by Sister Mary Lucy Astuto

How to answer the critics who say we worship Mary!

In recent weeks, yours truly has received a couple of internet e-mails from persons ridiculing and criticizing the Catholic position regarding Our Blessed Mother. The authors of the e-mails never referred to Our Lady as "Our Blessed Mother," but rather as "Mary." That is understandable in light of the fact that there is a lack of understanding as well as appreciation for the role that Our Lady plays in salvation history... in their salvation and ours.

The reader has most likely heard the arguments. Why do we Catholics commit idolatry by "worshipping" Mary? Why do we commit idolatry by worshipping statues of Mary or the saints? Why do we "pray" at all to the saints or Mary?

This article is an attempt to give the reader a "defense" regarding these accusations and reasons to any non-Catholic reader as to why these accusations are not based on truth let alone justice and charity.

First of all, it is a false allegation to say that Catholics WORSHIP Mary. Catholics define the words "worship" and "adoration" synonymously. The CATHOLIC CATECHISM reads: "Adoration is the first act of the virtue of religion. To adore God is to acknowledge Him as God, as the Creator and Savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful Love. "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve' says Jesus, citing Deuteronomy. (6:13)

"To adore God is to acknowledge, in respect and absolute submission the 'nothingness of the creature' who would not exist but for God. To adore God is to praise and exalt him and to humble oneself, as Mary did in the Magnificat, confessing with gratitude that He has done great things [to her] and holy is His name. (Lk 1:46-49) The worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself, from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the world." (Paragraphs 2096 and 2097)

Catholic teaching does not make Mary the CREATOR of heaven and earth. It does not make her GOD or equal to God, but it does teach that because God CHOSE her to be the Mother of His Son, respect is due to her. RESPECT, REVERENCE, and even DEVOTION TO are NOT synonymous with ADORATION.

No where in the CATHOLIC CATECHISM or anywhere else in the teaching of the Church are Catholics taught to WORSHIP or ADORE Mary. I lovingly challenge any non-Catholic to show in any official teaching of the Church where such is the position of the Catholic Church.

The two great Commandments given to us by God ORDER us to love God above all things and to love our neighbor, AS WE LOVE OURSELVES. We are commanded by God to have respect for other human beings and to treat them as we would want to be treated.

Mary is one of God's creatures, a human being. Therefore, to keep God's Commandment of loving all of His children, it follows that charity and regard for Mary is part of God's Commandment of charity for ALL.

But with Mary, even greater respect is due, not for any merit of her own, but because of God. He CHOSE her to be the Mother of His Son. "He that is Mighty has done great things for me..." she said, "All generations will call me blessed" (Lk 1: 46-49). No other human can claim that privilege.

Again, the CATHOLIC CATECHISM reads: "The Church rightly honors 'the Blessed Virgin with special devotion... 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" (Paragraph 971).

Jesus kept the 10 Commandments perfectly. The fourth one is "Honor you father and your mother." Now if Jesus honored His mother and we are supposed to imitate Jesus, then I think we follow good suit to honor Mary, as well. Notice I said "honor" not "worship."

The imputation that Catholics worship statues is also quite preposterous. Imagine attributing to plaster or wood the attributes of God. How ridiculous! Again, worship is for God alone, but Catholics do give respect to the ones whose images are "represented" by the statues or holy pictures.

It's like this. Many Americans have been and are greatly insulted when someone burns the American flag. Now, the flag in and of itself is not the US of A, but it REPRESENTS our country.

Most people carry in their wallets or have hanging on the walls of their homes, pictures of family or persons they love and respect. What is the purpose of those pictures? Are they not to REMIND us of our loved ones? Does anyone fall down in ADORATION or WORSHIP of these pictures? I would hardly think so!

And so when Catholics kneel before statues or pictures of Our Lady or the saints... even Jesus, it is not for the purpose of worshipping statues. It is rather a posture of prayer... of talking with the ones whose spirits are alive in eternity, requesting their prayers and help.

I ask the critics of the Catholic Church to please make sure of their facts before they condemn. Not rash judging is a part of the charity God expects of all of us.

May God bless you one and all.