Anonymous asked: How would you answer someone who claims that Catholics 'worship Mary like a goddess of sorts'?
I had this discussion with a Protestant friend just a few days ago, and I tried to explain to him there is a great difference between worship and veneration. When you are a Catholic you have a firm belief in the communion of saints, of which Mary is the greatest. In the Catholic mind this communion is not some distant theological concept, but a very real part of the faith. In as much so, that the saints become one’s examples in faith and one’s friends in time of joy and sorrow. When it comes to Catholics venerating or praying to Mary or another saint, these prayers are a request for intercession. It is like asking a friend to pray for you.
In the case of Mary, her ‘fiat’ at the Annunciation made her the first Christian. In a sense, this makes her the Mother of all Christians. This explains why Catholics honour her more than any other saint.
In Catholic theology there is a special word for the veneration of Mary, which highlights her unique status and asserts that only God is due worship: hyperdulia. It is defined by the Modern Catholic Dictionary as follows:
The special veneration due to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is substantially less than the cultus latria (adoration), which is due to God alone. But it is higher than the cultus dulia (veneration), due to angels and other saints.
From the moment when we were called to the See of Peter, we have constantly striven to enhance devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, not only with the intention of interpreting the sentiments of the Church and our own personal inclination but also because, as is well known, this devotion forms a very noble part of the whole sphere of that sacred worship in which there intermingle the highest expressions of wisdom and of religion and which is therefore the primary task of the People of God.
- Cultus Marialis (1974)
In giving life to Him, Mary was giving Him death. All other children born must inevitably die; death belongs to fallen nature; the mother’s gift to the child is life.
But Christ is Life; death did not belong to Him. In fact, unless Mary would give Him death, He could not die. Unless she would give Him the capacity for suffering, He could not suffer. He could only feel cold and hunger and thirst if she gave Him her vulnerability to cold and hunger and thirst. He could not know the indifference of friends or treachery or the bitterness of being betrayed unless she gave Him a human mind and a human heart. That is what it meant to Mary to give human nature to God.
He was invulnerable; He asked her for a body to be wounded.
He was joy itself; He asked her to give Him tears.
He was God; He asked for her to make Him man.
He asked for hands and feet to be nailed.
He asked for flesh to be scourged.
He asked for blood to be shed.
He asked for a heart to be broken.
The stable at Bethlehem was the first Calvary.
The wooden manger was the first cross.
The swaddling bands were the first burial bands.
The Passion had begun.
Christ was man.
The description of His birth in the Gospel does not say that she held Him in her arms but that she “wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger”. As if her first act was to lay Him on the Cross.
She knew that this little son of hers was God’s son and God had not given Him to her for herself alone, but for the whole world. This is one of the greatest of all things that we must learn from our contemplation of Our Lady.
Source: Laudamus Te
Inviolata is an 11th century hymn of praise for Mary. It is sung here by the Benedictine monks of the abbey of Saint Maurice and Saint Maur of Clervaux.
Inviolate, spotless and pure art thou,
O Mary, who wast made
the radiant gate of the King.
Holy mother of Christ most dear,
receive our devout hymn and praise.
Our hearts and tongues now ask of thee,
that our souls and bodies may be pure.
By thy sweet sounding prayers,
obtain for us forgiveness forever.
O gracious one, O queen, O Mary,
who alone among women art inviolate.
L’Enfant de Marie
This French devotional image was printed for members of the sodality of the Children of Mary.
This Catholic Marian confraternity began following St Catherine Laboure’s vision of Mary in Paris in 1830: It is the Blessed Virgin’s wish that you should found a Confraternity of the Children of Mary. She will give them many graces. The month of May will be kept with great splendour and Mary will bestow abundant blessings upon them.
Queen of Heaven
Among all those whom the world has brought forth from the beginning of God’s creation, the Holy Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary rightly holds the highest place of sanctity and dignity. (…) It is She that stands between the Old and New Testaments, and thus joins them both together, so that what those who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to foretell what would come to pass through a Virgin, might be saved by Christ the Redeemer, and so confess that it was fulfilled through the Virgin Mary; and thus rightly might all the choir of the elect venerate Her and proclaim Her the Queen of Heaven and Lady of the Angels.
- A Roman Brevary text from 1529