Last night, at a meeting for our college age ministry the ever recurring question of Catholic’s worshiping Mary was raised.
So what is the deal?
Do Catholics worship Mary? Do they not worship Mary?
How shall we resolve this age old question?
What if someone told you, “I knew a Catholic once, and they definitely worshiped
How do you respond?
Maybe, “Drat! You got me. I am vanquished by the old, ‘I knew a guy once…’ line. Now that you have exposed me, I will pull down the veil of secrecy and reveal the real Marian worship happening behind the scenes.” Probably not. Because, oh yeah, there is no secret veil to pull down.
Now, granted, I’m sure somebody knows somebody who has taken Marian Devotion too far. I happen to know a Protestant that rejects the Trinity, shall I conclude that Protestants reject the Trinity? I also happen to know an atheist who studies history, shall I conclude that all atheists are historians? Some Christians commit adultery shall we conclude that adultery is approved by Christianity? No, no and double NO!
So if the Church does not teach Catholics to worship Mary why can you find really old Catholic documents talking about the worship of Mary? Is this just some diabolical web of lies?
Semantics, not Satanics
Semantics can sometimes be taken as trivial, but in theology it is incredibly important! What does the definition of words have to do with this issue? Nearly everything.
If a Catholic is told that they worship Mary they can accurately both agree and disagree with this statement. I know, I know this sounds contradictory, but here is the dealbreaker: How is worship being defined?
Have you ever had someone tell you how limited the English language is in regard to love? They can go into the intricacies of Philia, Storge, Eros, and Agape. Well, a similar thing exists in English in regard to words like worship and honor. They are two different words, so we might expect two distinct definitions, but in all reality one is from Old English and the other from Latin. So, they can be two different words with two very similar meanings.
This is why a Catholic can agree with the claim that they worship Mary. If the person is using an outdated and archaic definition of worship that means, “Honor given to someone in recognition of their merit” then yes, we do that. To further illustrate how this word used to be far more synonymous with honor, in Britain, they used to refer to a Mayor or Magistrate (judge figure) as, “Your Worship.” What do we call a judge today? “Your Honor.”
Now, a Catholic should reject the claim that we worship Mary if worship is defined as it popularly is today, “The feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.” The Catholic Church does not teach us to do this. But can we accuse the Church of just being vague and misleading? Shouldn’t we err on the side of caution and just do away with all of this ‘Is it honor or is it worship stuff?”
It’s All Greek to Me
Not really. The Church has stood by categorizing worship into three distinct levels (by the way these words were adapted from Greek just to throw another language in the mix):
Latria is the honor due to God, and God alone. At a time when honor and worship were synonymous, latria was the designation used to clarify that the praise, honor, and worship that we give to God should not be given to a creature.
However, the Bible makes it clear, that honor is not exclusively to be given to God alone (Ex. 20:12, Lev. 19:32, Ex. 28:2, Rom 12:10, Rom. 13:7, 1 Pet. 2:17, 1 Tim. 5:17, Matt. 10:41 – These examples aren’t times of honoring people apart from God, but rather we are honoring God by honoring His handiwork and by our obedience to His command to honor others). So, the Church adapted the word dulia to refer to the honor that is due creatures, but does not exceed to the honor that is due to God, and God alone.
So what about this hyperdulia? Hyperdulia is what Catholics do for Mary. It is the highest form of creaturely honor without becoming Divine honor (latria). We didn’t choose to assign Mary this singular distinction among creatures, we only cooperate with the singular place that God already gave her. She enjoyed the singular honor of bearing the Son of God and as He reigns from His Divine Davidic throne, she is the Queen Mother. So, hyperdulia is the highest honor we can pay a subject without confusing them for the King. This is what the Church teaches, that Catholics give honor where it is due and where we are commanded, but without confusing whom is due what.
I Pray You Would Tell Me How “Praying to Mary” isn’t Worship
Sure thing, especially since you requested it of me.
Catholics praying to Mary, or any of the saints in heaven, is us asking them to pray. We can only communicate with them because of the Communion that we share in the Body of Christ. So through the intimate union of all Christians (Rom 12:5, 1 Cor 12:12-27), by the One Mediator (1 Tim 2:5) — Christ Jesus — we ask those who are alive (Matt 17:1-9, Matt 22:32), in perfect union with Him in heaven (1 Cor 13:12), to unite their prayers to ours, and send them up to the Throne of the Lord like incense (Psalm 141:2, Rev 5:8, 8:4), for they have been made perfect (Heb 12:23, 1 Cor 3:15), and the prayers of a righteous man are powerful (James 5:16).
The Reader’s Digest Version
So do we worship Mary? The simple answer, “No.” The long answer, “Not in the way some think we do.”
Definition of Semantics http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/semantics
Do Catholics Worship Mary? http://fallibleblogma.com/index.php/do-catholics-worship-mary/
Saint Worship http://www.catholic.com/tracts/saint-worship
Catholic Encyclopedia: Christian Worship http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15710a.htm
Catholic Encyclopedia: Dulia http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05188b.htm
Google: Worship https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=etymology%20of%20worship
Google: Honor https://www.google.com/search?q=etymology+of+honor&oq=etymology+of+honor&aqs=chrome..69i57j0.2754j0j7&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=122&ie=UTF-8