INTRODUCTION and BACKGROUND
On Monday, August 23, 2004, the Religion Editor for Reuters News Service reports from Lourdes, France, that "Catholic Shrines draw Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims" (1) . Since this has become a very controversial issue for traditional Catholics (2) in the Sanctuary of Fátima and because God Wills it, miguel de Portugal will address the Reuters' report in His Name. Those who have ears, will Hear; and those who have eyes, will See.
The News: In an unexpected twist of globalization, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and other pilgrims regularly worship at famous Roman Catholic shrines to the Virgin Mary such as Lourdes in France and Fátima in Portugal. They drink the holy water, light votive candles and pray fervently to the Madonna for help with life's hardships. Many venerate her like one of their own goddesses, a view that would be a heresy if a Catholic theologian tried to defend it.
miguel de Portugal Comments: A child does not view, or act upon, the world as an adult does. As he learns and intellectually matures, his fundamental perspectives and earlier experiences will be added on to and/or modified to better reflect a reality that he could not comprehend before. Even Mary and Jesus Christ experienced this.
In the passages dealing with the finding of Jesus at the Temple by Joseph and Mary we read:First in Luke 2: 48-50
And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my father's business? And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them.Then in Luke 2: 51-52And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace with God and men.
It is obvious from this that:(a) Neither Mary nor Joseph had fully grasped the mission of Jesus, the Son of God. This came with time and maturity as the parenting of Jesus Christ, the Savior of Mankind, followed its course in time.Therefore, we should view our younger (in beliefs and faith) brothers and sisters as such, for they are advancing in wisdom and age and grace with God and men even if we do not understand where they find themselves now in their faith journey.
(b) Jesus, the Son of God the Father, but still a child had to further "advance in wisdom and age and grace with God and men" as time went by.
Let us not forget the words of the Master through Luke 18: 15-17:
And they brought unto him also infants, that he might touch them. Which when the disciples saw, they rebuked them. But) Jesus, calling them together, said: Suffer children to come to me and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Amen, I say to you: Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a child shall not enter into it.
The News: Rather than being turned away, the newcomers are free to join the crowds from Ireland, Italy, Spain and other traditionally Catholic countries who flock to Europe's most popular shrines. In Fátima, the warm welcome they have received has caused an uproar among traditionalist Catholics.
miguel de Portugal Comments: Those who are further advanced in the theology of our Faith journey, do not have to emulate them. However, we must welcome them with open arms - as wide open as the arms of Jesus on the cross. We must respect their current faith stage, encourage them to pay homage to THEIR Mother (did not Jesus gave all humanity Mary as our Mother from the cross? [John 19:25-27]). Through example - not hysterical fanaticism (2) - we may help them along in order that their faith advances "in wisdom and grace" so that they eventually understand what "we speak unto them."
The News: No one can say how many non Catholics worship at shrines where the Virgin is said to have appeared, but they have become a familiar minority there over the past five to 10 years.... Their numbers may be small as a percentage of the 6 million pilgrims here each year, but they're big in absolute terms.
Standing near the grotto where she was said to have appeared in 1858, two women wearing the Hindu red dot or "bindi" on their foreheads said they prayed daily to the Madonna. "I come here for peace of mind and heart," said Buvaneswary Palani, a Hindu from southeastern India who now lives in southern France.
miguel de Portugal Comments: I wish more Catholics - especially those militant Catholics who call themselves "traditionalists" - would pray daily and in sincerity to the Madonna so that they may gain that same peace of mind and heart. (This peace presently seems to elude them, if we are to judge by their vitriolic fanaticism.)
The News: "Gods are the same everywhere," explained her mother Darmavady. "She is like our mother goddess Mariamman." ... Catholics revere Mary and believe she can intervene with Jesus to help them, but they do not consider her divine. Hindu or Buddhist pilgrims could be forgiven for thinking she is, though, when they see the faithful kneeling in silent prayer before her statue or admire the huge mosaic of her that looms over the altar at the Lourdes basilica.
miguel de Portugal Comments: If that is the way they still see Mary, who are we to force them to view Her differently at this point in their faith journey? (Of course, we must NOT worship Her as the Goddess as so many, many Catholics do - not by their word but by their obvious and, in many cases, outrageous behavior.)
For anyone who has been raised away from Roman Catholicism and then comes in contact with it, its appearance at first glance will tell them that Mary is a Goddess for Roman Catholics. The worst part is that this mentality is, many times, encouraged at the highest level of the Vatican.
When H.H. John Paul II wisely chose to Consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, he had the official statue (3) of Our Lady of Fátima flown from the Sanctuary of Fátima to Vatican City where he made the consecration.
We understand, and applaud, that he was trying to call the world's attention to the relationship of this consecration to the requests made by Mary at Fátima by flying in the official statue for the event. However, to avoid giving the wrong subtle message of idolatry, the consecration should have, instead, taken place at St. Mary's Major Basilica - Mary's "official" Basilica in the world, and, to keep the Fátima linkage, any artistically worthy local statue or icon of the Our Lady of Fátima could have been brought into St. Mary's Major for the Consecration.By flying a specific statue of Mary to the Vatican and not using any suitable, but local, statue or icon, the silent implication ascribed the statue "powers" as idolaters ascribe to their idols. Therefore, what H.H. John Paul II did, without intending to do so, was to promote idolatry.
