Although I read many fantastic books during my two years of graduate school at Franciscan University of Steubenville (2008-2010), one of my favorite books became The Spirit of Catholicism by Karl Adam. Since reading it, I usually suggest it to Catholics that are seeking a deeper understanding of the organic nature and growth of the Catholic Church from the time of Christ till today. When I read it in graduate school, I was pumping my fist in the air often in the John Paul II Library because it truly makes you feel proud to be a Catholic, especially in a culture like today.
Even though I have never suggested it to any non-Catholics, it would be good to give to your non-Catholic friends, because it could help them understand that organic nature as well. As you read it, you can see that he is answering many of those non-Catholic objections. Some of the most notable Catholic converts in the Church today were brought to Catholicism through this great work. To learn who these individuals are, I would suggest reading my Book Reviews on here. It’s the first book on that page.
As I was sitting around my house yesterday, because I went to our monthly Ordinary Form in Latin last night, I had some ideas for today’s “Mondays with Mary” but nothing that was solidified. Two weeks ago, I gave a talk on 6 Reasons why Mary should not be forgotten in a time of crisis, a talk based on my grad school notes and an interview given by Cardinal Ratzinger in 1984. In that talk, I speak briefly about this book.
Realizing I have never shared with you the words of Karl Adam about Mary from The Spirit of Catholicism, I thought I would give you some of those thoughts today –
“But however wondrously glorious all these holy figures are [the saints], each in his own way, yet all are outshone by one, by the Queen of all angels and saints, Mary, the Mother of God. Like every creature in heaven and on earth, she too was called into existence out of nothingness. An infinite distance separates her from the Infinite, from Father, Son and Holy Ghost. And she has not grace, no virtue, no privilege, which she does not owe to the divine Mediator. Both in her natural and supernatural being, she is wholly the gift of God, ‘full of grace’.”
“The mystery of Mary’s divine Motherhood does not merely comprise the bare fact that the Word took flesh and blood, our human nature, in her womb. The Catholic is not content merely to repeat with gladness the words of the inspired woman in the Gospel: ‘Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck.’ He listens with a far deeper attention to Our Lord’s answer: ‘Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it’.”
“Mary’s importance in the work of salvation does not lie chiefly in the purely bodily sphere, but in the sphere of morality and religion. It consists in this that Mary, so far as lay in her, gave the best of herself, even her whole being, to service of God, and that, however infinitely small all human doing and suffering are in comparison with the Divine Perfection, she surrendered this infinitely small without limitation or stint to the visitation of Divine Grace, and so prepared herself to be the sublime instrument of the divine redemption.”
“Her whole subsequent life was lowliness and simplicity on the one hand, and on the strong and joyful faith. Bethlehem and Golgotha are the two termini of a way of sharpest renunciation, of heroic resignation, of complete ‘self-emptying’, such a way as our Lord himself traveled (Phil. 2:7). The sword foretold by Simeon (Lk. 2:25) pierced ever more sharply into her soul as the process of her self-abnegation advanced.”
“All the sublimity of Mary’s moral personality, all the depth of her virginal devotion, and all the strength of her faith culminate in the word which she spoke to the angel: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.’ These were no common, everyday words; no words such as fall from men in the changing circumstance and casual course of life. They were words out of the depths and recesses of a soul that was pure and noble beyond all earthly measure, words that were her being, her expression, her achievement. By them of a truth she consecrated her body to a ‘reasonable service’ (cf. Rom. 12:1), and that is the source of all blessedness.”
“She is mother not of the Redeemer alone, but also of the redeemed; and so she is the mother of the faithful. The Catholic acknowledges in heaven not only a Father, but also a mother…When the Catholic speaks of his Heavenly Mother, his heart is full with all the strength of feeling that is contained in that word. Mary is as it were a gracious revelation of certain ineffable and ultimate traits in the nature of God, which are too fine and too delicate to be grasped otherwise than as reflected in the mirror of a mother. Ave Maria!”
I don’t know what you are thinking, but just from typing these words, my only word is – Wow! Allow these words to penetrate your heart and mind this week. Reading them more than once is a definite and I would imagine each time you will get something new from each one.
Mary, Mother of the Redeemed…Pray for Us.