Do Catholics worship Mary, and would they be right to do so. Surprise! Surprise! Yes they do. It might be tactless to claim this in non Catholic company because most people think of worship as an attitude to God, whereas it means recognising the worth of someone (‘worthship’) – just as I worship my wife. We worship Mary as mother of God who was appointed by her son to play an important part in our redemption. But it is only God whom we adore.
References to Mary in the Bible, direct and indirect, appear in many places: from Genesis (“I will put enmity between you and the woman…“) to the Apocalypse (“Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.”) And, in between, many other references with which most Catholic are familiar. You will find a useful list at http://www.aboutcatholics.com/beliefs/mary-in-the-bible/ But in this post I want to look at just three of these, before turning to the questions raised by claimed appearances of our Lady in modern times.
The first is when Jesus, apparently lost on the way back from the Temple, says: “Why were you searching for me? Do you not know that I must be in my father’s house? (Luke 2:46-49) The second is the marriage feast at Cana. You will remember that Mary’s concern about the wine was greeted by what reads as a snub from Jesus: “My time has not yet come.” Mary’s response is basically: “Pull your socks up.” (John 2:3-10). The third is when Jesus is told that his mother and his brothers are waiting outside for him. Again a snub; he looks away to his disciples and claims that these, rather, are his mother and his brothers. (Matthew 12:46)
These occasions when Mary and Jesus appear to have a moment of difference are clearly important – otherwise the Evangelists would have omitted them or described them in a gentler way. Given the inspiration of Scripture, what is the message you take from these three incidents?
Our own St Joseph has asked us to consider the, rather more recent appearances of Mary – for example: Fatima, Lourdes, Knock, Guadalupe, Medjugorge etc. I understand that all of these, except the last, has formal approval from the Church – although no one is obliged to accept them. I have had cause only to study Lourdes, because some years ago I wrote a play on the subject which was well received in my large parish. (The script is available for any parish which wishes to use it.) Here I find the evidence convincing. But some may be opposed – taking such occasions as a temptation to superstition, and potentially leading to a Marian ideology.
Which leads me to my third point. Is there a danger that the strength of devotion to Our Lady leads us to put her son on the backmarker? After all, Mary appeals directly to our imaginations – the concept of mother is woven into our hearts from birth. It certainly looks odd to other Christians, who from time to time claim this devotion to be superfluous, and a distraction from our focus on Christ. I willingly confess to going more often to Mary rather than to Jesus. My wife says it’s because I always go to a woman rather than a man in times of need. True, I fear.