I know why it bothers people when Catholics make such a big deal about Mary. It used to bother me, too, even as I was being raised Catholic. God sent Jesus to take away our sins. Case closed. Why bother with anything else? So, Mary got picked out of billions of women to be the mother of Jesus. That’s why all generations are supposed to call her blessed, right? It’s like winning the lottery or something. “Wow, you’re so blessed to be chosen!” That was the end of it. Turns out that’s just part of the reason. There’s a lot more to Mary than a part in a Christmas play.
There are a lot of theological and scriptural implications about Mary that I simply did not know about. Learning those “technical” aspects of Marian doctrine really opened my eyes. Becoming a parent changed my outlook as well. I can only imagine being a mother, but being a father was enough to give me a greater appreciation for Mary’s role as a loving, sacrificial, devoted, holy parent.
Being a husband also contributed to my appreciation of Mary. One learns much about a spouse by getting to know one’s in-laws. Becoming part of a new family is life changing. As the saying goes, “You don’t just marry your spouse; you also marry your spouse’s family.” Knowing your spouse’s family contributes to knowing your spouse. It just makes sense that knowing the mother of Jesus would help a person know and love Jesus better. That’s how families generally work. No one lives in a vacuum. We all impact each other’s lives. The Church is a family, after all.
I understand my Protestant friends’ fear of idolatry, and I greatly respect it. I used to share it. The focus has to be on Jesus. I agree. It took me a long time to grasp the concept that devotion to Mary does not take anything away from Jesus. Indeed, Mary is the perfect model of complete devotion to Jesus. There is no other reason to acknowledge Mary except for the fact that she points us to her Son in all that she says and does. She is everything a disciple of Christ is supposed to be. She accepted Christ into her heart (and her body, thus becoming the Ark of the New Covenant) from before his birth until after his death and resurrection. She never left him. Her whole being is wrapped up in her love for Jesus. She is “full of grace.” She is what we are supposed to be. Her focus is always on her Son, Jesus.
Christians are supposed to love Jesus and follow Jesus. No human being ever loved Jesus more or followed Jesus better than Mary. That’s why Catholics have a devotion to her. It’s not because we think she can do something that Jesus can’t do. It’s not because we think she is equal to Jesus. It’s because we want to be as close to Jesus as possible, and she shows us how it is done. Can we be close to Jesus without getting to know Mary? Sure, but not as close. Mary is Jesus’ own flesh and blood. You can’t help but draw closer to Jesus by getting closer to Mary. It’s not an act of idolatry to talk to Mary. It’s not adding something “extra” to a relationship with Jesus. It’s being part of Jesus’ family. It’s about learning to know and love Jesus within the context of a family.
Incidentally, I have a great app on my phone that explains a lot about the Catholic perspective of Mary. If you have even the slightest interest in learning more about Mary, check it out. It is very comprehensive and easy to read.