Do Catholics Adore Mary?
Though English words like 'worship' and 'adoration' are occasionally used to signify
only veneration, honor or affection, they are generally understood to refer to that
highest type of worship reserved for God alone. In this sense, Catholics do NOT adore or
worship Mary, or any other created person or thing.
The Ecumenical Council held at Nicaea in 787 considered the issue of veneration which
is not directed to the Divine persons in relation to sacred images. At this Council, the
Church taught that the special type of worship called adoration may only be offered to
God: Latria from the Greek term for enslavement. However, the Church also
acknowledged that certain persons, though only creatures of God, are entitled to honor or
veneration of a qualitatively lesser degree than the absolute allegiance owed to God. The
Conciliar Fathers termed this lesser devotion: Dulia. Such veneration was proper
for Mary and the Saints. In view of Mary's important role in salvation history as Mother
of Jesus, the Church recognized that Mary warranted a special degree of honor among the
Saints. For this class of devotion, St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) suggested the term hyperdulia.
No, Catholics do not worship Mary, if by worshiping is meant adoring. She is not God for us, has never been and will never be. Addressing prayer to Mary is like asking a dear and close friend for help. Do we make a God of our friend when asking him to keep us in his prayers? Do we divinize him/her when asking for his prayerful support in sickness and the trials of life? Believers on earth and in heaven constitute a living community which the major Christian denominations recognize as the communion of saints. The saints in heaven are not dead. Their Christian example of virtuous living and their closeness to God make of them powerful allies for us struggling mortals. They do not take God's place; they are an expression of his grace.
Likewise, there is nothing in Mary that would not have been in God and come from him. She is a pure product of God; this is the essential meaning of Mary's sinlessness. Never forget: if God wanted the exclusively direct relation between him and you and me he would never send Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, never allow scripture to be the foundation of our faith, never encourage his Son to found the Church or institute the sacraments. Christianity is the religion of mediation, essential and foundational in Christ; participative and subordinate in his Church and in varying degrees in the believers.
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