About Me

My photo
Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Always Room for Jell-O

When I was younger I used to take unofficial, impromptu polls. I wondered if there was anyone who just couldn't stand Jell-O. I had never seen anyone refuse Jell-O because they absolutely could not abide eating it, the way someone might gag at the idea of eating cottage cheese or cavier or mussels. I've never seen someone get that look on their face that a child might have if you tried to feed him a fish with it's head still on when facing down a dish of Jell-O. In my poll, I didn't find anyone who actually could not stomach Jell-O, although I did find several people who would rather not eat it, and that had to do with the consistency of it and not the taste.

I also did a poll to find out if I could find any women who did not like pasta. During that poll I discovered that women like pasta better than men and I didn't find any women who didn't like pasta.

More recently, I started asking non-Catholics of all denominations what exactly are the tenets of their faith. What makes a Methodist a Methodist and not a Baptist, what makes a Lutheran not a Methodist, because I really don't know and I can't seem to find any answers. This was an impromptu questioning, but I asked at least 25 people of a number of different denominations and I didn't get one answer from any of them. Not one. I got a few answers about why the person had chosen a particular congregation. (It was close by, they liked the minister's sermon's, that sort of thing.) Nothing more. I'm still on the case, if anyone cares to enlighten me.

Our question today was asked a few days ago when we were talking about just praying to Jesus and ignoring Mary and the saints.
I get a hoot out of your blog, though I'm protestant. Today I couldn't resist disagreeing with your father. Not to say that there aren't arrogant Protestants...there are and I am one of them at least part of the time (and perhaps now). But most of us, when we insist on talking only to Jesus, do not intend arrogance. We are simply repeating what our church taught us from birth. I've often seen Catholic submission to the magisterium characterized as proper humility...wouldn't the same fidelity to church teaching also be humility in a protestant? (I realize you must in the end regard our position as error.)

What a nice person! Isn't this a nice way to have a discussion?

Since Protestantism sprang from the mind of Martin Luther (and King Henry the VIII), I decided to find out why Martin Luther dumped Mary and the saints. I knew that in general, Luther's whole idea was to get the corrupt clergy out of the picture, clearing a path between you and Jesus. I imagined Mary and the Saints just got plowed under along with the sellers of indulgences when this antiseptic road to Jesus was paved. If you don't need a priest, you certainly don't need Good King Wenceslaus. Imagine my surprise to find this type of thing:

"One should honor Mary as she herself wished and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She praised God for his deeds. How then can we praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of God, the praise of God’s grace . . . Mary is nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of Christ . . . Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God. " (Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521)

"Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of us all.
If Christ be ours . . . all that he has must be ours,
and His Mother also must be ours."
-- Martin Luther, 1529

We're not in 100% agreement. Mary IS something for the sake of herself...she is the Immaculate Conception. But she is something for the sake of herself because of Christ. Mary does wish that we come through her to God. Given what Luther actually has to say about Mary, it seems to me that all that stands between a Protestant and Mary is the misunderstanding that anyone is praying to her. For the 40 zillionth time, we are asking her to pray for us, the same way I may ask you to pray for me. She is the Mother of us all. Don't you ask your Mother to pray for you? I do. A mother's prayers are very special.

Aren't they?

I have to wonder if the whole notion of dumping Mary and the saints simply took on a life of it's own, as Protestantism tried to draw distinctions between THEM and US. It certainly seems to be a bone of contention. People get so cranky about it, in my experience. Amazing, as Mary is such a sweet person. What is there to be so grumpy about?

A perfect segue to this question:

Dear Sister Mary Martha:

What do you think is the appropriate response for someone snottily saying, "I'll pray for you!" when in a disagreement? I was thinking a sincere, "Thank you, I can sure use them." But, you're pretty clever and maybe you have something better?

I think your response is just fine. Here are some more ideas:

1. Please start now.

2. OH! Thank you! Let me get you a list of petitions!

3. I'll pray for you, too. A lot.


Laura The Crazy Mama said...

