If you’re Roman Catholic, I’m sure you’ve heard it: “You guys are weird – Don’t you ‘worship’ Mary? Aren’t you only supposed to worship God?”
Let’s face it, a lot of Protestants (and Catholics, for that matter) grow-up with some pretty inaccurate notions of Catholicism. Trying to respond with patience can be a challenge.
“No. Catholics do not ‘worship’ Mary. We revere her as the first Christian – The one whose ‘yes’ opened the way for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Then I get the furrowed borrow and quizzical response, “Yeh, but you pray to her, don’t you?”
(Sigh.) “Yes, but not as God or some deity. We Catholics believe in intercessory prayer. When I pray to Mary, I figure I have a pretty powerful advocate in my corner.”
This does not always help. “Yeh, but can’t we just pray directly to God? Why do we need a go-between?” Now I’m warming-up. “Of course you can pray directly to God – I mean, we’re talking about ‘God’, right? But we Catholics also believe intercessors like Mary are strong advocates for us and can help strengthen our prayer. Why would anyone refuse such a powerful blessing?”
Now the arms are folded and the push-back comes, “Well, we don’t believe you need any of that.”
And what a shame that is! Mary, the Mother of God, the first Christian and the Queen of all Saints (she carries many beautiful titles) knows her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, so closely – as only a mother can. Our love for her is not worship, but profound reverence for one who trusted the Word of God would be fulfilled in her.
Imagine if Mary had told the angel, “Yeh, right. This whole thing is terrifying me, and you really need to leave right now!” But she did not. She said that amazing “yes” that resounds through the ages.
This is one of the most beautiful aspects of our Catholic faith! Throughout history, God lifts-up our humanity, working through fallible persons to bring about His perfect Kingdom, and magnifying each of them through His power, grace and unconditional love. They go from ordinary to extraordinary, becoming living examples of the holiness to which we are all called, and to which we can all aspire. “Hey – If she was able to do it by the grace of God, so can I!”
Wouldn’t it be so much simpler for God, in all His power and glory, to appear on earth, snap a mighty finger and make everything perfect? Instead, “He humbled Himself to share in our humanity” through the simple “yes” of a young Jewish woman named Mary. Talk about your “amazing grace”!
No, we do not “worship” Mary. But in this Month of Mary, we remember her amazing act of faith, all she endured, her shining example, and her constant, loving intercession. We call upon her for aid, especially in these times that know so much darkness and stress.
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
Those who don’t get it are missing something very special.