Protestant Question about Mary

Let me be clear that I am aware of the Catholic distinction between adoration and veneration. I also understand that it is Catholic doctrine that Mary is venerated, not adored. However, I have a question about devotion. It seems that Marian devotion is encouraged in the RC, and recently there was a thread where an RCIA was asking how she could increase her devotion to Mary.

While I understand the conceptual distinction, I suppose I have not yet heard a compelling distinction between adoration and veneration on a practical level. I also wonder how the normative RC defines devotion and why that does not fall under adoration.

Also, when God tells us in Scripture to worship no other gods besides Him, I have a hypothetical question. If one were to venerate a god, but not adore a god, would it be idolatry/sin? Because if there is such a clear distinction between veneration and adoration, and veneration is not worship, would it be wrong to venerate Pharaoh/Caesar, Zeus, my boss, musical artists, etc.?

I do not want a defense, I want an answer that is explanatory. I do not want this to be hostile, but I do want it to be honest. How does one make a distinction?

I am far from an authority on this matter,but I’ll do the best explanation I can.In the Old Covenant we had the Ark of the Covenant which carried the Ten Cammandments,AAron’s staff,and manna.It was made of gold and acacia wood.If the unworthy touched it they were dead.The Shekina Holy Cloud overshaddowed the Ark in the Tabernacle.Now you have an Ark of the Covenant for the New Covenant which is Mary. The Shekina Holy Cloud overshaddowed her and God through the Holy Spirit wrapped His Word with flesh. No humanbeing in all of mankind has this distinction. The Israelites venerated the Old Ark carrying the Word of God in stone form. Catholic’s venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary because she is the New Ark of the Covenant and the only human ever overshaddowed by the Glory of God and live.God’s Glory is Holy Fire,that is what the Shekina Glory Cloud is. I think Mary desires more honor than a box that was made from gold and acacia wood.

Thank you for your response :slight_smile: understandable, but a few points I find iffy.

The Arc was also full of the Spirit of God, a place where God dwelt in a special way. Surely this could be used to describe a Christ-pregnant Mary, but there is a difference. God dwelled in the belly of Mary 9 months and then left upon being born (Mary would still be filled with the Holy Spirit… but so are you and I). If the Spirit of God were ever to leave the Arc, it would have a very different role, wouldn’t it? I think a better allegory is the body of Christ. For we worship his flesh and blood, which aren’t at all spiritual forms, but because of how the divine nature of Christ is joined with them, they are worshiped/venerated. The Arc is also not a person, and there is no current veneration or devotion to the Arc of the Covenant. It is a fine allegory within it’s limits, but I do not know if I find it convincing for what we are discussing here.

In any case, RC venerate all the saints. While one could argue that Mary should have a special veneration, I am still looking for a clear distinction between veneration and adoration as defined/practiced by the RC. My hindrance is not veneration, but how veneration is practiced.

Once again, I appreciate your response.

Hi Sophia. Thanks for your OP. I think it is nicely presented and reasonable too. No problem at all.

My answer would be short as others can fill in the details. Devotion is a form of spirituality, a prayer. It is therefore encouraged because it will enhance one’s prayer life and makes one more prayerful. Mary’s basic role, like all the saints, is one of an intercessor. We are encouraged to pray to the saints to intercede for us and thus the devotion to them. We can have devotion to other saints too. I use the phrase ‘pray to’ because you have no problem with this as it does not mean to worship.

As you have understood, adoration is for God and veneration is not. On the practical level, it is with the knowledge and intention that when we venerate a saint, we know that we are not doing it to God. So it is more in the mind and intention. Other than that, on the outside, veneration can look very much like adoration. But it is two different things altogether. I am glad you get over this stage as most Protestants are unable to. The main thing, they are not the same.

How could we not adore God? Veneration of God though is a good thing but it certainly is not good enough. He has to be adored and worshipped. :slight_smile:

We do not venerate Pharaoh/Caesar, Zeus, our boss, musical artists because they have nothing to do with our spirituality. I mean this does not apply to Christians. They are not saints of God; they have no place in God’s Kingdom as far as we know due to what is symbolized by their lives. But I guess I know what you are trying to say. Just replace Pharaoh/Caesar, Zeus, our boss, musical artists with Mary, St. Joseph, St. Jude, St. Christopher, et al, and no, it is not wrong to venerate them.

Hope that helps. :slight_smile:

Veneration is honor due to a good deceased person (saint).
Can one venerate an idol? Of course not. An idol is evil in its use and any veneration would be encouraging that evil. Thus, Catholics refused to throw a pinch of incense to the Roman gods and were persecuted for it.