That last one had me giggling. It reminds me of how my kids "fight" with each other.

My "kid" answer would be:

"Fine, but I already prayed for YOU...INFINITY, so THERE!"


Anonymous said...

SMM, you obviously never asked someone in the churches of Christ. I grew up in the churches of Christ, and I was taught what our distinctives were almost to the exclusion of anything else.

LOL at Laura's comment.

I am in RCIA right now. A friend just gave me three miraculous medals. I want to wear one, and am trying to decide what to do with the other two. Any suggestions?


Anonymous said...

each protestant denomination has a unique historical trajectory, resulting in a peculiar set of emphases.

Baptists spring from calvinist groups--you can find baptists who eschew calvinism, but that's counter their heritage--and not from anabaptists, though some baptists are confused on this point. They are congregationalists, which means each congregation is autonomous. They are loosely affiliated with one another but there is no centralized authority and they resist such authority at every turn. They practice two "ordinances": Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptism is for adults only, by full immersion, and constitutes a public declaration of faith on the part of the person being baptized. By adults there, I mean past the so-called "age of reason". I grew up in a baptist church and was baptized at age 6. I managed to convince them I knew something about Jesus.

Lutherans are directly descended from Martin Luther and have inherited his emphasis on scripture alone and on justification by faith. Lutheran theology tends to work along binaries--law and gospel, faith and works. Lutherans vary in practice but in general, they uphold the Lord's Supper and baptism as ordinances. Lutherans do practice infant baptism, though, and that means they also practice confirmation.

Lutheran polity is synodical, meaning there are individual synods, which decide their positions. The ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) is the more liberal, with the LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) being the more conservative branch. Lutherans do have bishops, which means their polity is also episcopal.

The episcopal church (which is the church of england in the united states) is likewise governed by bishops. Episcopal church governance is divided between the house of bishops (made up of all the bishops and convened by a presiding bishop) and the house of deputies (lay and clergy are elected as delegates to this body). Though there is a presiding bishop, there is no truly centralized authority. All decisions are made and approved by both bodies. Likewise, the anglican communion is loosely organized with the archbishop of canterbury as its figurehead, but each province is essentially autonomous. Outside the united states, most provinces are governed by a primate who is a central authority. The united states is peculiar in its polity, which resembles a representative democracy.

The methodist church is an offshoot of anglicanism. John Wesley combined anglicanism with german pietism (especially the moravians). Wesley's theology emphasized justification but as a first step on a longer journey toward sanctification. In that, he opposed doctrines of instantaneous salvation. Wesleyan theology is also built on what is known as his quadrilateral: scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. as in anglicanism, there is a larger role for tradition. The emphasis on experience is owing to German pietism. modern methodists also follow Wesley in emphasizing social justice.

The Presbyterian church is calvinist in outlook, meaning there is an emphasis on predestination and the sovereignty of God. The term presbyterian comes from the greek presbyteros, meaning elder. The church is governed by a board of elders. Like the Lutheran church, the denomination is split between a liberal branch (PC-USA Presbyterian Church USA; and PCA Presbyterian Church in America).

mainline protestant churches more or less liturgical in worship depending on congregational preferences. That's the thing about this level of autonomy--it's a bit difficult to pin down. In the rural south, you'd have a hard time telling the difference between a methodist and a baptist church on most sundays. In general, though, protestantism emphasizes delivery of the word to the people by way of a sermon over the eucharist itself. That is perhaps most true of Presbyterian churches

wow. I'm exhausted.


Anonymous said...

oh oh! I meant to say that anglicans acknowledge baptism and eucharist as peculiar among the sacraments because they were instituted by Jesus but many also practice the other five sacraments. There is much in anglicanism that is left to the individual and falls under the category "pious idea". asking for Prayer of mary and the saints, for instance, is not required but considered good and well. Same for belief in doctrines like the immaculate conception and purgatory. If you want to, go for it. If you find it unhelpful, well...it's not required for salvation.

not very satisfying, but anglicanism is all about the mealy-mouthed middle way. I'm anglican, for the record.

annie again.

