I get a fair number of non-Catholics ask this honest question about Mary. They say, “look, I get it, she’s important and a Saint, but I think Catholics just go overboard. I mean, why spend so much focus on her when you can go straight to God himself? Isn’t she a distraction?”
I believe it’s a fair and honest question. They often go on reminding that…
“Jesus commands us to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’ (Matthew 22: 37). So by spending so much time and energy devoted to Mary, you can’t possibly be loving God with all your heart, mind and soul!”
But I think all of this stems from a false understanding of how Love works. I think we make the mistake of thinking of our Love like we think about our energy or our time.
We have a set amount of time and energy in our day. They are “zero-sum” aspects of our life. The more of them we spend on one thing, the less we can spend on anything else. Love is not like that.
Parents who already have a child sometimes aren’t sure if they can have more children. They think that in order to love another child, they’ll have to love their first child less. But any parent of a large family can tell you that this is not how it works. The love doesn’t get divided among our children like our time and energy do, it is multiplied.
Here’s another way to look at it. I’m married. By loving my wife directly does it mean that I love God less? Does it mean that by spending my entire life (as I’m called to do) serving her that I am now unable to love God with all my heart, mind and soul? No, of course not! In fact, it’s the opposite. As a married person, the practical, primary way that I love God is through loving my wife (and any children we have). So my wife does not steal my love for God. On the contrary, she is a conduit for it.
Even better, she’s a magnifying glass for my love of God! When I love her, my love doesn’t end with her, it in turn flows through her and empowers her to love God and others that much more as well. That’s where the magic of multiplication happens.
And not only does God teach us this magnification trick through the sacrament of Marriage, and through us being The Body of Christ, but he spells it out very clearly in Matthew 25:40 when he says “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
So not only are our marital spouses such magnifying glasses, but each and every one of our fellow humans are, too! So, really, if you have the choice to “love God directly” (bypassing everyone else here) or to love God through billions of walking magnifying glasses God has put into your life, the answer for any God-lover is clear.
And Mary? Well she just happens to be the biggest, purest, strongest and most-directly-pointed-at-Jesus magnifying glass there is. That’s why we love her so much. Scripture affirms this, too, in Luke 1:46 when Mary says “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” There you have it, folks. So the more we love Jesus, the more we should love her. She magnifies Jesus for us like nothing else and does the same with our prayers back to Him.
All of this is confirmed in my personal experience, too. The people I have met in life who most clearly and most purely love Jesus also happen to have the strongest devotions to their fellow Man…and, most especially, to Mary.