Perhaps the single most misdirected and misunderstood idea that many non-Catholics have about the Catholic Church is that we worship Mary as we do God.
Let me make this very clear before we move forward.
Catholics believe that God alone is worthy of worship. We do not, in any way, shape, or form, worship Mary. She is not God, nor is she some Catholic goddess. She is not the Christian version of Venus. She does not wield any power like that of God.
As much as we love Mary, as devoted we are devoted to her, and as holy as she is, we do not worship her. We only worship God.
But we venerate the Blessed Mother.
To venerate something means to hold it in great respect and reverence. We believe Mary has a special role as Queen of Heaven. We look to her not only as Mother of God, but also as our mother, as Mother of the Church and all the Church faithful.
In this way, how could we not approach Mary with anything but great respect?
Like our biological mother nurtures us in our physical life, Mary nurtures us in our spiritual life. Just as children cling to their mothers, we too cling to Mary. We call out to her; we beseech her guidance, her comfort, and her intercession. And we have faith that her prayers, said on our behalf, will fall on the loving, understanding and open ears of the Father.
Countless saints found their way to God through the help of the Mother. Laity have for centuries cited miracles based upon her intercession. In the words of St. Francis de Sales, “Let us run to Mary, and, as her little children, cast ourselves into her arms with a perfect confidence.”
Still, some are bothered by the idea of our asking Mary to intercede on our behalf due to a verse found in 1 Timothy.
For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as ransom for all. 1 Tim 2:5
In this letter, Paul is reiterating the base point of Christianity, which is that through Jesus Christ we find salvation with God. Jesus is our mediator to eternal life, the one who will testify on our behalf.
That is not the same as asking Mary to pray for us. If it was, then what does that say about you and me when we are asked to pray for someone? Are we usurping Christ and putting ourselves in the role of mediator? Of course not! We are, like Mary, reaching out to God with intercessory prayers on behalf of another. And most often, we do so because we were asked.
So now — let us all — Catholic and Protestant alike — ask Mary to pray for us.
HAIL MARY, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst 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.