by Bishop Richard Challoner, 1843

Q. What is the meaning of the great respect and devotion of catholics to the blessed Virgin Mary.

A. It is grounded, 1st, upon her great dignity of Mother of God, and the close relation which she has thereby to Jesus Christ her Son; for how is it possible to love and honour Christ with our whole heart, and not value and love His Blessed Mother?

2dly, It is grounded upon that supereminent grace which was bestowed upon her to prepare her for that dignity; upon account of which she was saluted by the angel Gabriel, Luke i. 28, And the angel being come in, said to her, Hail full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women, (which the protestants, who are no great friends of this ever-blessed virgin, have chosen rather to translate highly favoured;) and both by the angel and by St. Elizabeth, Luke i. 42, she is styled, blessed among women.

3dly, It is grounded upon her extraordinary sanctity; for if she was full of grace before she conceived in her womb the fountain of all grace, to what a degree of sanctity and grace must she have arrived during so many years as she lived afterwards! especially since she bore nine months in her womb the Author of all sanctity, and had Him thirty years under her roof, ever contemplating Him and His heavenly mysteries; Luke ii. 1g and 51; and on her part never making any resistance to the influence of His graces ever flowing in upon her happy soul!

4thly, It is grounded upon that supereminent degree of heavenly glory with which God has now honoured her in proportion to her grace and sanctity here upon earth, and the great interest she has with her blessed Son, and through Him with His heavenly Father.

Q. Is there any thing in scripture that insinuates the great devotion that should be paid in all ages to the blessed Virgin?

A. Yes, it was foretold by herself in her canticle, Luke i. 48, Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

Q. Do you then allow divine honour or worship to the blessed Virgin Mary?

A. No certainly: the church in this, as in all other things, keeps the golden mean between the two extremes; she condemns those who refuse to honour this blessed Mother of God: but those much more who would give her divine worship. She thinks no honour that can be given to any pure creature, too great for this blessed virgin; but as she knows, that there is an infinite distance still between her and God, she is far from offering sacrifice to her, or paying her any worship that belongs to God alone: and whatever honour she gives the mother, she refers it to the glory of the Son, as the chief motive and end of all her devotions.

Q. But why do you call the blessed virgin the Mother of God?

A. Because she is truly the mother of Jesus Christ, who is true God and true man, and consequently she is truly the mother of God; not by being mother of the divinity, but by being mother of him, who in one and the same person, is both God and man. Hence she is called by St. Elizabeth, Luke i. the Mother of my Lord.

Q. Why does the church in her hymns and anthems, style the blessed virgin, Mother of Grace, and Mother of Mercy?

A. Because she is the mother of Him, who is the fountain of all grace and mercy; and is most willing by reason of her supereminent charity, and most able, by her great interest with her Son, to obtain grace and mercy for us.

Q. And why is she styled the Queen of Heaven, or the Queen of Angels and Saints?

A. Because she is the mother of the King of heaven, and the greatest of all the saints.

Q. What then do you think of those who presume to say she was no more than any other woman; nor ought to have any regard or honour paid to her?

A. Such as these have very little regard to Jesus Christ, whose mother they treat with so much contempt.

Q. And what do you think of the opinion of those who say, she had children by St. Joseph, after the birth of our Saviour?

A. This was a heresy condemned by the church, above fourteen hundred years ago, as contrary to apostolical tradition, and to the very creed of the apostles, which styles her virgin. And that indeed she had determined by vow, never to know man, the holy fathers gather from her words to the angel, St. Luke i. 34, How shall this be done, because I know not man?

Q. Who then were they who are called in the scripture, the brethren of our Saviour?

A. They are named by St. Mark vi. 3, James and Joses or Joseph, and Jude, and Simon or Simeon: these were the sons of Mary, the wife of Cleophas, whom the gospel calls the sister, that is, the near kinswoman of the blessed virgin, and, therefore, her sons are called our Saviour's brethren, according to the usual scripture phrase, by which those who are near akin are called brothers and sisters.

If you ask me how I prove, that Mary the wife of Cleophas, was mother to James and Joseph, &c. I prove it evidently, by comparing the gospels together: St. Matthew, chap, xxvii. verse 56, acquaints us, that amongst the women who had followed our Saviour from Galilee ministering to Him, and who were present at His death, were Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of Joseph, &c. which same thing is attested by St. Mark chap. xv. ver. 40. Now, St. John xix. 25, expressly informs us that this Mary, who stood by the cross, was sister to the blessed Virgin, and wife of Cleophas: so that James, Joses, &c. as is manifest from the gospel, were not children ot our Lady, but of her kinswoman Mary, the wife of Cleophas.

