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Stefanie Sandhu wrote:


I am not Catholic, nor do I know any Catholics, but I want to know:

  • Why do people pray to Mary?

I want to know more about this topic but have found that all the [papers/writings] are very academic and contain a lot of religious jargon.  I just want to know in every day language:

  • Who is Mary?
  • Why do people pray to her?, and
  • What does she do?


  { In simple language: Who is Mary, why do people pray to Mary, and what does she do? }

Mike replied:

Hi Stefanie,

Thanks for the good question.

You said:

  • Who is Mary?

Mary is a very special Jewish virgin who gave birth to Jesus Christ in order to save all men and women in the world from their sins.

Catholics call Mary, the Mother of God, not because she is older than God, but because she gave birth to The Divine Person, Jesus, who is God Incarnate, meaning in the flesh, and therefore is both God and Man. To call Jesus a human person would be an error according to Catholic teaching. We believe He is The Divine Person and Second Person of the Trinity.

Mary's role was and is critical in the salvation of mankind.

  • Like Eve, the mother of the living in the Old Testament, she was immaculate and free from original sin.
  • Unlike Eve's disobedience to God's commands, Mary was obedient to God's commands by saying Yes to God's messenger, the angel Gabriel, in Luke 1:28-38.

Though not talked about much, Mary, being Jewish, is also mother of the Jewish people and, for that matter, is mother of all mankind — Yes, even of Muslims and Hindus.

To be Catholic is to be a fulfilled Hebrew Jew.

You said:

  • Why do people pray to her?

In the same way, I can ask one of my colleagues, John or Eric, or Bob or Mary Ann, to help me in a difficult situation, I can also ask God to help me in my daily situations and trails.

In the same way, we ask God for help, we can ask Mary and the saints for help as well. They are God's friends and any friend of God's is a friend of mine. It pleases God very much when we ask his holy friends, as well as Himself, for help. Because Mary is Jesus' Mother, she holds a very high place of honor in the Church. We don't worship Mary, but honor her.

You said:

  • What does she do?

She always points us to Jesus. (John 2:5) Notice in this Bible passage, Mary, who just stated a fact: they have run out of wine, (John 2:3), tells the servants to listen, not to her, but to her Divine Son, Jesus. She, along with the saints in Heaven, pray for us and help us in this life.
Yes, God also helps us in this life all the time, but it is His will that we also ask his Mother Mary and his holy friends, the saints, to aid us in our troubles.

I know you didn't want me to get too academic with religious jargon, but if it is not too much, these paragraphs below from the Catechism of the Catholic Church may help as well.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

In communion with the holy Mother of God

2673 In prayer the Holy Spirit unites us to the person of the only Son, in his glorified humanity, through which and in which our filial prayer unites us in the Church with the Mother of Jesus. (cf. Acts 1:14)

2674 Mary gave her consent in faith at the Annunciation [when she said, Yes, I will become the Mother of Jesus.] and maintained it without hesitation at the foot of the Cross. Ever since, her motherhood has extended to the brothers and sisters of her Son "who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties." (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 62) Jesus, the only mediator, is the way of our prayer; Mary, his mother and ours, is wholly transparent to him: she "shows the way", and is herself "the Sign" of the way, according to the traditional iconography of East and West.

2675 Beginning with Mary's unique cooperation with the working of the Holy Spirit, the Churches developed their prayer to the holy Mother of God, centering it on the person of Christ manifested in his mysteries. In countless hymns and antiphons expressing this prayer, two movements usually alternate with one another: the first "magnifies" the Lord for the "great things" he did for his lowly servant and through her for all human beings (cf. Luke 1:46-55) the second entrusts the supplications and praises of the children of God to the Mother of Jesus, because she now knows the humanity which, in her, the Son of God espoused

2678 Medieval piety in the West developed the prayer of the Rosary as a popular substitute for the Liturgy of the Hours. In the East, the litany called the Akathistos and the Paraclesis remained closer to the choral office in the Byzantine churches, while the Armenian, Coptic, and Syriac traditions preferred popular hymns and songs to the Mother of God. But in the Ave Maria, the theotokia, the hymns of St. Ephrem or St. Gregory of Narek, the tradition of prayer is basically the same.

2679 Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends his Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciple we welcome Jesus' mother into our homes, (cf. John 19:27) for she has become the mother of all the living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope. (cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 68-69)

In Brief

2682 Because of Mary's singular cooperation with the action of the Holy Spirit, the Church loves to pray in communion with the Virgin Mary, to magnify with her the great things the Lord has done for her, and to entrust supplications and praises to her.

Please reply if you have further questions.


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