Once upon a time there was an old priest who became rather forgetful and tired of giving sermons at Mass on Sunday.
He used to write down his sermons and then read them at Mass; but more often than not he used to forget to bring his sermons to church; so at sermon time he had nothing to read anyway.
He reasoned that if he had to write down his sermons in order to remember them, then how could the congregation be expected to remember them after leaving church.
With such impeccable logic he decided to do something about it.
One Sunday morning at Mass he announced: “I’m getting old and forgetful. I really can't be bothered anymore with writing sermons I instantly forget. So from now on there will be no more sermons at Mass!”
His congregation was very disappointed and some even complained to the Bishop.
The Bishop called the old priest in for an explanation. Somewhat pensively the old priest explained that he could no longer remember what to say in his sermons, and even though he prepared sermons in writing, he often forgot to bring his writing to church, which meant he had no sermon to deliver.
The Bishop sympathized with the elderly colleague and said: “Here's something you could try. Next time you have to give a sermon say in a loud voice ‘I have an announcement to make!’
“This will ensure you have everyone’s attention. They will hang on to your every word.
“Then say just as loudly ‘I have fallen in love with a woman’.
“Now this will certainly have them all listening very carefully and remembering your every word.
“And then calmly tell them about the Virgin Mary, and all the good she did for us. It will be easy. Just speak from the heart of your love for Our Lady”.
The old priest was overjoyed and the following Sunday he stood proudly at the lectern and said loudly:
“I HAVE AN ANNOUNCEMENT TO MAKE!”
And sure enough everyone sat up in their pews to listen very carefully. The old priest then continued just as loudly:
“THE BISHOP HAS FALLEN IN LOVE WITH A WOMAN …”
As the congregation stirred in their seats the old priest went on:
“I can’t for the life of me remember her name …”
Many non-Catholics perhaps don't understand our devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, and often believe that our love for her is wrong and somewhat sacrilegious. They quote bits of the Bible like:
"Christ said ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me.’
Or Paul's message in his letter to Timothy when he says, "there is one God, and there is one mediator who brings God and mankind together, Christ Jesus."
To pray to Mary, or any other Saint for that matter, must seem like idolatry or blasphemy to many.
But let's consider this some more.
When someone is ill, or in some difficulty, we often pray for them and ask God to come to their aid. This is right and proper and it shows our charitable loving intentions on our part; it shows our generosity of spirit and caring.
Prayers are the greatest gifts we can give to or receive from someone. God loves to hear our prayers on behalf of someone else.
When we pray for others we are mediating for them. We are putting in a good word for them with God. It’s like a friend of yours giving you a good reference when you apply for a job, or an exclusive club membership.
When we pray to Mary and ask her help, we are doing no different. We are asking her, or any other Saint, to put in a good word for us with God. We are not worshipping her, but asking her to mediate in the same way as we do ourselves when we pray for someone.
It is significant perhaps that Christ's first miracle, turning water into wine at the Wedding in Cana, was indeed done through the mediation of His Mother. Is this a clear signal from Christ Himself that there is nothing wrong in asking Mary to mediate or intercede for us?
When we light candles in front of Mary's statue, or place flowers, this is not idolatry. We are not worshipping the statue made of stone, or whatever material. The statue is a mere representation of what Mary might look like; it is to help us imagine who we are praying to. It is no different to us having a picture of our loved ones in our wallet or purse, or on our desk at work. We don't love the picture, but the individuals it portrays. It is a reminder of our loved ones.
Let's look at this another way.
God chose Mary to be the Mother of His only Son. He obviously had, and still has, high regard for her. She said “Yes” and bore a child whom she raised to adulthood.
Do you think that God would discard her after that as an empty insignificant shell? Or do you think He would honour her and welcome her in Heaven as a special person?
How about Jesus Himself? He is God made man. He is the personification of love, mercy and goodness. How does He regard Mary and Joseph, His earthly father? Just two people who raised Him up? Or important people worthy of a special place in Heaven?
How does Jesus regard His followers like Peter and the other disciples who set up the early Church; and Paul who preached Christ’s good news? Just ordinary men; or special people in Heaven?
Peter and the other disciples performed many miracles when on earth. They did not do this through their own power but in the name of Christ who honoured them and was with them through the Holy Spirit.
When they died and went to Heaven, where we all hope to go one day, did they suddenly lose their power to perform miracles and were relegated to a lower ranking of Saints?
The early Saints, and others since, still can and do perform miracles today when we ask them. Not through their own power but through God’s power in honouring them.
When we pray to Mary and the Saints, we do not worship them, but ask them to mediate for us and to ask God to perform miracles where and when He sees fit to do so.
Do you think that when we get to meet God face to face He will punish us for daring to love Mary? Or Joseph? Or any of the other Saints?
It is high time that non-Catholics who accuse us of worshipping Mary and the Saints grew up and tried to understand our devotions.
And it is also high time that Catholics grew up and explained better what we mean and do when we pray to Saints and ask for intercessions.