I converted to Catholicism when I was 15-years-old. As a former Lutheran, I was initially confused about, and put off by, Catholic devotion to Mary. It seemed to me that the attention Mary received from Catholics could only detract from the worship and attention that rightly belonged to God. Why should a human woman (granted, one who played an important role in the life of Christ) be shown such homage? Isn’t it idolatrous to pray to someone other than God? Over the course of my Catholic journey, I’ve found answers to these questions and I’ve developed my own devotion to the one who always points us to her son.
Pope Saint John Paul II helped me understand the proper place of Mary in the lives of Catholics. In his encyclical, Redemptoris Mater, he examines the crucial role that Our Lady played in cooperating with God’s salvific mission. Mary is greeted as one who is “full of grace.”
Mary is "full of grace," because it is precisely in her that the Incarnation of the Word, the hypostatic union of the Son of God with human nature, is accomplished and fulfilled…. Mary is "the Mother of the Son of God." (Redemptoris Mater Pt 1: p 9)
Mary is the perfect example of human union with God. She, the woman who was elected by God throughout all of history, exemplifies for us what it means to love and serve God. Mary, who was conceived without original sin, becomes the new Eve for humanity. While Eve chose disobedience and selfishness, Mary in her ‘fiat’ models the obedience, trust, submission, and love that all Christians need to learn in their relationship with God.
“Her exceptional pilgrimage of faith represents a constant point of reference for the Church, for individuals and for communities, for peoples and nations and, in a sense, for all humanity.” (R.M. Pt 1 p.6).
Mary’s ‘fiat’, is something that always challenges me in my faith journey. So often I struggle to trust in God. I get weighed down with the anxieties of day-to-day life and forget to surrender all things to him. I want to have control over my life and my love for him is weak and imperfect. I need to learn to love and trust like Our Lady because “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Mary knew and loved God and her love enabled her to humbly submit to the will of God. I pray that I learn the same humble submission, so that I too can say, “be it done unto me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
It is important for Catholics to look to Mary as a guide in our faith, as one who can help us draw closer to her son. She was the mother of God, the first disciple, and mother of the Church. No other human had such close union to the person of Christ. Because of this, it is appropriate to pray to Mary, asking her to intercede for us with her divine Son. Devotion to Mary should always have Christ at its core; if it does not, then it could become idolatrous, however, this is certainly not what Mary or Christ intended.
Christ himself gave us his Blessed Mother when, on the cross, he said to her, “Woman, behold your son! Then He said to the disciple, Behold your mother!” (John 19: 26-27). Let us, like the disciple who stayed with Jesus, take her into our own homes.
Mary, Refuge of Sinners, pray for us!