In practice, veneration is talking to the saints, asking for their prayers to God for us, and sometimes leaving gifts, such as donating a painting to the church in honor of Mary. Non-Catholics do similar things, such as naming buildings and streets after people of good repute. Protestants have even built their own shrines (the Lincoln memorial for instance).

Veneration is not worship. Many examples of worship are found in the Church however. We repeat the creed that Christ, not Mary, died for our sins. She is not in the Eucharist that we genuflect to but He is. Her spirit does not indwell our hearts since we are not baptized into her, but into the Holy Spirit. She is not the focus of our Bible, nor does she forgive our sins through confession; Rather Christ stands at the center. When we do good works, they are done through Christ’s mercy not Mary’s. Jesus is on our cross at the center of Church, not His mother, yet He promises us that “all generations will call her blessed.”

Thank you for that response. It was very helpful. I still find myself feeling “iffy” about the last question you responded to, and I still do not like having a lack of practical distinction, though I respect your distinction of intentions. Everything else I have found to be coherent and sufficient from a RC worldview and insightful. Thanks ^_^.

good one

Good response, though it does not help with understanding why devotion is acceptable under veneration. I also understand your response concerning idolatry, but they are only idols if you worship them. If I venerate them they are no longer idols. Perhaps I venerate what they represent. Now this may be a stumbling block to those who do worship them and to those who oppose worshiping them… but this can be applied to the saints. For if veneration is not worship, your are fine in venerating them. For those who misunderstand and worship them, you are being a stumbling block to them. To those who find it objectionable, you are a stumbling block to them. I guess I do not see why venerating a statue for what it represents is wrong, since it can only be idolatry if the statue is worshiped. I suppose I would just want more of a distinction.

Much of your post was very clarifying though. It has left me with some good thoughts to contemplate. thank you.

My simplest form of answer is that veneration of saints is more to honor them as thanks for their service to our Lord, just as you would thank and honor a hero for service to a people or country. Consider those who names schools after someone who had done great service to the school. Or consider the faces on Mount Rushmore; the faces of men who have served our country in special ways. Consider the honor given to those in the military who risk and give their lives to protect us. The veneration and honor given to saints is similar to this except that we believe them to be alive and well in heaven. Mary is given special honor considering her special service to our Lord. Her having born and raised the Son of God into a man. Her service did not end there. Consider her roles later in his life, such as the moment at the marriage in Cana.

Adoration goes beyond veneration in that it gives honor that is only due to God. We adore God for all that He has done for us, especially the giving of His Son. Consider this the “patriotism” to God, just as one’s honor and duty to country is greater than that which is due to a country’s heroes or even its leader.

I hope this analogy helps.

Yes, it does. I’ll be reconsidering my opinion of veneration.

please before i go futher i would like to define the way i use the terms veneration, devotion and adoration.
To venerate is to regard with great respect.
To adore is to acknowledge the excellence and perfection of some/an uncreated being who is thought to be God this usually leads to a gift of ones self (submission) or a sacrifice to that being.
Devotion: a feeling or d showing of love.
In essence we can be devoted to something without implying adoration to the same. One may be devoted to his job or his wife without making them gods.
To venerate may apply to both living and dead as it done during award given ceremonies and in naming facilities like schools after some dead heroes.
To adore applies solely to God.
As the definitions above shows one may venerate and show devotion to God who he also adores, and one can show great respect or honor (venerate) without necessary trying to acknowledge perfection of character in another or trying to submit himself to the other (worship).
The dictinction between venerating (showing respect) and adoring isnt primarily in the postures in which one assumes as the disposition of ones heart and mind. In some cultures (mine is a good example) prostrating and kneeling as postions one should assume when greeting elders, at the minimum one must bow his head to show respect (veneration), and at the same time with the right disposition those postures are also for adoration.
As for saint in the catholic church one is encourages to show delight at what God has done and honor them (veneration), and one may truly show such love a respect (devotion), without trying to give them the honor due to God (worship).
I bolded two parts of your post. As the d first part my answer is yes, creating a god at all is like puting a rival for the almighty who said “you shall have no other God but me”. It is idolatry, and why should one venerate a ‘god’ that doesnt even exist? As for the other part i believe many show respect(veneration) for their boss, a music artist (during the time of d pharaohs and caesars i believe such respect was shown them) without associating them with God, such respect may be healthy but i see no reason i should have something to do with with zeus, who is thought to be a ‘god’ and i dont believe he even exist. If zeus was the name of an apostle we would be pals.

