A Catholic dictionary begins its definition of altar thusly:
The table or block upon which sacrifice is made. It is the place where the Sacrifice of the Mass is offered… -- Albert J. Nevins, Ed., The Maryknoll Catholic Dictionary, © 1965 The Maryknoll Fathers, p. 25
The Catechism, in the section called “Where Is The Liturgy Celebrated?,” the significance of the altar in Catholic worship is described in these words:
1182. The altar of the New Covenant is the Lord's Cross, from which the sacraments of the Paschal mystery flow. On the altar, which is the center of the church, the sacrifice of the Cross is made present under sacramental signs. The altar is also the table of the Lord, to which the People of God are invited. In certain Eastern liturgies, the altar is also the symbol of the tomb (Christ truly died and is truly risen). – Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Edition, © 1994,1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc., p. 306
Based on the above, it seems accurate to consider the altar to be the place toward which all eyes are focused during the most important moments of the Catholic celebration of the Mass. It is, as the Catechism informs, “the center of the church.”
Given the significance of the altar in Catholic worship and the role it plays in what Catholicism calls the Sacrifice of the Mass, I find it interesting that Pope Pius XII should have referred to altars dedicated to Mary in a prayer he spoke in Rome's Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore on the Feast of the Assumption in 1950:
Enraptured by the splendour of your heavenly beauty and impelled by the anxieties of the world we cast ourselves into your arms, O immaculate mother of Jesus, and our mother Mary, confident of finding in you our most loving heart, and your most loving heart, the appeasement of our ardent desire and a safe harbour from the tempest which besets us on every side. Though degraded by our faults and overwhelmed by infinite misery we adore and praise the purest richness of the sublime gifts with which God has filled you above every other mere creature. From the moment of your conception until the day in which, after your assumption into heaven, he crowned you Queen of the Universe. Crystal fountain of faith, bathe our minds with eternal truths, fragrant lily of all holiness, captivate our hearts with your heavenly perfume. O conqueress of evil and death, inspire in us a deep horror of sin which makes the soul detestable to God and a slave of hell. O well beloved of God, hear the ardent cries which rise up from every heart in this year dedicated to you. Bend tenderly, O Mary, over our aching wounds. Convert the wicked, dry the tears of the afflicted and the oppressed, comfort the poor and the humble, quench hatred, sweeten harshness, safeguard the flower of purity and protect the holy church. In your name, resounding harmoniously in heaven, may they recognise that they are all brothers. Receive, O most sweet mother, our humble supplication above all obtained for us, that on that day, happy with you, we may repeat before your throne that hymn which is sung today around your altars. You are all beautiful, O Mary, you are the glory, you are the joy, you are the honour of our people.–-[My Emphasis]
I do not doubt that most Catholics would deny that the Pope's prayer in any way suggests that Catholics worship Mary. However, I invite the reader to consider the words highlighted in red.
we cast ourselves into your arms – Speaking for all Catholics, the Pope is looking to Mary for “the appeasement of our ardent desire and a safe harbour from the tempest which besets us on every side.” Christians, upon reading these words, might ask why the Pope did not cast himself and all Catholics into the arms of Jesus.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. -- Psalms 18:3
we adore and praise – In the name of all Catholics, the Pope spoke of adoring and praising the richness (a quality) of the gifts (created things) bestowed upon Mary (a created being). Jesus Christ said:
Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. -- Matthew 4:10
your assumption into heaven – On the Day of Pentecost following His resurrection, our risen Lord ascended into Heaven to take his place at the right hand of the Father. The Old Testament tells us that two of the Hebrew prophets, Elijah and Enoch were assumed into Heaven while still living (2 Kings 2:11; Hebrews 11:5). Some of the church fathers doubted or denied that Mary died (tradition with a little “T”), arguing that she was immune from original sin and, therefore, not subject to death. Others of the fathers, however, held that Mary died in fact, but add in the wonderful linguistic acrobatics of the RCC that she did not incur the debt of death.(Tradition with a big “T”). (Pietro Parente, Antonio Piolanti & Salvatore Gaofalo, Dictionary of Dogmatic Theology, 1st English Edition, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, © 1951 The Bruce Publishing Company, p. 23).
When Pope Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he tiptoed a narrow verbal path that made it possible to argue either Mary's death or non-death, should the winds of opinion change at some time in the future:
Accordingly, after We directed Our prayers in supplication to God again and again, and invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God, who lavishes His special benevolence on the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the victor over sin and death, for the increasing glory of the same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the whole Church, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul, and by Our own authority We pronounce, declare, and define that the dogma was revealed by God, that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, after completing her course of life upon earth was assumed to the glory of heaven both in body and soul.
Therefore, if anyone, which may God forbid, should dare either to deny this, or voluntarily call into doubt what has been defined by Us, he should realize that he has cut himself off entirely from the divine and Catholic faith. – Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, Apostolic Constitution, promulgated November 1, 1950, Denzinger 2333
Let's see now. The Scriptures tell us that we are saved by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. The Catholic Church agrees, then stipulates that in order to be saved, one must be in subjection to the Catholic Pope and must assent in faith to the dogma of Mary's bodily assumption, among other things.
The Pope went on to refer to the Catholic version of Mary by names that seemed intended to closely match some of the names by which Christ was referred to in the Scriptures
Queen of the Universe – This is, I suppose, Catholicism's title for Mary to parallel Christ's titles of King of Kings.(1 Timothy 6:15), Head over all things (Ephesians 1:22) and Lord of All (Acts 10:36; Romans 10:12).
fragrant lily of all holiness – Compares, I suppose, to Christ's names Holy One of God (Luke 4:34) and Lily of the valleys (Song of Songs 2:1)
conqueress of evil and death – Christ already has conquered death by His glorious Resurrection, and we know from Bible prophecy that He will finally conquer evil for all time when He casts Satan and those who follow him into the fiery lake. (Revelation 20). What evil and death has the Catholic Mary conquered? After Jesus judges at the Great White Throne, evil and death will no longer exist.
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. - Revelation 20:11-15
Convert the wicked -- On a roll, Pius XII then entreated the Catholic Mary to do what the Scriptures expressly state that only God can do:
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. -- 1 Corinthians 3:5-11
The pope closed his prayer to the Catholic goddess with another supplication that mentions her throne in Heaven and her altars here on earth. If we are to believe the definitions for altar quoted above, then one must wonder what sacrifices are being made on Mary's altars here on earth, and who is being worshipped at them if not her.
I have been told by a number of Catholic apologists that Catholics do not pray to saints but through them to God. Well, if the use of the second person singular in addressing the Catholic Mary in such prayers as Hail Holy Queen, Hail Mary, etc., aren't indicative of praying to Mary, certainly the words of Pius XII are.
While there still is time, turn away from the false doctrines and false gods of Catholicism and seek Christ in the Scriptures. Only by faith in Him can you be saved.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. -- Ephesians 2:8-10