I don’t talk about my conversion to Catholicism very often. Not because I have any issue with talking about it, but because it feels like it’s where I was always meant to be. I don’t feel like I’m “new” to the Church (it’s been 4 years now, so that’s probably part of it). One of the things I struggled with the most when it came to converting was a Catholic’s devotion to Mary. In my Protestant upbringing, we were taught to pray to God (Father, Son, or Holy Spirit) only, not the saints, not Mary. It felt wrong to pray to anyone else, much less make it seem like my affection and devotion to her was anywhere close to that of the Trinity. The more I researched, though, and talked with a Catholic friend over chocolate wine in Seattle, the more I understood the role Mary and the saints play in the Church and the Catholic faith in general, as well as the Catholic devotion to Mary. Now, I include all kinds of prayers in my prayer journal, including ones to Mary about my kids, my marriage, or life in general. I’m far from a Catholic scholar, so this was a very scary post for me to write, but after being asked so many times by my Protestant family and friends about “the Mary thing,” I thought I’d share a little bit of my understanding of our prayers to Mary.
The Catholic Devotion to Mary, Explained
The honor of being Mother to our Church came when she obediently submitted entirely to the will of God, when he asked her to be the Mother of our Savior. God– not humans– chose to honor her and give her a unique role in salvation history. Catholics do not consider Mary to be equal with Christ (or any other part of the Trinity), but we do honor and respect her submission to His will by continuing the Catholic devotion to Mary and use her example to respond to the will of God in our own lives.
On the cross, when Jesus said “Behold your mother” to the Apostle John, He was giving his Mother to all of us. Jesus WANTED us to have her to pray to and to ask for help. We pray to her in a different way than we pray to God, though– it’s that of a friend asking another friend’s mom for advice, help, or comfort. We also ask her to talk to her son for us, as she has a special place in His heart and a role in His life that no other human could have. It’s not that He loves her more, but she’s His mom and He chooses to submit to her the way a son would a mother. In fact, His first miracle was because she asked him to turn water to wine.
Mary was the original Catholic mama, as our Church was created by Jesus on the cross and He gave her to us for guidance and love at the same time. We pray the Rosary to help us remember her role, as well as remember the wonderful and sad times of Jesus’ life. It’s an amazing meditation once you have all the prayers memorized and allows for more depth of prayer when you aren’t searching for the right words, but rather concentrating on the Sacred Mysteries. For my favorite Catholic mama books, check out this post!