A Series of Posts – Worship of Mary & the Saints

I post on my blog using Windows Live Writer, and then that blog post gets pulled into my Facebook page using Simplaris Blogcast. But it doesn’t seem to provide a link (only the first paragraph), so I’ll see if the links I posted above go through. 🙂 And now, on to your regularly scheduled blog . . .

Translating from one language to another is difficult. Translating from one time period to another is difficult as well. If we try to read the English of Shakespeare’s time, we stumble and fall over unfamiliar words and outdated colloquialisms. If we try to read something translated from a different language we invariably run into phrases that cannot be translated literally because they have no corresponding words in the new language.

For those who accuse Catholics of worshipping Mary we run into the same problem. All of the official writings of the Church are done in Latin. It has been the official language of the Church for hundreds of years. So in Latin we are told the following:

We latira God alone.
We dulia the saints who surround God’s throne and who surround us as a great cloud of witnesses.
We hyperdulia Mary as the Mother of God.

There is an exact translation of latira into English: worship. The Catechism and the church are clear – we worship God alone, and no one else. There is no equivalent translation for dulia and hyperdulia into English. In older English translations they are translated as “worship.” However, the definition for worship is more nuanced then most people know.

Here’s the definition from answers.com for worship:

Worship (noun)
1a. The reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.
b. The ceremonies, prayers, or other religious forms by which this love is expressed.
Ardent devotion; adoration.

Worship (verb)
1a.To honor and love as a deity.
1b. To regard with ardent or adoring esteem or devotion. See synonyms at revere(1)
2a. To participate in religious rites of worship.
2b. To perform an act of worship.

I think in Christianity the term is more specific and applied only to God (Father, Son & Spirit), but in general usage it can be properly applied to the way Catholics interact with the saints, with Mary in particular, with pictures/icons, etc. – it’s a "reverent love and devotion." It should not detract from our worship of God – it’s supposed to enhance our worship of God, lead us ever-closer to the source and summit of our strength – Jesus Christ, God with us.

We honor Mary and the saints in the same way that Protestants may honor Billy Graham, Luther, Moody, Tyndale, King or any other celebrated preacher. We honor them with love and devotion the same way a husband honors and loves his wife. But we do not and never have worshipped them.

Another point to consider is that we are never dead in Christ. We are either alive here on earth or we are (hopefully) with God – there is no middle ground. If we can ask one another for prayers here in this world, how much more can we ask those already around God’s throne for prayers as well? That great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us is the same as the saints that are arranged around God’s throne continually praising him. If I can ask you for prayers, how much more can I ask someone who is right next to God for prayers? All of our prayer goes directly to God; we can choose to ask others to pray with us or for us, both here on earth and already in God’s presence, but the prayer is always directed towards God.

Jesus Christ is truly the only mediator between God and humanity, but he is not the only intercessor. Otherwise, why would we ever ask anyone else to pray for us again?

Blessings & Peace,

4 thoughts on “A Series of Posts – Worship of Mary & the Saints

  1. Hugo says:

    Mary gets hyperdulia because she is Jesus' mom 🙂

    And I know that Catholics can cross the line from honor to worship – that has more to do with good (or even adequte) catechesis about her role and the role of the saints. In popular devotion, that line can get quite blurry sometimes.

    And I can see your point about praying – it's always assumed for us that the saint in question is taking our requests to the Trinity (or the Godhead if you prefer). So it's both through Jesus to the Fatehr and also directly to God as we ask the saints to pray for us.

    Oh – almost missed one question – we can always ask our departed loved ones for prayers, but as we're not sure if they're in heaven or not (there's always that pesky purgatorial state they may be in) we pray for them as well 🙂

    Blessings & Peace,

  2. pecheur says:

    I think this is a good concise explanation of Catholic belief.

    Why Mary gets to be hyperdulia and all other saints just dulia?

    I see your point semantically about the distinction in latria and dulia and hyperdulia and how that cross-over into English has been confused. And granted semantically there may be a difference between veneration and worship, but practically I do not see it many times. An extreme position is Fatima. What I witnessed there is Mary latria (worship).

    Good job explaining the great cloud of witness. And I could almost concede the point. But if I prayed to a dear defunct spiritual friend, would he be considered a saint?

    And on earth, I ask my fellow believers to pray on my behalf (intercessory). But I am not expecting that they themselves have side stepped going through our one mediator between God and man, Jesus. When we protestants hear people praying to the saints, we think it means one prays to the saint, then the saint takes our request to God, side-stepping Jesus.

    Always enjoy seeing from your vantage!

Comments are closed.