Katy said...

Thank you, Sister, for your input on how to answer snotty "I'll pray for you's." I think I like, "Thank you. Please start now" the best.

I am really loving your blog.

Anonymous said...

Sarah --
Miraculous Medals are great anywhere!! I keep one around my neck, one in my car, several in my bedroom, and I have one in a pair of sneakers that has zipper pockets.

Other good places:
-Bulletin board
-Friend's car
-Make it part of a bracelet or rosary

RadioPie said...

Ha! I like the good comebacks!

"I'll pray for you."
"Mom! Billy's praying for me! Make him stop!"

Annette said...

I'm a Catholic married to a Lutheran pastor. Sometimes they're more Catholic than some of the Catholics I've met lately. But yes, Martin Luther did have a devotion to the Blessed Mother.

PraiseDivineMercy said...


Remember that movie Pay it Forward? It's your turn! Pick one to keep and give away the other two. That what I advise at least.


Anonymous said...

Go Annie! I was all ready to help Sister out with the quick tour of Protestant Land and you beat me to the punch!

When I was in a Methodist seminary (before I converted in 1992), surrounded by pastors in training from various denominations, I noted a disturbing fact: Most local parishes were autonomous enough that you could rightly call them, "the Church o' Bob", or the "Church o' Tom" or "Church o' *insert your name here*". So, if I stayed on that career track, I could have founded the "church o'Kristen." Except I converted. (Figured out what Transubstantiation meant, and I was over the Tiber faster than you can whisper, "who died and made Bob yer pope?".)

So, my point is not to make fun of Protestants, because I've seen a few Catholic priests attempt to implement their own laundry list of beliefs. But it is to say that it is a relief as a Catholic to have that higher authority question Father Bob's puppet Mass, or whatever. If they happen to hear about it....

ColleenD said...

SMM, Thank you for the homework that you have done on Luther and Mary. I love this post so much that i hope to link to it in my own blog.
My only disagreement is in your disagreement that we agree with Luther. (Can you follow that?)
Mary is not the immaculate conception for her own sake. She would likely be the first to tell you she is nothing for her own sake and is everything for God. Even being free from sin is for the purpose of bearing Christ, the new covenant within her. She is pure just as the first Ark of the covenant was made from the purest materials to be found. We turn to her for her intercession AND we do our best to be like her both as a pathway to God.

Tracy said...

Dear Sister,

Thanks for the compliment. Amazing how nice we can be in public comments when our family knows better...

I had a thought about how Mary and the saints were left out of protestantism. Protestant churches were developing theology at the same time that the science was developing a very reductionist "If you can't prove it, it doesn't exist." line of reasoning. I think that they were influenced by that kind of reductionism to the point that while I was being brought up in Baptist churches, I was taught that "If it is not in Scripture, we don't do it" rather than the more liberal "If it is not in scripture, it cannot be required" approach of the Lutheran church I am in now.

I am also reminded of C.S. Lewis' comment in Mere Christianity that the debate about Mary provoked in Catholics the same defensive zeal that they would feel if their mother or their beloved was disrespected, while the Protestant objections to devotion to Mary go down to the very roots of monotheism. Perhaps the fact that we can discuss this now without shouting shows that we have grown slightly in Christian charity.

Sister Mary Martha said...

Colleen, I think that's what I said. I think being the Immaculate Conception is a big deal, thus Mary is a big deal on her own...but her Immaculate Conception was because of Christ.

You have to take into account that Mary could have said, "No." She didn't, but she could have. God knew she wouldn't, but she still could have, but she didn't.

Anonymous said...

