The Passionists' Compassion

Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Her Daily Life

Mary was a woman of rural Galilee. She lived as they did, in a small family house of stone and mud-brick. She worked like any young girl, grinding wheat and barley into flour, preparing dishes of beans, vegetables, eggs, fruits, nuts, and occasional chunks of mutton. Wool had to be made into clothing. Bread had to be baked. A few chickens and a donkey had to be fed. And in the village, small as it was, there were always little children to care for.

washing clothesAlmost daily she carried a large jar of water from the town well for washing and cooking (the well still supplies modern Nazareth today and is called "Mary's Well"). Early on, the Jews found that cleanliness prevented disease, so frequent washing -- an important chore of women -- became part of their religious practice. The well also was a favorite spot where women talked and traded bits of everyday news. (right: women washing clothes at Nazareth, c. 1914; National Geographic)

Just as for the other women of Nazareth, the seasons and times of harvest determined what Mary had to do. With the first downpour of rain in October, the vital wheat crop was sown on the mountain fields, to be gathered -- if all went well -- in May. Small dark olives, knocked from dull green trees in September, had to be pressed into oil for lamps and food. In May or June, early figs were picked; in July, the softer juicy fruit. Grapes and pomegranates ripened in September and October. God blessed the hills of Galilee with his bounty, but it could never be taken for granted. The unpredictable land could just as well give nothing to those working it.

From the people of Nazareth Mary learned about life. Few strangers visited the town. It had little wealth, culture or learning. But just as a tiny drop of water contains a wealth of living organisms, so the small town of Nazareth had a rich life of its own. Children were born, young people married, someone died and was buried. Mary felt these joys and sorrows. A sheep was lost, a family quarreled, a son left home. From such small things, life's deepest lessons could be learned.

Mary's faith

Sign of the Passion

Mary, the Mother of JesusMary in Christian Tradition
The Presence of Mary in the Life of St. Paul of the Cross
Marian PrayersFeasts of Mary
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