In today's Opinion section of the Pacific Daily News, Diane tells us why we shouldn't pray to Mary. I responded in the comment section and am copying the reply here:
Let's review. Our prayer to Mary goes like this:
"Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee."
At this point we are simply quoting Scripture, Luke 1:28. Yes, I know your bible probably does not say "full of grace", but the original Greek (Luke wrote in Greek) does: kecharitoméne. Let us go on.
"Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus."
Again, except for the addition of the name "Jesus", we are still just quoting Scripture: the words of Elizabeth in Luke 1:42. And I'm assuming saying the name "Jesus" is okay.
Let's go on.
"Holy Mary, Mother of God."
Okay, stop right there. How dare we refer to Mary as the Mother of God, right?
Well, there's a lot to that, but the easiest way to understand this is that we are simply restating what Elizabeth says in the very next verse. After Elizabeth says "Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb", she says in Luke 1:43: "And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Elizabeth calls the child in Mary's womb "my Lord". As a good Jew, Elizabeth could not have addressed anyone as "My Lord", other than God. So, we Catholics simply say the obvious along with Elizabeth.
And in case you have trouble with the word "Holy" as in "Holy Mary". "Holy" simply means "set apart." In Latin, it's "sancta" as in "sanctuary". Mary was chosen to be a "sanctuary", set apart, singled out, etc. So we simply call her that. Going on.
"Pray for us now and at the hour of hour death."
Up till now, we have only been quoting Scripture, and simply restating who Scripture says she is (Holy, Mother of God), but now we ask her to pray for us. Do you ever pray for anyone? Has anyone ever asked you to pray for them? Do you say "Oh no, don't ask me, ask God"? I'm sure you don't. I'm sure you pray for them and pray fervently. But then aren't you, by your definition of "pray", coming between them and God? Are you not interceding in their behalf? Of course you are. But you are not wrong in doing so. In fact you are being obedient to the many commands in Scripture to pray for one another.
James 5:16 is one of those scriptures. James exhorts us here to not only pray for each other, but to even confess our sins to one another. Wait a minute, I thought we were supposed to confess our sins only to God? Well, we'll get back to that another time. Let us look at the very next thing James says in 5:16: "the prayer of a righteous man availeth much." This means that prayer are effective relative to the degree of righteousness of the person doing the praying. Thus we ask particularly holy and "anointed" people to pray for us, believing, and believing rightly, as per James 5:16, that their prayers are particularly effective.
Thus because of who Mary is, "Mother of my Lord", we believe that her prayers for us are uniquely powerful. In the Scriptures, the Scriptures you tell us to search, we see Jesus even upsetting the divine order of things by performing his first miracle at Cana ("my hour has not yet come") simply because it was his Mother's desire. Here we see Mary interceding for the bride and groom and for all the people at the wedding. In fact, Mary doesn't ask Jesus to do anything. She essentially expects him to do her will by saying to the servants "Do whatever he tells you." That's pretty powerful.
And it is because of this power, the power we find in the Scriptures you tell us to search, that we continue to seek Mary's "intercession" ("pray for us now and at the hour of our death"), simply because we have in Scripture the clear fact that Jesus listens particularly to (and even obeys) his mother.
So you see, Diane, when we "pray" to Mary, we are, for about 3/4 of the prayer, simply quoting Scripture, and the last bit, is simply asking for prayers. We hope that is okay with you.
However, we Catholics, do owe you an apology. I am willing to guess that what I have just explained was never explained to you, even though you were a Catholic for 50 years. Sadly, there is a disconnect in our Catholic faith between what our Church officially teaches (which is what I have just shared) versus what Catholics actually are often taught, which is often very little. Shame on us for not sharing the riches of the Catholic faith, as found in our true teachings. We will be held accountable for that.
If you would like to know, though, what the Catholic Church actually teaches, and get beyond what you think it teaches (again, not your fault), it's extremely accessible. I operate a Catholic bookstore in the Cathedral. You can pick up a Catechism of the Catholic Church for as little as $10 (or even access it free online). No, don't worry, the ceiling will not cave in if you walk in. That's reserved for Catholics who know better but do not do what they know.
In fact, I'm going to give you one for free. Come by our store. I probably won't be there, but I'll set aside a Catechism with your name on it and leave it behind the counter. I'm going to give you the more accessible version. It's called the Compendium to the Catechism. Kind of breaks it down into more bite size chunks. I'll leave it there for a week. Just give the clerk your name and it's yours.
Feel free to contact me if you have further inquiries. I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org. God Bless.