Annie did an excellent job on describing the distinctions between the various Protestant denominations, but just a note....the "quadrilateral" was not uniquely Wesley's...it is what Catholic doctrine/church teachings are also grounded in fully: scripture, tradition, reason (or some would put natural philosophy in here), and human experience.
Disagreements may lie in in the interpretation of any one of these four in terms of development of difference in tenets.

Anonymous said...

In case you're still keeping track in re:jello, my kids won't touch the stuff. Especially if it's got 'things' in it. I have a mental picture of you with a small, battered notebook tucked away in your robes that you pull out and make tally marks in. Pull that out, make 6 more under the NO column on the JELLO page. :)

Tracy said...

I just ran into an article about Mary in First Things that I couldn't resist sharing:

Anonymous said...

Jello is yummy. Fruit cocktail is *not* especially those little red things masquerading as cherries. Shudder.

Sparki said...

More snappy comebacks:

"Not if I pray for you first."

"Thanks, but I've already got Jesus' mom handling that for me, and I think she's got more pull."

"Now, now. You always say that, and you know what the Bible says about vain repetitions."

Anonymous said...

Jello is okay with fruit things in it, but vegetables do not go in jello. Have you ever seen James Lileks' "Gallery of Regrettable Food"?

Kasia said...

Side story and some questions about the Miraculous Medal:

Last Saturday night my fiancé and I went to dinner and a movie with a friend of his and the friend's wife. As we were standing in line at the concession stand at the theater, a young man got in line behind us, dressed in your typical baggy pants, tee shirt, etc. However, he was also wearing a Miraculous Medal.

The friend's wife complimented him on the pink hat he was wearing, and asked him if it was for Valentine's Day. He said no. I then said, "I was more admiring your Miraculous Medal." He seemed confused, so I showed him mine. He kind of lit up, and said "Hey, yeah, we got the same person on our necklaces!"

I smiled, and said "Yes; it's the Blessed Virgin Mary," then went on to tell him a little bit about the Miraculous Medal. Apart from his astonishment at how very long ago it was (he equated it to "dinosaurs", and when I said it was more like 150 years, he said "Close enough"), he didn't seem to know anything about it.

So, question: do you still get good out of wearing the Miraculous Medal if you have no idea what it is? I imagine Our Lady is still more than happy to pray for him; I'm just wondering what the ins and outs are.

Another question: I wear one primarily because it was a gift from someone I love and respect. Someone asked me if I was enrolled in it. I'm not, and I don't plan to get enrolled in anything until after my wedding next winter - not that I don't need all the grace I can get, but I'm trying to focus my attention and energy on preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage. Does that affect things, i.e. does Our Lady still pray for me while I'm wearing it (even if it's just for me to enroll)?

Melanie said...

ssm, if you are interested in what other faiths belieeve, you could look up doctrinal statements or statements of faith on google. That was how I used to figure out what other organizations believed when i wanted to know whether or not I should trust them or if i agreed with them.
http://suburbanbible.org/Believe.html tells what the church i used to go to believes
http://www.nae.net/index.cfm?FUSEACTION=nae.statement_of_faith is an example of one for the national council of evangelicals
http://www.sbc.net/bfm/default.asp is the one for the southern baptist convention
you get the idea

bill7tx said...

Kasia, I responded to your questions, but my reply is attached to Sister's post on "Miraculous Motoring" -- replies number 26 and 27. Hope they help.

Unknown said...

Since Protestantism sprang from the mind of Martin Luther (and King Henry the VIII)

Perhaps you are selling the Protestant movement a little short both in terms of years and motivation.

Martin Luther had not even been born yet when Jan Hus was executed at the Council of Constance in 1415. Many see this as the start of the Protestant movement.

Perhaps the larger question is whether the movement was really nothing more than something which came solely from "the mind" of anyone. Is it possible that the times and situations which lead to change are nothing less than the work of God in our midst?

In much the same way that civil rights didn't originate in the mind of Dr. Martin Luther King, I doubt the Protestant movement originated in someone's mind.

Just a thought, humbly offered -