Now then, are we going to accuse and abuse those who, because of their still developing faith, think of Mary as a Goddess?
The News: Tamils in southeastern India and northern Sri Lanka worship a goddess Mariamman who protects villages and wards off disease. Among the Buddhists of China, Vietnam and other Asian states, the "compassionate Savioress" Kwan Yin offers the maternal love that Catholics find in Mary.
Although Islam teaches there is no god but Allah, folk traditions in some Muslim societies have smuggled in a devotion for saints much like that seen in other religions. The Koran contains a whole chapter on Mary, far more than the Gospels have on her. In it, Maryam (her Arabic name) is a virgin and Jesus a great prophet but neither is divine.
miguel de Portugal Comments: As we have resolutely proven (4) - Muslims give Mary a more exalted and active role in the Qur'an than we do in the Christian New Testament.
The News: With its mass pilgrimages, devotion to a mother figure and belief in water with miracle healing powers, Lourdes combines elements familiar to followers of several other faiths. "In a globalized age, it's normal that Lourdes attracts them," said Patrick Theillier, a physician who heads the Medical Bureau which examines every claim of miracle healing at Lourdes.
miguel de Portugal Comments: Are we going to prevent other children of Mary from benefiting from Her Maternal Solicitude because they do not happen to be Roman Catholics?
We suggest that the faithful review the many examples in the Gospels where Jesus repeatedly rejected such religious elitism. [i.e. Luke 18:9-14]
FÁTIMA UNDER FIRE
The News: Perrier saw no theological problem with pilgrims of other faiths worshiping at a shrine central to Roman Catholicism. "There are no religious services at the grotto," the bishop explained. "They have great respect for Mary. They come to drink the water and touch the rocks. But they don't attend mass here. That would have no meaning for them."
But the line between hospitality to outsiders and blurring of religious borders is close, as Portugal's Fátima shrine to the Virgin has learned.
Traditionalist Catholics are up in arms against the shrine's directors for allegedly being so open to Hindu pilgrims that they let them perform religious rites there.
"They have sinned against God and given scandal to the faithful," thundered the U.S. monthly Catholic Family News. "They allowed Mary to be worshiped as God by pagan apostates."
miguel de Portugal Comments: Apostates? First of all, let us be fully aware that, if the whole world has not turned to Christianity in 1600 years of alleged "Evangelization", it has not been because God has failed. He even gave His physical life for it. It is because those who claim to be the only ones with Divine Right to Evangelize - the Roman Catholic Church Administrators - have failed. They have "traditionally" failed and continue to do so, as the traditionalists' "up in arms" attitude attests to.
Jesus is Love. Therefore, we draw people to His Father through love - and not through condemnations, accusations and insults.
The Roman Catholic Church has failed - thus now Mary has to draw them through Her Sanctuaries built at Her request.
The News: Fátima's director, Father Luciano Guerra, issued a statement in late June denying that a Hindu pilgrim group led by its own priest had somehow defiled the shrine during a visit in May. "The priest sang a prayer which lasted a few minutes," he said. "No gesture was made, no rite was performed, on or off the altar." Guerra also denied charges that a new church now being built there would be open to rites from all faiths.
miguel de Portugal Comments: We draw the line here. The altar area of a Catholic Church should never be used for anything else than for the intended purpose and for prayers consonant with the Catholic Faith. It should not even be used for concerts as in many Catholic Churches is being done these days.
The News: The blurring of religious borders that globalization has brought to Marian shrines has also touched the higher levels of Catholic theology, causing deep concern at the Vatican. Father Jacques Dupuis, an 80-year-old Belgian Jesuit who spent 20 years in India, has broken new ground in recent years by arguing that God works through many faiths to save all believers.
This contradicts the Catholic position that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation and even other Christian churches are imperfect paths to that goal.
miguel de Portugal Comments: We recognize the well used and abused Outside of the Roman Catholic Church there is no salvation (5) claim.
Jesus Christ is the key to salvation and not Rome! How that is fulfilled even for those who have never heard of Jesus Christ while alive is for us to know and, as of now, for the rest to wonder about.
Church Administrators should be rejoicing over that! Otherwise, they would be responsible, because of their abysmal and failed Evangelization effort, for the loss of billions of souls. The price for being an accessory to the loss of souls may be found, in very clear terms, in the New Testament as pronounced by Jesus Christ Himself. [i.e. Matthew 12: 30-32, 33-37, Matthew 18:5-7]
The News: Challenging that view earned the respected theologian a secretive three-year investigation by the Vatican's stern doctrinal chief, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The issue calmed in 2001 when Dupuis, under heavy Vatican pressure, issued a statement saying his writings had contained some doctrinal ambiguities. But he has not changed his view.miguel de Portugal Comments: If the issue would have been sexual abuse of youngsters (6), it would have been swept under the "holy" carpet and the abuse would have continued as usual, with its horrendous consequences (7) - whether in the USA or in Austria or in Rome itself. However - An apparent challenge to the supremacy of the Church over Divine Designs? (8) Never!