Hi, Todd —
We pray to Mary for the same reason we pray to the Lord Jesus and other saints, for their help and assistance. We also give Mary a special place of honor because of her important, indispensable, role in our salvation. A role where she, as spouse of the Holy Spirit, said "yes" whenever God called on her to help in His plan of salvation.
We know when we pray to Mary, as attested to in the Scriptures, she will always lead us to her Son, not herself. (John 2:5) We say Jesus was the effective means of salvation; meaning Jesus packs the punch, but Mary is the instrumental means of salvation.
When you share the Gospel with a non-Christian, you are an instrumental means of salvation for them and because you are "In Christ", you are a co-mediator with Jesus called to preach the Gospel to the world. (1 Timothy 2:1-4) In the same way, Mary was the instrumental means of salvation for all mankind. Neither you nor Mary saved the non-Christian by yourselves, but both of you helped in assisting that non-Christian to know and learn about:
- who Jesus is and
- the Catholic Church He founded.
- In what way is Mary the instrumental means of our salvation?
In the same way, the saint's were. Mary had the same free will you and me do, so without her "yes" to the angel Gabriel and the God the Father, the Father, respecting our free will, could not have sent His Son for our salvation by natural means. Mary's instrumental means was needed.
In the same way, the Gospel could have never lasted over 2,000 years after Our Lady's Assumption, without the "yes" from saints and martyrs of the Church to preserve and perpetuate the faith.
The following portion from the Catechism will give you some insight on how the Church understands the most important prayer we have about Mary: the "Hail Mary".
As Catholic Christians we should always remember that honoring is different than worshipping.
It is a grave sin to worship Mary, as we worship God-Jesus alone.
Without getting into the Latin:
- we honor the saints
but we give Mary super honor, but not worship!
Hope this helps,
Sorry for the extra commentary; hope you didn't mind.
In communion with the holy Mother of God
2673 In prayer the Holy Spirit unites us to the person of the only Son, in his glorified humanity, through which and in which our filial prayer unites us in the Church with the Mother of Jesus.
2674 Mary gave her consent in faith at the Annunciation and maintained it without hesitation at the foot of the Cross. Ever since, her motherhood has extended to the brothers and sisters of her Son "who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties." Jesus, the only mediator, is the way of our prayer; Mary, his mother and ours, is wholly transparent to him: she "shows the way" (hodigitria), and is herself "the Sign" of the way, according to the traditional iconography of East and West.
2675 Beginning with Mary's unique cooperation with the working of the Holy Spirit, the Churches developed their prayer to the holy Mother of God, centering it on the person of Christ manifested in his mysteries. In countless hymns and antiphons expressing this prayer, two movements usually alternate with one another: the first "magnifies" the Lord for the "great things" he did for his lowly servant and through her for all human beings the second entrusts the supplications and praises of the children of God to the Mother of Jesus, because she now knows the humanity which, in her, the Son of God espoused.
2676 This twofold movement of prayer to Mary has found a privileged expression in the Ave Maria:
Hail Mary, Full of grace, the Lord is with thee
Blessed art thou among women and
blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God
Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
Hail Mary [or Rejoice, Mary]: the greeting of the angel Gabriel opens this prayer. It is God himself who, through his angel as intermediary, greets Mary. Our prayer dares to take up this greeting to Mary with the regard God had for the lowliness of his humble servant and to exult in the joy he finds in her.
Full of grace, the Lord is with thee: These two phrases of the angel's greeting shed light on one another. Mary is full of grace because the Lord is with her. The grace with which she is filled is the presence of him who is the source of all grace. "Rejoice . . . O Daughter of Jerusalem . . . the Lord your God is in your midst." Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is "the dwelling of God . . . with men." Full of grace, Mary is wholly given over to him who has come to dwell in her and whom she is about to give to the world.
Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. After the angel's greeting, we make Elizabeth's greeting our own. "Filled with the Holy Spirit," Elizabeth is the first in the long succession of generations who have called Mary "blessed." "Blessed is she who believed. . . . " Mary is "blessed among women" because she believed in the fulfillment of the Lord's word. Abraham. because of his faith, became a blessing for all the nations of the earth. Mary, because of her faith, became the mother of believers, through whom all nations of the earth receive him who is God's own blessing: Jesus, the "fruit of thy womb."
2677 Holy Mary, Mother of God: With Elizabeth we marvel, "And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Because she gives us Jesus, her son, Mary is Mother of God and our mother; we can entrust all our cares and petitions to her: she prays for us as she prayed for herself: "Let it be to me according to your word." By entrusting ourselves to her prayer, we abandon ourselves to the will of God together with her: "Thy will be done."
Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death: By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the "Mother of Mercy," the All-Holy One. We give ourselves over to her now, in the Today of our lives. And our trust broadens further, already at the present moment, to surrender "the hour of our death" wholly to her care. May she be there as she was at her son's death on the cross. May she welcome us as our mother at the hour of our passing to lead us to her son, Jesus, in paradise.