Can you help with my problem with Mary and worship?

As a Lutheran I do not have problems of calling St. Mary as the Mother of God, and I do not exclude the possibility of departed Saints praying for us. I think I also understand the theoretical difference between latreia, dulia and hyperdulia. I have reservations with the practice.

After reading Alphonsus Linguori (a Doctor of the Church) I get a strong impression, that he makes the Salvation conditional to the Mediation of St. Mary. He appears strongly to indicate that the prayer of St. Mary invariably turns away the wrath of her Divine Son.
Now, regardless the theological fine points of that type of supposition, to me it indicates that St. Mary is considered, if not more powerful, then at least more merciful and more perfect in love than Jesus Christ.

For a protestant like me, who has considered Jesus as the most human, most merciful God-Man, whose love for us cannot be ever fathomed or surpassed, the proposal that her mother, however humanely perfect and however sanctified, could love us more than He, sounds a step from hyperdulia to latreia.

Please, respond.

Dear friend,

For the benefit of those reading this who might not be familiar with such terms, latria is a term the Church uses for the worship or adoration which applies exclusively to God. Dullia an hyperdulia are expressions of the honor we pay to the saints, including the Blessed Virgin Mary. When we speak of Jesus and Mary, we are speaking of persons who love us. As the Redeemer, Jesus is both God and human. Mary is only human. It is impossible, therefore, to acknowledge her as God.

Whatever value the Catholic Church places on Mary is completely dependent on the honor God has chosen to bestow upon her. We don’t go to her because she has some quality that is lacking in Jesus anymore than cherishing our mothers means our fathers are lacking. Whatever we honor in Mary is fully present in Jesus. But she displays it in a way that He has chosen to use because of the way He has designed both her and us. So it is natural for us to love so sublime a mother.

The Catholic Church only honors Mary because of Jesus. Without Him, Mary would be insignificant. The Father gave her the supreme honor of bearing His Son. We, in our present state, cannot fathom all that this means because the Son is divine. So the honor we pay to Mary cannot diminish the Son; quite the opposite. Because of who we acknowledge the Son to be, the more worthy of honor she is. She is the highest honor of our race because of her relationship to the Trinity: the Father’s daughter, the Spirit’s spouse and the Son’s mother.

The key to understanding the Catholic Church’s honoring of Mary, lies not in diminishing her, but it exalting God. Our praise of her is limited. Our praise of God is without limit.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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