Probably the issue stems from the word “worship” that we use to define the love that we express to the sacred.
In Latin instead we have 3 distinct word, Latria to God, Dulia to the Saints and Hiperdulia to Mary.

Worship of Adoration or Latria: In the strict sense, an act of religion offered to God in acknowledgment of His supreme perfection and dominion, and of the creature’s dependence upon Him.

In other words you relinquish your will to God. “Thy will be done”

Worship Dulia: When worship is addressed only indirectly to God (Martyrs, Saints, Angels)

Worship Hiperdulia: the worship paid to Mary due to Her absolutely supereminent rank among the Saints.

Also the word veneration is used instead of worship but they come from the same root “Honor”

ven·er·a·tion (vn-rshn)

  1. The act of venerating.
  2. Profound respect or reverence: “The veneration of man has been misdirected” (Lucretia Mott). See Synonyms at honor.
  3. The condition or status of one who is venerated

You never however do not submit your will in those cases Only God’s will will be done
And also you ask for their help or intercession to God.

Hope this helps :thumbsup:

Two my last two responders, thank you very much. I have learned a lot and have a better understanding of devotion. But now I have a new objection, based on both of your posts.

The way you have defined adoration is stacked. In pagan pantheons, there is usually a high god that lesser gods are contingent upon. By this definition, I cannot adore something unless I believe that it is a self-sufficient being, a creator being, a loving being, etc. But many of the pagan gods were none of these things. Did pagans worship their gods latria by your definition? For it seems that at most they could only venerate since their gods did not fit any of the criteria mentioned above. It seems as thought one can worship something falsely with attributing any of these things to it. Also, is ancestry worship/veneration wrong then? Because that has been long practiced.

I am becoming more and more open minded, but there are still stumbling blocks for me concerning these things. It is not veneration that bothers me… it is not being able to have a clear distinnction between veneration and adoration, not because your definitions aren’t distinct, but because it largely seems to be the same thing. At what point does veneration to Mary become adoration of Mary?

I would say the point is when you start looking at Mary as equal to or greater than Jesus, or look at her as something great of her own being, because it is only because of God (Father, Christ, and Holy Spirit) that she (or any of the saints) is anything to begin with; she cannot stand alone.

That’s my take.

i can relate, it seem my definition was overburdened with catholic theology and it doesnt seem to stand well with the pagan ‘gods’

In pagan pantheons, there is usually a high god that lesser gods are contingent upon. By this definition, I cannot adore something unless I believe that it is a self-sufficient being, a creator being, a loving being, etc. But many of the pagan gods were none of these things. Did pagans worship their gods latria by your definition? For it seems that at most they could only venerate since their gods did not fit any of the criteria mentioned above. It seems as thought one can worship something falsely with attributing any of these things to it. Also, is ancestry worship/veneration wrong then? Because that has been long practiced.

one “creates” a new god when he ascribes divinity (the divine nature and attributes to it). I’m not very good with the greek mythology but i think one of d gods was in charge of love, the other of d sea, each of them divine and immotal and governing their portion in their own right, by ascribing the divine nature to another, a new god was created “thou shall not have strange gods before me” applies becos a “new god” has “appeared” and those who created him and acknowledge him now commit idolatry (+ superstion).

I am becoming more and more open minded, but there are still stumbling blocks for me concerning these things. It is not veneration that bothers me… it is not being able to have a clear distinnction between veneration and adoration, not because your definitions aren’t distinct, but because it largely seems to be the same thing. At what point does veneration to Mary become adoration of Mary?

at the point where mary is mary because of mary. The point where we extinguish the fact that who she is due to the grace of God. At that point we may have truly given her implicitly (maybe not explicitly) something that should be ascribed to God. I think that is when veneration (delight in d work of God) become adoration (ascribing divinity to another).
As for ancestrial worship/veneration i dont personally know much about it. To show respect for the dead is a legitimate veneration (i think d UK just finished remembering their fallen heroes), but bringing food to the dead so as to gain their protection is questionable and atleast superstitious, d dead cant eat and of themselves they protect no one.

