This podcast episode consists of selected portions of this article.
Thanks for providing your thoughts on this article’s cover, Michael! Maybe that’s not the exact question our reader is asking.
That’s much better, Harry! The question is if Catholics worship Mary. Here’s the short answer.
Absolutely, 100%, no! Catholics do not worship Mary.
If that’s all you were looking for, you can leave this article with the assurance that any Catholic you ask will answer that they do not worship Mary. If any Catholic says they worship Mary, then they’re not Catholic or Christian. They are committing heresy.
But you might be recalling other articles you have seen from Protestant websites that provide reasons why Catholics are worshiping Mary. I will correct some of these misconceptions here.
The Ten Commandments
One of the misconceptions often presented is the misconception that Catholics distorted the Ten Commandments so they could worship Mary (or the saints).
Did you know that the Ten Commandments, as shown in Exodus 20, are not actually ten clear commandments? Jews, Protestants, and Catholics list the commandments differently.
For example, God further explains some of the commandments, such as the one about the Sabbath. Check Exodus 20 so you can confirm what I am saying.
Protestants are used to the first commandment being Thou shalt have no gods before Me. The second commandment in Protestant tradition is Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
Catholic tradition combines those two commandments into I am the Lord your God. You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only you shall serve. Catholics split the last commandment, Thou shalt not covet, into two commandments. The resulting commandments are You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife and You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.
The first commandment in Catholic tradition clearly states that God, and only God, is to be worshiped. This cannot be used to claim idolatry of a statue of Mary is approved by the Catholic Church, as idolatry is the worship of an image. Catholics did not distort the Ten Commandments because Jews, Protestants, and Catholics list the commandments differently.
Does this mean that because Jews wrote copies of the commandments first, both Catholics and Protestants have a distorted view of what God commanded of us in the Commandments? Of course not.
A Few Other Questions
By now, it should be clear that Catholics don’t worship Mary! However, you might have some doubts about the way Catholics treat Mary. I will write about a few common doubts and explain why Catholics do these things.
What About Praying to Mary?
The Church does recommend respect of Mary, but you don’t have to pray to Mary. Many Catholics pray to Mary to ask her to pray for us (after all, she’s in Heaven and is Jesus’ mom) or praising God by reflecting on what He has gifted Mary, His creature. Prayer by itself is not worship.
Let’s dissect the Hail Mary prayer:
“Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
The first part of the Hail Mary is “Hail Mary, full of grace.” These are the same words spoken by Gabriel when he appeared to Mary in the Bible. The translation full of grace is preferred in this prayer over highly favored one because full of grace is considered by most translators to be more accurate. I would like to explain how full of grace is more accurate, but that is not the point of this article.
This part is not intended to worship Mary. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, hail as a verb can mean:
“1. a: to greet with enthusiastic approval: ACCLAIM”Merriam-Webster Dictionary
The angel is definitely not worshiping Mary! He’s greeting her with respect as any godly person would do (he’s speaking in Aramaic, of course, not English.) Saying that Mary is full of grace is praising God for filling Mary with grace. Mary didn’t fill herself with grace.
The second part of the Hail Mary is, “The Lord is with thee.” The Hail Mary doesn’t sound like Mary worship anymore now that we just said “The Lord is with thee.” This part is implying that Mary is full of grace because God is with her.
After “The Lord is with thee,” Catholics pray, “Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” That’s a lot to dissect.
Let’s look at the first part of this sentence. Mary is blessed amongst women. But I’m going to add a dose of logic. If we were worshiping Mary, we wouldn’t say, “Blessed art thou amongst women.” Based on the context of this prayer, Catholic seem to be saying Mary has been blessed by God. That should inspire in whoever is praying the prayer reverence and love for God, far greater than respect for Mary.
The second part of the prayer says, “Blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”
Consider how the way Mary’s blessedness and Jesus’ blessedness contrast. Mary is blessed amongst women. Jesus is blessed. Mary is blessed in relation to other women. Jesus doesn’t have to be blessed in relation with anyone because He is Lord.
Why do Catholics call Mary the mother of God?
Let’s look at the last part of the Hail Mary. “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
That brings up the question of why Catholics call Mary the Mother of God. As Christians, we believe that Jesus is God. We believe that He was 100% God and 100% man, fully and simultaneously, while He was on earth.
If Mary gave birth to Jesus, then she gave birth to God. Not God the Father, nor God the Holy Spirit, but God the Son. Saying that Mary did not give birth to God is rejecting that Jesus was also God while He was a man. That’s committing the the heresy of Arianism. Ouch!
What About Calling Mary the Queen of Heaven?
Did you know that we call Mary the Queen of Heaven because of ancient Jewish culture?
The Bible testifies that Jewish kings chose either their mother or spouse to be queen. Kings that obeyed God’s commands and conformed to moral laws usually chose their mother to be their queen. Kings that rejected God’s commands and tossed away moral laws generally chose their spouse to be queen.
Jesus was a Jew on earth. As Christians title Him as King of the universe, it seems fitting that Jesus would make Mary the queen of heaven. It’s an act of love toward His mother.
Jesus would not turn Mary into a goddess by making her His queen. Why would He do that?
Finally, I’m going to dispel another thing I’ve seen a Protestant note. There is a Bible verse that mentions The Queen of Heaven in the Old Testament.
“The children gather wood, their fathers light the fire, and the women knead dough to make cakes for the Queen of Heaven, while libations are poured out to other gods—all to offend me!”Jeremiah 7:18, NABRE
This is in the Old Testament. Catholics do not gather wood, light fire, and knead dough in an act of worshiping Mary. The Queen of Heaven that the Jewish and Christian God is referring to in this prophecy was probably Ishtar, a goddess of fertility worshiped in the Middle East.
Isaiah is estimated by most sources to have been written in 701-681 B.C. over a period of several years. Was Mary five hundred and fifty years old when she went to Heaven?
Regardless of whether your position on who Catholics worshiped has been changed or not, I hope you have learned something. These misunderstandings teach us to research what other people think before claiming we know what they believe—and we should also research from sources that do believe in that belief, not only ones that affirm our own.
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord.
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hell. The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from there He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.”Apostles’ Creed
Thank you for reading. God bless you.
Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd ed., Image, 2020.
Reference. “When Was the Book of Isaiah Written?” Reference, 7 Apr. 2020, reference.com/world-view/book-isaiah-written-989acb34e5428f2e. Accessed 1 July 2022.
Compelling Truth. “Is There a Queen of Heaven? Who or What Is the Queen of Heaven?” Compelling Truth, compellingtruth.org/queen-of-heaven.html. Accessed 1 July 2022.
Theopedia. “Arianism.” Theopedia, theopedia.com/arianism. Accessed 1 July 2022.
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