Explaining Marian Devotion to Non-Catholics

Hopefully, you have a crucifix and other images of Christ in your home. It’s also possible that you have a statue or image of the Blessed Mother or some of your favorite saints as well. Many Non-Catholic Christians struggle to understand our relationship with Mary and the saints. Some even condemn the devotion as “idolatry”.

Melinda posted on social media for the Blessed Mother’s birthday, but she explains, “Someone had asked me how could I do that when it says in Exodus 20:4, you shall not make for yourself an idol or likeness of anything in the heavens above or the earth below?” She wondered how to explain her love for Mary.

So what’s the deal with our images of and devotions to the Mother of God?

“I don’t idolize her … I want to imitate her as she imitates Christ,” responded Fr. Richard Simon, host of Father Simon SaysTM on Relevant Radio®. He broke down the original language of the Scripture and what it means.

You shall not make for yourself an idol or a likeness of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or serve them. For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God. – Exodus 20:4-5

The Hebrew word is pesel. “It’s a very specific word that is an idol; in other words, an image of a god,” explained Fr. Simon. The original Hebrew tells us not to prostrate ourselves before such idols as the worship of a god. Furthermore, it tells us not to serve or be slaves of them, which is a practice that modern people struggle to comprehend, but was in fact a common practice among the pagans long ago.

Young couple prays Rosary for baby“The images of our Blessed Mother and the saints, we don’t revere them or think of them as gods. And if we do, we should stop. They’re not gods—they’re bits of plaster!” he said.

“The word idol is quite specific and idolatry is forbidden. We agree with that! These are not gods; we do not serve them. They are focuses and reminders in prayer but no reasonable Catholic believes that that bit of plaster over on the shelf is the Blessed Mother … I have never, ever thought of that bit of wood or plaster as a living being. That’s nuts!”

Then why do we have Marian devotion?

As Christians, we make great effort to imitate Christ in all things. And as Christ dearly loved his mother, we also love her. God tells us to honor our father and mother, and Christ did that perfectly. In imitation of him, we also honor his mother.

Our devotion to Mary does not replace our worship of Christ. It is not an either/or. Catholics worship God alone. But in recognizing the great love that Jesus had for his mother and her place in heaven among the angels and the saints, we give her honor and we ask for her intercession. Just as Mary implored her Son to work a miracle on behalf of the newlyweds in Cana who had run out of wine, we ask her to also intercede on our behalf, that Christ might grant our requests.

Mary is the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church. She is our Blessed Mother, but she is not God. Mary is not to be idolized or worshiped, but honored and loved.

“Never be afraid of loving Mary too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”- St. Maximilian Kolbe

Listen to the full explanation here:

Tune in to Father Simon SaysTM weekdays at 1-2pm CT only on Relevant Radio®.

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.