Our Blessed Mother & The Saints

Tract: The Veneration Due to Mary and the Saints

"You Catholics idolize Mary and worship her. You have statues of her and you pray to her. The bible teaches that we should pray only to God. Mary does not hear your prayers." Catholics have always heard such complaints from Protestants. The question is, however, are these charges true? Do Catholics worship Mary? Let's find out.

Complaint #1: "Catholics worship Mary. They pray to her, and they have elevated her to divine status." This is categorically false. The Catholic Church has always maintained that only God is to be adored and worshipped. The Church has never instructed anyone to worship anyone other than God. In fact, to do so is a grave sin in Catholic teaching. You fail to comprehend that the bible does, in fact, direct people to honour and venerate people other than God. In Catholic theology, there is a distinction between the Greek word 'latreia' which is the adoration, worship, and submission due to God alone for his supreme excellence on the one part, and 'douleia', the honour or veneration which is given to angels, saints, and the Blessed Mother because, as friends of God, they share in His glory. In the bible, the word 'latreia' appears 5 times in the NT, and is translated "service" or "divine service" in the King James Version. All of these instances refer to God (Jn 16:2; Rom 9:4, 12:1; Heb 9:1,6). Now, Protestants will typically try to point out that there is no difference between the two words, and therefore, Catholics cannot pay veneration to Mary. This is what one Protestant Apologist attempted to argue with me: "Next note Gal 4:8: 'However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.' The word for slavery here is 'douleia'. Paul is talking about the same type of service that should be given to the true God. He uses 'douleia' in Rom 1:1 to identify his own status of servitude to God. Jesus uses it in Matt. 6:24 to speak of true service to God. Luke uses it in Acts 20:19 to indicate proper service to God." While it is true that these passages do indeed use 'douleia' towards God, there are also passages which do not, and this is the relevant point. For instance, in the New Testament, there are five instances where 'douleia' (translated 'bondage' or 'slavery') does not refer to God (Cf. Romans 8:15, 8:21; Galatians 4:24, 5:1; Hebrews 2:15). In other words, then, there is a distinction between 'latreia' and 'douleia' in the New Testament just as there can be a distinction between adoration proper to God and veneration due to his most holy saints.

Complaint #2: "Catholics do not have a personal relationship with Jesus since they complicate their worship with Mary, the Angels, and the Saints."

Complicate? What a truncated view of Christianity you have! Consider this passage:

Now then answer these two questions for me:
#1 - Would you be honored by the presence of Mary in your home like Elizabeth was?
#2 - Why does the power of Mary's voice make St. John the Baptist 'leap for joy'?

Anyhow, this petty complaint has always baffled me. Not only is this complaint puritanical, it is so unbiblical! Check out these references:

Angels and Saints are cognizant of earthly things:

Saints in heaven have intercessory powers before the Throne of God:

Saints intercede for us and approach the throne of God with prayers:

Saints appear on earth and communicate with men:

Complaint #3: "The bible teaches that we are not to adore idols: 'You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them...' (Exodus 20:4-5). Yet, Catholics do it all the time with their statues." Again, Catholics whole heartedly agree with this command. The problem, as discussed above, is that there is a difference between 'latreia' which is adoration and 'douleia' which is veneration only. In this passage, latreia (serve) is used NOT douleia. And as shown above there is a difference between the two words. The second point Protestants typically complain about is that Christians should not make any graven image at all. Yet the bible clearly refutes this idea as amply demonstrated in many passages (Cf. Numbers 21:8-9, 1 Kings 6:23-28, 1 Chronicles 28:18-19; 2 Chronicles 3:10, etc). Even in Exodus itself, the same book that the Protestant quotes for his restriction, God commands the Jews to make a 'graven image': "And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end..." (Exodus 25:18-19). Finally, the last objection that is sometimes presented involves the prohibition of 'bowing down' to objects other than God. The rejoinder to this is to point out that the Greek word for this phrase, 'proskuneo' does not necessarily mean to worship. Here are just two of many examples: "Then Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and he bowed down and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent" (Exodus 18:7). "Now afterward David arose and went out of the cave and called after Saul, saying, "My lord the king!" And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the ground and prostrated himself" (1 Samuel 24:8). "Then David said to the whole assembly, 'Praise the LORD your God.' So they all praised the LORD , the God of their fathers; they bowed low and fell prostrate before the LORD and the king." (1 Chronicles 29:20)

Complaint #4: "No Protestant has ever worshipped Mary." Amen! But neither have Catholics done so. And while our veneration of this Blessed Woman has never stopped throughout the generations (Cf. Luke 1:48), your veneration apparently has!

John Pacheco
The Catholic Legate
April 1, 2002