One of the tragedies of the Protestant Reformation is that it resulted in a lot of Protestants squeamish about talking about the Virgin Mary, and a lot of Catholics squeamish about talking about grace and predestination (in both cases, out of a fear of the other side's perceived excesses). In reality, if you want to know what God's predestination looks like, look to the Virgin Mary. And you can't understand Mary without understanding predestination.
Protestants aren't the only ones who find Catholic devotion to Mary a bit over-the-top sometimes. A lot of Catholics find other Catholics, including great Saints like Alphonsus Liguori and Louis de Montfort, to be a little "much" when talking about the Virgin Mary. I get it. Take the Salve Regina, for example: it calls Mary "Our Life, Our Sweetness, and Our Hope." How is that kind of effusive flattery theologically defensible? After all, Our Life and our Hope is Jesus Christ.
Whether you're Catholic or Orthodox or Protestant, you owe a great debt of gratitude to the Virgin Mary, because there's a special way in which you owe your salvation to her. This claim often sounds heretical, particularly to Protestant ears, so here's the basic reason Catholics say this...
Today is the Feast of the Assumption, in which we Catholics celebrate that the Virgin Mary, at the conclusion of her earthly life, was taken up into Heaven, body and soul. For Protestants and even many Catholics, it's a hard doctrine to swallow. Here are five reasons that I believe in it (besides the fact that the Church infallibly teaches it).
When Catholics talk about praying to Mary, a classic Protestant objection is "but I can go directly to Jesus!" To that, I'd say, "True, you could go to Jesus alone... but if you pray to Mary, you and the Virgin Mary can go directly to Jesus!" The "why not just go directly to Jesus" objection points to one of the real differences between Catholics and Protestants on this question: we Catholics believe that some people's prayers are more efficacious than others.
Why does the angel Gabriel tell Joseph not to "be afraid" to take Mary as his wife?
Then-Cardinal Ratzinger said in 2002, "I have often affirmed my conviction that the true apology of Christian faith, the most convincing demonstration of its truth against every denial, are the saints, and the beauty that the faith has generated. Today, for faith to grow, we must lead ourselves and the persons we meet to encounter the saints and to enter into contact with the Beautiful." Here's an example of how the life and death of St. Maximilian Kolbe helped me to believe the Catholic Church's teachings about the Virgin Mary.
The Calvinist theologian Peter Leithart has a fascinating (but incorrect) article on the perpetual virginity over at First Things. There is much to praise about the short piece. First, he's asking the right question. As the article's teaser puts it, "why didn't Joseph have sex with Mary during her pregnancy?" So many Protestants focus on the fact that they believe St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary did have sex after Christmas that they ignore the explicit Biblical evidence that they didn't have sex before (Matthew 1:25). Second, much of Leithart's answer is correct, and points to the radical Biblical truth about the Virgin Mary. Finally, even when Leithart's argument goes off the rails, he shows his work, so it's easy enough to see how he goes wrong.
A toast to the Immaculate Virgin Mary and her special role in the history of the Americas.
Just as the Bible presents Abraham as our father in faith for his radical willingness to trust God, we're also given a mother in faith: the Virgin Mary. Listen to what Scripture says about her role in following God from the Annunciation to Calvary and into glory.