Hello Rosary Lovers! Praying to Mary is a Catholic thing. But in this post, as Catholics, we will explore the question: Do I have to pray to Mary? Do Catholics have to do this?
Praying to Mary is not a Catholic obligation
Despite the fact that many, many Catholics all over the world regularly invoke Mary in their prayers, it may surprise you to discover that Catholics do NOT have to pray to Mary.
So far as I can tell from Church dogma, and so far as I have been taught.
So far as I am aware, there is NO obligation for Catholics to pray to Mary as a regular part of their devotional lives.
I don’t think there is even an obligation anywhere in Church teaching for Catholics to pray even a single prayer to Mary in their lives.
So, taken at face value, the Catholic Church does NOT teach that it is necessary to pray to Mary or the saints in order to be a good Catholic and be saved.
This should clear up some misunderstanding.
In fact, there are a number of popular devotions connected to Mary that Catholics don’t have to follow.
For instance, Catholics don’t have to pray the Rosary. At all.
We LOVE the Rosary here at Rosary Lovers (the clue is very much in the title here!). We have LOADS of posts about the Rosary on here.
But we freely admit that the Rosary is IN NO WAY an obligation for Catholics.
You can live a really good Catholic life and go safely to heaven without EVER having prayed a single Rosary in your life.
Or a single Hail Mary.
There are also revelations of Mary at various places all around the world. There is Mary’s appearance at Fatima in Portugal. There is Mary’s apparitions at Lourdes.
Catholics all over the world stream to these places daily, weekly, monthly, yearly to find healing and meet with Mary.
And yet, a Catholic doesn’t have to believe in these apparitions. The Church has merely declared that these apparations of Mary are believeable and sound. But the Church does not obligate Catholics to believe in them.
The only things Catholics are obligated to believe about Mary are as follows:
1. Mary is ever-Virgin.
This means she was, is and always will be a Virgin. She never lost her virginity and it remained intact even after giving birth to the Messiah.
Mary never had any other children, and never had sexual relations with St Joseph, or indeed anyone. She was entirely consecrated to God, much like a nun: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord’, she says in Luke’s gospel.
This teaching has always been believed by the Church, and there has never been any need to formally declare it (so far as I am aware).
Even the Protestant Reformers – who rejected a great deal of Catholic faith – almost all believed that Mary is ever-Vigin. They believed it very passionately.
2. Mary was immaculately conceived.
This means that at the moment of her existence and coming into being in the womb of her mother, St Anne (Grandmother of God), Mary was free by God’s grace from ALL sin.
This was a singular privilege of Mary, given to her by God and in light of the future redemption of her Son, Jesus. Christ’s redemption was applied to Mary, by God’s grace, from the first moment of her existence.
As such, Mary always was, is, and always will be COMPLETELY free from all sin, including original sin.
This teaching has always existed in some sense in the Catholic Church. From earliest times, Christians almost always believed that Mary was sinless and perfect. This belief is upheld by Orthodox Christians today.
In the 2nd millennium, the Franciscans popularised the idea that Mary was sinless from the very start of her conception and existence. This was a popular belief throughout the next few centuries. Even the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther may have believed this teaching his whole life.
It wasn’t until 1854, however, that Pope Pius IX formally declared that Mary was immaculately conceived. This made it a necessary article of Christian Faith.
3. Mary is the Mother of God.
This became formal Catholic teaching at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431. You can read about this here in this post.
Christians MUST believe that Mary is not just the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of Christ, but she is also very much the Mother of God.
This teaching protects the full divinity of Jesus Christ. The logic is indisputable:
- Mary gave birth to Jesus
- Jesus is God incarnate, fully and truly and absolutely
- Mary gave birth to God incarnate
- Mary is the Mother of God
This does NOT mean that Mary is the Mother of the Trinity or the Mother of Divinity. It simply means that she is the Mother of that Person who is the infinite and eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ. She gave birth to the ENTIRE Person of God the Son in human flesh.
4. Mary was Assumed Bodily in heaven at the end of her earthly life.
Again, this teaching had been in the Church for a long time. But it was not until 1950 (fairly recently) that Pope Pius XII declared with certainty that Mary, at the end of her earthly life, had been taken up into heaven bodily.
Thus, in heaven, the Church knows that there are two individuals for certain who have resurrected and glorified bodies: Jesus and Mary. The rest of the saints will have to await the general resurrection before they receive back their bodies separated from their spirits.
These are the four dogmatic teachings about Mary in the Catholic Church. As you can see, there is no dogmatic teaching which says: ‘Thou shalt pray to Mary and invoke her often.’
Praying to Mary is encouraged by the Church
That said, it should be realised that praying to Mary and invoking her is encouraged by the Church.
For instance, in many Catholic masses I have attended, especially on Sundays, the ‘Hail Mary’ is often said, though just once in one entire Mass.
This seems to be a local traditional thing. It isn’t an essential part of the Catholic Liturgy, and often the ‘Hail Mary’ prayer is left out in the Mass. I’ve been to churches which pray it once in Mass, and other churches which don’t pray it.
However, the fact that often it is prayed in Church would – from what I can tell – make it a little difficult to resist praying it.
Imagine you are a Catholic who thinks, ‘Well I don’t need to ever pray to Mary.’ Fine, but what do you do when the Church gathers at Mass, and then recites a Hail Mary?
You can, of course, not pray along with your lips, but the fact you are there means you are in some sense praying it.
