Ask a Franciscan

‘Catholics Seem Obsessed with Mary’

Q. I am an evangelical Christian who is seriously considering conversion to Catholicism. To paraphrase Jesus, I sometimes think that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (Mt 19:24, Mk 10:25, and Lk 18:25) than for a “born again” Christian to accept all of the basic Catholic beliefs. Why do Catholics seem obsessed with Mary? Why do they insist that Communion is more than symbolic? And why does the Catholic Church mind if Mary had other children after Jesus?

A. Catholics see Mary as a striking example of how human freedom can cooperate with God’s grace. “May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38b) was more than Mary’s response to an angel. It was the connective tissue of her entire life. Mary is not an alternative to God; rather, she always points us to God, encouraging us to take the next step on our faith journey.

Regarding the Eucharist, the first-century apostle Peter almost certainly did not understand the Eucharist as the 13th-century St. Thomas Aquinas did. Both men, however, believed that it is real, much more than a symbol whose meaning can change over time. You might ask yourself: Why does the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist seem threatening?

Finally, most Christians have understood scriptural references to Jesus’ brothers and sisters as indicating extended family members. Why should Mary’s perpetual virginity be shocking? Perhaps the more Catholics you know who uphold these three beliefs, the less problematic you will find them.

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