The Meaning of Marian Prayers
Some of the controversies and questions surrounding Marian prayers were explored in Chapter 10. The most important thing to remember in relation to Marian prayers, however, is that all prayers to Mary find their end in Christ. Mary is never meant to be the end, but a means to an end.
The tradition of asking Mary to intercede for Christians is ancient, dating back to at least the fourth century. The idea of asking for the intercessions of those who have gone before is closely related to the belief in the Resurrection of the dead. Christians believe that Christ died and rose again, and that those who believe in him also continue to live, even after they have died. Because of this belief in the ongoing life of those who have died in the earthly sense, many Christians have embraced the idea that the departed in Christ can continue to pray for those on earth.
Mahatma Gandhi, on observing Marian devotion, said: “The feeling has since then been growing on me, that all this kneeling and prayer could not be mere superstition; the devout souls kneeling before the Virgin could not be worshiping mere marble. I had the impression that I felt then that by this worship they were not detracting from, but adding to, the glory of God.”
The intercessions of Mary are closely connected to this belief. Just as Mary was the link between heaven and earth when she lived on this earth, Christians have historically believed that Mary continues to help us. Mary's prayers have been invoked by millions of people around the world who seek her assistance in every kind of difficulty.
Mary's prayers have been requested by sailors at sea, couples struggling with infertility, soldiers heading into battle, farmers sowing their fields, and parents who grieve the loss of a child. Just as little children run to their mother when they are afraid, for centuries, Christians have invoked Mary's prayers. Some have even felt that Mary was more available and accessible than Christ, although the idea of seeking the intercessions of Mary instead of the intercessions of Christ was officially censured at Vatican II in which the pope said, “Mary is not happy when she is placed above her son.”
Though the intercessions of Mary are never supposed to replace intercessions to Christ or God the Father, but only to be one piece of the entire fabric of a life of prayer, many ascribe miraculous events in their own lives directly to her, and have found comfort, solace, and strength in Mary's witness and her continual prayers.