In So how is the Blessed Virgin Mary not a goddess? one of the main points made is that we (Catholics) do not worship Mary. I think it is a serious mistake in apologetics say that we do not worship her. Anyone outside of the Catholic Church can see that we do worship her. To reply to them that it only looks like worship but is not *really *worship just undermines our credibility. They know what the word “worship” means and our explanation just looks like redefining the word worship to suit our needs—which it is.
But this finagling is unnecessary. The relationship between the words worship, veneration and adoration is:
- Adoration is the worship properly due to God alone, veneration is the worship appropriate to the saints.
See the Catholic Encyclopedia articles on Worship, Christian, which begins thus:
The word worship (Saxon weorthscipe, “honour”; from worth, meaning “value”, “dignity”, “price”, and the termination, ship; Lat. cultus) in its most general sense is homage paid to a person or a thing. In this sense we may speak of hero-worship, worship of the emperor, of demons, of the angels, even of relics, and especially of the Cross.
As the Blessed Virgin has a separate and absolutely supereminent rank among the saints, the worship paid to her is called hyperdulia (for the meaning and history of these terms see Suicer, Thesaurus ecclesiasticus, 1728).
The worship due God alone is properly called Adoration.
Some might say that the usage of “worship” has changed since the Catholic Encyclopedia, but I see no evidence for that. All that is happened is that recently Catholics have tried to sweep an uncomfortable question under the rug… and quite unnecessarily.
So the next time you are accused of worshipping Mary, say, “Yes, I do but not with the sort of worship that may be given to God alone.” Or simply, “Yes. And…?” That may lead to a conversation that will help them actually understand the distinction. On the other hand, what are they to make of denial of worshipping her when they can see it with their own eyes?