There have been many misconceptions about why Catholics pray to Mary. Some say we worship her, idolize her, and pray to her instead of God, which is all false. So, as a Catholic faithful who, too, prays to Mary, let me explain in this article what Mary means to Catholics, the teachings of the Church about her, and why we pray to her.
Catholics pray to Mary for her intercession – to help and lead us to Jesus Christ. It’s like when we turn to others for prayers, only this time we are asking the Mother of God to pray for us. That said, we honor Mary and venerate her, but we do not worship her as this is reserved for God alone.
So how does Mary intercede for us, and why do we regard her with so much respect? Moreover, what does the Church tell us about praying to Mary? Find out all the answers to these questions below.
Why is Mary So Important to Catholics?
Mary is the only person to have lived in complete obedience to God. If you think about it, not everyone will agree to carry a child, let alone watch him suffer and die for our salvation. But she did, without question, fully trusting God’s divine plan.
See, Mary said “Yes” to God throughout her life on earth, even when things didn’t make sense. Can you imagine an angel appearing before you, saying that you would conceive God’s only Son while staying as a virgin and engaged to be married? Would you have done the same? Probably not. But still, Mary trusted and surrendered herself to God’s will and loved Him above all things.
So why is Mary important to Catholics? Well, because she is the Mother of God and because her charity “joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 963) – she is also the Mother of the Church. So by loving her and honoring her, we can also love and honor Jesus – because it is through her that He comes to us. Sort of like a mediator. Now, this is different than being the “Mediator” as this could only be Jesus. A mediator, in this regard, is someone who allows us to know Christ and connect with him.
Furthermore, we hold Mary in the highest regard because she serves as the perfect model of love and obedience to God. By choosing her to be the Mother of Jesus Christ, He bestowed her with the grace of the Immaculate Conception or conceived without original sin and brought Christ into the world. But again, we do not worship her.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 967 explains this: “By her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to his Son’s redemptive work, and every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church’s model of faith and charity. Thus she is a ‘preeminent and wholly unique member of the Church’; indeed, she is the ‘exemplary realization’ of the Church.”
It further says that: “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.”
Why Pray to Mary?
So what do these all have to do with Catholics praying to Mary? First, because she is a mediator. Again, not the kind of Mediator that Jesus is. A mediator, in its basic definition, is a go-between – someone that goes in between two parties usually to help reconcile differences and bring them to an understanding.
That said, Mary served as the mediator who brought the Son of God into the world to save us from our sins. By always presenting the Lord to others, Mary also helped sinners to reconcile with her Son. Furthermore, in her role as the Mother of the Church, she prays for us, love us, and intercedes on our behalf, asking the Lord Jesus Christ to bestow us with his graces – just as she did on the wedding of Cana.
So we pray to Mary because she is our spiritual mother, an advocate in heaven who intercedes for us. It’s just like when we ask our friends and family to pray for us and ask Jesus on our behalf. It’s also like when we pray to saints through the communion of saints, which teaches us that all faithful followers of Christ both living and dead are one and connected.
As St. Paul said, God grants His blessings in “answer to many prayers” (2 Corinthians 1:11). It is also written in James 5:16 that “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” Now think about it. If the prayers of others are already powerful and effective, how much more if we ask the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, to pray for us?
Why Not Just Pray to Jesus Directly?
Some people would argue as to why we have to pray to Mary when we can just pray to Jesus directly. Well, of course, we should pray to Jesus, worship him, and adore him with all our hearts. But it certainly won’t hurt to ask Mary to mediate and intercede for us. In fact, the Church even suggests us to do so.
During Pope Francis’ Angelus address, he said that Mary is “the center of the communion of saints” and that whoever wants to follow Jesus Christ through the Gospel can find a “secure guide in Mary”. He explains that she is “an attentive and caring mother with whom we can entrust every desire or difficulty.”
The practice of calling on Mary and asking her to help us have been a very old practice in the Catholic Church, which is why we have many prayers that involve her. The Sub Tuum Praesidium, for example, is an ancient Marian prayer that goes:
“We fly to thy protection,
O holy Mother of God.
Despise not our petitions in our necessities,
But deliver us always from all dangers,
O glorious and blessed Virgin.”
Through this prayer, we ask Mary to help us during our times of need. Aside from this, we can also praise God as Mary did through the prayer “Magnificat”, and commemorate the Incarnation of Christ – in which Mary played an important role – by reciting the “Angelus”.
Now, praying to Mary does not distract us in any way from Jesus. It’s actually the opposite as she helps lead us to Him. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 970: “Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power.”
Through Mary, we are inspired to be like her – full of grace. She encourages us to seek forgiveness for our sins and become like mediators, too, and help others towards Jesus Christ through our own words and deeds.