Do Catholics worship Mary?
No, but like Jesus we love, honor and venerate His blessed mother.
The Catholic Church has never worshiped Mary, and never will. Catholics worship God and God alone.
Heaven is not a “dead” place. Catholics believe people in heaven are very much alive. (Mat 19:29, 25:46, 10:17-22, Mk 10:30, Lk 10:25-30, Lk 18:18-30, Jn 3:15-16). We think Mary is totally alive, and is praying for us the way a faithful pastor would pray for his congregation, except much more so. She’s interceding for the unborn, for mothers contemplating abortion, and for many others who are experiencing sorrows in our world, and who want to grow closer to Jesus.
Why do we as Catholics honor, love and venerate her so deeply? We love Mary first of all because Jesus did. As Saint Maximilian Kolbe said, “Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”
Catholics do not put Mary on par with God. Mary is certainly worthy of reverence, but not worship. Catholics believe that Mary is the highest of God’s creatures because of her exalted role. Yes – Mary, a woman, is considered by Catholics to be one of God’s greatest creations. The Holy Trinity chose Mary, from all eternity, to be the mother of Jesus.
But of course, like any other human being, Mary had to be saved by the mercy of God. She herself said, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Lk 1:47). We believe that God saved her by taking away all stain of original sin at the moment of her conception (the Immaculate Conception). The very fact that God took on flesh and became man (Jn 1:1, 14) indicates that He wished to involve human beings in His plan of salvation for mankind. Mary was a key person for this purpose, so this is why Catholics honor her so highly.
The Hail Mary is not a prayer of worship, but it is a recitation of Scripture and then an asking of her to pray for us to God; much like asking our other Christian brothers and sisters to pray for us. The rosary (Blessed Pope John Paul II’s favorite prayer), is a Christ-centered prayer. It is like holding the hand of Our Blessed Mother and walking through the gospels and she leads us gently to her Son.
The Gospel of Luke 1:48 says, “Behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.” Any time the Bible uses the word “behold” it means pay attention because what is about to be said is very important. In Luke 1:42 Elizabeth calls Mary “Most blessed among women” Mary is ‘most blessed among women’ and ‘highly favored’ by God. Elizabeth also refers to Mary as the “Mother of my Lord.” How many other people in Scripture have received such designations? None.
Mary knew she was called by God to be the Mother of Jesus. If Jesus chose to be born into this world through Mary how much more do you and I, “all generations”, need her to help us draw closer to Christ in our daily lives. What human on earth knew Jesus best? His mother. Mary’s sole purpose is to bring us closer to her son. You honor Jesus more by loving His mother.
We also love Mary so much because she was given to us as a gift. When Jesus was dying on the Cross He chose to give His mother to us. He could have given us any gift, but the Gospel of John tells us He gave us the gift of a Mom:
“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”
Think about it, if Mary had any other children, it would have been scandalous in Jewish culture for Jesus to entrust Mary to a friend. Jewish tradition was for a child to care for a widowed mother, not a friend. From the cross when Jesus uttered, “Behold your mother” (Jn. 19:27), she became not only the mother of John, but of all whom Christ redeemed through the crucifixion. She is the mother of the Church – the mystical body of Jesus.
Since Mary is Jesus’ mother, it must be concluded that she is also the Mother of God. (Jesus is God.) Although Mary is the Mother of God, she is not His mother in the sense that she is older than God or the source of her Son’s divinity, for she is neither. Rather, we say that she is the Mother of God in the sense that she carried in her womb a divine person—Jesus Christ, God “in the flesh” (2 John 7, cf. John 1:14)—and in the sense that she contributed the genetic matter to the human form God took in Jesus Christ.
Catholics believe Mary’s soul still “magnifies the Lord” for Christians of our generation who choose to relate to her. Currently, Catholics continue to honor, love and call her blessed, which was intended for all generations, and for all Christians.