Do Catholics Worship Mary?
There is a very unfortunately common misconception that Catholics worship Mary. It must be admitted that from the outside it certainly looks that way. Don’t Catholics have pictures of Mary hanging on their walls and statues of her on shelves? Don’t they have books written about her? Don’t they have special prayers like the Hail Mary or the Memorare that are addressed directly to her?
Yes. It’s true. Most Catholics do have likenesses of Mary somewhere in their homes. And yes, we learn about Marian Apparitions, observe her feast days, and even pray to her. Despite all of this, we Catholics do not worship Mary!
The Difference Between Worshiping and Honoring
Catholics don’t worship Mary, because worshipping her would imply that we see her as an equal to God. That would be a direct violation of the first commandment. Worship is and should always be reserved for God alone.
Why then do Catholics have pictures and statues of Mary? Why do they have books written about her; why do they celebrate her feast days? And most of all, why do they pray to her?
The answer is that Catholics honor Mary. This is different than worshipping her and is quite innocent. To honor someone means simply to give them due respect. Mary played a very important role in our salvation by willingly becoming the Mother of God. For that amazing cooperation in our salvation, we show Mary respect.
What About the Likenesses and Feast Days?
Is it wrong to have pictures and statues of Mary in your home? Is it wrong to celebrate her feast days?
All of these things have to do with honoring Mary and not worshipping her. The images and statues of Mary are meant to remind us of her. Just like images and statues of Jesus are meant to remind us of Him. Are we worshipping family members and friends if we display pictures of them somewhere in our house? No. Those pictures help us remember or think about the people that we love. Images of Jesus and Mary or the Saints are meant to serve the same purpose.
Catholic feast days, much in the same way as likenesses are also meant to remind of Jesus and Mary. Through them we learn more about Jesus and Mary. We reflect on their lives and celebrate how God work through our lives.
Isn’t Praying to Mary Wrong?
There is a common misconception among non-Catholics and even some Catholics themselves, that praying to Mary is sacrilegious and even a violation of the first commandment. Catholics don’t worship Mary by praying to her. When we pray to Mary, it is not the same type of prayer that we offer to God.
Would you consider it morally wrong to ask someone you know, maybe even your own Mother to pray for you when you are in need of prayers? So often on social media you will see someone who is going through a difficult time in their life, or about to make a big decision, or some other stressful or worrying thing, and they ask for prayers.
When we pray to Mary, what we are doing is asking our Mother in Heaven to pray for us or to pray with us. It would not be unusual to ask that of someone here on earth, so why should it be if we ask Mary or the Saints. We cannot speak to them the same way that we speak to fellow humans here on earth. When we speak to anyone in Heaven, it is considered praying; but there is more than just one type of praying.
The type of praying that we reserve for Mary and the Saints is the kind that is simply like a conversation with someone. You are not worshiping them, you are not adoring them, you are not idolizing them. You are asking them for help and prayers.
I think I hardly need to mention that your prayers to Mary asking for her powerful intercession should not replace your prayers to God directly. They are a good supplementary form of prayer, but they should not be the sole form of prayer. That being said, don’t be afraid that praying to Mary is wrong. As Saint Maximilian Kolbe once said:
“Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”Saint Maximilian Kolbe
This is another beautiful quote to remember as well:
“We never give more honour to Jesus than when we honour his Mother, and we honour her simply and solely to honour him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek – Jesus, her Son.”Saint Louis Marie deMontfort
Do not be afraid of loving the Blessed Mother. She would not wish us to love her more than her Son. She does not wish to take God’s place in our hearts. She will never allow that to happen.
“It is not I who seek our Mary, but it is God Who offers her to me; it not I who love her, but the Lord Who tells me to love her.”Cardinal Anastasio Ballestrero, Il Mistero di Maria
Catholics don’t worship Mary. We honor her, we ask for her guidance and intercession, but by no means do we worship her. We acknowledge that she aided in God’s plan for our salvation and for that reason we respect her.
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