Monday, September 15, 2008

The Marian Myths

It is one of our Catholic "myths" that Mary was conceived without original sin and never contracted original sin during her life - the Immaculate Conception. There is also the "myth" that remained a virgin her entire life and that at the end of her life she was raised to heaven, body and soul - the Assumption.

In one sense, I do not have a problem with these myths since are all suppose to be reflective of the new humanity in Christ. Her myth represents all the best that humanity is called to be - free from sin, living in purity of heart, and spending eternity in the divine presence.

Throughout Christian history Mary has been referred to as the Christian prototype - the ideal Christian. My issue with this is that these myths have so often been taken literally. When people takes these myths literally, they seem to take on an importance greater than the doctrines concerning Christ. When they are taken figuratively, the can be used as a help to guide us to Christ and a realization that Christ is the end, not doctrines concerning Mary.

A Faithful Catholic


Dad29 said...

Formally decreed dogma = myth.

No wonder you are in wintertime. You never saw the Light.

Terrence Berres said...

Archbishop Weakland suggested repealing these doctrines in one of his addresses to the Peter Favre Forum. He hasn't been posting on his website for a while; maybe you could invite him to join your blog.

CatholicSoldier said...

Some say the Resurrection is a Myth, that doesn't make it so. The same with these so-called Marian "Myths". I would direct you to Church Teaching concerning Dogma.

Jack said...

Hey, folks, you need to learn the difference between "truth" and "fact".Probably beyond your pay scale. The Greeks knew the difference 2500 years ago. Jack

CatholicSoldier said...


Answer the question:

Is the Immaculate Conception a Myth or is it real as the Church has proclaimed?

Was Mary Ever Virgin?

Did the Assumption Occur?

And to bring up my example, was Jesus Bodily Resurrected from the Dead (and the whole Ascension into Heaven thing)?

Jack said...

They are true, but not necessarily factual. Are "Oedipus" and "Antigone" true? Are they factual? Jack

Dad29 said...

Oh, Jack.

You're SOOOOO clever!

CatholicSoldier said...


If they are true, did they actually happen? That's the essence of the question. Your response would appear to be no, they didn't happen. For you to say that out load, to the four questions I posed, would make you an apostate.

Jack said...

dad, thank you.

catholic soldier, they are true, but whether actual facts we'll just have to see.

BTW, are your pronouncements on apostasy, heresy, dogma, infedels recognized as final by the Holy See. Do you have the charism of infedelity? Jack

Terrence Berres said...

F.C. you say "When they are taken figuratively, the can be used as a help to guide us to Christ and a realization that Christ is the end, not doctrines concerning Mary." Yet if you review the comments we see the reverse, when Jack says of Marian doctrines and the Resurrection "They are true, but not necessarily factual."

CatholicSoldier said...


If you deny that the Resurrection of Jesus of Christ, that is by definition, an apostate. Look up the word. You are trying to be very nuanced, if they are true, did they happen? Your response is no, therefore you are pretending to agree with the Church while really dissenting.

Jack said...

terrence, Of course I'm not FC. But I think we agree.What is your point?

catholic soldier. what about Oedipus and Antigone. They are true but not necessarly factual. You might try a little "nuance" yourself. Is Noah and the Ark factual? Jack

Terrence Berres said...

"Of course I'm not FC. But I think we agree."

Let's see if F.C. agrees that the Resurrection is "true, but not necessarily factual."

Dad29 said...


Then we could have an UN-true fact!

As opposed to a true fact.

Or as opposed to an un-true non-fact.

Jack said...

dad, just too hard to explain to you. Read some literature. Jack

Faithful Catholic said...

TB, I see the the resurrection and the doctrines concerning Christ as factual and not at all on par with the doctrines concerning Mary. The doctrines of Christ point to himself. The doctrines of Mary point to Christ. So it seems obvious to me what is more important and inherent to our faith.

Mary doctrines are the like the creation stories. They speak a truth about God, not themselves. Many Catholics believe that if the Mary doctrines are not true, then the resurrection if false. Many evangelicals believe that if the creation myths are false, then the resurrection is false. I see a similarity.

