Saint Worship - Part 14

In the regeneration, what may be called the order of the end, which is founded by the Incarnation, and in which creation is completed and man finds his supreme good by being supernaturally united to the Supreme Good itself, the paternal and filial relations are spiritual, but no less real than in the order of regeneration commencing with Adam. Our spiritual fathers are no less real fathers than our fathers after the flesh. Priests are called fathers, and really are so; and as fathers of our spiritual life they are fathers of a higher order and in a higher sense than our natural fathers – as much higher as the life of the soul is above the life of the body. Perhaps in this fact is at least one of the reasons why the Church insists on the celibacy of the clergy, and regards with no favor a married clergy even when she allows priests, married before receiving Holy Orders, to retain their wives. (6) There would be a sort of bigamy in it, for the priest is wedded to the Church, his true spouse and our spiritual mother. The new birth is as really a birth as natural birth, and the priest married on the natural order seems to be a priest of the order of Aaron rather than a priest of the order of Melchisidech. The spiritual father owes all his love, all his care and tenderness, to his spiritual children, and ought not to be burdened with children after the flesh.

They who object to the celibacy of the clergy may find here an answer to their objections. The priest is not really a celibate; he has a spiritual bride, and spiritual children, that develop in him all the higher and nobler qualities of the husband and father. Nor are those virgins who reject marriage after the flesh, and take the vow of chastity, less really wives and mothers then are wives and mothers in the natural order. They are espoused in the spiritual order, and to each may be applied the words of Scripture: "He who has become your husband is your Maker." They are mothers, and "many are the children of the desolate, more than of her that hath a husband." In this cold and material age we are prone to regard only the material as real, and only the flesh as living, and to treat what is spiritual as unreal, illusory, imaginary; and hence this spiritual espousal and this spiritual maternity is regarded as a device to cheat the mind and take captive the imagination by words without meaning. We remain in the order of generation, and though we profess to have faith we appear not to have been initiated into the order of regeneration; hardly to believe that there is such an order. And yet our Lord said: "Mary hath chosen the best part." Have we yet to learn that generation is in order to regeneration, and that the real significance of the material is in the spiritual? Have we failed to penetrate the great mystery or sacrament of which Saint Paul speaks, and to understand that marriage and maternity in the natural order are symbolical of the higher and more real marriage and maternity?

If the blessed Mary held to us only a purely spiritual relation, she would be really our mother, holding to us, in the order of regeneration, the relation held to us by Eve in the order of generation – the mother of our spiritual life as Eve was the mother of our natural life. It is so that the Fathers regard her; they call her the second Eve, through whom life comes into the world as death came through the first Eve; by whom we gain more than we lost by our mother in the order of the flesh. In this sense alone [Mary] would be a real mother of the regenerated, the seat of wisdom, cause of our joy, and gate of heaven.

But she is our mother in a sense more tangible to those who have difficulty in accepting spiritual relations as real. I have shown that through the Incarnation the regenerated are joined to God by identity of nature, and are, so to speak, the natural brothers of Our Lord; and therefore His mother must be really our mother. He took His flesh from her, and she was as truly His mother as any mother is the mother of her own son. She thus became literally the mother of regenerated humanity, as Eve was the mother of humanity in the order of generation.

I say regenerated humanity, because the human nature assumed [by our Lord] was not assumed [with] its own personality (which would have been adoptionism), and because by the very fact of assumption it was regenerated and elevated to its highest possible degree. As we are not born into the regeneration by natural generation, but by grace infused by the Holy Ghost, only they can really claim Mary for their mother who are born again, and thus so connected, not only with natural humanity, as they are through Eve, but with regenerated humanity, of which Mary is really and truly the mother. Of all others she is only potentially, not actually, the mother; as our Lord Himself – though He died for all men and made ample satisfaction for all, and therefore is potentially the Redeemer and Savior of all men – is actually the Redeemer only of the regenerated, and actually the Savior only of the elect.

All, then, who have been regenerated, born anew as begotten by the Holy Ghost, have the right to call Mary Mother, and Our Lord Himself Brother. Only in Our Lord the human nature is completed, its destiny attained, while in us it is in its infancy, for we have not yet attained, and as long as in the flesh shall not have attained, to the stature of perfect men in Christ Jesus; and therefore is He called our elder Brother, our Forerunner, Who has already entered in, while we remain without, awaiting His intercession for us. All of us who are born again in Baptism, the sacrament of regeneration, and [who] love Our Lord Jesus Christ, are really and truly children of Mary, and she is really and truly our Mother.

She is our mother; for it is the blessed privilege of us who believe in life eternal and the communion of saints to regard the holy ones in heaven as living and present with us. We see them not with the eyes of the body, but with the eye of faith; we embrace them not with our bodily arms, but with our love, and are embraced by them with their love. They are present to our hearts, and we can speak to them, pour into their open and sympathizing hearts our joys and griefs, and ask and receive their aid, as readily and as effectually as when they were present to our bodily senses. They have not departed from us, have not deserted us and left us desolate. Death has not removed them from us, and there is no need of evocation or necromancy to enjoy their communion, to obtain their advice or their help. Were all that the spiritists pretend a fact, instead of being, as it is, of the enemy of souls, it would fall immeasurably short of the blessed intercourse every true follower of Christ has with the blessed in heaven. Why can we not learn that the unseen and invisible is more real than the seen and visible!

I have dwelt on this point in order to show that the warm expressions of Catholic piety in reference to Mary, the Mother of God, rarely, if ever, exceed the sober truth; even the expressions which many Catholics regard as exaggerations fall short of the reality – and I doubt if exaggeration be possible. What I have said vindicates most thoroughly from the charge of enthusiasm, superstition, or visionariness those admirable associates of Children of Mary in our parishes, colleges, and academies, and also the efforts of earnest priests and devout women extend and intensify devotion to Mary, as the Mother of God, and as our own dear and loving Mother. They are grateful to the nobler and richer sentiments of our hearts, tend to honor her whom God honored above all women in choosing her to be His Mother, and serve to keep fresh and living in our souls faith in the Incarnation, on which all our hopes of heaven, and even of civilization, depend.

Two topics remain to be discussed – the miracles of the saints, and the veneration of relics and sacred pictures and images.