For a Catholic who stubbornly resists this and thinks, ‘Nope, at that point when they pray the Hail Mary, I will put my fingers in my ears’ – well, that’s a problem isn’t it.
It’s always a terrible idea to reject something the Catholic Church teaches. But it’s not a good idea to resist stubbornly something that the Catholic Churches do or a direction the Church is going.
In other words, though you can be a good Catholic and never pray to Mary, this needs to be qualified by saying that if you are a good Catholic, you may not personally pray to Mary, but you won’t have or create an issue with Catholics who do.
This is what being Catholic is all about. We are often not either or. We don’t choose between faith and works, we choose both. We don’t choose between Scripture and the Church, we have both and uphold both. And we don’t have to choose between Jesus and Mary, again, we love both and bless both: ‘Blessed art thou … and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.’
Likewise, as Catholics, we may or may not pray to Mary. That’s our choice personally. But it is warmly encouraged by the Church that we at least offer the odd prayer to Mary from time to time, even if we only do so with the Church at Mass praying a single Hail Mary.
Praying to Mary is highly recommended by the Saints
When we look at the lives of the saints and their writings, they are often filled with Mary. Mary is absolutely adored by many Catholic saints.
Here are some quotes from the saints about Mary.
‘The greatest saints, those richest in grace and virtue will be the most assiduous in praying to the most Blessed Virgin, looking up to her as the perfect model to imitate and as a powerful helper to assist them.’ – St Louis de Montfort
‘O sinner, be not discouraged, but have recourse to Mary in all your necessities. Call her to your assistance, for such is the divine Will that she should help in every kind of necessity.’ – St Basil the Great (4th century)
‘To serve the Queen of Heaven is already to reign there, and to live under her commands is more than to govern.’ – St John Vianney
‘Devotion to you, O Blessed Virgin, is a means of salvation which God gives to those whom he wishes to save.’ – St John of Damascus
And we could go on. The saints absolutely loved and love Mary. She is the first thing in their hearts after God/Christ.
Therefore, it would be wise for us to follow these footsteps to heaven.
Does this mean we have to formally consecrate ourselves to Mary? No.
Does this mean we have to pray the Rosary? No.
Does this mean we have to pray to Mary everyday? No.
Does this mean we have to develop a very strong relationship with Mary? No.
But the saints do warmly encourage us that if we want to find it easiest to get to heaven, we should begin to stoke the fires of our love for Mary.
We all love Mary as Catholics. It is impossible not to. If you are Catholic or a true Christian, you will love Mary.
All the saints are asking us to do, for our eternal good and best, is to nurture that love we already have for Mary.
Perhaps begin with a prayer by saying to Mary: ‘I would love to get to know you better my Mother. I’m not very good at speaking to you, and frankly, it feels a bit weird to me. But somehow, in the way that is best for me, I want to get to know you better.’
Or pray something similar to Jesus: ‘My Lord, I love your Mother because you love her. I want to get to know her. I want to have something of the deep affection you have for her. Help me with this Lord. It feels weird me going to a saint, even to the Mother of God, instead of to you. I would rather approach you, my Lord. But help me to love and know your Mother more. Help me to know the great love she has for me and all sinners.’
Praying to Mary is life-changing
When I first turned to Mary back in 2020, my life changed forever. I was on the verge of giving up not just the holy Catholic faith, but the entire Christian faith.
I was at rock bottom. I could hardly get lower. My faith was in tatters, all because of sin and the misery I had brought upon myself.
Sin ALWAYS corrupts the reasoning faculties. Remember that. You can NEVER reason your way back to God if you are in sin. You can NEVER think properly if you are in sin, because the primary thing sin attacks and hinders is human reason and rationality.
That’s what happened to me. Love of sin ALWAYS leads to atheism and the rejection of God and of his Church.
But St Therese of the Child Jesus brought me back with a very simple, 5-day novena. And following this, I began praying daily to St Joseph and the Divine Will, and eventually to Mary.
When I first came to Mary after all of this, the changes were incredible. I stumbled on the works of St Louis de Montfort and his entire perspective jolted me into newness of Catholic life. I began praying to Mary ALL the time, relating to her always in everything.
I felt like I was converted to Christianity all over again. I began seeing so many answers to my prayers and so much miraculous and providential help.
And hard times were ahead. I didn’t realise it, but I was being prepared for all of this. I may have crumbled as a person forever if it had not been for God’s grace to me through the saints at this time.
Anyway, my hearty recommendation to you is: TRY IT. Start some kind of a relationship with Mary. You already have a relationship with her if you are a Christian. So nurture it! Try it and see what might happen.
You might just start to have experiences which really surprise you.
I remember once a Protestant coming onto a Facebook group I was part of and asking us all: ‘What on earth is happening to me? I’ve started praying to Mary (MUCH against my theological convictions), and amazing things are happening really, really fast.’
We Catholics and Orthodox were reading and commenting, saying, ‘Yep, that’s what happens. No surprises there!’
Catholics have great freedom in their devotional lives
With all that said, it is up to you, as you are led by the Spirit of grace and the Spirit of the living God.
Ask God to lead you in your devotional life. He has a way marked out specifically and uniquely for you to get to heaven in the way that is best for YOU.
It may well not be the way of the Rosary, but if it is, perhaps we can help you at Rosary Lovers. We have many articles about the Rosary and even a post about some beautiful rosary beads. Feel free to have a look if you want.
Whatever your path in Christ and within his holy Catholic Church, I wish you the very, very best.
God bless, and see you someday (hopefully!).