Last night in RCIA the class learned about the saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary (Theotokos in the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches) and the role they fulfill within the Catholic Church. Many Christians wonder why Catholics (as well as Orthodox and Episcopalians/Anglicans) venerate saints and proceed to call the veneration of saints the “worship” of saints. This is, in all truth, false. Catholics do not “worship” saints but, instead, venerate saints because the only figure that is worthy of worship is Christ. No other saint or even the Blessed Virgin can rise to the holiness of Christ himself, the word in flesh.
So why do Catholics venerate saints? Well, the saints are our teachers in prayer and living a prayerful life. They are examples to faithful Catholics of how we should live our lives and we know to take their example because the saints have been given the incredible blessing of being close to God in heaven due to their witness to their faith by way of their actions. The saints can also help pray for us when we seek their help in prayer. This is the equivalent to asking a friend in church to pray for you or a family member when prayer is needed. With that said all Catholics have the potential to be saints and their are many more saints in heaven than saints who have been canonized by the Catholic Church. The reason for this is that the Catholic Church only canonizes those saints that have been brought to her attention by bishops and the requirements of canonization also regulates the blesseds (holy people in the process of being canonized) who will be canonized.
As for the Blessed Virgin Mary, she is the saints of saints, the most important saint in Catholicism. The Virgin serves as the mediator between the faithful and Christ. This is due to her caring and attentive nature that allows her to be aware of the needs of the faithful. If your prayers have not been answered by Christ then one can turn to the Virgin for assistance. Mary is also the mediator between the faithful and Christ because of her closeness to Christ in heaven. This is because Mary is the most holy of the saints, having given birth to Christ and having been born without sin herself. This is known as the immaculate conception and refers to Mary’s own birth and her sinless nature and not Christ’s birth. Why the immaculate conception? Christ who is sinless and The Word in flesh can only be born and nurtured in a pure body that has not committed sin. This brings her in closeness with Christ not only because of her pure sinless nature but because she is also the mother of Christ. Another example of how closer Mary is to Christ is that when she was possibly close to death who whole body and soul were taken into heaven to be seated at Christ’s side. No other saint has experienced this.
The saints and the Virgin Mary are role models for Catholics in how we should live our lives on a daily basis and in faith. They teach us how to pray through their actions and teaching us how to live a Christian life. The saints and the Virgin Mary can also pray for us on our behalf. As for Mary, she nurtures the faithful when her care is needed. She also intercedes on our behalf when we ask Christ or her for help. In this way, Mary is the mother of the faithful.