Mary “Worship” [Akin]

A reader writes:

How does a Catholic answer this devotion that uses the word worship?

I would say it is a private devotion that is not binding on Catholics.

The word “worship” originally referred to showing honor to someone in a general way.

Thus some British officials are still referred to as “Your worship” (note that Han Solo calls Princess Leia this to annoy her).

Over time, the word “worship” has come in popular speech to be associated with the specific form of honor due to God, however, this was not originally the connotation that the word had.

As a result, particularly in older works, you find it used in a broader sense. In these cases, it does not connote the worship due to God but the honor due to men.


This is an older, non American use of the word Worship. It’s also an older translation of that prayer.

It is like saying “I worship my wife” or “I worship the ground you walk on”

It’s language not used anymore and the word worship (especially in America) is typically only for worship of God.

Also, modern, American translations of that prayer will not use the word “Worship”

Finally, this is way the Church uses Latin to document liturgy, etc. Irregardless of the that translation was, the Latin version of the prayer is not going to use Latria, it will use a word that means honor.

This is a good topic.
Non-Catholics are often prone to misunderstanding devotion that they see Catholics give to Mary. To help explain that it is best to show them the
3 Proofs that Catholics Do NOT Worship Mary.


This isn’t Catholic doctrine, but as for me personally, I don’t distinguish between devotion and worship with respect to Mary. I do with the Saints and Angels (you can be devoted to a particular Saint or Saint(s) but you should never worship them).

The Blessed Mother is in a category of her own, she is Queen of Heaven and higher than all the Angels and the Saints, and while she is connected to the Trinity in a way no other natural or supernatural being is (being the Mother of Christ and Spouse of the Holy Spirit)), she is not part of the Trinity, and thus does not share the fullness of their divinity. To wax poetical and analogical, she is akin to the Moon reflecting the light coming from the Sun of the Trinity. However, what that connection/reflection means is that devotion and worship of Mary is actually devotion and worship of the Trinity, and in particular of her son, Jesus Christ.

And this is, of course, I believe, all part of God’s plan, some people, perhaps many people, find it easier/more comfortable/more natural to approach the Trinity through Mary, as a mother and humble servant of God, than in other ways. Similarly, other people prefer to directly approach the Trinity through Jesus Christ as their Savior and as God incarnate in human form.

I just have no interest in semantics when it comes to defending the devotion and/or worship of Mary from attacks by non-Catholics.

Alternatively, Heaven is a Kingdom, not a Democracy. You have a King, you have a Prince, you have a Spirit Between Them and you have a Queen. As in most kingdoms (England during the time of Queen Elizabeth excepted) the Queen doesn’t rule, that’s the job of the King but the Queen is still deserving of the respect appropriate to her station.

Yes, but we don’t give the Blessed Mother latria. We only give latria to The Holy Trinity.
We give dulia to the saints and angels, while we give hyperdulia to the Blessed Mother alone.

So while we honor and revere her above all saints and angels as the Queen of Heaven, she is not The King of the Universe. God, The Holy Trinity alone receives latria.

God Bless!

I agree, great topic. I’ve had to discuss with evangelical friends more than once about Mary’s role in the church and our perceived “WORSHIP” of her. :rolleyes:

For those who may not know;

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Latria is a theological term (Latin Latrīa, from the Greek λατρεία, latreia) used in Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic theology to mean adoration, a reverence directed only to the Holy Trinity. Latria carries an emphasis on the internal form of worship, rather than external ceremonies.

question I would have for people is that it’s great that we have these theological (or abstract) distinctions of dulia, hyper dulia, and latria, but how do they actually play out in their actual daily lives? How is the honor they give to God different than the honor they give to Mary?

For me this question almost doesn’t make sense. But, I can see it being a valid question many people have. So I will ask it. Also , I am curious about others response. It doesn’t make sense on the one hand because one could easily tell the difference between God and Mary. One could easily make the distinction there by looking at who each is. God is the eternal creator of the universe. Whereas Mary is simply a created being, an exalted one, but still created. Thus, it would not make sense to exalt Mary above God or to attribute to her things like divinity. For she is not divine, but human.

