"Mary Worship"? (forum post)
Forum Post on praying to Mary

Actually that article was one of the first articles I read when I started searching for answers about my Faith. But thanks for reminding me John, I forgot about it :P

Okay, so correct me on this where appropriate:

Here is the reply I posted to someone at the CCF forum who stated that catholics put Mary up on a pedestal as a diety. Since it got booted over there (surprise), I'll just post it here in case there are those who really wonder, and come here for answers...
"As a clarification, Mary is not worshiped as a diety. There is but one diety in the Catholic Church--the Father , Son, and Holy Spirit. Same trinitarian theology of mainstream protestant denominations. Come to think of it, the word "trinity" does not appear in Scripture, so we do we all as Christians hold to it since it does not appear in the Bible? I would be curious to read your response.
The Catholic Church draws a very strong line between veneration & worship.
The worship owed to God alone is called "latria". It's ancient greek root means to acknowledge your total dependence on our Creator. "dulia" is a type of veneration accorded to the saints, which means "appropriate". It is "respectful courtesy" for those who have acted dutifully to Our Lord.
"Hyperdulia' is a higher kind of veneration accorded only to Mary among the saints. It is the proper respect accorded to the human being, hailed by an angel in Luke 1. We read in scripture (Heb 2:11) that Christ is our brother. We are adopte d as children of God through our baptism (Gal 4:4-5), (Rom 8:15,23). If Jesus is our brother, who is the Mother of God? It is Christ who told man to "behold thy mother" at the foot of the cross, giving us unique reverence that we hold for Mary even today. The fact that a very few have abused that veneration to an unhealthy level shows me the dangers of private interpretation & self-revelation, the very foundation upon which sola scriptura ("the Bible Alone") is based. The Catholic Church has delineated what is due to God alone, and that is **worship**.
Your sister in Christ,

This is a good post. Ironically, most of the Fundamentalist Protestants and some of the Evangelicals have moved away from their own Reformation roots on Mary. The Reformers acknowledged both the Virgin Birth and Mary's title as "Mother of God" with the full implication. Orthodox Protestants like R. C. Sproul do acknowledge that Mary is to be honored but not venerated as Catholics do. This is because they see no middle ground between worship and honor. Catholics follow the Mary connection (to Christ) to its logical conclusion, i.e., one cannot separate the human bond between the two. The Mystery of the Incarnation is best expressed by a statue of Mary holding the infant Christ. Mary is a human only but her connection to each Person of the Trinity and especially to Christ is beyond comprehension and hence the necessity for a very special kind of honor, veneration and a type of veneration greater than that for the other saints.

That makes perfectly joyful sense to me, and I have a hard time understanding why some folks feel threatened with Marian devotion, unless they focus on, as Roni mentioned, the unhealthy levels some Marian groups have taken it to. All Marian devotion should lead to Jesus, pure and simple. Mary is a beautiful role model for all who seek to know how to prayferfully, lovingly, say yes! to God's will. There is so much richness and beauty, wisdom and gentleness in the woman who gave birth and nurtured Jesus, and was his first disciple...I am truly baffled by why anyone would resist acknowledging her very special role in God's redemptive plan through Jesus. Thank you for sharing your messages and thoughts with us. Keep praying for the CCF moderator, that God, as only God can, will help him understand the error of his ways in "locking out" Catholic beliefs. God bless you all, CC

I guess people tend to think that kneeling in front of an image of a dead person and seeking help from that dead person and showing some kind of respect to that dead person is worshipping that dead person since if a dead person is really totally dead, then it can not actually perceive anything since it is totally *dead* and so our attempts to communicate with it is foolish because we are basically talking to a tree or something like that which cannot respond, unlike God who we believe is totally alive and real.
However, I don't think praying to non-God persons is worshipping them for a number reasons...

