Who is Mary?

SpacerMary is the mother of Jesus.

What do we know about Mary's life?

SpacerWe really Fra Angelicoknow very little about the life of Mary. The New Testament is the main source of information. Since the New Testament was written by Jesus' early followers to spread the good news about Jesus, Mary is mentioned only in relationship to him. It is for this reason that the New Testament tells us nothing about Mary's parents, birth or childhood. right: The Annunciation, by Fra Angelico

SpacerWe first meet Mary as a young woman, living in the village of Nazareth and engaged to a man named Joseph, a carpenter. We meet her at the most crucial juncture of her life. The angel Gabriel appears to her, addresses her as one favored by God, and asks her if she is willing to be the mother of the Messiah. Mary agrees and Jesus is conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary becomes mother and remains a virgin. Her "yes" determined the course of the rest of her life and altered the course of human history. It also shows Mary to be an obedient handmaid of the Lord.

SpacerMary first felt the effects of this "yes" when Joseph decided to end their relationship when he found out that she was expecting a child. After he had made up his mind to do this, an angel of God appeared to him in a dream. The angel told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and "would save the people from their sins." When Joseph woke up he did what the angel told him and took Mary to be his wife.

SpacerDuring her pregnancy Mary traveled to a town in Judah to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was soon to give birth to John the Baptist. Elizabeth addressed Mary as "the Mother of my Lord" and declared her blessed because of what God had done for her. right: detail of The Visitation, Fra Angelico

SpacerMary gave birth to Jesus far from home, in Bethlehem, where she had traveled with Joseph for the Roman census. The town was crowded and the couple could not find lodgings so they took shelter in a stable and that is where, according to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus was born.

SpacerShortly after Jesus' birth, Mary became a refugee. According the Gospel of Matthew, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him that King Herod wanted to kill the baby Jesus because he had heard from visiting astrologers that the child would grow up to be a king. The angel told Joseph to take Jesus and Mary and flee into Egypt. Joseph got up and the family left that night for Egypt. Herod ordered his soldiers to slaughter all baby boys under the age of two in Bethlehem and the surrounding districts. Jesus, Mary and Joseph stayed in Egypt until they heard that Herod was dead. Then they returned to Nazareth.

SpacerAgain, because the gospels are about Jesus, we know very little about Mary's life in Nazareth during Jesus' boyhood and adult life. In all probability her life was quite ordinary. She cleaned her house, went to the village well for water, prepared meals and made clothes for her family.

SpacerJesus began his ministry when he was about Bellini's Pietathirty years old. Mary didn't always understand what Jesus was doing or why he was doing it. Like any mother, she worried about her son., but she never lost faith in him. She obediently heard the Word of God and kept it.

SpacerThe most devastating hours of Mary's life were spent beneath the cross of her Son. Before he died, Jesus gave Mary into the care of his disciple John. right: Bellini's Pieta

SpacerMary was present with the disciples in the upper room and received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It is clear that Mary shared the faith of the early church and was, from the first, a member of the post -resurrection community.

SpacerMary is honored by the Church as its mother, as a model of faith, as a sign of the Church's hope in the coming of the Kingdom, and as the Queen of Saints.

What do Catholics believe about Mary?

SpacerImmaculate Conception - Catholics believe that Mary was conceived and born free of Original Sin. By reason of her unique role in God's plan of redemption she was united with God from the beginning and was endowed by God with an unsurpassable degree of grace.

SpacerThe Assumption - Catholics believe that at her death, Mary was taken into heaven body and soul.

How is Mary honored by the Church?

SpacerMary is celebrated in feasts throughout the year and in devotions such as the rosary and the litany. She has been named patroness of many countries including the United States, under the title of the Immaculate Conception.

Much more about Mary


This "Ask a Catholic" response written by Mary Ann Strain, C.P.

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