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I'm not sure how to express the relationship that Catholics have with the Virgin Mary, so please excuse the word Faith in the question title.

giving Mary praise

I understand that Mary gave birth to Jesus. But isn't Jesus God in human form, He is the Alpha and the Omega, He chose Mary to give birth to his human body, right?

So if Mary was chosen by God, and we know that Mary is incapable of doing anything on her own, why give her so much praise? Is she not just another servant like the rest of us?


When asking the virgin mary to intercede for us, I'm confused. Because isn't that the role of Jesus, that the curtain to the Holy room was torn because Jesus is now our intercessor between us and God. That we may now go directly to Jesus. So why have Mary do this for you?

I am seeking the Catholic viewpoint on this.

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I'd like to make a distinction between being servants and being children. A servant has no vested interest in his work. –  Nathan Wheeler Aug 31 '11 at 19:23
The word I hear most commonly used to describe the relationship with Mary is devotion, as in, "I have a strong devotion to Mary.". –  karategeek6 Sep 1 '11 at 19:26
The second part of the question is a duplicate of christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/11/… –  karategeek6 Sep 1 '11 at 19:33
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4 Answers

up vote 16 down vote accepted

I'm a Catholic.

Our reverence for the Virgin Mary is greatly due to her response to God and her faith. When the angel appeared to her and stated that God was to have her give birth to the Christ, she didn't protest, but responded sincerely to God: "do unto me according to Your word". This is a model of how we should respond to God's requests of us.

Also, she is a saint and very close to God. When we pray to her, we praise her for her faith, acknowledging that and the child that she carried (as her cousin, Elizabeth, did). Much of the Hail Mary is taken from her praise in greeting to Mary when she visited during her pregnancy. The Magnificat, Mary's response, is related and acknowledges her praise. But then, we pray that she will intercede and pray for us. This is no different than us asking the other saints to pray for us, or our friends and family to pray for us.

She is special in some ways though because of her role in Christ's birth and life, and her response to God. The Immaculate Conception is an acknowledgement of that--in order for her to be pure so that she may give birth to the Christ child, she was born without Original Sin, and was as perfect as a human could be, except for Jesus. You can read about it in a bit more depth in this article.

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@djeikyb Once I get home, sure. :) –  Ben Richards Aug 31 '11 at 19:46
I think it's a great point that the Magnificat "Blessed art thou amongst women..." is a direct Scripture quote. If it's not valid to praise other "servants" then why is it done in the Bible a lot and to Mary specifically? –  mxyzplk Aug 31 '11 at 21:25
@djeikyb I added some references (linked) as you asked. –  Ben Richards Aug 31 '11 at 22:29
I think it's important to point out that when we way "pray to Mary", we don't mean it the same way as when we say "pray to God". As you pointed out, "praying to" Mary is akin to talking to a family member of friend. Praying to God, on the other hand, is more than just talking to a friend. We give him adoration and praise which is reserved only for Him. –  karategeek6 Sep 1 '11 at 19:31
I understand that you see Mary as a saint, and as the mother of God, she is the most importaint saint. What I think is the real question here, is the position you give to saints. Protestants does not approve saints as special "holy people" the way Catholics do. Everybody is equally valid in God's eye, and noone has a special position. We don't need help of saints, because we can pray directly to God and He will help us. We can even pray to Him for help to beleave and help to understand His Word through the Bible. –  awe Jan 24 '12 at 9:44
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Thomas Merton in "New Seeds of Contemplation" talks about the common protestant misconstrual of the Roman Catholic devotion to Mary the mother of Jesus. Mary is given praise because she is a servant. What is recorded in the Bible about her marks her as a perfect servant to the christ.

This is often forgotten by Catholics themselves, and therefore it is not surprising that those who are not Catholic often have a completely wrong conception of Catholic devotion to the Mother of God. They imagine, and sometimes we can understand their reasons for doing so, that Catholics treat the Blessed Virgin as an almost divine being in her own right [...]

Mary is a saint, and because of her perfect servanthood in being the mother of God's human incarnation, is regarded as the highest saint.

In all the great mystery of Mary, then, one thing remains most clear: that of herself she is nothing, and that God has for our sakes delighted to manifest His glory and His love in her.

It is because she is, of all the saints, the most perfectly poor and the most perfectly hidden, the one who has absolutely nothing whatever that she attempts to possess as her own, that she can most fully communicate to the rest of us the grace of the infinitely selfless God. And we will most truly possess Him when we have emptied ourselves and become poor and hidden as she is, resembling Him by resembling her.

