While praying the rosary today, I was thinking about how we Catholics honor Mary. And I had one of those doubts - as I assume most Catholics once in a while do - that asked if we didn't give Mary too much honor.
It's kind of easy to think that. I mean, if you look at all the beautiful paintings and sculptures and architecture dedicated to Mary - if you think of all the reams and reams of paper dedicated to honoring her - if you reflect on all the lovely songs and hymns and poetry written her honor - it's simply dazzling. Through the ages, Mary has been given so much attention that it's easy to wonder - wouldn't that glory have been better if it had been given directly to God?
Of course, the Catholic answer to that is, this glory is given to God.
That might sound a little weak until we realize that Mary is God's masterpiece.
She is the most perfect and beautiful thing He has ever created. And that's saying a lot. Now, when human artists - Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and people like that - how do we honor them? By making a big to-do about their work!
Let's say the Greek sculptor Polykleitos walked into this room. (Art class is paying off! Polykleitos is the guy who made this sculpture.)
Now, if Polykleitos walked into this room right now, and I wanted to compliment him on his artwork, I would have at least two options of how I wanted to praise him.
Option #1: Praise him directly.
"Oh, Polykleitos! You are one of the most amazing artists ever. You're perfectly stupendous and fabulous and absolutely fantastic. I think you're great."
Option #2: Praise his work.
"Polykleitos, I love your sculptures. They are so extremely beautiful! I'm really impressed by the way their hair is so curly and detailed, and how lifelike their poses are, and how perfectly their noses are shaped."
Now, if I were Polykleitos, I would be pretty happy to be told any of that. But my guess is Option #2, being a little more specific, is also a little more flattering - no, not a little more flattering, a little more sincere. I've actually told Polykleitos what I like about his sculptures and why I think he's great, not just that he's magnificent.
Is this analogy perfect? Certainly not. God is so utterly high above Polykleitos that it seems a little shallow to mention the two of them in the same sentence like that. And God is different from an artist in that He Himself is the essence of goodness. He definitely deserves direct praise, and we definitely can and should glorify Him without making any reference to His works.
However, God is also an artist, and it is good for us to praise and honor the work He has done.
The honor we give the Pieta does not in any way take away from Michelangelo's glory; it increases it.
The honor we give the Mona Lisa does not in any way take away from Leonard da Vinci's glory; it increases it.
And the honor we give Mary does not in any way take away from God's glory. I wouldn't say it increases it, because God is already so glorious He can't be added to; but I would say that honoring Mary helps us realize more clearly God's genius and goodness and beauty.
So that, my friends, is my spur-of-the-moment defense of the Church's teaching on honoring Mary. :)