Sunday, February 04, 2007

There's something about Mary

Are you a heretic?
Deny the Solemnly Defined Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary?
Haven't the foggiest idea what that means?
Don't believe that Mary was assumed, Body and Soul, to be with her Son Jesus in Heaven?

Are you Catholic?
Don't understand why the Church places such importance on Mary?
Can't figure out why there are so many statues of her all over the place?

Then this is the seminar for you!

Thus began the email, entitled 'There's Something about Mary', that I sent inviting some friends to the Marian Seminar that was held on last Thursday, which was a public holiday in Penang.

Conducted by the lively and engaging Martin Jalleh from the Charismatic Prayer Group, the day long session was most informative and entertaining as Martin's quips had all the fifty or so of us in stitches. Our parishioners don't really come for these things. When the same session was held at the Cathedral, which has about the same number of parishioners, about 300 attended, filling the hall.

Martin's talk, Mary in Scripture and Tradition, covered the scriptural foundations of the Church's Marian beliefs as well as the differences between the Catholic concept of Sola Verbum Dei, the Word of God Alone and the Protestant concept of Sola Scriptura, the Written Word of God Alone. He looked at Mary's appearances in Scripture and how she was present at some of the most pivotal moments in the ministry and life of Jesus and the Church including His Conception, Nativity, Epiphany, First Miracle, Ministry, Passion, Death and Pentecost. He also touched on the Marian dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. He's a brave soul, Martin, to try to cover such complex concepts as the 'stain of original sin' and God saving Mary before her conception in front of a mostly elderly audience of matrons and housewives. But he acquitted himself well.

The session on the Marian Titles such as the Ark of the Covenant was very well received too. But the testimony that Martin gave was the highlight of the event. Martin related that when he prays over people in his Charismatic healing services, he holds his rosary and asks for Mary's intercession. Mary was of course the first Charismatic, being there at Pentecost and being anointed with the Holy Spirit and Fire so there need not be any hesitation for Charismatics to invoke the Mother of God as a 'prayer warrior'!

He also related that praying the rosary and asking for Mary's intercession is a great help in the ministry of deliverance. This brought back to my mind comments made by His Lordship, Bishop Anthony Lee of Miri, who related a particularly difficult exorcism that he and his team undertook. Exhausted after many hours of prayer, the Bishop led the rosary over the possessed and the evil spirit left. The Bishop, who's very Charismatic and heads the Liturgy Commission of the Bishop's Conference, is also a strong Marian devotee.

We also pondered the Marian apparitions from and the message of conversion and penitence that Mary bears to the world.

Hopefully, the session would have informed the Marian Devotion Group members about the strong scriptural roots of Marian piety and strengthened their understanding and devotion to the Mother of God.

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