I just discovered a treasure trove of audio: Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s Life is Worth Living talks in MP3 format and especially for our series on Mary, his talk on The Mother of Jesus. I’m listening to it now. In these Life is Worth Living radio talks, Archbishop Sheen is not speaking before a live audience but is, if memory serves, sitting at a desk and speaking into a microphone. The recordings would then be pressed onto discs. (Disks? I can never remember which spelling is which, and I think I’ve read conflicting things anyway.) The audio can be scratchy at times but I don’t care. I feel like he’s sitting down and talking with me. (Links and notes at the end of this post.)
As he begins to talk about the Virgin Birth of Jesus, he sets out to look at the evidence for it and he looks at the early Church. Why not the Bible? Because in the very early Church the only Bible they had was the Old Testament. Now, that is important, of course, but it’s also important to realize, as he says,
“The Gospels did not start the Church, the Church started the Gospels. The Church did not come out of the Gospels. It was the Gospels that came out of the Church. The Church preceded the New Testament, not the New Testament, the Church.”Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Life is Worth Living, Talk 46, The Mother of Jesus, 3:58.
Men did not believe in the Gospels because they read about them in the Bible. They wrote down the Gospels because they believed them. Men did not believe in the Virgin Birth because they read about it in the Gospels; men set it down in the Gospels because they already believed it.
It’s surprising how many people do not think about this, and equally surprising how many deny it when someone points it out to them. As a Catholic I’ve found that there are a great many things that I never noticed until someone took the time to show me, but that once shown, I could see very well. And it didn’t occur to me to argue about every single bit of instruction that I received. (I didn’t argue at all, though I did have to make an effort to understand and I did have to ask questions, which were answered very, very well. Note: I did NOT participate in the RCIA for my instruction. Do not get me started. Read more here, here, here, here, here and here. Oy.)
Archbishop Sheen points out that it is the physician Luke who tells us the most about the Virgin Birth. Here I can’t help but remember reading or hearing somewhere that some think, with good reason, that Luke got much of his information from the Virgin herself. And I can’t help but remember all of those paintings of Luke painting the Madonna and Child that were so popular.
Next the archbishop points out that there were heretics from the very beginning of the Church, but that no heretics denied the Virgin Birth.
“One would think that that would be the very first doctrine to be attacked.”Ibid., 6:30.
And he brings up a very good point: probably no one would believe the Virgin Birth if he did not already believe in the Divinity of Christ, and that was probably why the Virgin Mary did not speak of it until after the Resurrection. Although St. Joseph, St. Elizabeth, and probably St. John the Baptist knew about it.
Oh and now we are getting to one of the most common objections to the Perpetual Virginity of Mary: do not the Gospels say that our Lord had brothers?
Answer: The word for brothers or brethren could mean relatives or friends. There was no word for cousin, nephew, half-brother, or step-brother in ancient Hebrew or Aramaic, and the word had a very broad meaning. (See Strong’s #251.) Same for the Greek word adelphos.
“These ‘brothers’ are never once called the children of Mary, although Jesus himself is” (John 2:1; Acts 1:14).Jesus Had Brothers? By Matt Fradd.
There is more to the answer and a little less than ten minutes left in the talk, but I’ll leave it to you to listen to the rest of it.
Thank you for reading and I hope you’ll join me again. There are so many things to explore and we’ve only scratched the surface so far. God bless you and may His peace be always with you.
Notes and Links (A whole bunch of freebies)
- Life is Worth Living in MP3 format. (Scroll down the page.)
- The Mother of Jesus, talk by Bishop Sheen, MP3 format, 25:51.
- Paintings of Saint Luke painting the Madonna and Child
- Strong’s Concordance, 251.
- Jesus had brothers? By Matt Fradd
- See also Did Jesus Have Brothers and Sisters? By Fr. William Saunders.
Bishop Sheen Today: Downloadable books and pamphlets, public domain. Some of these links were broken when, I suspect, someone brought some of the out-of-print works back into print. But there are still some really good titles available here.