by Fr. Thomas Blute
The news article below concerns 'stem cell research.'
Drawing upon what I learned in Cell Physiology lectures in grad school,
I can first explain a little about the significance of stem-cell research,
and afterwards point out an amazing theological intersection. All the
cells in the human body have the same code of DNA in the nucleus, and
this code contains all the information about every part of the body.
So inside the DNA of bone cells, there is the "code"? determining
how your brain functions, and in each muscle cell, there are genes which
dictate the color of your eyes, and the shape of your nose. But you
cannot expect bone cells to do what brain cells do.
"Stem cells" are undifferentiated: they can become any kind
of cell. Hence scientists are eager to discover the secret behind their
operation, in order that, having harvested some stem cells from a person,
they can induce the cells to become whatever sort of cell they need,
for medical or cosmetic reasons. There is a distinct possibility that
within a few years, laboratories will be able to grow new body parts
from your stem cells, to replace worn-out kidneys, cancer-ridden lungs,
clogged tickers, or severed limbs. The mind-boggling power of this knowledge
explains the intense interest in stem cell research. The sinister side
is that the most abundant source of fresh stem cells is from fetal tissues.
Scientists who find infanticide unacceptable recently pointed out that
there are other sources of stem cells, such as the placenta, so abortion
and infanticide are not at all justified as means to procure tissues
for research. In the course of such research, a surprising fact about
stem cells has come to light, as reported in the following article:
WOMEN "INHERIT" SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF THEIR CHILDREN
MILAN, SEPT. 5 (ZENIT).
permanent changes during pregnancy, in which they "inherit"
some characteristics of the child they carry and, through the
child, also receive some characteristics of the father.
This is but one of the surprising discoveries to be presented
at the congress entitled "At the Dawn of Human Life,"
organized by the Institute of Gynecology and Obstetrics of the
Catholic University of Rome. The congress begins Sept. 6 in the
Vatican, as part of the Jubilee of University Professors.
The child inherits half of his genetic patrimony from the mother.
He also "hears" the outside world while in the womb,
through the mother's body, a fact which substantially conditions
the unborn child's life. Now, research indicates that the mother
also undergoes long-term changes caused by the "person"
of the child and, indirectly, also from her husband.
Professor Salvatore Mancuso, head of the Gynecology Institute,
said: "We have proofs that beginning in the fifth week of
gestation, in other words, when a woman realizes she is pregnant,
an infinite number of messages pass from the embryo to the mother,
through chemical substances like hormones, neurotransmitters,
etc. Such information serves to adapt the mother'?s organism to
the presence of the new being.
"Moreover, it has also been discovered that the embryo sends
stem cells that, thanks to the mother's immune system tolerance,
colonize the maternal medulla, and adhere to it. What is more,
lymphocytes are born from here and remain with the woman for the
rest of her life."
Mancuso continued: "From the fifth week there is clearly
a passing of cells, but messages begin at conception. Even during
the first phase of cellular subdivision, when the embryo is moving
in the fallopian tubes, there are transmissions through contact
with tissues touched by the moving embryo.
"Later, after implantation in the uterus, the dialogue is
more intense through the blood and cells, and chemical substances
enter the mother's bloodstream.
"Finally, the child's stem cells pass to the mother in great
quantity, both at the moment of birth, whether spontaneous or
Caesarean, as well as at the time of abortion, whether spontaneous
or voluntary. These cells are implanted in the mother's medulla
and produce lymphocytes, which have a common origin with the cells
of the central nervous system; they have receptors for the neurotransmitters
and can make messages pass that the maternal nervous system understands...."
When asked how long the fetus' influence on the mother lasts,
the professor answered: "Stem cells have been found in the
mother even 30 years after the birth. It could be said, therefore,
the pregnancy does not last the 40 canonical weeks, but the woman's
So, a mother of ten children, for example, carries "cell
souvenirs"? from each of her children, nestled in the medulla,
that is, the base of her brain-which makes us wonder, in admiration,
at the closeness of the bond, the permanent bond, which exists between
mother and child. "Can a mother forget her child?" is the
question in Sacred Scripture. Certainly not, especially be-cause a part
of the child will always remain with the mother, there in the lower
part of the brain.
I read the article from Zenit with great interest, and as I read, the
consequences, the theological consequences unfolded in my mind like
the warmth of the rising sun: Now we have physiological proof for the
divine privileges of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The great Doctors of Faith
have stretched human language to the limit, to try to express how great
is the bond between the Heart of Mary and the Heart of Jesus. All Catholics
reverence her with a special reverence greater than that due to Angels
and Saints, Martyrs and Confessors: the worship of "hyperdulia."
It is a degree of veneration less than the absolute worship due to God,
(latria), but greater than what we give to saints (dulia). Mary is called
"divine," and because of her close union with Jesus, she is
called "Co-Redemptrix" and "Mediatrix of All Graces,"?
titles which make Protestants tremble.
Apply what science has revealed to Mary, and ponder the significance.
During the nine months gestation, and especially at birth, living cells
of the Living God were swept away, in the pure blood of Mary, to lodge
and colonize a space, by her medulla. There these cells lived, a sort
of Divine indwelling, throughout her life. Mary gave Jesus His Body,
His human nature-what a stroke of Divine gratitude to give to her a
small part of His Divine Body, in return! Some saints have lived on
Holy Communion alone. Others have miraculously kept the Holy Sacrament
preserved and undigested within their bosom for their whole lives. Here,
by the medulla of Mary, influencing and sharing in all her thoughts,
was more than that Sacrament-for Jesus was not hidden under any veil
of bread or wine.
She was the House of Gold, the Ark of the Covenant: and as Jesus was
the Covenant of God Incarnate, so Mary was a living tabernacle of the
Most High. What a thought, to realize that although Jesus was in her
sacred womb for nine months, yet His sacred flesh remained with her
forever. When Jesus cried out in a loud voice and gave forth His spirit
on the Cross, He truly diedbut in Mary He continued to live. After
commanding His Apostles to go and preach, baptizing them in the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, He was lifted
up out of their sight into Heaven. But in Mary, He remained secretly
amongst them, unable to be parted from her forever. What wonder, then,
that she was assumed into Heaven? St. Peter quotes the Psalms, respecting
Christ, "Thou wilt not let Thy Holy One to see corruption."
If, as these scientists say, there was something of Jesus in Mary, well,
then, how could this flesh of the Son of God remain in the tomb of Mary?
Such a thing is unthinkable.
By the close examinations of modern stem cell research, we can be more
bold in proclaiming the privileges, the prestige, the power, the majesty
of our Queen. As the title of the news bulletin states: "Mothers
inherit from their children." And so naturally, and rightly, Mary
inherited a tiny but precious gift from her Son-that He would remain
always with her, and together they would live, and suffer for our redemption.