I have a grandmother that is Catholic. We talk all the time and enjoy many meal together. I have been told time and time again how she prays. I only recently done very little research on the topic of the Rosary prayer, but I am compelled to know more. Can you please help me understand why Catholics think that Mary is the one who may guide them and give them peace as Jesus does ? And, how can I gently, lovingly admonish the teaching of Hailing Mary as if she had anything to do with our eternal peace? I know this is something I struggle with when she mentions it time and time again and I would rather just not talk about it because it stirs the pot. Please help me understand.
@Corey That is a good question and I think it can be broken into two parts - why do Catholics pray to Mary? And how do we clarify the Gospel with those who are Catholic? I want to begin by saying that I fully expect to see people who are Catholic in Heaven. However, I do not believe we should pray either to Mary or to the saints - we never see that in Scripture. From Abraham to King David to Paul the Apostle, prayer is always directed to God - there is no intermediary. Jesus is our great high priest.
Hebrews 4:14-16 - Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
But why do Catholics pray to the saints? I think it is important to understand that different Catholics may answer this question slightly differently. Some may say that they pray to Jesus too but they feel the saint can also put in a good word. Some may feel hesitant to approach Jesus though they would never use those words. So each individual is different.
Here is an article giving one historical perspective on why Catholics pray to saints and then an article from the Gospel Coalition with some ideas on how to share Jesus with Catholics of different stripes.
My perspective would be that you should not raise the issue of the Rosary since it causes conflict. Rather, try to read Scripture - like the Gospel of John - together out loud. Maybe read Hebrews together. And pray to Jesus together. The Rosary is a habit and a tradition that is probably very dear to her and you do not want her to think you are trying to take that away. Rather, first you want her to fall more in love with Jesus and then perhaps she will see the need to pray to Him alone. At least that is my perspective.
The Lord bless you as you share Christ with your grandmother and grant you wisdom and discernment on what to say and when. Feel free to ask further questions.
@Koberheu Great point! It is important to understand how an individual themselves is interpreting and engaging in a specific practice. @Corey, I think it depends on what your grandmother is using the Rosary beads to remember as to whether or not it is Biblical. She could be using it to remember two very different types of things:
1 - She could use the rosary beads to remember to pray for specific people or praise the Lord for certain attributes - like Uncle Bob’s heart surgery or to praise God for His faithfulness
2 - She could be using the rosary beads to remember a set of prayers from the Rosary that are believed, when uttered, to invoke special blessing (see my section on The Rosary below)
If she is doing number 1, I think that is fine. If she is doing number 2, I believe that is unBiblical both because of the repetitious nature and the involvement of Mary as intercessor. But again, I think the first thing to do is to get into God’s Word with her and pray to Jesus together as you know she ought. And perhaps she will learn from you by praying together. I also recommend a book below that you may find helpful to read to understand more about how to engage with Catholicism.
Does that make sense? Is there anything else about how your grandmother uses the Rosary beads that may help us think more deeply about what it means to her? The Lord Jesus guide you.
These quotes are from websites selling Catholic rosary beads. From what they say, it is clear that those selling the beads claim that these prayers have some mystical power - which is not Biblical. It is Jesus’ death and resurrection that have the power - not a special set of prayers that we repeat.
In addition, these sellers suggest that Jesus and Mary work together in a way that is not Biblical. It is Jesus who won the victory and is sinless and it is He to whom we pray.
"In his book, Saint Louis De Montfort says, “Every time people say the Rosary devoutly they place on theheads of Jesus and Mary 153 white roses and sixteen red roses. Being heavenly flowers, these roses will never fade or lose their beauty.”
“The rosary is made up of two things: mental prayer and vocal prayer. In the Holy Rosary mental prayer is none other than meditation of the chief mysteries of the life, death and glory of Jesus Christ and of His Blessed Mother. Vocal prayer consists in saying fifteen decades of the Hail Mary, each decade headed by an Our Father, while at the same time meditating on and contemplating the fifteen principal virtues which Jesus and Mary practised in the fifteen mysteries of the Holy Rosary.”
“The rosary as we know it today was given by the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Dominic de Guzman, founder of the Dominican Order, in the 12th century as an efficacious prayer and spiritual weapon for the salvation of souls. Whenever the prayers are said on the rosary beads, the intercession of the Blessed Mother is invoked for the intentions we hold in our hearts.”
Kevin DeYoung recommended this book and it also has recommendations on the jacket from D. A. Carson and J. I. Packer, so I figure it is probably quite solid. It may give you a more solid foundation for understanding how to relate and reach out in this situation.