Why do Catholics worship Mary?
Again, the answer is simple – we don’t.
At least we’re not supposed to.
Devotion to Mary however is very common, and is a big part of the Catholic church. There’s no denying it. But believe it or not – it is acceptable to be Catholic, and not have a devotion to Mary.
BUT – having a devotion to Mary is incredibly helpful, in balancing our faith. There are two ways that she does this:
1. Jesus is our mediator to God the Father and by being fully human and fully God, dying and rising from the dead, Jesus won eternal life for all of us. But there’s a glitch here – Jesus WAS God. How do I know, as one who is purely human and NOT God, that I can go to heaven too, like Jesus did? The answer is Mary. Mary is JUST LIKE US – i.e. NOT God, and yet part of the Catholic doctrine is that Mary was Assumed into heaven (after her death) – this is called the Assumption of Mary. Basically, the reason we believe that what Jesus did works for us mere humans – is that it worked for Mary.
And this is the crucial point about Mary – and why it’s important not to put her too high up on a pedestal – MARY IS LIKE US. In fact she is the first disciple of Jesus: the first person to believe in Jesus.
Hold on – you might be saying – what about all that talk about Mary being perfect? How can Mary be just like us if she’s perfect? This is called the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception – that Mary was conceived free of sin. The important thing to understand here is: Mary was free of sin because of Jesus. The saving work of Jesus death and resurrection purified Mary, some 50 years beforehand. We kinda need a whole time travel notion to understand that. Essentially, the cross of Christ is an event that transcends time – and affects events not only AFTER it took place, but also BEFORE it.
A lot of people miss this point, and I think its where distortions about Mary often arise. We need to understand that Jesus was Mary’s savior too.
As a result, we can look to Mary as an example, and see how to be a good Christian – one who trusts in God, who rejoices that God uses her, in spite of her unworthiness. Mary’s cool.
2. Even though God is beyond gender, the reality is that most of us picture God as male. This is reinforced by Jesus calling him a male parent, and Jesus could be considered an authority on the subject – although Jesus called God ABBA, which means not Father, but Daddy.
So we often think of God as male – and as such, we often associate God with our MISSION in life – the WORK we’re supposed to DO in order to serve God. When we think of God just in this way, we can sometimes fall into the pattern that we have to follow that Christian mission so that we can earn God’s love. Viewing God in only this way, being a Christian can then get pretty stressful.
Mary actually helps us to get in touch with the feminine side of God. As a mother, a PERFECT mother, she reminds us that God also loves us like a mother loves, unconditionally, no matter what we do. God is a nurturer, who cradles us in God’s arms, and telling us that God loves us, gives us peaceful rest. Cool eh?
We need to keep that balance – and that’s why I’ve come to the conclusion that a devotion to Mary is pretty important in having a balanced understanding of the One who has no name…