Why do Catholics worship Mary?

A non Catholic observing a Catholic kneeling in silent meditation or prayer before a statue or icon of Mary, the mother of Jesus, might assume that the Catholic is indeed worshiping a "graven image" or worshiping Mary.

In spite of body language or unfortunate words of explanation, Catholics do not worship Mary. Rather, there is a widespread devotion (veneration) to Mary among many Catholics.

One of the most popular devotions among Catholics is the Rosary. In spite of this devotion being labeled as a Marian devotion, it is really a meditation on the life of Jesus.

The reason that Mary is widely venerated by Catholics and is the subject of so many devotions is because of the special grace that God chose for Mary in the history of salvation. The CCC on Marian Devotion:

971 "All generations will call me blessed" (LK 1:48) "The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship." The Church rightly honors "the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of 'Mother of God,' to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs. . . . This very special devotion . . . differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration." The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an "epitome of the whole Gospel," express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.

Mary Cooperated with God's plan for the redemption of mankind. From the moment of her conception, God preserved Mary from the stain of original sin (CCC 411 and See Immaculate Conception: CCC 490 - 493 ) and chose her to be the Mother of the Redeemer, Jesus - the Only Son of God. When the angel, Gabriel, explained to Mary that she was to be the Mother of Jesus (LK 1:35) , Mary replied "...I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let what you have said be done to me..." (LK 1:38)

Mary ever virgin. Mary is a perpetual virgin: before and after she conceived Jesus, after the birth of Jesus, and at her assumption (CCC 966) into heaven. The CCC on Mary's virginity:

499 The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ's birth "did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it." And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the "Ever-virgin."

500 Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus. (MK 3:31-35, 6:3, I COR 9:5, GAL 1:19) The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, "brothers of Jesus," are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls "the other Mary." (MT 13:55, 27:56) They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression. (GEN 13:8, 14:16, 29:15)

501 Jesus is Mary's only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom indeed he came to save: "The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, that is, the faithful in whose generation and formulation she cooperates with a mother's love."

Mary our Advocate and Mediatrix. Because of the graces God bestowed on the Blessed Virgin Mary, she is seen as the most favored of all God's creation. She is perceived as the Queen of heaven and above all the saints. When the faithful seek intercession with God through Mary, She perfects our prayers and becomes our advocate. The CCC says:

969 "This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix."
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