Ah, the unbridled passion of Roman Catholic youth. Passion was surely involved in the conception¹ and production of this poster spotted nearby.
The Legion of Mary. Hmm. Never knew such a thing existed. I suppose I can deal with someone paying more attention to Mary than I’ve given her. Perhaps I should pay a little more attention. I might even go as far as to acknowledge a kernel of truth in the hyperbolic verbal formula “mother of God.” It’s impossible, however, for me to conceive of the obtuseness that puts such an overtly off-base idea as devotion to Mary on a poster. Really? Devotion? To Mary?
Nothing in Hebrew prophecy suggests the human mother of Jesus was to be iconized or viewed as a fountain of blessing.
No one prays to Mary in scripture, and no one ever should have afterward.
Luke does present the so-called “Magnificat,” a humbly devoted prayer of Mary prior to the birth of Jesus, but no writer of Christian scripture manifests any interest in devotion to Mary.
The official LoM website features this prayerful address: “O Mary, conceived without sin.” In reading that expression, one might logically infer that other conceptions are thought to have involved sin. That implication is offensive. No one prays to any other child who was also conceived without sin. But the adverbial phrase “without sin” is at issue, and it invites confusion: it’s not really intended to modify the verb (according to official R.C. doctrine), but rather, the product of the verb, i.e., Mary herself. In other words, the assertion is not that Mary’s parents didn’t have intercourse; it’s that the embryonic Mary was qualitatively different from any other human embryo to that point.
The “immaculate conception”—a doctrine fabricated without relation to any biblical text—is one that some non-Catholics will be surprised to discover relates not to Mary’s parents per se, but to the pre-born Mary in utero and her supposed freedom from “original sin” in the womb. (Some Catholics have been confused on this doctrine, and a papal clarification was issued at some point. Neither does the “immaculate conception” pertain to Mary’s own virgin state prior to the birth of Jesus. That assumption a common mistake made by Catholics and non-Catholics alike.)
At the end of the day, the idea that Mary was without original sin while the rest of us are born with it is (a) loading the conversation theologically and (b) making Mary out to be special in a way the scriptures do not claim she was.
The silliness of human religion baffles me. Joining the Legion of Mary might make some passionate college student feel s/he is perpetuating and building on centuries of something. The Legion might offer a sense of camaraderie with other, equally off-track souls. Whatever its draw, the Legion of Mary has nothing to do with authentic Christianity.
B. Casey, 12/2/16
¹ Originally I had “immaculate conception” above, but I was fearful of needless offense at the outset. Then I realized this whole diatribe will be inherently offensive to a few, and I wasn’t willing to forgo the piece, so I put “immaculate” in this footnote!