For those who wonder why the Catholic Church venerates Mary, the answer is quite simple, according to Father William Leone.
“If you draw close to Mary, she’s only going to take you to one place — to Jesus,” said Father Leone, pastor of St. Jerome Parish in East Rochester and spiritual director of the Legion of Mary of Rochester, a Marian lay apostolate.
Father Leone said he understands why some Christians don’t understand Catholics’ great devotion to Mary and suspect that it’s goddess worship in disguise. However, he said, venerating Mary is actually a down-to-earth devotion that causes one to think about her life on earth, from birthing and raising Jesus, to accompanying him in his public ministry, and watching him suffer in agony as he was tortured to death.
“She stood by him from the beginning,” Father Leone said, noting that Mary’s life was a series of “yeses” to God. “It’s amazing to think that our salvation hung on the response of this young woman.”
Expert answers questions about Marian devotion
Gloria Falcao Dodd, a professor at The International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton, Ohio, is well-versed in questions and controversies surrounding Marian devotion.
Dodd, author of the book The Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces, addressed a number of questions from the Catholic Courier about why Catholics venerate Mary. Here are her responses on various topics:
Why venerate Mary?
Dodd cited five main reasons:
1. God honored Mary.
2. Honoring Mary glorifies and obeys God more than if we do not venerate her.
3. Honoring Mary brings us closer to Jesus.
4. The church has always venerated Mary. Indeed, the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium (“Light of the Nations”) devotes an entire chapter to explaining why the church has held Mary in high esteem from its earliest days, calling her “our mother in the order of grace.”
5. Mary deserves our highest honor and our imitation.
Is the Hail Mary prayer scriptural?
“The Hail Mary is a biblical prayer that summarizes the angel Gabriel’s and Elizabeth’s greetings to Mary and then asking her to pray for us similar to how we ask holy people we know to pray for us,” Dodd said.
According to Lumen Gentium 69, “The entire body of the faithful pours forth instant supplications to the Mother of God and Mother of men that she, who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers, may now, exalted as she is above all the angels and saints, intercede before her Son in the fellowship of all the saints.”
Is Marian devotion goddess worship?
“Mary may remind non-Christians of a goddess because she is a powerful intercessor with Jesus, as shown at the wedding feast of Cana (John 2:1-11),” Dodd noted. “But church tradition, as exemplified by St. Paul’s Galatians 4:4, has been clear that Jesus was ‘born of a woman.’ Therefore, Christians would not interpret her as a goddess, and do not adore her, even though some give her the highest veneration as the greatest saint.”
What does Marian devotion do for a person spiritually?
“Marian devotion inspires and encourages Christians to hear and to keep the Word of God in their minds, hearts and, as Catholics, even in their bodies in holy Communion,” Dodd said. “As a spiritual mother, Mary molds her devotees into that part of the Body of Christ that they are meant to be.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: “Why Do Catholics…?” is a feature series that aims to answer questions about what Catholics do and believe. To suggest a question to feature, email Newsroom@CatholicCourier.com.Tags: Mary, Why do Catholics?