  1. When Princess Diana died, the entire street was lined with flowers, toys, and cards. But why would people do that? The lady's dead. What good does any honor or "paying the last respects" do? Could it be that humans have a natural tendency to believe that a dead person is only dead in body and not spirit - just like we have a tendency to believe in the existence of a supernatural being higher than us (ie: "Mother Nature")? If our human assumption that a dead person is somewhat still alive in spirit and can still perceive what we do here on earth, would it then seem to be as wrong to give that dead person some kind of honor?
  2. Honoring the saints and angels - that is, honoring true children of God *is* honoring God. It's like if you have a master and some senior students, you would gladly follow your seniors and give them their respect. In this, you are also giving respect to the master since you are acknowledging that the master has trained those seniors well and you can trust that the seniors can help you as well. So I don't think this at all diminishes your primary honor for the master, but rather, it makes it all the more real (sorry, limited vocab) and 'manifest' (if that's the right word?).
  3. To my knowledge (and I've brought this up at CEF before), the Bible doesn't say (at least not explicitly) what defines worship and what actions may be and/or are to be used in worship.

Well, James, if by 'people' you mean Protestants, then they wouldn't be very good Protestants if they shared belief in your statement about someone like that being 'really dead.' After all, the persistence of the individual soul, life after death, and the resurrection are all pretty fundamental tenets of most Christian believers. Roni's done an excellent job covering the difference between latreia and dulia, so I won't cover that. You seem to acknowledge the stuff about 'honor.'
Where I find most objections come is over the issue of intercession. Puzzling, that, since evangelicals and Protestants are at least as willing if not more so to 'pray for' someone or something than your average Catholic. If you're willing to ask your next door neighbor to pray for you, why not ask a saint or Mary? So then the next question would seem to be whether it is possible to communicate with those who have died. But if there's disagreement there, it's not because someone is committing idolatry, but rather it's a metaphysical disagreement, which is a very different problem than your average antiCatholic slanders.

Yes. Protestants do have trouble with intercession (with a dead person). They would ask, "Why don't you just go directly to Christ? Why do you have to go through some dead person?" Of course after I ask them of why we need to ask other people to pray for us and in fact to help us ("Why ask people for help, just ask God."), we would end up switching topics to the possibility of dead people perceiving us. "Won't they be busy worshipping God?", they would ask.
And so what I posted was something to consider because they might be among issues which are crucial to the issue of praying to dead people and honoring them.
But another question I'd like to ask now is, "Can we pray to just anybody who has been baptized and now deceased?". Or can we only pray to those who the church has declared to be 'blessed' or 'a saint'? If the latter, then why? Isn't anybody who is baptized and died now in heaven and if able to perceive human prayer, be able to intercede all the same?

Anselm, I can't speak for all Protestants, but I do remember what I thought about Mary and the Saints before I converted to Catholicism, and it was a question of being able to communicate with those who have died. I believed that only God could hear our prayers, so there was point in praying to anyone else. There was also a confusion between veneration and worship. Watching Catholics kneel before a statue of Mary crowned with roses and lovingly praying the Rosary, it certainly seemed to me like they were worshipping her. It also seemed to me that they spent much more time talking to and about Mary than Jesus. I was taught to pray to and worship only God, so this all just felt wrong. It took me years after my conversion to completely believe the Church's teachings on Mary and the Saints--at first I just had to accept them on faith. So, I can certainly understand Protestants' strong feelings about this.

Dorothea, thanks for your response. Yes, I can absolutely understand how it's uncomfortable and strange for Protestants. As a matter of fact, though I've been Catholic all my life, I spent much time in my youth with evangelicals, and for a time I thought the whole 'saints and Mary' thing was superstition, tout court. But that's precisely what I'm trying to get at in my (perhaps too flippant) post. There should be a difference between discomfort and accusations of idolatry. The former may not be undone by explanantion, but I believe and hope that, in this case, the latter can. (And I guess what got me started was JamesT's characterization of saints,e tc as 'totally DEAD.' Well, yes and no.

To answer JamesT's post from yesterday, I know a great many people who offer prayers and/or share conversations with parents, siblings, or grandparents who have died, with the absolute conviction that the person was and is a saint, that is, is in heaven. Remember canonical saints, those the Church authoritatively calls 'Saint ---" are only those who the Church believes She can state with confidence are among he blessed. But there are more folks in heaven than those who the church names 'saints.'
Hope that helps and/or is of interest to some.