Q. But why then is our Saviour called her first-born, St. Matt. i. 25, and St. Luke ii. 7?

A. It is a Hebrew phrase, not signifying that any were born after him, but that no one was born before him.

Q. And why is it said of St. Joseph, St. Matt. i. 25, And he knew her not till she brought forth her first-born son: and he-called his name Jesus.

A. This also was said, according to a propriety of speech among the Hebrews, to signify what was not done before, without meddling with the question what was done after: this latter being foreign to the great point which the evangelist had then in view, which was to assure us that Christ was born of a virgin. We have examples of the like expressions in the Old Testament; as when, Ps. cix. (alias cx.) it is said, The Lord said to my Lord, sit thou on my right hand till I make my enemies thy footstool. Will He therefore cease to sit at the right hand of His Father, after His enemies are made his footstool? No certainly.

Q. What is the common address which the church makes to the blessed virgin Mary?

A. The Angelical Salutation, or the Hail Mary: a great part of which is taken out of the gospel, St. Luke i. 26, and 42; and the other part is added by the church, to beg the prayers of the blessed virgin for us sinners.

Q. Why do catholics so often repeat the Hail Mary?

A. To commemorate the incarnation of the Son of God; to honour His blessed mother, and to desire her prayers.

Q. What is the meaning of the Beads?

A. It is a devotion consisting of a certain nnmber of Our Fathers and Hail Mary's, directed for obtaining blessings from God, through the prayers and intercession of our Lady.

Q. But is it not highly absurd, that according to the common way of saying the beads, there are repeated ten Hail Mary's for one Our Father?

A. It would be absurd indeed, and blasphemous also, if the meaning of this were to signify that the blessed virgin is either more powerful or more merciful than her Son; or that we have a greater confidence in her than in him: but we are far from any such notions.

Q. Why then is the Hail Mary repeated so much oftener in the Beads than the Lord's Prayer?

A. Because the Beads being a devotion particularly instituted to commemorate the incarnation of Christ, and to honour Him in His blessed mother, it was thought proper to repeat so much the oftener that prayer which is particularly adapted to these ends. In the mean time it may be proper to take notice, 1st, That if in the Beads there be ten Hail Mary's said for one Our Father, in the mass and office of the church, almost all the prayers are directed to God alone, 2dly, That every Hail Mary, both by the nature of the prayer, and the intention of the church, is directed more to the honour of the Son than of the mother; as well because the church in honouring the mother has principally in view the honour of the Son; as also because this prayer particularly relates to the incarnation of Christ: and if withal it begs the prayers of the blessed virgin, it is plain that He is more honoured, to whom we desire she should address her prayers, than she, whom we only desire to pray for us.

To which if we add, that her prayers are ten times better and more acceptable to God than ours, it will appear no ways absurd that we should frequently desire her prayers. For as to the repetitipn of the same prayer, it is what is recommended to us by the example of our Lord, St. Matt. xxvi. 42, 44, &c. and has nothing of absurdity in it.

Q. What is the meaning of the Rosary?

A. The Rosary is a method of saying the Beads, so as to meditate upon the incarnation, passion and resurrection of Christ. And it is divided into three parts, each part consisting of five mysteries, to be contemplated during the repeating of five decades, or tens, upon the Beads. The first five are called the five joyful mysteries: viz. the Annunciation, when our Lord was first conceived in his mother's womb; the Visitation, when the blessed virgin visited her kinswoman St. Elizabeth, and by her was declared blessed amongst women, &c.; the Nativity of our Lord; his Presentation in the temple, together with the Purification of the blessed virgin; and His being found in the temple in the midst of the doctors, &c. The five next are called the dolorous, or sorrowful mysteries, as having relation to the passion of Christ; and are His prayers and agony in the garden; His being scourged at the pillar; His crowning with thorns; His carriage of the cross; and His crucifixion and death. The five last are called the five glorious mysteries, viz. the resurrection of our Lord; His ascension into heaven; the coming of the Holy Ghost; the assumption of the blessed virgin, and her coronation; together with the eternal glory of the saints in the kingdom of heaven.

Q. What is the meaning of giving three tolls with the bells, every morning, noon, and night, in all catholic countries?

A. This is to remind the faithful of the great mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God; and it is the practice of all good christians, when they hear these bells, to perform the devotion, which we call the Angelus Domini.

Q. What is this devotion, and in what manner is it performed?

A. The bell tolls three times, with a short space between each time. At the first toll, we say, "The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived of the Holy Ghost;" then we say the Hail Mary, &c. At the second toll, we say, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word; Hail Mary," &c. At the third toll, we say, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us; Hail Mary," &c. Then we conclude with the following prayer:

"Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may, by His passion and cross be brought to the glory of his resurrection: through the same Christ our Lord. Amen."

This devotion is used in all catholic countries, and is called the Angelus Domini, from the first words, The angel of the Lord, &c.