As a practicing Catholic in the Bible Belt, many Protestants–Evangelical, Pentecostal, or otherwise–take notice that I believe what the Church teaches. Furthermore, while I am a sinner, I do my best to live my faith. Inevitably, when I dialogue with them, the Roman Catholic tendency to venerate Mary as Mother of God is prominent in our conversations. It rubs them wrong way.
I used to try to give some basic apologetic to argue for the Roman Catholic practice, but I just don't bother anymore. I let them rant on why, according to their conscience, it's idolatry. Furthermore, I let them also rant against Marian dogmas such as the Immaculate Conception or Mary's Perpetual Virginity, or her Assumption into heaven. I listen and bear it. I understand where they're coming from as a convert. But I know they're just rehearsing the anti-Catholic polemic taught them since they were babies. I don't really challenge them. Not that I don't have the knowledge or the ability. Riling them up further isn't very fruitful. Let the Protestants keep up their protest. At the end of the day, Catholics worship the Triune God and not Mary. One could hope that point would sink in during a conversation with them. However, it usually goes into one ear and out the other.
No diatribe will make me stop loving her.
I'm unashamed of loving Mary because she's my mother. Her Divine Son, Jesus, gave her to us at the cross. He told John to behold His mother and Mary to behold the Apostle as His son. That should be good enough for the rest of us.
Furthermore, I follow Mary's example because she is the first Christian. Her fiat is the cry of every obedient Christ follower. We ought to always say to God, "Let it be done to me, according to Thy word."
And yes, dear non Catholics, I pray to Mary. I try to say the Holy Rosary once a week. I will recite the Salve Regina before I go to bed. I love the Fatima Prayer Our Lady gave to us back in 1917 and say often while at a stoplight: "Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell; lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy."
Of course, praying to Mary may miff you. But I ask for her prayers. I believe she's alive with God. I believe in the intercession of the saints–here on earth, and especially in heaven. And because Our Lady is a prayer warrior, I've seen little miracles occur. Why? Because Our Lord loves His mother. Jesus has listened to her prayers and mine. And I've seen Him give sight to the blind (no metaphor here) and convert hearts to Him. And that's nothing to sneeze at.
Being close to Our Lady has made me close to God. I love Jesus because Mary gave Him flesh. Flesh that allowed God to die on a tree for my salvation. Because Mary said yes to God, bore the humiliation of being pregnant while betrothed, I can call God my brother in humanity. Jesus looks like Mary. When I look at Mary, she's leading me to her son, the only begotten Son of the Father.
Christ is the New Adam. Mary is the New Eve. Salvation came through a woman bearing a child. As the song Silent Night says, "Jesus, Lord at thy birth!"
And that mystery of the Incarnation is nothing to be ashamed of.
As the Angel said, Hail Mary full of grace.
As Elizabeth said, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
Blessed is Jesus, the savior of the world.
As Mary says while pregnant, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior."
It's a mystery I cannot stop contemplating. And Mary contemplates with me and prays with and for me.
That's good enough for me.
Lord Jesus, thanks for the gift of your mom, Mary. Also: come quickly, Lord. Let's have that family reunion soon, where Mary, as well all the angels and saints will worship you, the Lamb who is the Light of the Eternal City.