Do Catholics Worship Mary?

Veneration of the saints, including Mary, is not worship. Catholics worship God alone.

adapted from Catholic Update Do Catholics Worship Images?
Stories and Prayers
, by Teresita Scully

o Catholics worship the saints? To worship someone is to acknowledge that the one who is worshiped is divine, is God. Sometimes we can confuse cultural gestures of reverence for gestures of worship. In doing so, we often judge not as God does, by what is in the heart, but rather by appearances (see Jn 8:15, Is 11:3).

Catholics hold saints in esteem because they are such wonderful images or mirrors of Christ. Paul several times exhorts his readers to be imitators of him: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1, also Phil 3:17, 1 Cor 4:16).

Mary is the first saint, and holds high honor today, as she did in the early Church. Over the course of history, devotion to Mary has taken many forms, and even has been confused with worship. Church teaching has consistently placed Mary in the company of the saints, however.

Devotion to the saints comes back to the theology of image: Christ is God's image, the saints are Christ's image. We honor them because we desire to imitate them. We pray to them the same as we call upon earthly friends to do a favor for us. This too, is scriptural. In Acts we read of Peter and John going up to the Temple for prayer and encountering a beggar. Peter says to him, "I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk" (Acts 3:6). Peter makes it clear that he has the power of Christ in his possession.

To be sure, it is Jesus who heals, but Peter holds the right to extend that power. The same can be said of Paul. In Acts 19:11-12 we read, "So extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face cloths or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them." These texts are the basis of the Catholic practice of asking saints to help us, of honoring (not worshiping) the bodies and relics of saints.

adapted from Catholic Update Do Catholics Worship Images?
Stories and Prayers
, by Teresita Scully

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