We know from Scripture that only Almighty God is worthy of our worship. The Bible is not fuzzy about this; it commands us to worship God alone.
“You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” – Matthew 4:10
But Roman Catholics dedicate a large portion of their religious devotion to Mary. Protestants have even charged Catholics with worshiping Mary. Our Catholic friends strongly deny that they worship Mary. They claim that they simply honor her with the veneration she deserves as the mother of Jesus and “mother of the church.”
Despite the denials, the line between “veneration” and “worship” is not altogether clear in regards to how Catholics actually relate to Mary. Let’s focus on just one example; the celebrated Catholic saint, Alphonsus Liguori.
Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) was an Italian Catholic bishop who founded the Redemptorists religious order of priests and brothers and is considered one of Roman Catholicism’s greatest saints. He was canonized in 1839 by pope Gregory XVI and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church (i.e. an honorific title bestowed upon the church’s 36 preeminent theologians) by pope Pius IX in 1871.
Liguori is best known for his absolute devotion to Mary. His book, “The Glories of Mary,” was first published in 1774 and became the standard work in promulgating devotion to Mary within Catholicism.
Below is a petition to Mary written by Liguori. I ask all evangelicals to read this “prayer” with open eyes:
“Most holy Virgin Immaculate, my Mother Mary, to thee who art the Mother of my Lord, the queen of the universe, the advocate, the hope, the refuge of sinners, I who am the most miserable of all sinners, have recourse this day. I venerate thee, great queen, and I thank thee for the many graces thou has bestowed upon me even unto this day; in particular for having delivered me from the hell which I have so often deserved by my sins. I love thee, most dear Lady; and for the love I bear thee, I promise to serve thee willingly forever and to do what I can to make thee loved by others also. I place in thee all my hopes for salvation; accept me as thy servant and shelter me under thy mantle, thou who art the Mother of mercy. And since thou art so powerful with God, deliver me from all temptations, or at least obtain for me the strength to overcome them until death. From thee I implore a true love for Jesus Christ. Through thee I hope to die a holy death. My dear Mother, by the love thou bearest to Almighty God, I pray thee to assist me always, but most of all at the last moment of my life. Forsake me not then, until thou shalt see me safe in heaven, there to bless thee and sing of thy mercies through all eternity. Such is my hope. Amen.”
In this prayer to Mary, Liguori fleetingly mentions Jesus Christ, God the Son, and God the Father, but the passion of the prayer is devoted entirely to Mary.
Among other offices and attributes, Liguori honors Mary as the following:
- Queen of the universe, the advocate, the hope, the refuge of sinners.
- Bestower of many graces, in particular the deliverer from hell.
- Source of all hopes for salvation.
- Deliverer from all temptations.
At the end of the prayer, Liguori pleads with Mary to assist him in his efforts to merit salvation, especially at the time of his death.
Evangelical believers must surely read this prayer with astonishment and revulsion. Liguori attributes to Mary all of the offices that uniquely belong to Jesus Christ: Advocate, Savior, and Deliverer. Catholics protest that they do not worship Mary out of one side of their mouth, and yet worship her unabashedly out of the other side.
Believers praise the Lord for Mary’s example of obedience in Scripture, but Mary was a sinner in need of the Savior as we all are. Mary would be sorely grieved by the veneration/worship Catholics accord to her.
The Redemptorists’ website says the following about their founder, Liguori, in his old age as he approached death:
“(Liguori)…was plagued with spiritual afflictions, scrupulously fearing he hadn’t done enough to serve the God he loved so much. To help him through these times, his confreres gathered with him to pray. They always included the Litany of Our Lady, usually followed by the rosary. They read to him from his own writings about the glory of Mary and how, as heaven’s queen, she welcomed all her true and faithful servants at the hour of their death. Early in the evening on July 31, 1787, Alphonsus made one final request. “Give me my lady,” he whispered. They placed a picture of Mary in his hands. He spent the night in prayer with the Blessed Mother. The next day at the stroke of the noon Angelus, Alphonsus died at the age of 91.”
Liguori was not trusting in Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone. He led millions upon millions into error by teaching them to worship Mary and to attempt to merit salvation through Mary with their own unrighteous works.
When the day comes when I approach the valley of the shadow of death, I will turn to my loving Savior and Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and say, “Take me home, Lord.”