Why all the fuss about Mary? And why do you pray to the saints?
Throughout Christendom the Church has celebrated the lives of believers whose witness was a visible testimony to our Lord. Amidst the countless saints who provide such examples for us, one in particular is preeminent above the rest. Mary, the mother of our Lord, stands as the supreme biblical example. She is a 'type' or model of redeemed humanity.
All who had gone before, the patriarchs, prophets, and kings bore witness to the Word, but Mary bore the Word. In her declaration, be it unto me according to your word, Mary shifts from the selfish and sinful response of our first parents, Adam and Eve. Their response to God could be summarized, be it unto me according to my word.
Mary's life was one of full surrender to God's will as she made Jesus known. Likewise, the life of every believer should seek to bear Jesus to the world and to make Him known. We are all called to be such Christ-bearers: to empty ourselves of sinful and selfish desires and to allow the Spirit of God to reign in our hearts and lives.
The Church, therefore, has always held Mary in esteem for her position in salvation history as well as her godly example. In doing so, it fulfills Scripture. Luke records in his first chapter that all generations will call her, Mary, blessed. She reminds us that God has a plan for each of us if we, like her, allow Him to work through us to accomplish His redemptive work.
Unfortunately, many have misunderstood the invocation of the saints, especially in regard to Mary. The Church upholds a biblical understanding of Jesus' victory over death. In doing so, it maintains that the Church is a living body, both in heaven and on earth. The ministry of that body is to pray for the Church as the Spirit of God works through it to fulfill His will on earth.
In asking for the prayers of the saints, prayer is not being made to them. Rather, it is a request that they join us in our petitions. Such a practice does not deny Jesus' place as our chief advocate any more than asking a friend to pray for us would do so.
Some find comfort and hope in the great cloud of witnesses that constitute the Church. In asking for the prayers of those in heaven it reminds them of this living fellowship and strengthens them in their Christian journey.
Such a practice is not required of any, but can certainly be of help to some through this long-standing tradition in the Church.