The Catechism of the Catholic Church #22


February 23, 1997

Brother John Raymond


In speaking about the way of prayer the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out, "Mary gave her consent in faith at the Annunciation 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." (#2674) Jesus knew that we needed a mother. He came to show us the Father. But, knowing our humanity and the fact that we relate to both a father and mother, He gave us His mother to be our mother. This relationship of Mary to us is not just a one-way street. This can be seen from the Church's prayers directed to Mary.

The different rites in the Church developed their prayer to the Mother of God centered on the person of Christ. In other words, Mary was always seen in relation to Jesus. One can speak of a twofold movement in the countless hymns and antiphons that express this prayer. "The first 'magnifies' the Lord for the 'great things' He did for His lowly servant and through her for all human beings; the second entrusts the supplications and praises of the children of God to the Mother of Jesus." (#2675) A great source of meditation on this can be found in the Catechism's commentary on the Ave Maria, numbers 2676 and 2677.

The magnification Marian prayer movement bears some consideration on our life of prayer. The Mysteries of our Faith are intimately bound up with Mary. This has been shown by the many heresies that have sprung up in the course of Church history. Those who erred in doctrine also erred in their understanding of Mary and vice versa. This is still true today. To pray in spirit and in truth we need to keep Mary in our life of prayer. She needs to be part of our contemplation of the Mystery of the Lord.

From the magnification Marian prayer movement will spring the second — praises and prayers directed to Mary. How can we not praise the Mother of God? St. Luke tells us in the Gospel how Mary filled with the Holy Spirit said all men would call her blessed. Praising Mary is the will of God. And this is not some form of false prayer because our praises of her do not stop with her — they magnify the Lord. When I admire the gifts given to someone and praise them don't I at the same time give praise and admiration to the giver of the gift?

We can pray with, and to, Mary. (Cf. #2678) Some people have a problem with this. I know that I did in my college days. I remember voicing the common objection, "Why do I need to pray to Mary when I can pray directly to God?" This question actually is worded poorly. First, we do not pray to Mary as we would pray to God, that is with worship. We pray to her as one who has a unique role and honor among the saints. To use a little Latin, God only receives latria (worship), the saints dulia (honor or veneration) and only Mary hyperdulia (highest honor or veneration). We pray to Mary for her intercession as our mother. In my college days I wouldn't have had a problem asking someone else to pray for me. I would have had no problem asking a person to pray for my intentions. So why did I have a problem entrusting my needs and person to Mary? Who else do I know that can pray like Mary? Who else do I know has the unique position of Mary? Nobody! God wants to honor His mother by our recourse to her intercession.

We are a family in Christ, aren't we? The family that prays together stays together. So pray with Mary and you'll stay with Mary and her Son in Heaven for all eternity.

A good friend of ours and a very holy woman, Eileen George, once saw her own place in Heaven. Then like an elevator lifting someone to a higher floor she saw her much higher place in heaven because of Mary's intercession. Eileen stresses it was much higher. My college days were for one kind of learning. Fortunately since then, like Brother Craig, I have learned to pray to Mary Our Mother! This Lent I encourage you to also pray to Mary, our greatest intercessor and spiritual mother.