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Fr. Joe Answers:
Devotion to Mary goes back a long way in the Catholic church. But Catholics do not believe that Mary is divine and we don’t pray to Mary. God, made flesh in Jesus and present in the Holy Spirit, is the only One to whom we pray.
We do believe that Mary holds a special place among the saints of the church, and that the saints are part of a community of faith and love that doesn’t end with death. This “communion of saints” includes both the living and dead. We don’t “pray to” the saints either, but we believe that we can ask those who now live with God to pray for us, just as we pray for persons who have died.
Catholics don’t worship Mary; rather, we honor her. We honor Mary as the mother of God, as the first disciple of Jesus, and as the mother of the church. All three of these titles have their origins in the fact that in Mary’s life the Word of God became flesh and blood and that is the vocation to which every Christian is called — to live in such a way that God’s generous compassion becomes alive in our flesh and blood, in in our words and actions.
We look to Mary as a model in whom we can trust, and as a mother who supports and nurtures our own journeys of faith. Turning to her as the first of Christians, we ask her to pray for us.