Just a word on the *dead* issue. Yes, the saints have died but now they live in heaven and they hear our prayers in a way that would not be possible if they were *alive*. And a word on prayer. Prayer is by definition, conversation with God. Mary, the angels and the saints are intermediaries or intercessors in terms of prayer. When we pray *to* Mary or a saint, it would be more accurate to say that we speak to them in a solemn way asking that their own prayers will be united with ours which go to God. This is the rationale of intercession.
I would be willing to bet that given a group of people who vehemently oppose Marian devotion, scratch them deep down, and you'll find brokeness with the mother-child relationship in their own lives. Some may be misogynist. Those who go too far in worship may have an opposite corresponding issue with their mother. Mary is an archetypal figure, who represents the new Eve, the ideal feminine person. Some find that too difficult to accept, others find it too attractive.

Well, here I go again. I had told myself I wouldn't post for a while. The new kid should learn quietly, but I can't help it.

  1. Dorothea you really helped me to see how Protestants see it and I do appreciate that.
  2. If Protestants are taught only to "talk" to God, does that mean they don't meditate about, pray to, whatever you want to call it... their own dead family? I have felt a very close connection to my grandfather ever since he died and I was only 16 at the time. I "pray" or "talk" to him whenever I am sad, and I immediately feel a warmth and love I could never express, and I KNOW that warmth comes from GOD!
  3. When we talk about people taking Marian devotion "to far", who are we talking about?
  4. I have a horrendous relationship with my own Mother, so when my husband talks about Mary being "motherly" I cringe.

  5. I pray the rosary, because my faith (little f intentional)tells me that it is pleasing to our Lord, to do so. It is much more an act of devotion to Him, than praying the Our Father repetitively would be.
  6. I know I have probably stuck my neck way... out there on this, but good debate will make us all stronger in the Faith right?

yaimp, Kelly

A person who persists in praying the rosary will attain to salvation.

It is important to make the distinction that one who has passed from this life is not dead, but alive. (As Paul pointed out in his post.) St. Paul spoke, in his Epistles, of the "saints" - which is how he referred to all of us in the Body of Christ.
Sometimes he referred to the saints in heaven, sometimes he referred to the saints on earth, and sometimes he referred to both collectively. It is the unity of the family of the God, which is the Church. It is the unity of the Church Militant and Church Triumphant. We believe that the Church Triumphant hears us as much as those who are standing next to us - maybe moreso.
It is important that this distinction be made before engaging any conversation on Prayer to Mary or the Saints.
God bless, Matt

About your question about taking Marian devotion "too far", I have concerns when adoration seems to move up to a level of superstition (forgive my poor choice of words but I'm still a bit foggy from my medical treatments!). What bothers me is when someone will say they receive these personal visitations or revelations from Mary,some of which go against what Christ would say, and yet these "visionaries" will amass a legion of followers accepting these revelations as truths. Gee, I know what I want to say but don't know if I'm saying it!!!
I have found a lot of comfort through saying the Rosary. There are times during this medical thing I'm going through where I have trouble "holding on", even though I know that the Lord is walking me through all this. But if I can settle myself and spend some time saying the Rosary, it really provides me with the strength to continue on. I had,at one time,gone through a "cold period" with the Rosary...I just didn't feel like I was connecting when I said it. Then for Lent I decided to say the Rosary every day, and after a couple of weeks it became so meaningful. And when I was in the hospital I spent some scary nights in ICU--my mind was so foggy I could barely finish a Hail Mary. At those times just holding the Rosary was a source of strength.

This is a very good post! I have been a convert to the Catholic church for 27 years. In the beginning, I did not pray to Mary and/or any saints. It took me a long time before I had some understanding. The most important was the Bible verse that says "it is good to pray for the dead so that they may be loosed from sin." Remember, that in the Prot. bible, that chapter was removed...therefore, they have never read that verse. Protest. believe that as long as you accept Jesus as your savior that you will be in heaven. Ohhh the mistakes I have had to correct. Anyway, my brain is now screwed on a little more correctly. I do pray for Mary and the saints intercession often. It's like when my children come to me when they want to ask their father something. They know I have more "pull" than they do. God's peace & mercy to all.

