At first appearance, Catholics appear to be worshipping the Virgin Mary whenever they kneel down before her statues and ask for her intercession. To the protestants, Catholics are disobeying the number one of the 10 Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”
How true is this? Do Catholics truely worship Mary?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no 971) says, “The very special devotion [to the Virgin Mary differs primarily from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit” (CCC 971).
Catholics do believe that adoration and worship are due to God alone. When Catholics pray to a specific saint, such as the Virgin Mary, they are asking the saint to intercede for them on their behalf before the throne of God in heaven. The prayer is not supposed to be a type of “sacrifice” directed to the saint, but as a simple request made between two creatures.
According to St. Louis de Montfort, “With the entire Church I acknowledge that Mary, being an ordinary creature fashioned by the hands of God is, compared to his infinite majesty, less than an atom, or rather is simply nothing, since he alone can say, ‘I am he who is.”
The primary difference is that one creature which is us remains on earth, while the other creature which is Mary is alive, body and soul in the presence of God in heaven.
What actually makes this communication possible is a mysterious “communion of saints” which allows us to talk with those who no longer walk upon this earth. It is a great mystery of the Catholic faith, one that requires faith to believe and understand it.
Also, what’s awesome is that even though God can do all things without the help of mortal beings, he personally chose the Virgin Mary to be an instrument of his divine grace. He chose her to be the “Mother of God,” who bore the Son of God in her womb.
While on the cross, Jesus gave his own mother to all of us when he said, “Behold your mother” (John 19:27). Catholics have a deep love for the Virgin Mary not as a “goddess” in a strange pantheon of gods, but as a spiritual “mother” who can take us to her son, Jesus Christ.
St. Louis de Montfort gives an illustration on the prefect analogy that can help us all understand Catholics’ veneration of the Virgin Mary.
“It is as if a poor peasant, desiring to win the friendship and favor of the king, were to go the queen and give her an apple which is his only possession for her to offer it to the king. The queen, on accepting the peasant’s humble gift, puts it on a beautiful golden dish and bring it before the king on behalf of the peasant. The apple in itself would not be a worthy gift for the king, but being presented by the queen in person on a dish of gold, it becomes fit for any king”.
In the same vein, Mary presents our good works to Jesus. She does not keep anything we offer for herself, as if she were our last end, but gives everything to Jesus unfailing. So by the very fact that we give anything to her, we are giving it to Jesus.
Many saints have given attestation to the fact that the closer a person gets to Mary, the closer the person is drawn to Jesus Christ. By default, our love of Mary increases our love of God.
According to St. John Paul II, he said, “The history of Christian piety gives the teaching that Mary is the way which leads to Christ and that filial devotion to her takes nothing from intimacy with Jesus; instead, it increases it and leads us to the highest levels of perfection.”