Catholics firmly believe that adoration and worship are due to God alone.
At first glance, Catholics appear to be worshipers of the Virgin Mary when they kneel down before her statues and ask for her intercession. To the outsider, Catholics are disobeying the first of the 10 Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”
Is it true? Do Catholics worship Mary?
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “This very special devotion [to the Virgin Mary] differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit” (CCC 971).
Catholics believe that adoration and worship are due to God alone. When Catholics pray to a specific saint, such as the Virgin Mary, they do so asking the saint to intercede for them on their behalf before the throne of God in heaven. The prayer is not meant to be a type of “sacrifice” directed to the saint, but a simple request made between two creatures.
As St. Louis de Montfort wrote, “With the whole Church I acknowledge that Mary, being a mere 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 (us) remains on earth, while the other creature (Mary) is alive, body and soul in the presence of God in heaven.
What makes this communication possible is a mysterious “communion of saints” that 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 in it.
Also, what’s fascinating is that even though God can do all things without the help of mortal beings, he chose the Virgin Mary to be an instrument of his divine grace. He chose her to be the “Mother of God,” bearing the Son of God in her womb.
While upon the cross, Jesus gave his own mother to us all when he said, “Behold your mother” (John 19:27). Catholics love the Virgin Mary not as a “goddess” in a strange pantheon of gods, but as a spiritual “mother” who can lead us to her son, Jesus Christ.
St. Louis de Montfort illustrates the prefect analogy that can help us all understand Catholics’ veneration of the Virgin Mary.
It is as if a poor peasant, wishing to win the friendship and favor of the king, were to go the queen and give her an apple — his only possession — for her to offer it to the king. The queen, accepting the peasant’s humble gift, puts it on a beautiful golden dish and presents it to the king on behalf of the peasant. The apple in itself would not be a gift worthy of a king, but presented by the queen in person on a dish of gold, it becomes fit for any king.
Mary presents our good works to Jesus. She does not keep anything we offer for herself, as if she were our last end, but unfailingly gives everything to Jesus. So by the very fact we give anything to her, we are giving it to Jesus.
Many saints have attested to the fact that the closer a person gets to Mary, the closer they are drawn to Jesus Christ. Our love of Mary, by default, increases our love of God.
As St. John Paul II wrote, “The history of Christian piety teaches that Mary is the way which leads to Christ and that filial devotion to her takes nothing from intimacy with Jesus; indeed, it increases it and leads to the highest levels of perfection.”