I once read an interesting story about Non-Catholics attempting to live out their anti-Marian biases. The story illustrates the misunderstandings of Marian devotion.
There was a group of Protestant Christians in England, where GK Chesterton lived, who took over and occupied an abandoned building once owned by a community of Catholic monks. The building, being a pre-nineteenth century ecclesial structure, had an architectural style that was overtly religious. There was no doubt at all that the building once belonged to Christians practicing the Catholic religion. The structure was replete with vertical lines shooting to the heavens, archways for every door and window. Every nook-and-cranny of the building had some figure or religious image or statue of a saint.
Given that this was a Protestant group that took over the property, they were somewhat trepidatious about the images and icons; idolatry as they called it. Nevertheless, they gladly moved in to the building with the hopes that they could remove from the structure all the imagery and iconography that was distinctly Catholic. They, being Christians, did not necessarily mind the fact that there were images of Jesus and Angels. After all, many main-stream Protestants still believe in these, but the icons of the Catholic saints and, most especially, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, had to go.
So they went on and began the work of covering up or removing the uniquely Catholic imagery. In the paintings they covered over the saints and left most of the walls white-washed. They left the images of Jesus untouched; after all, they were devoted to Jesus and wanted to keep the images of Him as a constant reminder of their faith. When it came to the statues, since most of the statues were of Catholic Saints, they were thrown out all together. There were some statues that contained imagery that were favorable to them. Wanting to do the least damage to the structure, they did not throw these statues out all-together, but brought in sculptors and stone workers to chip away only those elements they did not like, only what reminded them of Catholicism. St. Joseph was chipped away and the child Jesus was left standing; St. Catherine was chipped away and they left a solitary image of Jesus handing a crown of thorns to any hypothetical believer. The Sacred Heart was chipped away and a very shallow bust of a man who looked like Jesus was left.
The most prominent statue of the entire complex was the one that stood at the entrance. It was a statue of the blessed Virgin Mary holding her infant Child Jesus. The stone workers had orders to keep the images of Jesus but take away all that was added on around Jesus that smacked of Catholic devotion. But they couldn’t do it. There was no way that they could chip away Mary and not chip away Jesus. If they chipped away all that reminded the viewer of the Mother of Jesus, they would chip away so much of her child that there would be virtually nothing left to refashion into anything edifying or inspiring to religious devotion at all. There would be nothing left that looked like Jesus
What did they do? They did what they had to… they simply threw out both Mother and Child.
This story provides an illustration for the Christian life. Many Christians have a sincere desire to hold on to Jesus, and Jesus alone, to the exclusion of any other character that the Catholic Church might slide in. But there is a deep misunderstanding behind this.
As Christians, we cannot take Jesus alone because Jesus did not come alone. God, when he became man to walk among us, live among us, and die for us, did not come down in a vacuum. He came down as a human baby with a Mother. He was born in history, born in time once for all time. Sacred Scripture never tires of outlining for us his genealogy, showing us quite clearly that he was truly one of us, truly a human being born in the line of history shared by every of other human being. And, just as in the natural order, where children to not drop out of heaven by themselves, but come from mothers and fathers, so in the spiritual order our savior comes to us in a family.
The recognition that our Lord is a sharer of our common human nature (Emmanuel, God with us) is lived out in the Catholic religion in many forms of devotion. Most especially, this is played out in the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary without whom there would be no Jesus. We cannot chip away the mother without chipping away the child. For a Christian, cultivating a devotion to the Mother of God is not optional, it is not something tacked on from the outside. No… it is an obligation of all who call themselves followers of Her Son. If we as Christians begin to chip out of our lives a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, we will soon find that remains may barely resemble authentic Christianity at all.