Mother Teresa was very true to her Catholic faith. I was – my family and I went to visit her when we were in Calcutta. We gave her a copy of the book The Gospel According To Jesus, and it was an interesting occasion. She’s a very gracious woman, very strong, very gracious little four-foot lady. And the kids wanted to give her this book and so they did, and she said she would read it, but Mother Teresa was very, very true to her Catholic faith. She’s a very true Catholic. She understood Catholicism very well. In the front of a Bible which she autographed, she wrote, “May you enter into the heart of Jesus through the Virgin Mary,” and signed her name. So she believed that salvation is by virtue of Mary. And that’s very true of the Catholic faith.-John MacArthur
If anyone formed my anti-Catholic sentiments in my early years it was through the prejudices and misrepresentation of Catholics by this one man, John MacArthur. I don’t know if I will ever understand why I put so much stock in what one man had to say versus the testimony of throughout the ages is a mystery to me. An error from which I have gladly done penance (or repented – either way it means “turned to do right.”)
“MacArthur states that Mother Teresa “believed that salvation is by virtue of Mary. And that’s very true of the Catholic faith.” I would affirm that what Mr. MacArthur states is correct. It is only correct, however, insofar that by misapplying the use of the word virtue he misrepresents the truth of what the Catholic Church teaches.
Virtue, the word in question, is broadly misunderstood by most people. Modern dictionaries with their “dumbing down” techniques have neutralized the diverse meanings of many words. In a bygone era, however, virtue and merit where NOT synonymous.
In the Webster Dictionary of 1828 we find the meaning of the word virtue in accord with the Catholic teaching of the word.
“Moral goodness; the practice of moral duties and the abstaining from vice, or a conformity of life and conversation to the moral law. In this sense, virtue may be, and in many instances must be, distinguished from religion. The practice of moral duties merely from motives of convenience, or from compulsion, or from regard to reputation, is virtue as distinct from religion. The practice of moral duties from sincere love to God and his laws, is virtue and religion. In this sense it is true… VIRTUE is nothing but voluntary obedience to truth.”http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/virtue
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the word in the following way: “A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.“
As we can see from this brief investigation the definition of virtue is the habit and firm disposition to do good and to abstain from vice. In MacArthur’s quote about “good Catholics believing the salvation is by virtue of Mary” he misleads his listeners. He obliviously equates virtue as synonymous with merit. This gives an erroneous impression to the public by allowing them to believe that the Catholic Church teaches that Mary has achieved salvation by virtue of her own merit. This statement is simply untrue.
The definition of merit as put forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly defines and affirms what the Bible says about all of our good works proceeding from God alone.
With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.CCC #2007
The first time I read the entire section on merit in the Catechism of the Catholic Church I was astounded at the concise and wholly biblical nature of what I read. There were also several moments of the deep disappointment over the intentional misrepresentation of what the Catholic Church teaches regarding salvation.
For the sake of brevity I will not rehash the entire section of merit as found in the CCC but I will provide the link for it. If you are willing to be truly educated – not indoctrinated by anti-Catholic speakers who often dishonestly misrepresent the faith of millions – the position on merit can be found here.
For those who are curious about how one enters the heart of Jesus through the virgin Mary… that post will come at a later time. Until then… God love you!