Do Catholics Worship Mary?

Catholic Mary Jeff Cavins Queen of HeavenHave you noticed lately how many girls are wearing T-shirts that say "Princess"? Our culture is drawn to royalty almost as if it were written into our spiritual DNA. Little girls pretend to be princesses; the Home Coming dance is preceded by the election of queen and king; we introduce singers as "The king of pop"; and the Academy Awards take on a feel of royal pageantry. Viewing others as royalty implies that they are different, better or both. In light of our cultural attraction to royalty, I would think that all Christians would delight in calling Mary the "Queen of Heaven." Those who bristle at the thought of ascribing such a royal title to a created being perhaps don't understand the historical background of the role of the queen in the kingdom of God.

In Luke 1:39-56 Elizabeth is in awe that the mother (Mary) of Jesus (the King) should come to her. Why would Elizabeth feel so honored with the presence of Mary? From the very beginning of the Church, Mary has held an esteemed place as the "Mother of God" and the mother of all who believe. Her role in the kingdom of God is unique in that she has been given to believers as a spiritual mother who intercedes and acts as an advocate on their behalf. Mary is in a real way what we are all to become: someone who is "full of grace," without sin and in total union with the will of God.

It is important to remember that Mary is a created being and not a goddess. Christians are to adore and worship God alone. The word for worship, latria in classical theology, is the word that describes the worship and homage due only to an uncreated divine person.

Veneration, known as dulia in classical theology, is the honor due to the excellence of a created being, such as a saint. We venerate our relatives by placing pictures of them on our walls or proudly displaying their watch or pen in a shadow box. The special veneration that Christians give Mary is hyperdulia due to her special association to Jesus. We worship and adore God alone, and we venerate the saints, with exceptional veneration to Our Blessed Mother.

What many do not understand is that the role of Mary as the "Queen of Heaven" is not an invention of the Catholic Church, but the continuation of a royal role established back in the Hebrew Scriptures. Elizabeth's joyful and humble response to the visitation of Mary springs from her clear understanding of who the mother of the king is.

Western culture understands that the queen of a kingdom is the wife of the king, but in the days of the Bible, the "Queen " was understood as the mother of the king. We see that in Solomon's life he had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. His mother Bathsheba held the unique role as queen, not his wives. The mother of the king was celebrated as a unique position in relation to the king, complete with title, throne and responsibilities.

The official title given to the king's mother was the Gebirah which translated into English is "Queen Mother." Examples of this can be read in 1 Kings 2:13-20; 1 Kings 15:9-13; 2 Kings 24:12-15 and Jeremiah 13:18-20.

In these examples we see that people in the kingdom would make their requests known to the king by going through the "Queen Mother." She acted as an intercessor and advocate for the people. Jeremiah the prophet sees that both the king and the queen mother are given the responsibility to care for the people of the kingdom. Many times in the Old Testament when the king is mentioned, his mother is also mentioned (1 Kings 14:21).

We can see in Luke 1:39-43 that Elizabeth does not separate the child Jesus from his mother Mary; her reverence is for both of them. So closely is Mother and Child linked in this passage that the sound of Mary's voice is enough to produce rejoicing in the prophet   in-utero. Recently, Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ" gave the viewing audience a beautiful glimpse of the close relationship between the King and the Queen Mother. Gibson carefully demonstrated that Mary participated with Christ, working in tandem with Him in the redemption of the world. At the foot of the cross Jesus gave Himself completely, which included the giving of His Mother to the Church.

In the Garden of Eden we heard God's voice heaping curses on the serpent and disciplinary statements on Adam and Eve. In God's process of undoing the curse for all people, He introduces Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant. Mary's complete cooperation with God's will and her willingness to suffer plays a major role in redemption. St. Iraenaeus said, "The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience. What Eve bound through her unbelief, Mary loosed by her faith."

As the Queen Mother, Mary has a special role to play in our lives. She comes to us in the wide variety of our wants and needs and brings those wants, needs and sufferings to her Son, the King. As Pope John Paul II said,

"She puts herself in the middle, that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider but in her position as mother." The Visitation that Elizabeth experienced continues in our lives today. The question is: are we aware of the Queen Mother's Visitation and are we cultivating that relationship? As Catholics we do not worship Mary but we do highly esteem her as the Queen Mother of God's kingdom.

Things To Do:

1. Pray the Rosary this week with a renewed awareness that the same mother who daily cared for Jesus now wants to care for you. Take some time to tell your Blessed Mother about your wants, needs, and sufferings. Be encouraged that she will take these to the Lord.

2. Read the encyclical letter "Mother of the Redeemer" by Pope John Paul II. In this letter the Holy Father introduces you to your spiritual mother resulting in a renewed sense of security knowing that your heavenly Father has placed you in a warm family setting.