Queen of the Most Holy Rosary
(Holy Family Chapel, Greenhills, San Juan City)
THE WORSHIP OF MARY
Marwil N. Llasos, O.P.
In my article on “Aba, Ginoong Maria,” a certain “Richard” posed a question on the comments section regarding the use of the word “worship” in reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Richard stated that there are “Born Again Christians” who point to certain Catholic prayers to Mary as “proof” that we do worship the Blessed Mother. In these prayers, it is literally stated that we “worship” Mary, the Mother of Jesus; hence, we Catholics are guilty of idolatry (or Mariolatry, to be precise).
One prayer cited by Richard, which I am sure is taken out of context by anti-Catholic websites, is the Prayer of St. Alphonsus Liguori taken from the Raccolta (342):
“...Queen of the world ... I worship thee, great Queen, and give thee thanks for the many favors thou hast bestowed on me in the past ... most of all do I thank thee for having saved me from hell ... I promise ever in the future to serve thee... In thee I put all my trust, all my hope of salvation.... And since thou hast so much power with God, deliver me from all temptations, or at least obtain for me the grace ever to overcome them.....”
The Raccolta: A collection of indulgenced prayers
The other prayer is found in the Novena to Our Lady of the Pillar:
“Holiest Virgin of the Pillar, Mother of God, with my whole heart and with my whole soul I consecrate to you my body with all its powers, and worship you above all the angels and saints in heaven as the Daughter of Our Eternal Father who art in heaven.”
In these prayers, anti-Catholics have found the smoking gun of the Catholic crime of Mary-worship. Or have they?
Our Lady of the Pillar
For a starter, I referred Richard to the Catholic Answers tract Saint Worship available on line at http://www.catholic.com/tracts/saint-worship. The article has shown that the word “worship” has gone a change of meaning in English. Thus, it is not surprising that in old Catholic pious literature, we find the word “worship” used in reference to Mary and to the saints. But worship in this sense was – and is – never used in the sense of adoration (latria), i.e., the worship due to God.
St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church
The Raccolta, where the indulgenced Prayer of St. Alphonsus is found, is of 1800 vintage – first published in Rome in 1807; hence, the archaic English language used. I own a book, Saint Worship and the Worship of Mary, published in the same era. The book was authored by Orestes A. Brownson (1803-1876). He was a Presbyterian, a Unitarian, and a Congregationalist who entered the Catholic Church in 1844. Throughout his book, the author kept on using “worship” in reference to Mary and the saints. But he never used the term worship in the context of worship (adoration) of the Deity but merely of devotion to the saints – as clearly expressed in the subtitle of the book: Why Devotion to the Saints Make Sense.
Saint Worship and the Worship of Mary by Orestes Brownson published by Sophia Press
Another proof that the usage of the term “worship” evolved or has changed is the song Mary Immaculate, Star of the Morning which devotees to the Mother of Perpetual Help sing every Wednesday during the Perpetual Help Novena. The old rendition of the hymn partly states:
“Sinners, worship thy sinless perfection;
Fallen and weak, for thy pity we plead;
Grant us the shield of thy sovereign protection;
Measure thine aid by the depth of our need.”
Following the classical English language, that is how the hymn is rendered in my Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on page 33. Now, Perpetual Help devotees in Baclaran and other churches sing every Wednesday –
“We sinners honor your sinless perfection;
Fallen and weak, for God’s mercy we plead;
Grant us the shield of your mighty protection;
Measure your aid by the depth of our need.”
Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Clearly, for us Catholics, the old term “worship” as used to Mary simply means “honor,” and nothing else. The Protestant King James Version has instances where “worship” is used in reference to humans. But, as in the Catholic point of view, worship in these instances does not equate with worship appropriate to God alone (adoration).
In Daniel 2:46, we read that the “King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odors unto him.” Was the “worship” offered by the king to Daniel one of adoration or worship due to God; hence, idolatry? The Bible is clear that it is not because the king did not “worship” Daniel as God as the king in fact recognized Daniel’s God as the true God and Lord:
“The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret” (Dn. 2:47).
King Nebuchadnezzar "worships" the prophet Daniel
Nowhere in the passage does it state that Daniel, a prophet of the Most High God, rebuked King Nebuchadnezzar for “worshipping” him. Since God’s prophet cannot tolerate idolatry, Daniel understood that the “worship” rendered him by the king was simply one of honor or homage due him as God’s servant – and never as worship (adoration) of the one true God.
Another instance in the King James Bible where “worship” is used in reference to a human being is in 1 Chronicles 29:20:
“And David said to all the congregation, Now bless the Lord your God. And all the congregation blessed the Lord God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the Lord, and the king.”
Icon of King David
Is the worship of the Lord and the king the same? Obviously not. The worship paid to God is one of adoration while to the king is simply one of honor. The same holds true to Catholic devotion and practice. The worship of God is essentially different from the worship of Mary or the saints. One is adoration (God, and only God); the other is simply honor or veneration (Mary and the saints). Catholic theology is clear on the distinction between latria (adoration due to God), hyperdulia (veneration to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and dulia (veneration due to the angels and the saints).
Queen of the Most Holy Rosary of La Naval
(Photo: Marvin Martinez)
 Melody from Himmels-Lust, 1679, adapted and harmonized by J.S. Bach, text by F.W. Weatherell (1829-1903).
 John E. Rotelle, ed., (New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing, 1988), p. 33.