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Fr Dwight Longenecker: Do Catholics Pray to Mary?

By Fr Dwight Longenecker
5/24/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Therefore when we

Do Catholics "pray to Mary"? Yes and no. Because we are "surrounded by a vast cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1) it is best to say we pray "with" the saints. They are our prayer partners, and as the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Queen of that army of prayer warriors she is the primary saint with whom we pray. We have to remember who Mary is. Mary is a totally unique person. She is the one human being chosen to offer her flesh to be taken by the Son of God. No other human being has this intimate relationship with God-that he entered her womb, took her flesh and was as close to her as any son could be to a mother. The church has rightly recognized therefore that she is "higher than the cherubim, more glorious than the seraphim". If we pray with the saints we pray most gloriously and powerfully with her.

Fr Dwight Longenecker is the author of Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing. He serves as the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary church in Greenville, South Carolina.

Fr Dwight Longenecker is the author of Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing. He serves as the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary church in Greenville, South Carolina.

GREENVILLE, S.C. (Catholic Online) - Do Catholics pray to Mary? It sure looks that way!

But there is more to it than that. An increasing number of Protestants are ready to be more open minded about this controversial topic.

"I'm ready to honor Mary more than we usually do" said a Protestant friend, "but I'm not going to pray to her."

So do Catholics pray to Mary? There are a couple of questions wrapped together here. The first one is the definition of 'pray'. By the word "pray" Protestants usually mean "asking God for stuff". They ask God to heal the sick, comfort the dying and bereaved, strengthen and help the missionaries and help overcome evil.

Catholics have a much wider definition of prayer. By "prayer" we mean "asking God for stuff" but we also include meditation, contemplation, adoration and worship. For the Catholic prayer is the whole action of the church in relationship to God. Therefore "prayer" is a big concept which includes our relationship not only with God, but with one another. It is not just my action, but the action of the whole church-including not only the Christians alive today on earth, but also those alive with Christ in heaven. This means that we naturally pray with all the saints all the time. My prayer is caught up in their prayers. I am praying while "surrounded by a vast cloud of witnesses" as the Book of Hebrews says.

Do Catholics "pray to Mary"? Yes and no. Because we are "surrounded by a vast cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1) it is best to say we pray "with" the saints. They are our prayer partners, and as the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Queen of that army of prayer warriors she is the primary saint with whom we pray.

We have to remember who Mary is. Mary is a totally unique person. She is the one human being chosen to offer her flesh to be taken by the Son of God. No other human being has this intimate relationship with God-that he entered her womb, took her flesh and was as close to her as any son could be to a mother. The church has rightly recognized therefore that she is "higher than the cherubim, more glorious than the seraphim". If we pray with the saints we pray most gloriously and powerfully with her.

In addition to this, while we pray with the saints, we also ask us to pray for us-just as we would any prayer partner or prayer warrior. We know old Mrs. Smith in the church is a great prayer warrior, so we ask her to pray for us. It's a natural part of our relationship with the saints of God. In that sense we don't pray to Mary. We pray with Mary.

However, there is a sense in which we do "pray to Mary." We don't pray to her as we would pray to God. To understand what Catholics mean when we say that we "pray to Mary" we have to understand the word "pray" in a different sense. In this sense we are using the word "pray" in an archaic sense. In Shakespearian plays  a character might say, "I pray thee good sirrah, lend me a ducat." He is using the word "pray" to mean "ask" or "request".

Therefore when we "pray" to Mary we are asking her to pray for us and with us. This is expressed most clearly in the most famous and heavily used Marian prayer-the rosary.

So we say, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb-Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and in the hour of our death. AMEN" In the Hail Mary we are "praying" to Mary, but the prayer itself is simply a request that she pray for us.

This "prayer" is a request that our sister Mary, who is closer than anyone to Jesus her Son, will pray with us and for us. The saints down the ages have affirmed that this request to Mary is a powerful way to pray and that God works through these prayers in a wonderful way. The rosary bring healing, health and a stronger relationship with the Lord.

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Fr Dwight Longenecker is the author of Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing. He serves as the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary church in Greenville, South Carolina.Please visit his blog, listen to his radio show, subscribe to his weekly newsletter and contact him at dwightlongenecker.com  Read his blog, Standing on My Head His latest book is The Romance of Religion --Fighting for Goodness, Truth and Beauty

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