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St. Thomas had it:  Faith seeking understanding.  We have to believe first before we can understand.  Of course, before we believe, we must be certain it comes from God.  That being certain, we must first receive the teachings then and, in fact, must reason vigorously.

Most Christians treat the teachings of Christ as we would treat natural things.  We reason before we believe, like Zachary, husband of Elizabeth who reasoned before he believed the angel and, thus, was punished by becoming dumb.  In truth, modern men are worse; when it comes to worldly things, they accept and believe even without reasoning but when it comes to the things of God, they are full of objections. 

Mary first believed, then she reasoned it out vigorously.  She kept all things in her heart, then she pondered on them. 

In the Annunciation, an angel appeared and announced a message.  Her perfect knowledge of the writings of the Old Testament told her that this is truly a messenger from heaven and not an evil spirit.  And she knew that message was right because she knew of the prophecies about the virgin giving birth to the messiah, a prophecy missed by all the women of Israel.   

While the shepherds on Christmas night were filled with awe at the happenings, Mary is said to have kept all things and pondered them in her heart.  While the doctors were awed at the learning of the boy Jesus, Mary kept all things, pondering them in her heart.  To be merely awed is not to learn.  To learn, we must keep them in our hearts and continuously ponder them in our hearts.   

What does it mean "to ponder"?  Mary did not think it enough to accept the truths; she dwelled upon them.  It was not enough to possess the knowledge, she used it.  It was not enough to assent to it; she developed the truths she had learned.  She believed and accepted the truths first, then she reasoned it out.

Mary is the exemplar for those unlearned souls who are trying to learn:  she is the exemplar for the doctors of the Church who investigate, weigh, define and profess the Gospel, drawing the line between truth and heresy, combating pride and recklessness, and triumphing over sophistry and the innovator. 

John Cardinal Newman






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