Mary's Intercessory Role -- Why Pray to Mary?
[Adapted from a research paper by one of our Sisters]
|Mary's Immaculate Conception and the Franciscan Saints |
Why is Mary admired by Catholics? Why do we ask her to pray for us instead of going straight to Jesus?
That's a very good question. In truth, the idea of asking others to pray for us is from Scripture itself. Remember how Abraham interceded for the people of Sodom and Gomorra? (Gen. 18) Abraham also interceded for Abimelech in Gen. 20. Moses interceded for the people of Israel (Exod. 20, Numbers 14). Job is another great example. Here God told Job's friends to ask Job to pray for them, "Go to my servant Job, and offer for yourselves a holocaust, and my servant Job shall pray for you: his face I will accept" (Job 42:8). This indicates that God will listen to some people's prayers more than others: "...his face I will accept" -- seems to be connected to the holiness of the person.
There are many examples from Scripture, too many to mention here, but a couple more from the New Testament: Peter's shadow was enough to heal a person (Acts 5:12-16). St. Stephen prays for those that were killing him (Acts 7:60). St. Paul writes others asking them to pray for him, "I appeal to you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf..." (Rom 15:30).
So to ask Mary to pray for us should be natural. Here is a good quote from Dr. Scott Hahn about Mary's "maternal mediation":
"As an Evangelical, I used to rush to the one verse that seemed to snuff out this seemingly heretical spark: Saint Paul's categorical assertion that Christ is the only "mediator between God and men" (1 Tim. 2:5). How dare we refer to Mary's maternal mediation!
First, the Greek word used here for "one" is eis, which means "first" or "primary," not monos, which means "only" or "sole." Just as there is one mediator, there is also one divine sonship, which we all share - by way of participation - with Christ (filii in Filio, sons in the Son). Christ's mediation does not exclude Mary's, but rather establishes it, by way of her participation." 
Yes, Jesus is the primary mediator! Consider this quote from the Book of Proverbs: "The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous" (Prov 15:29).
Who is more "righteous" than Mary herself? She who was conceived without sin? She who was prepared by God to be so pure that His Son could grow in her womb?
As Rosalind Moss, a Jewish convert, has pointed out, Mary had to be conceived without sin, for as even the Arc of the Covenant could not be touched unworthily lest the person die, and the Jews knew that no one could see God and live . . . Mary had to be so pure and so "full of grace" (Luke 1:28) to carry Jesus in her womb.
As Proverbs says, "...he hears the prayer of the righteous", and who but Mary is the most righteous creature that has ever lived on earth (beside Jesus)?
Another Scripture to consider -- James 4:3 says, "You ask and you do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." We, who humanly are in danger of asking wrongly, can go to our Spiritual Mother and ask her to take our petitions and ask with the right intentions for us.
Here is a great quote from John Paul II:
Mary's maternal function towards mankind in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its efficacy," because "there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). This maternal role of Mary flows, according to God's good pleasure, "from the superabundance of the merits of Christ; it is founded on his mediation, absolutely depends on it, and draws all its efficacy from it." 
"We do not offer Mary the worship that is owed to God, but rather the Church strives to be Marian in offering God the worship we owe to Him."  In other words, we want to be like Mary in our asking because she was able to trust God completely, to give her fiat, her "...let it be to me according to your word..." (Lk 1:38) May we strive to be like her -- she is a perfect model of how to pray. First, by living in virtue and having a true relationship with Him. Second, to be humble in our acceptance of God's Will for our lives. Third, to be concerned about the other and their needs, and to ask with total trust and humility, waiting patiently to see how exactly our prayer will be answered. This is something to ponder - how can we grow deeper in this challenge to be Marian in our offering? Why not ask Mary and the saints to pray for us as they can "redirect our petitions if they are not altogether perfectly well-intentioned."  God does not only accept the fact that we can ask Mary and the saints to intercede for us. He wants us to!
Hahn, Scott and Leon Suprenant, eds. Catholic for a Reason II: Scripture and the Mystery of the Mother of God. (Steubenville: Emmaus Road, 2004), 9.
 John Paul II. Redemptoris Mater, 22.
Hahn, Scott, ed. Catholic for a Reason II: Scripture and the Mystery of the Mother of God, 168-69.
 Fernandez, In Conversation with God: Meditations for each day of the year, 84.