Terrence Berres said...

"So it seems obvious to me what is more important and inherent to our faith."

Even if doctrines about Mary and Christ are put in a hierarchy of truths, that does not show how they would be true in different senses.

"Many Catholics believe that if the Mary doctrines are not true, then the resurrection if false."

Your original assertion was that "When they are taken figuratively, [Marian doctrines] can be used as a help to guide us to Christ...". Using Jack as an example, and as you now say, the actual effect appears to be to lead people to regard doctrines about Christ as, at most, figuratively true.

For example, that Christ was born of a virgin is more about Him than his Mother. You denied its factual truth in your post The "Virgin" Mary?

Dad29 said...

Eventually, Jack, you'll understand that by "clever" I meant sophomoric.

I.E., you may grow out of Jesuitical asininity at some time.

Or you may not...

Jack said...

dad, probably not:) Jack

Anonymous said...

Ok, look guys. This is what a myth is.

A myth is a traditional story that is accepted as history even though the story can't be credited to an actual witness. It serves to explain the worldview of a people-group.

The Marian myths are not called myths because they are certainly untrue- as with any myth, there may be some element of truth to them. They are called myths because they are stories without a witness. Granted, they are stories that were accepted as history for many years- but that's exactly what makes them myths. At any given point in time, it's quite possible to confuse myth for history.

For example, most of you probably think Betsy Ross designed and made the first American flag. This is actually a myth. It happens to be untrue, but that's not what makes it a myth. The reason I point this out is so you can see how easy it is to confuse myth for history, simply because a myth is non-history that is regarded as history. It wouldn't be a myth if there wasn't an entire people-group that believed it was something it's not.

Likewise, the Marian stories are not history. They weren't written down by (or told by) people who witnessed Mary. Or her people, country, or continent, for that matter. These stories were accepted as history by many people in Europe, but all that does is cause them to be European myths instead of generic myths. People from Europe believed something non-historical was historical; therefore, these are European myths.

Europeans don't tend to take well to this, of course; myths are supposed to be the stuff of stupid, primitive, backwards people. Not Europeans. They would never get confused like that. Why, look at some of the other people-groups that believed in myths. The Greeks, the Romans, the....

Oh, yea. Oops.

The story of Jesus' resurrection is actually not a myth because it was witnessed by people who wrote it down. That makes it history. The myths about Mary are myths because people who never saw or knew her passed stories on via word of mouth and no one can really say exactly where they heard it from or how they know it's true- but they're all very confident that the stories are absolutely true. After all, they love Mary. Well....the mythical Mary, at any rate. They probably couldn't bring themselves to love another kind of Mary nearly as much.

If you're a Catholic, the issue here isn't so much about determining with absolute certainty just how true these myths might be. The issue is this: Why in the world would your leadership ask you to put the full measure of your faith in something that is a myth? Seriously. Even if they do all happen to be true- or at least contain a good deal of truth in the more central parts- does it really make sense for your leadership to elevate a collection of myths to the same level of importance as the divinely inspired Word of God? I don't think it makes sense, and even if you do happen to believe there's a great deal of truth to the Marian myths, it shouldn't make much sense to you either.

Anonymous said...

For those of you who are curious, the person who deserves most credit for designing the first American flag is Francis Hopkinson. As with most places where a nice streamlined myth and the complexity of history collide, the truth is quite a bit more complex than the myth. In a letter which we still have access to, Hopkinson requested payment for his efforts on the flag's design as well as his contributions to the Great Seal and a couple of other things. The reply told him that his price was fair (a certain amount of rum; common payment back then), and then the Continental Congress failed to pay him. They were remarkably inefficient, and this one got killed in committee two or three times. There are additional letters from Hopkinson complaining about their inefficiency, but he never did get paid for his services.

Often, history isn't as nice as myth. Myths can be comforting. As for Betsy Ross, she really was a seamstress, but she had no influence on the design of the American flag. Her grandson made up the story and popularized it after her death. It is a myth widely regarded as actual history to this day.

....Not unlike the Marian myths in Europe.