I have one for you. I tried explaining to my sister(who is no longer attends RC Church and my brother-in-law that when we pray to Mary (and the saints) that we are not asking a dead person to intercede for us, but we are asking someone who is living an eternal life with God. Well, my brother-in-law came out with something about the body, soul and spirit implying something about our spirit being with God when we die and our soul dying. Anybody heard this one before? We pretty much think they're in a cult. They also believe that Jesus was not God here on earth because he emptied himself and other stranger stuff.

Sounds a bit like Jehovah's Witness material to me; but I can't be sure. You may wanna check out Catholic Answers for their numerous tracts on the Witnesses, which may be able to give you some insight.
I've come up against the body, soul, spirit issue before - but I've never really tried to refute it. I just kinda left it alone (at least for the time being), but it sounds like something you might have to look into. Sorry I can't be of more help.
God bless, Matt

They're definitely not Witnesses. I've pretty much got the Witnesses down. They are from a church called "The Church" and they believe that Christ started their church as we do. The church's roots are somewhere in the Netherlands and they have conference calls over there all the time. I wouldn't be so worried if they were Witnesses because I know enough about them to make some convincing arguements.

I came across the issue of body-soul-spirit before with my landlady who's evangelical/pentecostal. If I remember correctly (and it's been quite some time ago) her family said something about the person's soul existing forever after death and the spirit being no more. They gave an analogy of the person's spirit being like the spirit of Santa Claus. According to them, since Santa Claus is not real but people somehow feel his spirit, so a spirit of a person actually exists but which is different from the person's soul. We were originally talking about what happens when a person dies. They told me of a friend of theirs who claims to have died and gone to heaven and saw angels and God and then come back down to tell his family and so his family ended up converting. They also said that a person's soul will have gone to sleep waiting for the final judgement while the spirit will be already either up in heaven or down in hell. Pretty strange stuff if you ask me...

They believe just the opposite. The soul dies and the spirit goes to heaven.

When we speak of "spirit" in terms of a human being, we are really referring to the soul. Man has a dual nature, not a triple. The body (where the senses and emotions reside) is made of material substance; the soul (where the intellect and will reside) is made of spiritual substance. Some biblical reference or other may be the origin of the confusion in many sects, as terms which have become more clearly defined with the advance of theological science were perhaps used more loosely by the sacred authors.
Discussion of human nature from Catholic Encyclopedia

On my journey back home to RC, the text that helped me understand the concept of "Communion of Saints" was Mark 12:26 "As for the dead...'I am the God of Abraham God of Isaac, and the the God of Jacob' He is not a God of the dead but of the living....
What troubles me most about our separated brethren is the venom with which some of them speak about Jesus' mother. Especially, since they also believe that Jesus is God. Even Moslems, who believe Jesus is human, have a greater reverence for Mary.
I have never met any living Catholics that took veneration of Mary too far. I certainly had trouble with St Louis de Montfort and St. Alfonsus Liquori though. But only at first.

Catholics are always on the defensive about Mary wrt Protestants. But if we put the shoe on the other foot, we see that Protestant theology on Mary makes the Father a "user". Granted the focus should be on Christ, Catholics don't deny this. But does putting the focus on Christ, mean that Mary must be "kept in her place"? What is her "place" anyway? The Father looked out upon his human creation for all time and chose one woman whom He would ask to be the Mother of His only begotten Son. Would any Christian think the Father is a male chauvinist or a "user" ("Let the woman fulfill her function of giving birth and raising the kid and then when she has fulfilled that role, push her in the background.") This is the essential Protestant view and it is very chauvinistic and worse, in my opinion, it makes the Father to be a user. Keep in mind that Christ's genetic code came from Mary alone; there must have been a striking similarity in appearance. The Father would not use but would richly reward the person who undertook this task for Him. It only makes sense that because of the role the Father assigned to her, Mary deserves a very special honor and veneration. The Protestant failure to do so is essentially an injustice. Catholics need make no apologies for the special honor we give to Mary, in justice. This is the Father's judgement call and not a "Catholic hangup."


