L, (L, of all people!) who believes that Catholics worship Mary (it's one of the reasons he left the Catholic Church) is the instrument that God used to open my heart to a little different view of Mary. In an email months ago, he shared with me his concern about Mary and the fact that the Israelites worshipped the Queen of Heaven (Jeremiah 44, I think). He became very concerned that this was also the case with Catholics.
His concerns made me think. I have never personally known a Catholic that has crossed the line of worshipping Mary, but I think about some of the actions that we do...lighting candles in front of her images, processing with her picture to the streets, having novenas and consecrations to her. I was finally able to pinpoint my problem. We may not be worshipping her (we see her as an intercessor, not as the one that grants the graces), but there was a part of me that wondered if we take things a little too far. Are we raising Mary to too high of a place? Are we letting her stand between us and God?
So I turned to Jesus and asked Him. How do you want us to recognize/acknowledge/treat Your mother?
Not long after that, I was reading Luke 1 trying to make some more sense of it all, and suddenly some things popped out at me. Mary says in v. 48 that God "has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden" and if v.52 that He has "exalted those of low degree." It finally made sense to me. We Catholics do not place Mary on a pedestal higher than the tower of Babel. Rather, we recognize the place that God Himself has placed her. Then we fulfill the words of the Scripture where it says that "henceforth all generations shall call me blessed" (v.48). Furthermore, Mary does not obscure our view of God. Rather, her "soul magnifies the Lord" (v.46, my emphasis). I've been Catholic all my life and have really enjoyed apologetics for over a decade. I knew a lot of this stuff, but somehow it didn't click until a couple of months ago.
Thanks, L, for your questions. We may not have come out agreeing on the subject, but you made me take another look and I really appreciate it.