Instead of praying to the Blessed Virgin, shouldn’t we just go straight to Jesus?
By Father Cal Christiansen
Q: I am a recent convert to the Catholic Church and was received into full communion at this year’s Easter Vigil. I was raised in a Baptist church and we were always taught to go directly to Jesus for everything we needed: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.” (John 16:23) As a new Catholic, one of the difficulties that I have is with the role of Mary in our faith — doesn’t praying to her distract us from Jesus?
A: Thank you for your question! It is one that hits close to home for me personally. I am also a convert to the Catholic Church and early on I struggled a bit with exactly the same issue you are grappling with. How does the Virgin Mary fit into our relationship with Jesus Christ? Reconciling the place of Mary within the Catholic Christian faith is a difficulty that many Protestant converts have, so take heart. You are not alone!
To begin with, while it is without a doubt crucial that you take some time to study the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other authoritative books about how the Virgin Mary fits within our Catholic faith, this is not where you will ultimately have your question answered. From my perspective your answer will come primarily from experience; we understand her role through experiencing her within the life of the church.
The mother of each of us
Some years ago I had a chance to make a pilgrimage to famous Marian shrines in Portugal, Spain and France. Prior to making this spiritual odyssey I was struggling a bit with how Mary fit in with everything. What I experienced during the pilgrimage changed forever how I view Mary and how I understand her role within my relationship with her son. Wherever we went, I grew in my relationship with
Jesus, through experiencing and encountering Mary at the head of an immense family, like a matriarch, who I felt was guiding me into a deeper relationship with her son.
Image of Virgin and Child at Christ the King Church in the Seattle Archdiocese. Photo: Ray Meuse
Seeing the Catholic Church as a family with the saints and especially the Blessed Virgin Mary as its most important members is an important first step in understanding Mary’s role in our relationship with Jesus. Mary and all of the saints are in heaven experiencing perfect union with Jesus, and they want each of us to be there with them! They leave us their examples and offer us their intercessions in helping us along the road to salvation. As a huge global family we Catholics pray for one another. The Virgin Mary is the mother of the church and the mother of each of us; she along with all of the saints prays for us.
‘Speak with the Virgin Mary’
Seeing the Virgin Mary as our mother, a mother who leads us to her son, is important for us to understand. In the Gospel of John, at the scene of our Lord’s crucifixion, we read: “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:26-27)
At that moment, Jesus made Mary the mother of the church and for that reason she is the spiritual mother of each of us. Pope Francis recently said that we should “Speak with the Virgin Mary — she is a mother and will give you the grace and inspire you to do God’s will.” Mary is the queen of our Catholic family, and through her prayers and example she will always guide us closer to her son rather than away from him.
The month of May is a month dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. During this month I encourage you to make a pilgrimage to a local Marian shrine, pray the rosary frequently or explore the wealth of other Marian devotions that exist. Experiencing Mary is the best way to understand how she fits into our relationship with Jesus, and how she helps us draw closer to him.
May God’s blessing be with you today and always!
NORTHWEST CATHOLIC - May 2014