Mary | What You Need to Know
Catholic beliefs about the Blessed Virgin Mary include her immaculate conception, her freedom from personal sin, her perpetual virginity, the fact that she is the mother of God, her assumption into heaven, her role as intercessor and mediatrix, and more.The richness of Marian study and devotion may be glimpsed in Mary’s unparalleled relationship with the Holy Trinity. She is the daughter of the Father, the mother of the Son, and the spouse of the Holy Spirit. But as is so often the case, it is best to turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church in order to find a succinct treatment of the basics.Beyond the Catechism, there are innumerable possibilities. For example, the famous 20th-century American bishop Fulton Sheen wrote a fine and very engaging book entitled The World’s First Love: Mary Mother of God which provides an outstanding chapter on how Mary’s maternity draws us to her Son.Perhaps the most complete magisterial exposition of the role of Mary in salvation history was provided by John Paul II in his 1987 encyclical Mother of the Redeemer. But even this lengthy treatment is only the beginning of meditation about Mary.
- The Catechism: Born of the Virgin Mary
- Bishop Sheen: All Mothers Are Alike—Save One
- John Paul II: Mother of the Redeemer (Redemptoris Mater)
There are so many fruitful lines of inquiry about Mary that we can only hope to offer some examples here:
- The Fathers of Vatican II thought Mary so important to their deliberations on the nature of the Church that they included a chapter on Mary in Lumen Gentium (The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church): The Blessed Virgin Mary: Mother of God in the Mystery of Christ and the Church.
- Innumerable fathers, doctors, saints and scholars have undertaken serious studies of Mary over the centuries. One example is Fr. Lawrence P. Everett’s scholarly exposition of the grounds for the dogma of the Assumption, proclaimed by Pius XII in 1950: Mary's Death and Bodily Assumption.
- There have been many considerations of Mary’s importance to other religions, including Protestantism (Martin Luther’s Devotion to Mary) and Islam (Mary, Ever Virgin . . . In Islam). Others may also be found in our library.
- Countless apologists have tried to show both the propriety and the benefits of Marian devotion, such as the famous 19th century Catholic controversialist, Orestes Brownson, who wrote on The Moral and Social Influence of Devotion to Mary.
- Pope Paul VI clearly became concerned that devotion to Mary was waning in the confused years following Vatican II. Accordingly, he issued two apostolic letters in an effort to implement the true vision of the Council: Mary, the Great Sign (Signum Magnum) and On Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Marialis Cultus).
Perhaps someday we’ll have WYNTK items on each attribute of Mary. For the time being, if you search our library on “John Paul II Mary” or “Benedict XVI Mary”, you’ll find that recent popes have focused frequently on the Mother of God in their weekly audiences. Each audience provides another meditation for Catholics wishing to go to Jesus through Mary.