Why Catholics Honor The Virgin Mary
According to Catholics they honor Mary because God himself honored Mary, by finding her worthy to be the mother of His only son. God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary to tell her: ‘Hail, Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.’ Mary said ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’-Luke 1:28-31,38.
Now, Catholics believe that we should not only honor those who excel in the things of this world, but that we should also honor those who excel in the things of the spiritual world (for example, in their devotion to God, their obedience to his will, and their charity to others). That’s why we honor the saints, men and women who, during their earthly life, excelled in their pursuit of holiness. Honoring the saints does not detract from God any more than honoring athletes does. In fact, when we honor saints, we are honoring God, too, for it is by his gifts, and for his glory, that saints are able to excel in holiness in the first place. When we praise those who spent their life pursuing an intimate union with God, we ultimately praise God, who is both the giver and the object of that love.
The special veneration of Mary is completely different from, and inferior to, the adoration we give to God. We adore God and only God, and since Mary is not God, we don’t adore her.
According to the Catholic Church, there are three fundamental reasons Mary deserves a higher level of devotion than all other holy men, women, and angels.
The first reason is that God chose to give Mary a fullness of grace. From the first moment of her conception, Mary possessed the fullness of grace the fullness of lie that God originally intended all men and women to possess. Free from Original Sin, she passed on her own immaculate human nature to her son, Jesus. This can’t be said of any other created person.
All of the other saints the Church honors, and all of the men and women whose holiness only God knows, received a great deal of grace in their lifetimes, certainly, but they never received the fullness of grace. They were all born with fallen natures, and only a nature free from all stain of sin can possess that fullness. Mary alone was given that privilege. Her possession of such a singular gift makes her deserving of a singular type of devotion.
Second, and more significant, Mary alone had the privilege of being the mother of God, of Jesus Christ. She was the one who gave flesh to the “Word made Flesh.” She was the one who carried him in her womb and watched him day by day as he grew “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” Because she was ever in his presence, Mary’s relationship with Jesus was entirely different from the relationship that any other person has ever had with him.
Only Mary had an interior and essential role in Jesus’ taking on flesh and becoming our redeemer. Only Mary had a physically and spiritually intrinsic role in the Incarnation. All other men and women, even St. Joseph, no matter how closely associated with the Incarnation, had only an external relationship with God becoming man for the sake of our salvation. This uniqueness cannot be underestimated. To underestimate the role of Mary in God’s becoming man is, in fact, to underestimate the significance of God’s becoming man.
The third reason Catholics believe Mary deserves a greater degree of veneration than all other creatures is her obedience. The words Mary uttered at the Annunciation, she also uttered with her heart every day of her life. “Let it be to me according to your word” was not just a one-time deal with Mary. She lived all of her years on earth in perfect obedience to the Father. His will was her will. Sustained by his grace, Mary perfectly modeled a life of virtue. She still models that for all believers. She shows us what it means to surrender ourselves and receive everything as a gift from God. She shows us the path to true freedom, true happiness, true life. And for that, too, she deserves a devotion like no other.
Because God gave Mary such an important role in the story of our salvation, devotion to Mary should not be an arbitrary or extraordinary thing. It should just be a normal part of the faith life of all believers.