“Do Catholics Worship Mary?”
It’s quite simple. Catholics don’t worship Mary. We honor her, which simply means we recognize the great things God has accomplished in her life. Just as the Bible praises God for his spectacular natural works of creation — the sun, moon, stars, mountains, seas — so we should praise God for his supernatural works of salvation in the saints.
More amazing than the entire cosmos is the fact that God can take weak, fallible, sinful human beings and transform them with his grace so that they become sons and daughters of God. That is certainly worth praising God about! Just as one praises an artist more not by ignoring his works but by recognizing his masterpieces, so Catholics desire to give God all the praise they can by recognizing his supernatural masterpieces, the saints.
The work God did in Mary, who is the first and model disciple in the Bible, is recognized in a particular way by Catholics, but I should stress that any attention we might give to Mary is not meant to focus on Mary for her own sake — Mary wouldn’t want that! It’s to help us understand, praise, love, and serve her son Jesus better.
Similarly, Catholics don’t pray to Mary in the sense that we pray to God. We simply ask Mary to pray for us, just as I might ask a friend to pray for me. We certainly go to God directly, but Saint Paul emphasizes the importance of intercession, of sharing needs within the body of Christ and praying for each other. All this helps us grow in love in the body of Christ. And Mary and the saints remain a part of the body of Christ even after they die. They are not cut off from the body. If anything, they are more profoundly living in the body of Christ in heaven. So it’s not on their own power that they can hear our prayers, but through Jesus Christ, the head of the body, they can hear our prayers and intercede for us.