Bishop Paul,
Here are some questions that I have heard from students.  If you could take the time to help answer them, that would be greatly appreciated.

1.  Some students say that we worship Mary and that this is whorshiping a second divine being.  What do you say to that?

2.  Where does our idea of Mary being born without Original Sin come from?

3.  Is the 'heaven on Earth' making the world a better place, or is it the "New Heaven and New Earth" prophesied after the Apocalypse?

4.  How do I handle students who take the Bible fully literally?  Some students believe in the 6 days of creation, or some of the harsher readings of the Old Testament (such as marrying you brother's widow or stoning people) and I want to know how to answer those.

Thanks in advance! P

Hello P,

I apologize for taking so long to get back to you.

1.  "worshipping Mary" - ... Well, first, if they are friends with or know any Catholics, they should be able to recognize that in fact, we do not "worship" Mary but rather confide in her closeness to Jesus to intercede for us.  Also, even non-Catholics who accuse us of this should admit that we never have nor do expect Mary to fogive sins which of course only God can do.

2.  Strictly speaking the doctrine of Mary's immaculate Conception was only formally proclaimed by the Church in the mid-50s of the 19th century and then confirmed by the apparition of Mary to Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes some years later.  Belief in the exceptional holiness of Mary is ancient and traditional among Caholics and Orthodox but only after many centuries of theological research and dicussion was it officially taught by the Church.

3.  It is the later.  The 'new heavens and earth' are not the sole result of human efforts but the doing of Jesus Christ himself.  It is something we must collaborate in but always remember that it will be by the gift of God that it finally comes about.

4.  It really takes an introduction to the Bible to give a Catholic (and Orthodox) understanding of the Bible which is, strictly speaking, not a single unite or book but rather a collection or library of serveral types of writing, i.e. Bks of Law, Bks of poetry, Bkes of History, Bks of Prophets and then the New Testament with Gospels, Letters and the Bk of Revelation at the end.  Recognizing these facts is the first step to over-coming a literalist or fundamentalist approach to scripture.  But at the same time we should not treat the scriptures with just a historial or analytical perspective but also with love and affection for God who wants to communicate with us through these wonderful and ancient texts.

So, P, I hope that these ideas are useful and helpful.  Thank you for the questions and always feel free to send them to me.
Bishop Paul

Thank you for your reply.  This will greatly help our students who have asked the "big questions".
I appreciate you taking the time to answer them.  P