Mary, Our Mother

Holy Mary

Mary, Our Mother

Immaculate Mary. Mother of God. Holy Mary. Our Lady of Sorrows. Queen of Heaven. Mother of Good Counsel. Our Lady of Guadalupe. Morning Star. Our Lady of Lourdes. Mother of Mercy. Our Lady of Fatima. Refuge of Sinners. Mom.

I’m not sure anyone in history has more titles than Mary. She who was conceived without sin, carried the Son of God within her womb, wept by him at the cross, was assumed into heaven and there crowned Queen, by her many appearances a guiding light in a darkened world, Mary’s titles frequently connect back to her unique and indispensable role in salvation history.

“Mother of God” is perhaps Mary’s most controversial title. Some in the early Church taught that Mary was merely the mother of the human Jesus, as if Jesus’ full humanity and fully divinity could somehow be disconnected. The Council of Ephesus defined Mary as the “God-bearer” (“Theotokos” in Greek), which we typically translate as the Mother of God. In doing so, the Council reaffirmed that Jesus was uniquely both fully human and divine, while also recognizing Mary as the new Ark of the Covenant, the immaculate vessel, the dwelling place of the divine.

In what sense is Mary not only (not only!) the Mother of God, but also the mother of all believers? Jesus alone is our Redeemer, but by saying “yes” to God’s will at the Annunciation, and by her “wholly singular” cooperation in the redemptive suffering of our Lord (most especially when she stood with him at the foot of the cross), Mary “joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church.” Jesus is our Savior, but we are not saved without Mary. In this way the Church affirms Mary as both “Mother of the Church” and “mother to us in the order of grace.”

Devotion to Mary is a profound element of the faith journey of many Catholics. To be clear, Catholics do not worship Mary. And devotion to Mary is not a requirement of the Catholic faith. But Catholics have always believed that we can grow in holiness by studying the lives of the saints, following their example, and praying to them for intercession, knowing how close they are to Jesus. Mary is the saint to emulate and pray to par excellence. She never wavered in her devotion to her Son, never deviated from God’s will, and bore all things with patience. No one is a more powerful intercessor, for we know how dearly Jesus loves his mother and knows how devoted he is to her (just ask the happy couple at Cana!).

Mary’s purity can (but shouldn’t) be a stumbling block to us poor sinners who would approach her and ask for her intercession. For just as Mary was extraordinarily holy, she was also wonderfully ordinary.

“How delicate is the heart of a mother!” wrote Saint Therese of Lisieux. “How it translates its tenderness into a thousand watchful caring acts that no one would think about!” (1)

Like any good mother, Mary took care of her family with great love. How many meals did she make for Joseph and Jesus? How much laundry (by hand!) did she wash? How often was she up with the Blessed Child at three in the morning? Whatever mundane tasks we have in life (and at every station of life we have them), we can do them, as Mary did, humbly, and with great love.

And like Mary, we can trust in God’s plan for us, even when we don’t understand what is happening. Mary must have wondered many times what God was doing: why those in her hometown whispered about her, why she was traveling to Bethlehem, why the exile to Egypt, why the child promised by the angel seemed for so long to be leading a very ordinary life, why (hardest to bear of all) did she have to watch her only child suffer and die on the cross? Mary always persevered, and always “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

When we remember that Mary is a mother to us, and that she knows all our trials because she bore them herself, we can turn to her with confident hope, knowing that the Mother of God is leading us home, to her Beloved Son. And how wonderful it is to pray to Mary and know that the Mother of God, our Holy Mother, is smiling down on us, praying with us and for us, with all the love of her immaculate heart.


(1) Saint Therese of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul, translated and edited by Robert J. Edmonson, CJ. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press (2006), p. 11.

Image: The Coronation of the Virgin by Diego Velazquez (downloaded from Wikipedia Commons).

Michael Haverkamp

Michael Haverkamp is a lifelong member of the Roman Catholic Church. He is grateful to his parents for raising him in the faith. He resides in Columbus, Ohio with his amazing wife and three sons. By day he is a (usually) mild-mannered grant writer.

One thought on Mary, Our Mother

  1. How beautiful and true! I remember when I was growing up that a lot of Catholics thought it was wrong to pray to Mary, that they should only pray to God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit (The Trinity). They didn’t realize that praying and worshiping were 2 entirely different things. Laura and Michael thank you for sharing the things that you do. It helps me grow stronger in my faith! Love, Maggie

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