Before I was Catholic I was taught that the "poor" Catholics were so scared of God that they prayed to Mary instead; or that they didn't even KNOW they could pray directly to God. Or, that they thought Mary had more godlike powers than God Himself! That's sooooooo silly! And not true.
First, let's talk about the word "pray". It originally meant "to ask." Like this: "I pray thee, my dear, pass the butter." Or how about this? "I pray thee, my brother, pray for me to Christ Our Lord." Pray means ask. When we pray, we ask.
When Catholics pray to Mary, they are asking for her prayers. It is no different from asking your brother, or sister or husband or best friend
to pray for you. "Please pray for me. I have a medical test coming up and I'm really worried." No one would assume you were offering them the worship that is due to God alone, simply because you asked for prayer. We are a family! We pray for one another! God is the only One worthy of WORSHIP, but we have a huge, huge family, both on earth and in heaven (who all love and worship God), who love to help us with their prayers. Praying to Mary, asking her to pray for us, is a normal Christian thing to do. She will always point us to her Son. She will remind us that He loves us. In fact, the closer we get to Mary, the closer we get to Jesus. Of COURSE we Catholic pray to Jesus! It's not and either/or thing. To God alone we offer prayers of worship. To our friends and family, both heavenly and earthly, we ask for intercession.
When Catholics pray to Mary we are asking for her to intercede for us, in the same way that we ask other loved ones to intercede for us. I was also taught as a kid that Catholics "prayed to dead people." Wrong again! Those who are in heaven are more alive than they ever were on earth! They love perfectly and care perfectly that the will of God, Whom they now adore in person, is done on earth. We are a family. We ask our family members to pray for us. It's that easy.
I am a Catholic wife, mom and grandma. In 1995, after Bible college and a few years as an Evangelical Missionary, I was received into the Church at the Easter Vigil. These are my personal musings on Scripture, prayer, and living close to Jesus.