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There are 4 Marian official dogmas

  1. She is conceived without original sin
  2. She is the Mother of God
  3. She is perpetually a virgin
  4. She was assumed into Heaven at the end of her earthly life

This all leads up to the 5th (unofficial) Marian dogma, which is what you're talking about

  1. She is the mediatrix of all graces

This is not doctrine, but it what many Catholics and popes (like Leo XIII) have proclaimed and believed. It is a hard concept even for me, but I think it makes sense. Mary is the Secondary Cause of our redemption. (See TAN Books "This is the Faith") Certainly God made her special, only the most special human being in history could bear God. But God also chose her, she had found favor with God.

We Catholics are not obliged to pray to Mary at all, just believe the infallible doctrine. But, by and large, we have a tradition of honoring her and believing that she has a strong intercessory power (See wedding at Cana) and that we should take her into our house (Like John the Apostle).

It's tradition and in general you could leave it at that. But the reformation broke with the tradition insisting on the bible as the sole source of God's truth, so we must defend our Blessed Mother and recapitulate what we already knew.

In the old testament she is prefigured by Eve (Mother of all the living), Sarah (Bearer of the new covenant), Ruth and Rachel (A sorrowful wife/mother).

She is the woman who's offspring would crush the serpent's head and she is the woman in Revelation clothed in a sun with a crown of stars. (Read the history and significance of the miraculous medal)

She is the model of piety and the embodiment of the Church (she literally was a tabernacle). (See Mary as the new Ark)

She has appeared in visions to mystics throughout the history of Christianity. Bringing messages of repentance and leading millions to worship to Jesus. (see Carl Anderson's, Head of Knights of Columbus, book on Our Lady of Guadalupe and all the converts)

She said yes to God.

She's my mother and yes, she took me from a child in the faith to a man when all my friends and relations strayed from the path.

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Can you cite more sources? –  djeikyb Aug 31 '11 at 19:45
@djeikb, not right now, but what sort of sources would you find appropriate, coming from Church Teaching/Tradition, The Fathers of the Church or Scripture? –  Peter Turner Aug 31 '11 at 19:48
All those sound good. Just something to prove this isn't mere personal opinion. Something with an imprimatur would be great. –  djeikyb Aug 31 '11 at 19:50
@djeikyb, I should state the 5th Marian dogma is not a dogma at all. Maybe I should make it more clear. It may be some day, but there was 1820 years of Christianity without the dogma of the immaculate conception and it's no less true now than it was in 1492. –  Peter Turner Aug 31 '11 at 19:53
Although Peter Turner hasn't provided any citation, I can provide one regarding: "she is the woman in Revelation clothed in a sun with a crown of stars". You can find this in Commentary on the Apocalypse by Oecumennicus bishop of Tricca published by Catholic University of America Press. –  deps_stats Aug 31 '11 at 21:33
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  1. She is conceived without original sin
  2. She is the Mother of God
  3. She is perpetually a virgin
  4. She was assumed into Heaven at the end of her earthly life

  1. The Bible does not say Mary was without sin. She was fevered of God as descendent from David seed to give birth to Jesus. The Bible says we are all sinners and come short of the glory of God: Matthew 1; Romans 3:23; Luke 1:28. Mary was just in need of a savior as the rest of us. John 3:16
  2. Mary the mother of Jesus Christ and not of God: John 3:16 say for God so loved the world that he give his only begotten son... thus Jesus is God in flesh. God is spirit and therefore Jesus had to be born in order to become human to die in our place.
  3. Mary is no more a virgin since the birth of Jesus. Mary had other children too and therefore had to be conceived by Joseph. Therefore it is not possible for Mary to be virgin or “perpetually virgin” the conception of Jesus was trough the Holy Spirit and there was no intercourse. However with her other children she had to have had intercourse with Joseph. Matthew 12:46-50; 13:55.
  4. Mary was a sinner just like you and me. Nowhere in the Bible is it said she was without sin. She was the same as everybody else. Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; 6: 23; 1 John 1:8. It is appointed for all humans to die and after judgment. Hebrews 9:27; Luke 16: 19-31.
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Welcome! Please check out the tour page. I notice here that 5 & 8 are essentially the same and 3 & 7 are contradictory, as are 2 & 6. Could you correct or clarify, please? Or perhaps you are responding to another answer? We're not looking for that (except as comments) - we want answers here. –  Wikis Dec 19 '13 at 9:37
@Wikis Fixed that for you (and Marius). This answer doesn't actually answer the question, though. The answer to "Why does X happen?" is not "It shouldn't". –  Andrew Leach Dec 19 '13 at 9:44
Welcome to the site! This next is just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": the help page and How we are different than other sites?, and What makes a good supported answer? –  David Stratton Dec 19 '13 at 13:27
I'm not arguing anything you say here, but this really doesn't answer the original question and "who is right and who is wrong" is off-topic here. It's not constructive, leads to debate that is OK in chat, but not welcome on the main site. I hope you don't take our comments as discouraging. Most of us struggled to figure out the guidelines for this site,and what it's really about. Check out the links I posted, and this one for encouragement. –  David Stratton Dec 19 '13 at 13:32
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