for someone's conversion, which would be for a person to turn to God - either from a life of serious sin, or towards the true Church founded by Jesus. You're praying for a particular good - your marriage to the right person. And of course even if that prayer isn't answered, because you're praying for whatever is best, including for yourself, we can pray that prayer will be answered in the future, since no prayers are ever wasted. Very best, Fr Brendan
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