"Why do Catholics worship Mary and the Saints?" This is a question I´ve often heard from those who don´t understand exactly what Mary, the Blessed Virgin and the Saints mean to us - exactly what their role, if you will, is in our church.
First let´s look at Mary. What do we really believe about her? Though Mary herself is a saint, I will examine the role of saints in general in a future article.
She has been named "Mother of the Church." Mary said yes to God. In doing so, she gave birth to Jesus - our Savior. In doing so, she accepted her role of spiritual mother to all. By becoming the Jesus´ mother, she essentially became mother to all that he stood for - to the entire Church. Mary accepting this role of mother to the church is demonstrated in John´s Gospel by the words Jesus spoke from the cross: 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." (John 19:26-27)
Mary is also called "Mother of God." Mary is mother of Jesus - all of him, not just his human side. Though one person, Jesus is both human and divine. Thus, Mary is Mother of God. This is really the highest honor and the greatest title the Church can give to her.
Through infallible statements the Church has proclaimed that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven and that she is the Immaculate Conception. This simply means Mary was taken into complete eternal happiness and through the gift of redemption God freed her from sin within her life. We Christians receive this gift of redemption through the Sacrament of Baptism. Mary, being chosen as the Mother of God, did not need baptism to receive this most precious gift.
We do not worship Mary - God is the only one who may be worshipped - but we do honor Mary through prayer and by setting aside certain days in her honor based on special mysteries within her life. For example, we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, her Assumption on August 15, her birth on September 8, and the Solemnity of Mary as the Mother of God on January 1.
The popular prayer The Hail Mary* is rooted back to the time when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant. As Scripture says it best: When Elizabeth heard Mary´s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." (Luke 1:41-42)
We can also pray to her, asking her to intercede for us. To pray for us - much in the same way we might ask a friend to pray for us or someone we love. What better person to ask for help in praying for our intentions than Jesus´ Mother? The Mother of God? The Mother of our Church?
Peace in Christ,
*Hail Mary, full of grace: the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
© Melissa Knoblett-Aman