The Problem with Loving Mary too Much
Many Christian denominations unfairly condemn the Catholic Church for the special honour given to the Virgin Mary; they inaccurately accuse the Church of “worshipping” Mary side-by-side with God. As the Mother of God — the uniquely perfect example of faithful discipleship to her son Jesus, the Son of God — Mary is the greatest of all the saints and is rightly the most honoured human being. But she is not equal to God.
She herself humbly declared her servanthood to the Almighty. At the Annunciation she proclaimed: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Humans Don’t Distinguish When Worshipping
So, in Catholic spirituality we are called to give hyperdulia — that is, veneration as the holiest of humans — to Mary, our Blessed Mother. But to God alone, we are instructed to give latria — the Latin-based word for worship.
Nigeria, with one of the largest Catholic populations in Africa, has a serious problem here. Many Catholics here seem to worship the Virgin Mother Mary in place of, or on a par with, God. This is because many Nigerian Catholics, unfortunately, have not been instructed in the basic teachings of Catholicism, which has led to misconceptions regarding many of the Church’s traditions and teachings.
But on a positive note, there are many Marian societies in the Catholic Church here in Nigeria that correctly honour the Virgin Mother rather than worship her. But, numerous local parish ministries often erroneously put her on the same level with God.
For instance, many people prefer to spend significant amounts of money on statues of the Virgin Mary rather than honouring Christ in giving to the poor and supporting other important works of the Church.
People Hungry for God Are Mislead
Honestly, some out of ignorance have come to replace God in their heart with the Virgin Mary, or try to make her an equal to God. This is especially prevalent among many rural Nigerian Catholics.
A deeper commitment to catechetical instruction is needed here.
I have seen many who would never miss a Rosary prayer meeting (popularly called a “Block Rosary”) and various Marian prayer services — but they regularly miss Holy Mass on Sundays. Yet they still feel they are practising the Catholic faith.
These same people who are hungry for God and holiness have their priorities out of order. They are not allowing God alone to be first and foremost in their lives.
One of the practices that baffles me the most is that many Nigerian Marian ministries have misguided rules such as:
- There’s a number of given seconds you must venerate a statue of Mary anywhere you see it.
- Prayers can never be answered if not accompanied by at least a decade of the Rosary.
- A child cannot be registered for kindergarten education unless he or she learns to pray the Hail Mary; even when the child attends a non-Catholic school.
May Mary, our beloved mother, the Mother of God, lead all Nigerian Catholics, all Southern African Catholics, and all Catholics throughout the world to her Son the God-man, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit alone deserves our adoration and worship.