What I really find hard to understand is why Protestants do not comprehend the term "Mother of God". After all, as Christians, we all agree that Jesus is God.
I also find it hard to understand that they dismiss the doctrine of "Immaculate Conception". After all, shouldn't the Mother of Jesus be free from all sin? Or should she be a slave to Satan as the rest of us have been?
The scandal would be if she had been an sinful person and at the same time had authority over the King of the Universe.

I fully realize that this is "straining at a gnat," and do not question the miraculous nature of the event, but I've often wondered about the source of those other 23 chromosomes, particularly the "Y," which one presumes Our Lord would have in order to possess the full complement. (You see the basic difficulty, that 23 chromosomes are in each gamete and the "Y" chromosome always comes from the father?) Have the theologians advanced any ways of understanding the fact of the Virgin Birth in the context of today's genetic science? (I mean real theologians, of course, not those who would seize on this difficulty as an excuse to question the truths of Christology.) Can we say that God miraculously imparted the missing chromosomes (including the "Y") to the ovum at the moment of the Annunciation? Would this make the genetic material any less her own?

Talk about nit-picking! I would imagine that the genetic material (DNA) was altered by the Spirit to produce the desired effect but the genetic matter was Mary's alone. In the same sense that the conception took place without the introduction of any "foreign" matter. That's what makes it miraculous!

I seem to be post-happy today, but here's my .01. (I am feeling really humble). Why do we need to question God's ability to compose DNA out of thin air. Including a complete Y chromosome, He did it for Adam.

I don't question it, but was just wondering if anyone had heard any nifty thought-provoking explanations from theologians. On second thought, though, maybe it's better not to let today's theologians near it. 8>)

Just a note here about some words that might help people when discussing 'worship' and 'praying' with Protestants. And might make themselves feel better about using phrases like 'Mary worship'.
The word 'worship' once had a much broader meaning than it does in modern English. It's base meaning is simply 'to honor'. Only in the last 100-150 years has it really come to mean to most English speakers just 'to honor God' or 'honor due to God alone'. In fact, if you look in the King James Version of the Bible, Joshua falls down and 'does worship' to an angel (the commander of the host of the Lord) in Joshua 5:14 (at the seige of Jericho). No one in Elizabethan England thought that this was idolatry - they understood the word to mean simply 'honor'. In fact, a vestige of this form of 'worship' is retained in the English justice system, where judges are addressed as 'Your Worship' instead of the American 'Your Honor', though the titles mean the same thing. As someone pointed out, it is okay to 'worship' Mary and the saints, provided you do not give them honor due God alone.
The same is true of the word 'pray'. Only in modern English has it come to mean to most people 'to ask God' rather than simply 'to ask'. You can find in classic English literature, even well into the 19th c., numerous examples of some variation of the following phrase: 'I pray you, sir...'. A vestige of this remains in the phrase, still in use, where 'pray' replaces 'please'. [One of my mother's common speeches when I was trouble began: 'Pray tell me why you felt you had to <insert forbidden activity here>']
I understand that modern English no longer supports the Church's use of either of these words very well in respect to the saints and Mary. However, that doesn't make the broader uses wrong. And we cannot be condemned to 'idolatry' on the basis of semantics, or rather, we shouldn't be. But if someone pulls out a 'Church' writing that uses 'worship' in reference to Mary and they try and tell you this is 'proof positive' of idolatry, please feel free to give them a short lesson in etamology. :)
I have a much longer explination of the Communion of Saints that discusses the older, broader uses of these words as well as the biblical basis for asking intercession of the saints, but I am still editing it.

According to my records, there was suppose to be another message after Rebecca's written by Rose Mary....

Anyway, I was just wondering, Rebecca (if you're there), are you finished with the treatise yet??

{just wondering, that's all}

James T:
I'm sorry, my apologies. I got sidetracked so to speak - I've been out of work on maternity leave and after I posted I had my son. It's been kinda busy here (I have two other kids besides) and it slipped my mind. I'll get right back on it.
Sorry about that. :)


Congrats Rebecca! Please don't forget to start a new thread on it when you get back to this, as I've now added "thread length enforcer" to my duties:>)

Go back to the Mary (& Saints) Apologetics Page.