Dear Father Angelo,
I would like to ask you a question about the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In my view, the Blessed Virgin is venerated excessively by Catholics. In fact, a variety of Marian devotions, which broadly include the Rosary and other prayers as well as feast days and celebrations that are entirely dedicated to Her, is too much practiced by the majority of people. I assume that the Holy Virgin Mary is regarded as our Heavenly Advocate . She is honored as Co-Redemptrix and is thought to intercede for us before Jesus while, at the same time I am not sure whether She intercedes before the Father as well.
Furthermore the Virgin Mary, who is a God’s creature, is raised to the dignity of Mother of God and Queen of Heaven. She was assumed into heaven, body and soul, without suffering the corruption of the body that we all experience after death.
I am fascinated by the fact that such a lofty dignity was given to a creature and I do believe in this. Nevertheless, I feel doubtful: why should not a Christian faithful pray to God without seeking help from intermediaries? This is what the Protestants maintain. Is this wrong? Does a child need an advocate to speak on his behalf to his own father? Is he not supposed to talk to him directly?
When I happen to feel ashamed of my sins I spontaneously call upon the Blessed Virgin asking her to plead with God to pardon me. As a matter of facts, we all are sinners before God and the Virgin Mary intercedes on our behalf, but I have a feeling that some of the simple faithfuls go too far worshipping the Virgin Mary instead of Christ.
I think that the veneration of Mary as the advocate of mankind has attracted the hearts and the hopes of many Christians, who end up forgetting that the Blessed Virgin is not God. There is only one mediator between God and the human race, that is Christ Jesus, isn’t there?
In conclusion, I don’t mean to belittle the Virgin Mary, but I find the worship of Mary to be often excessive and detrimental to the worship of Christ.
The Priest’s reply
1. Why praying to God through the intercession of saints and, first and foremost, of the Virgin Mary instead of praying directly to God?
Try asking yourself why God said to the three friends of Job’s: «let my servant Job pray for you; for his prayer I will accept, not to punish you severely. For you have not spoken rightly concerning me, as has my servant Job» (Job 42:8).
You will easily understand that the Lord wants us to draw near to Him living in holiness and with humility. You certainly remember that the Lord wanted Moses and all the people to purify and sanctify themselves for three days before delivering the Tablets of Stone.
2. We are invited to treat God familiarly. You have a point here. He Himself called us to the great dignity of being His adoptive children. But this should not cause us to forget that we must draw near to God in the purest and holiest way.
Otherwise we would use wrongly the force we receive from Him. We would cause harm to ourselves and we would open ourselves up to our enemy. In a word, we would use it for our own condemnation.
3. Moreover, praying through the intercession of saints helps us to remember that God gives His graces aiming at our holiness. If we lack the proper dispositions to pursue holiness, our hearts will be closed. This way we do not let God help us.
This is why the Church prays to the Virgin Mary and to saints with the words: Pray for us Holy Mother of God. And we answer: That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
We ask to be made worthy, that is to say, in order to have the proper dispositions, the same that the saints had. And we ask them to plead with God to grant these dispositions to us.
4. Asking for the intercession of saints is also necessary to remain humble. Up until now, God has granted us so many gifts in order to sanctify ourselves, and we have totally wasted them! We are unworthy to ask for and to receive. This is why we pray for the merits of our brethren, who pleased God in their lives, and their intercession to grant us what we need.
5. There is another reason why God wants us to pray to saints. Saints can effectively intercede on our behalf by virtue of love that binds us all together so that we may become one body by means of the grace of God.
So, it would be improper for us not to ask the saints for help , since they can obtain what we need in the name of love. It would be also improper not to give love to our neighbors.
6. You see what a great gift God gives us through the intercession of saints. God Himself appointed Job as an intercessor for his friends and by virtue of Job’s intercessory prayer He had mercy on them. God similarly appoints the saints as our intercessors.
In welcoming them into Heaven He said to them: «Well done, my good and faithful servants. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy» (Matt. 25:21). He gave them the responsibility to help us and plead with Him on our behalf.
7. In addition, you write in your email: «I have a feeling that many of the simple faithfuls go too far worshipping the Virgin Mary instead of Christ». How can you say that? Can you read in people’s hearts? Furthermore, you write «simple faithfuls»… I would be happy to be regarded as a «simple faithful»!
St. Thomas Aquinas used to bring with him a relic of St. Agnes’s. In his eulogy, his confessor said that he had always found St. Thomas to be as simple and pure as a 5-year-old child.
8. My mind also goes to Paul Claudel who, after his conversion, did not dare to say «Our Father» because he felt it was too binding («forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us»).
He used to pray only by reciting the Hail Mary prayer. He did not dare to say anything else but this: «Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our death».
He felt God had granted him a great grace by allowing him to draw near to the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of God, calling upon Her and asking Her to pray for him, a sinner. He knew that the Virgin Mary was such an extraordinary gift that God had given to him.
And through Her he could draw near to the Thrice Holy God Lord, Whom he had crucified repeatedly with his sins.
9. You conclude by saying: «I don’t mean to belittle the Virgin Mary, but I find the worship of Mary to be often excessive and detrimental to the worship of Christ». I wonder if the Lord is of the same opinion too. Nobody has ever loved Her as much as He has. He is pleased with the Christians’ love for her.
10. Let me also tell you that love for the Virgin Mary is a singular gift from God.
It is a supernatural love.
Nobody can love the Virgin Mary if the Lord does not grant it .
This is why St. Louis Grignion de Montfort used to say that devotion to Mary is a great sign of predestination, that is of eternal salvation.
May you receive this most precious gift to an ever greater extent. I do hope that, and for this reason I dare to ask it to the Lord on your behalf.
I bless you.
Translated by: Alessandra
Proof edited by: Lucilla