The difference is that we recognize that she is God’s creation and not a goddess. As God’s creation, we are praising God through her. It’s kind of like when you praise someone’s delicious cookies—you are really praising the chef, because obviously the cookies didn’t make themselves :slight_smile:

If you say “those are really tasty cookies” and the chef says “thank you”, it’s not because he has confused himself with a tasty cookie! It is because we really know that we are praising the chef’s excellent baking skills, or what he has wrought. We honor and bear witness to the excellence found in his handiwork :slight_smile:

Mary recognized this herself, in the canticle called the Magnificat, where she says “all generations will call me blessed BECAUSE He who mighty has done great things for me, and holy is HIS name”. (The whole of the magnificat is found in Luke 1: 46-55) She clearly recognized that this was God’s work in her, and she is called blessed because of Him, praise be to His name.

Actually, the answers to the very questions you are asking were articulated by one of the greatest (if not the greatest) philosopher and theologian of the Catholic church—St. Thomas Aquinas. Basically what he sets out to prove is 1) honor consists of external and corporal signs that witness to a person’s excellence. 2) it is properly due to those who are above us 3) dulia (an external act of honoring the excellence in a person) is distinct from latria (adoration and worship due to God alone), because the honour due to God is inherently distinct from the honour we pay to men.

The reason that latria is different from dulia is because, as St. Thomas says, “God has absolute and paramount lordship over the creature wholly and singly, which is entirely subject to His power: whereas man partakes of a certain likeness to the divine lordship, forasmuch as he exercises a particular power over some man or creature.” The distinction is manifest on a practical level in that we recognize that God is the author of all good, and all that is worthy of honor comes from Him! For this reason, St. Thomas states that honor towards men can only be paid by means of external, corporal signs (words or deeds or material things), but honor towards God “may consist of the mere internal movement of the heart, for instance when a man acknowledges either God’s excellence or another man’s excellence before God.” (Summa Theologica, Secunda Secundae, q. 103, a. 1). .

The answer to your question was easy for me even when I was not in the Fullness of the Church. How can some thing so Holy like the Ark(Mary) stop being Holy after Jesus was born? People are still looking for the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant.She still has the distinction of the only human that ever had the Shekina Glory Cloud(Holy Fire) overshadow her and God put his seed in her. No human could be in the prescience of the Shekina cloud and live. Mary did and God joined with her, he didn’t do that with the Old Ark of the Covenant.I tell you that for me, is enough to honor Mary. We are honoring the Painter(God) by honoring his painting(Mary).he is still the New Ark of the Covenant. Revelation 12:1-5,17 is taking about Jesus Christ and Mary our Blessed Mother Mary, that is undeniable. Gensis 3:15 is talking about Jesus and Mary.Like the Feast of Canan what better person to ask her Son in intersessory prayer for us, “Please Son(Jesus), can you help them.”

On your last point…let me try to give an example/s:

For true worship…the Mass is the method of worship…for catholics that is.

I would venture to say…another form of Eucharistic worship is Eucharistic Benediction. I do not have time to send you a link…but look at EWTN or youtube…and search of Eucharistic benediction.

You will not find something like this for the saints or Mary.

A book recommendation: Hail Holy Queen by Scott Hahn

A short article on saints and relics:

(the article deals with your question…from which I qoute:)

How does all of this relate to the doctrine of Mary and the Assumption? At one level, my discovery of the saints was a necessary precondition for understanding the doctrine of Mary. Once I came to accept the place of the saints in the Church, it was much easier to understand Mary’s role as one of the saints. If devotion to the saints in general is acceptable, then how much more so devotion to the Theotokos? But naturally, there is more going on in Catholic Mariology than just devotion. There is what St. Thomas calls Super Devotion (hyper dulia). And here, it was John Henry Newman who helped me most.

Newman, in his famous essay on Mary, pointed out that the fundamental Patristic doctrine on Mary was that she was the second Eve. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that this was the teaching of Justin, Tertullian, Ephrem, Ireneaus, Cyril, Epiphanius, Jerome, and others. But why? To the fathers, particularly in light of the biblical idea of corporate responsibility and the exalted role of Biblical heroes, it was obvious that Eve must have her counterpart in the work of redemption. Next to the second Adam, there must be a second Eve. Thus, Eve’s No was undone by Mary’s Fiat mihi.

The easiest thing is go alone and read the Hail Mary to yourself.

It starts out Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is WITH you. Think about that the Lord is with you.

Then go to what you are asking you are asking her to what PRAY FOR US SINNERS. See you are asking her to PRAY for you. You are not asking her to answer your prayer, you are asking her to pray for you.

Thats the difference. You are not saying dear Mary please help me do this or that, you are asking her to pray for you in your help for this or that.

That is the easiest way I think to explain it. Hope it helps!:smiley:

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