I know that there are a lot of good Christians who, through no fault of their own (history and its aftermath play nasty tricks on the folks who inherit the left-overs), are out of fellowship with the Catholic Church. That’s why we Catholics refer to them as “separated brethren”. They’re Christians, and so our brothers and sisters in Christ, they’re just not a part of the full communion. Again, that’s not their fault. But the situation causes certain issues and misunderstandings. With this in mind I offer the following because I understand that many Protestants, and some poorly catechized Catholics as well, don’t understand Mary’s position in Christ’s Church. The following just deals with a couple of the “biggies”, and that rather shortly, but its a start.
“Why Mary? Whats the big deal about Mary? She is, after all, just another human being.”
Mary is human, that’s true. But she isn’t “just another” human. It’s not everyone who gets picked to be the mother of the Messiah, the Christ. That’s a special office or position if there ever was one. And because Jesus, the Messiah, is both Man AND God, well, that makes Mary the Mother of God too. In time, not in eternity. When Mary went to help Elizabeth, Elizabeth said, “Why does the mother of my Lord come to see me?” She was inspired by the Holy Spirit to say this. “Lord” is what a good Jew called God. The name of God was so holy that they wouldn’t use it but said “Lord” instead. So Elizabeth, prompted by God the Holy Spirit, called Mary the Mother of God. And that’s a big deal.
Catholics give Mary a great deal of honor because of her position. But honor is NOT the same as worship. Years ago, in England, a judge was called “Your Worship” out of respect. Everyone understood that the person, the judge, wasn’t being worshiped. And it’s that way with Mary. She is the Mother of Jesus, Who is God Almighty, and also the greatest of all the saints in Heaven because of the life she lived in conjunction with the position God offered her and that she humbly accepted out of love and obedience. And these are the reasons we, as Catholics, honor her. Its great honor that’s paid, this is true. But its never worship.
So, why do Catholics pray to Mary? Well, we don’t. We ask Mary to pray for us. Now its true that we say things like, “Go to Mary in prayer”, but its like the word “worship”. Words don’t always mean exactly what we assume they do and context often qualifies meaning.Years ago if you wanted something from someone, a favor for example, you would say, “I prithee”, which is a shortened version of, “I pray thee”. Now everyone understood that the one who said this wasn’t praying to the person. They were asking something of the person. And that’s what Catholics do when we “pray” to Mary. We’re asking her to do something for us but not in the same way we ask God. She is a creature, He isn’t. If I ask you to get me a glass of water and you do it who gave you the power to bring it to me? The answer is God, because of ourselves we’re nothing. Asking Mary for anything is just like that. The glory, and ultimately the ability to act, are all God’s. Of course someone says, “The Bible says there is only ONE Mediator between God and man and that’s Jesus. So you have no business asking Mary to intercede.” Really? If the Bible really means that when it says “one Mediator” then it’s not right for you to ask me to pray for you or with you. It’s not okay for a mother to pray for her sick or wayward child either. And it wasn’t right for Paul, as an example, to ask folks to pray for him or for him to pray for them. But he did it, under the inspiration of God, all the time in his letters, in the parts of the Bible God used Paul to write. So how does it work, really? And its simple. Yes, Jesus IS the ONE Mediator. But the Bible also tells us to pray for each other. So I go to God for you and you go to Him for me. And this works because you and me and Paul and Mary, as Christians, are IN Christ and therefore share in His ministry. It’s ONLY because He is the One Mediator that we, and Mary is a Christian too don’t forget, can pray for each other and are supposed to ask for prayers and offer them. This truth has far-reaching implications that I’m not going into here, but you might like to dwell on it for a while.
“Worshiping” Mary and “praying” to Mary are only two of the things often misunderstood by non-Catholics, but they seem to be the BIG two. So I thought I’d take a minute and share. There’s lots more that could be said but these few words ought to at least begin the building of the bridge that spans the gap for a few who read them.