Why do Catholics pray to Mary?

A common misconception amongst non-Catholics is that Catholics pray to Mary like she is a deity, in the same way that the ancient Greeks prayed to the goddess Athena, or Hindus pray to Shiva. Here, Mairead explains why Catholics pray to Jesus’ mother.

Saint John Paul II by a statue of Mary

Catholics don’t worship Mary

Admittedly, this is an understandable misconception due to the profound amount of Catholic art dedicated to the blessed virgin. But there’s one thing this article needs to make clear:


Instead, Mary is honoured in our faith as the mother of our saviour. She is not worshipped as this is a respect reserved for God alone, as laid out in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3).

Why do we even need Mary?

In a similar way to Jesus being the one true mediator between God and humanity, Mary intercedes on the behalf of us to Jesus. One objection to this could be that since Jesus is the one true mediator for us, we don’t need the intercession of Mary, as we only need Jesus and can go directly to him when we pray.

While it is true that we can go directly to Jesus during prayer, intercessory prayer through Mary (as well as other saints such as St Peter or St Faustina) still makes sense as in the same way that we ask Christian friends and family on earth to pray for us (something which in strongly encouraged in scripture e.g. 1 Timothy 2:1-4), we can ask our Christian family in heaven (Mary and the saints) to pray for us.

Why pray to Mary in particular?

So why do Catholics pray to Mary in particular? For one thing, it’s the quickest way to Jesus. When you think about it, Mary was probably one of the people Jesus was closest to on earth during his life (other than God) as seen at the wedding of Cana (John 2: 1-12), as it was due to her promoting that Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine.

Therefore, it makes sense to pray to Mary as she knew Jesus best in his life, and will lead us to him. As St Louis de Montfort once explained:

“The more we honour the blessed virgin, the more we honour Jesus Christ, because we honour Mary only that we may more perfectly honour Jesus, since we go to her only as the way by which we are to find the end we are seeking, which is Jesus.”

Furthermore, Christ has given his mother to the Church for the specific reason for her to intercede for us. This is seen at Jesus’s crucifixion in John 19:26-27, when Jesus says to Saint John, “Behold your mother” and to Mary, “Woman, behold your son”, symbolically making her the mother of the Church, and bringing us into the family of God.

Mary and her son in the sculpture Pietà, by Michelangelo

Some Suggested prayers to Mary

The Hail Mary is probably the most popular prayer to Mary and has its basis in sacred scripture (e.g. Luke 1:28 and Luke 1:42):

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen.”

The Hail Holy Queen is another prayer to Mary, and mostly focuses on the human experience of personal, as well as original, sin, and God’s mercy on us:

“Hail Holy Queen, mother of mercy, hail our life our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us, and, after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, o loving, o sweet virgin Mary.”

Another prayer is the Memorare, which can be used to ask Mary to pray for a particularly important intention. St Teresa of Calcutta also said that for an extremely important intention, you can say an express novena (the Memorare nine times in a row):

“Remember, o most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone that fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence I fly onto thee, o virgin of virgins, my mother, to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O mother of the Word incarnate, despise not my petitions but in thy mercy, hear and answer me.”

Mary, mother of God, pray for us!