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The Virgin Mary - Our Blessed Mother

Who Is the Virgin Mary?

She is called by many names. She is the Mother of Jesus Christ, and through him, mother of all of us. This article gives background on the Virgin Mary and her place in the Catholic Church.

Mother of God

As the mother of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary is given the title "Mother of God". Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, entered into our human existence by being born to her. When the Angel Gabriel came to her at the Annunciation, he said:

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.

Luke 1:35

Thus, although Mary did not create Jesus Christ. He always existed. But she is his mother in a historical and physical sense.

She is also called Theotokos, which is roughly translated "parent (feminine) of God" in Greek. This title is especially given to her in the Eastern churches.

Mother of the Church

Jesus Christ himself gave his mother to the Church while he hung dying on the cross.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son. Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

John 19:26-27

In John's Gospel, "the disciple whom he loved" reflects all disciples, the Church. You and I are the "beloved disciple"! So Jesus has entrusted us to his mother and has enabled us to grow closer to him through her.

Catholics however do not worship the Virgin Mary. This is a misconception which is sometimes propagated by non-Catholics. Mary has no power on her own. But God's grace can flow through her.

We do venerate her. This means to honor her. We respect her in her unique role in relationship to Jesus and because of her holiness. She wanted to do God's will, even when she knew that as an unmarried woman she could be stoned for being pregnant. She was not forced to be the mother of Jesus. She said "yes" or "fiat" to God when the angel Gabriel came to her. She trusted in God.

And Mary was a disciple of Jesus and counted among the early Christians. She is seen as a model of humility. She never sought the spotlight, even though she was the Lord's mother.

We do ask her to intercede for us. That is like asking a friend to pray for us. Catholics believe that the saints and angels in heaven are close to God and so we ask them to pray for us on our behalf. Read more about Catholics and their relationship to the Virgin Mary and the saints.

The Immaculate Conception

The Virgin Mary is also called "The Immaculate Conception". This term does not refer to the conception of Jesus. It refers to Mary being conceived without the stain of original sin.

This does not mean that Mary was not saved by Jesus like the rest of humanity though. It just means that Jesus saved her in a different way. Jesus saved her before she sinned. Christ's sacrifice is still what preserved her in the Immaculate Conception.

The New Eve

In the Book of Genesis, after the fall in the Garden of Eden, we read that God told the snake

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel.

Genesis 3:15

This is known as the protoevangelium - or the first gospel. This indicates that this is not the end of the story. In fact it is just beginning. Though humanity will suffer, redemption will take place, and it will happen through the offspring of the woman. This relates to the Immaculate Conception. In order for the playing field to be even, Mary must be without original sin, just as Eve was.

Eve was the original woman, and the mother of all. Mary, the New Eve, is the Mother of the Church. In John's gospel, Mary is called "Woman" by Jesus, both at the Wedding at Cana and from the cross. This is not a term of disrespect, but a referral back to Eve, who was the first to be called "woman".

There are other parallels between Eve and the Virgin Mary. Eve is visited by the devil, a fallen angel. Mary is visited by the Angel Gabriel.

The early Church fathers wrote about this connection between Eve and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Perhaps most famously, St. Ireneus wrote about her as the Undoer of Knots.

The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.

St. Ireneus

Other Titles for the Virgin Mary

Our Blessed Mother has many other titles also. Some of them are related to apparitions of her. Others have to do with devotions. Here are just a few:

Our Lady Undoer of Knots

In this devotion, Catholics ask Mary to assist us in untying the knots in our lives through her intersession to our Lord Jesus.

Our Lady of Fatima

The Blessed Virgin Mary to three children in Fatima, Portugal in 1917. Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta were shepherds, and while watching their sheep Our Lady appeared to them on six separate occasions. She instructed them to be devoted to God and to pray the rosary.

Our Lady of Guadalupe
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Our Lady of Guadalupe

She appeared to Juan Diego, a Native American, in 1531 and her image miraculously appeared on his cloak.

Our Lady of the Rosary

Also known as Our Lady of Victory. This title commemorates a victory at sea to fend off Turkish invaders in the 16th century. Europeans were encouraged to pray the rosary to avoid invasion. Pope St. Pius V attributed the victory to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary afterwards.

Our Lady of Sorrows

This title commemorates the extreme sorrow that the Blessed Virgin Mary experienced during the life, passion, and death of Jesus Christ. The Seven Sorrows Devotion is a traditional Catholic devotion related to the seven sorrows of Mary.

Our Lady of Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes is a title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in honor of her apparitions to St. Bernadette in Lourdes France. Our Lady of Lourdes is the patron saint of bodily ills, sick people, and protection from diseases. Her feast day is February 11.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the title given to Our Blessed Mother as the patroness of the Carmelite order. Mount Carmel is located in the Holy Land. The early Carmelites lived as hermits there. They are a contemplative order

The Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Immaculate Heart of Mary is a devotion to our blessed Mother which helps us reflect on her love of God. By saying “yes” to God our Father and agreeing to be the mother of our Lord, she showed that she was entirely willing to cooperate with God’s plan for our redemption. Her heart experienced both joy and sorrow as a result of her “fiat” (“let it be”).

More Resources for the Blessed Virgin Mary

Annunciation March 25
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The Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated on March 25. This feast day commemorates the announcement of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she had been chosen to be the mother of Jesus.

queenship of mary august 22
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Queenship of Mary

This feast day on August 22 celebrates the queenship of Mary. As the mother of Jesus Christ, the Lord of all creation, our Blessed Mother shares in his royal heritage. Mary’s queenship foreshadows the glory in heaven which awaits all of us who recognize her son as ruler of the universe.

Video: Why Do Catholics Call Mary Their Mother?

Fr. Mike Schmitz clarifies that honoring Mary as our mother does not detract from our relationship with Jesus; it enhances it. He explains two key reasons: First, loving Mary, whom Jesus loves, deepens our love for Him. Second, Jesus Himself gave Mary to us as our mother from the cross, as noted in John 19:26-27. This gesture signifies that all who follow Jesus are invited to embrace Mary as their mother. Emphasizing Mary's role does not diminish our focus on God but enriches it, reminding us that Jesus wants us to love and honor Mary, thereby strengthening our faith and connection to Him.

Why Do Catholics Pray to Mary and the Saints? A Lesson Plan

Why do Catholics pray to Mary and the saints? This lesson plan will help youth understand that it is like asking a friend to pray for you. And it points out that prayer is not the same as worship

Fiat – Reflection and Discussion Questions

The purpose of this reflection is to help youth understand what Mary’s fiat (“let it be done”) meant and to help them understand ways to say yes in today’s world.

Mother Mary – A Lesson Plan on the Wedding at Cana

This Mother Mary lesson plan on the Wedding at Cana will help youth understand the role of Mary as our mother and an intercessor for us. We will also discuss the importance of the phrase “Do whatever he tells you”.

The Hail Mary Prayer
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The Hail Mary Prayer

The first part of the Hail Mary prayer echoes the visit from the angel Gabriel. The middle part repeats Elizabeth’s greeting to her. And in conclusion, we ask our Blessed Mother to pray for us, just as we might ask a relative or friend to do.

The Memorare Prayer
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The Memorare Prayer

This Memorare prayer is an intercessory prayer which entrusts our petitions to our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary. In it, we ask her to pray for our needs. Download a printable version here.

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