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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?

intercede

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
    
This is attributed to Mother Teresa, "No Mary, no Jesus; know Mary, Know Jesus". –  FMS Jul 12 at 15:40

4 Answers 4

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
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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
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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
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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

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
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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

Why do Catholics put so much faith in the Virgin Mary?

One word: Mother

She is the Mother of the LORD, [Our Lady], and Our Mother too.

giving Mary praise

Mary goes to visit Elizabeth. She enters house of Zechari′ah and greets Elizabeth. As soon as Elizabeth hears the greeting of Mary, the babe in her womb leaps; and Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit, God, exclaims a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my LORD should come to me? [cf. Lk 1:39-43]

After Elizabeth speaks, Mary pours forth her Song of Praise:

My soul magnifies the LORD,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;

for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. [...] [cf. Lk 1:46-55]

Catholics can do no more than what Elizabeth did after being inspired by the Holy Spirit. All those who praise Mary also fulfill Mary's own prophecy in her Canticle.

Then prayers like the Hail Mary and the praises in Litany of the Holy Rosary are a natural product of her children and the Church.

intercede

The exchange between Mother and Son at the Wedding at Cana sums it all:

When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him. [cf. Jn 2:3-11]

This passage web-searched yields a treasure trove in the Catholic heritage as the Google Search: wedding feast of cana catholic shows.

Picking an illustrative paragraph in one: Life of Mary (XIV): Wedding Feast at Cana | Opus Dei:

Mary’s trust inaugurates her Son’s messianic mission. She precedes the disciples in faith, who come to believe in Jesus after the miracle occurs. Thus our Lady assists her Son in the first moment of the formation of Christ’s new family. The Evangelist seems to suggest this when he brings his account to a close: After this he went down to Capharnaum with his Mother, his brethren, and his disciples, and they stayed there for some days (Jn 2:12). Everything is now ready for our Lord, by announcing the Good News through his words and deeds, to begin forming the new People of God, his Church.

  • Her powerful intercession is shown here. She even advances the time Jesus and His father had set for his ministry to commence. God cannot say no to her; Jesus works his first miracle at her request.
  • She is a shortcut to Jesus [and therfore rapid spiritual progress] through her Motherly Immaculate Heart [of Mary]: by her counsel, 'do whatever he tells you,' and because of this miracle wrought via her intercession, his disciples believed in him.
  • etc., etc.

Endnote

On Mary being clearly the mother of the members of Christ, please see Catechism of the Catholic Church Paragraph 6. Mary - Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church, 963 & 964

Summary, Catholic praising and seeking Mary's intercession is easier explained through her Motherhood and her dignity and all her privileges [he who is mighty has done great things for me] arise from this supreme privilege: The Divine Maternity [cf. please see the supreme reason in Ineffabilis Deus].

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Well-sourced, very good. –  David Stratton Jul 15 at 4:51
    
@DavidStratton Love the site! People very welcoming and very helpful. Thank you and thank all for me. Please keep up the good work! –  FMS Jul 15 at 5:02

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