I'd like to add to dead's writeup in a non-agressive way, avoiding the tone of the flames he has apparently gotten in response. I'd specifically like to respond to the question and statement:
Did the Virgin Mary seem to have hopes, wants, or dreams of her own, or was she just a convenient place to store God's kid? I realize that maybe this is symbolic of the ideal Christian relationship with God (humility, selflessness, surrender), but from the humanist's perspective, it's absurd and insulting.
Here are some reflections on Mary's individuality:
  • God chose Mary for His Mother: God could have appeared as Man from thin air if he had chosen. He could have been born from man as Athena is born from the head of Zeus. He could sprung up from the earth. Any number of "storage places" were available, yet God chose a particular woman to be his home for nine months. He chose this woman to raise him. He chose this woman to present him at the temple, to accompany him to the Wedding at Cana, and to witness (and share!) his sufferings on the cross. The only way to maintain she was just a "convenient place to store God's kid" is to reject the concept of anything being sacred--it has nothing to do with misogyny.
  • Mary was immaculately conceived: God could also have been born from Mary as any other human being, fallen with original sin. Yet in electing Mary Catholics believe He preserved her, from the moment of her conception, from all forms of sin. They believe that she was sinless and holy not only in the virtues humanists look down upon (humility, selflessness, etc.) but also holy in virtues humanists should praise (compassion, righteousness, courage, purpose). I guess it depends on what kind of humanist you are *shrug*.
  • Mary was given freedom from concupiscence and error, and positive grace: In addition to being sinless, Mary was given full grace, strength and freedom. This orthodox doctrine stresses that Mary gave her own initiative in important matters. For example at the Annunciation, it is she who responds to God, "let it be done to me according to thy word"--she is not merely the recipient of God's child; she gives her permission to cooperate with Him! Another example is at the Wedding at Cana, where it is Mary who tells her son to turn the water into wine! At her request he did was any loving son would do: obey.
  • Mary understood her own role in salvation: To reference Fr. William Most:
    The traditional view holds that Mary did know the divinity of Christ at the time of the Annunciation. This view is still held today by not only the best theologians, but also by the best Scriptural scholars . . . . Would God ask her to consent in the name of the whole human race, and still withhold from her knowledge of that to which she was consenting? . . . We are not permitted to give Holy Communion to children who do not know what they are receiving. Would Mary be given this far greater Communion in ignorance of what she was receiving? And what would be the plausible reason for such a holding out on the part of God? We conclude with Fr. Lyonnet, with numerous outstanding exegetes, and with tradition: She did know that her Son was to be divine.
Here are some reflections on Mary's role besides being "convenient place to store God's kid":
  • Mary is our spiritual Mother: In John 19:27, Jesus entrusts the care of his mother to the apostle John saying "Behold, thy mother." Catholics recognize that this command makes Mary the spiritual Mother of all of humanity!
  • Mary can intercede for us: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death." By asking for Mary's aid, and looking to her as a model who points to Christ, Mary is fulfilling a role much greater than "convenient storage place."
  • Mary is mediatrix: This doctrine does not deny that Christ is the one mediator, vertically, between man and God. But it does assert that Mary by her grace-filled humanity, can serve as a mediator for us to point towards Christ. She serves this active role well after having given God his human nature.
  • Mary is co-redemptrix: This doctrine states that while Christ alone redeems us all of our sins, Mary can be called co-redemptrix because she participated in his plan of salvation in a unique way, more fundamentally than any other human beings! In the grand scheme of things she is more important than all the apostles, martyrs, saints, bishops, popes, priests, and theologians put together! Without her they could not be.
  • Mary is Queen of Heaven: Mary was assumed body and soul into Heaven and there shares in the glory of Christ, not as God but as the holiest human being who is given innumerable graces from God. Heaven is made Heaven by the vision of God who awaits us, but in Heaven we will also be graced fully with the holy communion of saints, first among whom is Mary.
I'm not saying you should or shouldn't believe in these doctrines about Mary! I'm only making the case that the traditional Catholic view of Mary is in no way misogynist and is quite the opposite: it is radically pro-woman in that it freely admits that the most important, pure, chaste, compassionate, powerful, error-free, chosen, blessed human being in all of history, who participated more closely in God's salvation for all of humanity than any other person, was a woman. A poor woman.

PS: If you still insist on contruing Mary's qualities negatively, remember that the holy men of scripture share her qualities (although in diluted form). So the view of Mary is still not misogynist; it's an equal opportunity treatment.

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