Do we worship Mother Mary? To put it simply, no, we do not; we venerate
Mother Mary. There are three types of Worship in the Catholic Church: Latria,
Dulia and Hyperdulia. ‘Dulia’ is veneration which is meant for saints. ‘Hyperdulia’
means higher veneration, meant only for Mother Mary, and ‘Latria’ means adoration,
or worship, meant only for God.
The church is made up of three parts –
the church in heaven, church in purgatory and church on earth, and these three
parts are mutually connected through prayer for one another. The church in heaven
intercedes for all of us, and while the souls in purgatory suffer, it is the church
on earth that prays for those in purgatory. Thus, it makes us all part of one
body that is Jesus Christ.
But why do we ask Our Lady to intercede
and pray for us?
We do not prayto Our Lady; we request her intercession. Mother Mary’s intercession is powerful, as she has more authority in the presence of Jesus than anyone else on earth, a prime example being at the wedding feast of Cana, where she interceded on behalf of the couple and Jesus listened to her prayer.
James 5:16 says, “therefore confess
your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed.
The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective”. Sometimes, when we feel
like our prayers are not heard, we request priests and those who are prayerful
to pray for us. As ordinary people, we believe that priests, who are always
with the Word of God and in the presence of God, are holy and righteous and thus,
we conclude that their prayer will be powerful. In the letters of St Paul and
St Peter, the apostles ask for prayers for each other because we are all
intercessors, and this is exactly what we ask of Mother Mary, who is righteous,
holy and has the highest place in heaven.
Protestants may believe that we can
pray for each other because we are alive, but Mother Mary, St Joseph and all
the saints are dead – so what can they do for us now? The Bible says clearly in
Luke 20:37-38 that Moses speaks of “the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of
Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now He is God not of the dead, but of the living. For
to Him all of them are alive.” As per this Word of God, Mother Mary is alive and
in the presence of God. If she and the saints are alive, can they talk to Jesus
and do they have a connection with God? Do they know what is happening on
Do the saints know what is happening on
earth? Are they interested in intervening on earth?
When we read about the Transfiguration
of our Lord on Mount Tabor in Luke 9:29-31, we know that “while He was praying,
the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became dazzling white.
Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah talking to Him. They appeared in
glory and were speaking of His departure, which He was about to accomplish
in Jerusalem”. While Elijah was taken into heaven, Moses died and was buried,
but in Luke’s gospel, they spoke to Jesus. They were interested in knowing
about Jesus’ departure and the events about to take place on Earth. Mother Mary,
who is more important than Moses and Elijah, is aware of what happens on earth.
She has appeared to many, for example, in Fatima, Egypt, Mexico, Lourdes and Rwanda,
and has asked people to pray and repent. She has constant communication with
Jesus, the Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit, and that is the reason we ask for
her intercession. It is through her powerful intercession that countless
miracles have taken place in all these, and many more, places.
Why do we have statues of Jesus, Mother
Mary and saints?
God’s first commandment has two
noteworthy aspects – there is no other God, and one should not make idols and
statues of false gods and worship them.
What, then, is the Catholic Church’s stand?
The Catholic Church has only one God – the Holy Trinity. The Catholic Church does
not follow idol worship. To understand what idol worship is, we read in Romans
1:23, “they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a
mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.” The
Israelites credited their escape from Egypt to the golden calf Aaron had molded
for them, rather than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the One true God
who brought them out of Egypt.
The question which then arises is: are we allowed to make statues of anything of this earth or anything of the heavens? What about angels? Or of human beings – the saints? If God intended that we do not make any statues at all, then God would not have asked Moses to make two cherubim of gold at the two ends of the mercy seat when instructing him on how to make the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:10, 18-21). The Catholic Church teaches us that, as long as we do not worship the statue thinking that the statue is God, it is not a problem to have them in our churches. However, we can venerate a statue, the difference being that through veneration, one honours the person. Whether you worship or honour depends on the individual’s intention and no third party can decide this.
CCC 2130 states: “nevertheless,
already in the Old Testament, God ordained or permitted the making of images
that pointed symbolically toward salvation by the incarnate Word: so it was
with the bronze serpent, the ark of the covenant, and the cherubim.”
When the Israelites who were bitten by
snakes looked at the bronze serpent and were healed, they did not worship the
serpent; they worshipped the Lord – the one who told them to make this statue
and look at it. The serpent that was lifted in the wilderness is the symbol of
the crucifix on Mount Calvary. All those who look at the Crucifix and bow down
before it are not worshipping the crucifix, but Jesus Christ who died 2000
years ago on Mount Calvary.
In the Old Testament, we know that
people were not allowed to make statues of God because they had not seen the
form of God (Deuteronomy 4:15-16), but in the New Testament, Colossians 1:15
refers to Jesus being the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all
creation. In the New Testament, man has seen the image of the invisible God
through Jesus Christ; St. Luke was an artist who drew some of the images of
Jesus and Mother Mary.
In conclusion, the CCC 2132 states, ‘The
Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment, which
proscribes idols. Indeed, “the honor rendered to an image passes to its
prototype,” and “whoever venerates an image, venerates the person portrayed in
it.” The honor paid to sacred images is a respectful veneration,” not the
adoration due to God alone. Religious worship is not directed to images in
themselves considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as
images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement towards the image does not
terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.”
Other scripture verses for reference: Romans
16:17, 2 Timothy 3:6-7, Exodus 20:1-5, Exodus 32:1-4, 1 Chronicles 28:18, Ezekiel
41:17-18, 1 Samuel 6:3-7, 1 Kings 6:27, 1 Kings 8:10, Numbers 21: 8, Deuteronomy
4:15-16, Catechism of the Catholic Church 2113.