Growing up as a young Catholic boy in a middle-class family, I was sent by my parents to Annunciation School, where I received my grammar school education. While attending the school for eight years, I was required to attend Mass every Sunday at the Cathedral of the Annunciation, where I would eventually serve for a couple of years as an altar boy, assisting the priests. How I remember the beauty of the Cathedral -- the 30-foot-high ceilings, the beautiful mosaic windows, the gold articles of furniture, the purple and scarlet colors, and the statues of the Saints, Mother Mary, and Baby Jesus.
It was not long before the Virgin Mary became as important to me as Jesus Himself. I had a fervent and devoted love for her. I prayed thousands of Hail Marys throughout my younger years, sometimes while kneeling in front of one of the statues of the "Mother of God." Mary was everywhere. I remember the statue of the Madonna (Italian for my lady) in my mother's garden and the Madonna vase on her dresser. In the vase were palm leaves, holy cards and rosary beads. Because of my Italian heritage and my membership in the Church of Rome, I soon learned to respect and reverence the Virgin Mary as being holy and sacred. I heard her name mentioned far more times than that of Jesus, and she soon became my most precious "mediator" to the throne of God.
It was not until I graduated from Annunciation School [the "Annunciation," according to Roman Catholic teachings, is the announcement which the Angel Gabriel made to the Virgin Mary when he told her that she was to be the mother of Jesus Christ, as related in Luke 1:26-38, and celebrated on March 25, as Lady Day] and was accepted into St. Mary's High School [another school dedicated to the Virgin Mary], where I was to receive the next four years of my education, that I began to question the teachings of Catholicism. The nuns at Annunciation, who were my sole teachers for eight years, had taught me about our first parents, Adam and Eve, who were created by God and lived in the Garden of Eden. But while attending St. Mary's, where I was to receive my higher education, I suffered a great disappointment that I will never forget. I remember so well the day the priest, who taught my religion class, told me, along with the other students, that the story of Adam and Eve was not to be taken literally. It was merely a story in the Bible -- not a fact! My world was shattered and my confidence in the teachings and doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church was marred. I, therefore, began to question the system as a whole. Had I been lied to my first eight years of schooling? and were there other doctrines that I had been taught that were not true?
Twenty years later, I finally decided to search the Scriptures for myself. As I studied the Word of God, I discovered many truths that I had never learned while attending Catholic schools. In fact, I found many of the doctrines of Rome to be contrary to the Bible. One doctrine, for instance, was the doctrine of the immortality of the soul -- the doctrine of man's consciousness in death. What happens to a person when he dies? Does his soul live on forever in the form of a spirit that floats up into Heaven, where he will enjoy eternity, or down into Hell, where he will be tormented forever? How would the priests who "straightened me out" in regards to the Creation story explain these Scriptures: "The soul that sinneth it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20) and "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt?" (Dan. 12:2).
Have you noticed the thousands of billboards that have appeared throughout this country in the past few years urging you to call for a message from the Virgin Mary? "Why are two billion Hail Marys said daily? Why did five million people, many non-Christian, visit Lourdes this year to drink the healing waters? Why did more than 10 million trek to Guadalupe to pray to Our Lady? Why have 15,000 priests gone to Medjugorje since 1981? Why is it that more girls have been named for Mary than any other historical figure?...Why the need to talk with her? Why are Mary hymns creeping into Methodist songbooks?" (Life, Dec., 1996, p. 45). Where is the Virgin Mary right now, anyway? Is she in heaven with Jesus, or in New York, or in Florida? Or is she in the grave sleeping until Jesus comes? What about all the reported miracles, visions, appearances, messages, predictions, weeping statues, and bleeding icons? What is it about Mary? According to those of the "Marian Movement:' over 300 apparitions, significant enough to merit attention (for there have been thousands reported), have occurred since Fatima. "Fatima is the key Marian apparition of the Twentieth Century. In fact, Pope Plus XII noted that the message of Fatima is one of the greatest interventions of God through Mary in world history since the death of the Apostles:" (The Thunder of Justice, p. 132).
The December 30, 1991, issue of Time magazine reported that "the late 20th century has become the age of the Marian pilgrimage" to many shrines established to commemorate the many sightings of the Virgin Mary in recent years. "These apparitions have brought millions of people to faith in Catholicism's Mary. The shrine at Lourdes, France, attracts about 5.5 million pilgrims annually; Poland's Black Madonna draws 5 million; Fatima, Portugal, 'draws a steady 4.5 million pilgrims a year from an ever-widening array of countries.' Since John Paul II visited the shrine of Mary at Knock, Ireland,'attendance has doubled to 1.5 million people each year. To handle the influx, a new international airport was opened at Knock in 1986.' A 'Mary, Queen of the Universe Shrine' has recently opened in Orlando, Florida. The shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe near Mexico City 'draws 20 million visitors a year'....'Mary,' a goddess suitable for all religions, is already adored by a quarter of earth's population." (A Woman Rides the Beast, pp. 453, 454, 457). Unquestionably, Marian apparitions are attracting a huge following, considerably larger than Disneyland, in Anaheim, California, which reported an incredible fifteen million visitors in 1996.
Years ago, "Saint Louis de Montfort, in the Seventeenth Century, wrote about what it would be like for the church in the latter days, and the role of Mary in that plan. He stated, 'In the Second Coming of the Lord, Mary will be made known in a special way by the Holy Spirit so that through her, Jesus may be better known and served....Mary will shine forth higher than ever in these last days to bring back poor sinners who have strayed from the family of God....Mary will raise up apostles of the latter times to make war against the evil one."' (The Thunder of Justice, p. 73). Later, "Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1987 encyclical Redemptoris Mater that Marian apparitions signify that the Blessed Virgin's journey through time and space is a pilgrimage toward the Second Coming of Jesus and her final victory over Satan. This is her role now as it has been predestined from the beginning:" (Ibid., p. 19).
Certainly from the statements above, one might be led to regard Mary as the most important being there is, greater than Jesus Himself. But if you study the Bible, while praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit to define the Word and make its truths known, I believe you will plainly see that not only are the above statements erroneous and deceptive, but that Mary's involvement in future events is utterly impossible!
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