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:
PREGNANT WOMEN “INHERIT” SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF THEIR CHILDREN
MILAN, SEPT. 5 (ZENIT).Mothers undergo 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 entire life.”
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 died—but 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.