Do Catholics Worship Mary?

No, Catholics do not worship or adore Mary. Catholics hold Mary in a special place of honor and venerate her with special devotions such as the Rosary. The first point of confusion related to this issue is terminology. So let’s clarify a few words: worship, adoration, veneration, and devotion. If you look them up, they all have similar meanings, but the difference from a Catholic point of view is that worship and adoration is due only to God, while veneration and devotion to Mary and the saints is possible as a recognition of God’s grace within them. When we pray to Mary or the saints, we pray with them or ask for their intercessory prayers to God on our behalf. The first commandment clearly states that we should worship God alone. Therefore, only God deserves worship and adoration. Worshiping Mary or the other saints would clearly be idolatry. To venerate is to “honor” or “respect” someone. Only God is holy—the fountain of all holiness—and all holiness found within the saints and Mary comes from God. We venerate Mary because of the special grace that is within her.

Why, then, do Catholics venerate Mary?

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Mary proclaimed: “All generations will call me blessed” (Lk 1:48). “From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God’” (CCC, 971). Think about that for a moment. Mary gave birth to God. The awesome power of the incarnation—God becoming man—began in her. She experienced, literally, the first communion. We venerate Mary because though she was a “lowly handmaid” (Lk 1:48), God chose to raise her up to a place of honor. Her selfless response and her faithful “yes” welcomed God into the world. As Eve gave into the Serpent, Mary let God’s will be done in response to the angel Gabriel.

Also, please consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 963-975, 2617-2619, 2673-2679 for more information about Marian devotion.

Activities to Answer and Respond to this Question

Analyze the Hail Mary
To illustrate what Catholics really believe about Mary, ask students to breakdown the most famous prayer to her, the Hail Mary. What does each phrase say about what we believe about Mary?

  • Hail Mary = rejoice Mary or hello Mary
  • Full of grace = grace is a freely given gift from God
  • The Lord is with you = It is God who makes her holy
  • Blessed are you among women = she holds a special place among all people (Lk 1:42, 48)
  • Blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus = Jesus, the Son of God, makes Mary blessed
  • Holy Mary, Mother of God = Mary is holy because of her son, Jesus, who is God
  • Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death = what we really as for is her intercession, prayers for us just as we would ask anyone to pray for us.

Then, have the students read CCC, 2672-2677

Compare and Contrast the Ways we Worship Christ vs. Venerate Mary
Ask the students to make a list of ways they worship Christ. Then help them create a list of ways Catholics venerate Mary. Discuss how these are both similar and different. Use a Venn diagram to help students organize their lists. Highlight these major differences: Christ’s presence in the sacraments and we pray to Christ and ask Mary to pray to Christ for us.

Compare and contrast the Fall in Genesis (Genesis 3) to the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38)
Help students to see the following similarities between Eve and Mary:

  • Eve = Mary
  • Satan (fallen angel) = Gabriel (angel)
  • Eve rejected God’s will = Mary embraced God’s will
  • Eve was born without sin = Mary was born without sin (Immaculate Conception)

Mary as the New Eve is a very ancient understanding of Mary, partly due to Paul’s connection between Adam and Jesus (the New Adam) in Romans 5:12-19.

Examine The Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38) and Visitation (1:39-56)
Read the words of Mary and about Mary in Luke 1. Underline or cite all words or phrases that point to Mary’s humility. Explain to the students that this humility and selfless “yes” to God’s will makes her a model of faith and the Church.

Invite the Students to Venerate Mary
  • Pray the Hail Mary.
  • Pray the Rosary, particularly meditating on the Joyful and Glorious Mysteries.
  • Pray the Magnificat.
  • Participate in May crowning ceremonies.
  • Meditate on Luke 1. Invite students to imagine themselves within the story as a witness or as Mary or Elizabeth themselves.
  • Meditate on the image of Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe.
  • Use an image or statue of Mary to inspire meditation on her life and holiness.
  • Invite students to make up spontaneous prayers or write letters to Mary asking for her to pray for them to her son Jesus.

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  1. kkollwitz says:

    I live in the Bible Belt; this is one of my favorite exchanges:

    Why do you Catholics worship Mary?

    We don't worship Mary.

    Yes you do!

  2. Jared Dees, M.Ed. says:

    That is certainly a challenge, kkollwitz. Sometimes we are called to breakdown preexisting notions that may not be correct.

  3. kkollwitz says:

    Sometimes we are called to breakdown preexisting notions…

    Yes. Many Catholics would be surprised at how well it works to review the Hail Mary with a non-Catholic, especially referring to the Luke quotes.

  4. Silver Turyahabwa says:

    I am a catholic by birth and faith. I believe solely that Mary is the Mother of Jesus son of God.

    Mary should be held high as our mother and should be venerated because she is the mother of god and none can ever take her place.

    Mary mother of God pray and intercede for us to your son Jesus in order that our sins may be forgiven.


    • We as Catholics do not worship her or adore her we honor her. We pray for her intercession. I believe she plays a role In divine intervention. Our mothers here on earth sometimes intervene when we have difficulties managing our own lives and taking care of our children at times. Mothers help. Especially the mother of god.

  5. this Article is wonderful. i really like it. please more of such should be sent to my box so that my felow brethren s in St. Herman Parish Ekona , Cameroon will get themselves well informed and become more aware of the reasons why we venerate Virgin Marie

  6. Another comment I would like to share is that there is such a controversery about only praying to god and if we ask to anything else above this world it is idolatry. Not true. That would then say that to all those who have lost loved ones and pray to them to watch over us. That would be the same thing as as praying to a guardian angel. So why is that ok but not ok to pray for Santa and mother Mary to help us? I think people get to wrapped up in the rules of Catholicism because it’s inconvenient for them. I went to a catholic school all of my life and am active still and I don’t think I have ever heard the church leaders ever put down someone else’s beliefs. That is the beauty of our faith it is universal and hardly changes with time. We learn to respect all relious beliefs of others.