Catholic Corner

Question: I know that as a Catholic, I should respect Mary as the Mother of God. However, I have a problem with many excesses I've seen in Marian devotion. Is there a balanced approach to honoring Mary?

Answer: The office teaching of the Catholic Church on Marian devotion is balanced, but because of ignorance of that teaching or excessive zeal, some forms of Marian devotion can displace the honor due to God alone.

The Church teaches that only God - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - is to be worshiped and adored. Other human beings can be admired, appreciated, loved and honored for the holiness of their Christian lives and asked to intercede for us, but only God is to receive our absolute worship and adoration.

Catholics have always had a very strong appreciation of the role of Mary. She is honored for her special place in Scripture and her unique role in salvation history as the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. Out of love for Jesus, Catholics attempt to confer on her the same love and honor that God himself conferred on her in choosing her as the Mother of his only Son, the Savior of the human race. When we invoke the intercession of Mary, we are actually asking her to join us in praying to God who alone can answer prayers. All of our prayers are answered only through Jesus our Lord, our one mediator (see 1 Tim 2:5). Thus, invoking Mary's prayers for us now and at the hour of our death does not contain any aspect of worship or adoration.

As with all customs, even those strongly rooted in Scripture, abuses have arisen at certain times in the history of the Church. The Vatican II Fathers strongly urged "theologians and preachers of the word of God to be careful to refrain as much from all false exaggeration as from too summary an attitude in considering the special dignity of the Mother of God" ("Dogmatic Constitution on the Church," No. 67).

Whenever abuses or incorrect understandings do occur, theologians and preachers are called to explain them and to lead us to a healthy, joyful appreciation of our rich heritage in the Roman Catholic Church.

From Pastoral Answers to Questions about the faith by Rev. John Patrick Bertolucci

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