So how do people distinguish between the honor due to God alone and the honor due to Mary in their lives. Is there something they do or say differently? Or is that just a matter of recognizing who each is?

I think people get tripped up by the word divine with respect to Mary, which I find odd, since even the protestants accept that she is the Mother of God, which is a divine-like role. Mary is not part of the Trinity, but as noted she is, unlike any human or angel, part of the Holy Family (by which I mean Father, Son, Holy Spirit and Mary. I do not mean, St. Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus in this context) as such God has delegated to Mary certain roles and abilities that are indistinguishable to us mere mortals here on earth from divine roles and abilities.

Most notably, importantly and specifically the following: take the prayer, that I understand was prayed by the Blessed Mother Theresa, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, be a mother to me.” God delegated to Mary, when he chose her as the role of Mother to Jesus, the role of Mother to all of us, which is a divine-like role with associated divine-like abilities. As such it would be wrong, and against God’s Will (and the Will of the Trinity generally), to pray, to Him or to Christ saying, God (or Jesus) be a mother to me." Let me emphasize that this is delegated, Mary was not born divine, and her divine-like roles (Mother of God, Mother to us all, Queen of Heaven) are all derived from and circumscribed by God.

Anyway, that’s my answer to your question on specificity.

/aside that you should probably ignore

I have thought of the differences between the Saints and Angels, Mary and the Trinity in mathematical terms, not because it bares any relationship to the real differences (obviously it doesn’t), but because as a mere human, I must grab onto whatever feeble instrument I can to understand what is, ultimately, unknownable and passeth my comprehension.

So that caveat in mind, there is, in math, a concept called degrees of infinities. That is to say, there are large numbers, small infinities, and big infinities. I think of the Saints and Angels as the largest non-infinite number I can imagine, a googleplex to a googleplex to a googleplex. That number though it is indescribably huge (much bigger than the number of atoms in this universe) is still infinitely smaller than the infinity of the Natural numbers, which I associate with Mary. That infinity, is itself infinitely smaller than the infinity of the Real or Complex numbers, which I associate with the Trinity. As I said an aside you should probably ignore.

When I talk about Mary not being divine I am talking about her nature or essence. Only God has the divine nature. That puts God in a distinct class from everyone else. Mary still has a human nature and will never posses the divine nature. But, as Paul writes we and she can participate in the divine nature. But this is different than actually being the divine nature. We always have a human nature. Thus, really any supernatural abilities that may go beyond human nature that Mary may have is not due to her own powers, since she is still human, but due to God’s divine power working through her.

How I had it explain to me once by a Catholic apologist was that it doesn’t matter how much someone is praised or exalted, it doesn’t take away from God because, they are still creatures. And no matter how much a creature is praised it doesn’t change their nature into God. Thus, God is in a class of his own that creatures could never achieve. And God, by virtue of being in this class alone therefore has his unique dignity or honor due.

So if one were to praise Mary as Mary that would be fine. Because you are saying what a wonderful creature she. And simply speaking what is true. All the while recognizing she is not God. But if you were to praise Mary as God you would be making an error in classification. Since Mary does not posses the divine nature but a human nature. Thus you would be speaking what is false.

I think what the basis here that is being made in terms like divine nature vs human nature in this context is really to answer the question of what distinguishes God from everyone else. Is it distinguished by how much praise is given? For example if someone praises Mary more often than God, does that mean they think Mary is God? For example, I’ve heard some people say the rosary is wrong because there are 10 Hail Mary’s for every one Our Father. So does the amount of praise or exaltation define God? No, I think the essence of what determines whether someone is God is their very nature. The divine nature is what sets God apart from everyone else. So it doesn’t matter for instance how many Hail Mary’s you may say, it doesn’t turn Mary into something she is not, namely God. Her essence remains the same.

“Magnificat anima mea Dominum”

“My soul magnifies the Lord” (My existence glorifies God?)

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit