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How Fulton Sheen and a shipyard helped me explain the Virgin Mary to my teenager

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August 15 is the Solemnity of the Assumption.

I thought my oldest son had a lot of questions when he was a toddler. An early talker, his “whys” about everything started really young; from the color of the grass: “Why is it green, instead of purple?” To the existence of God: “He made us, but who made him?” Haven’s questions have always left me scrambling for answers. Now that he’s a teenager, these conversations are only more challenging.

Like the other day, we were in the van chatting about the Assumption of Mary (Solemnity: August 15) — the day I famously walked for miles around a theme park and wound up in early labor with him (his birthday is August 16). We were laughing about how he was almost born on a merry-go-round when he hit me with this doozy:

“If Jesus entered a world that was sinful anyway … why did he need a sinless mother?”

To which I replied: “Uh? Hmmm …”

Of course I said a quick prayer, giving thanks for a son who constantly confounds me. Later on that night, I did a little research to try to answer Haven with less brain fog. Happily, I landed on a video titled Born of a Virgin by Thing in a Pot Productions. I’m a huge fan of their work, especially their projects where they bring to life Fulton Sheen recordings from his 1950s TV show Life Is Worth Living. In this one, Venerable Sheen’s voice hovers over a film montage of a shipyard, a place where enormous ocean vessels pass from polluted waters into clean ones with the help of a powerful lifting apparatus called a lock:

“He had to be a man,” Sheen speaks of Christ as the camera lands, in a powerful moment, on a worker dressed in a hard hat and a bright yellow safety vest, “He had to be like us, yet free from the current of sin.”

The shot cuts to debris passing through underwater waves. Sheen then likens the Blessed Virgin Mary to the ship’s lock that perfectly preserved Christ from the taint of sin: “That’s why we love Mary.”

When I shared the cerebral film with Haven and his younger brothers, they were quiet for a while.

“Does that help you understand?” I asked my oldest.

He nodded thoughtfully, the baby ran to the bath with his toy boat, and I think I got at least a 15-minute break from their continuous (and at the best of times, inspiring) questions.

Venerable Sheen, pray for us!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cA18hmKCm6U&t=31s

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