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Ginny Kubitz Moyer :
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Ginny Kubitz Moyer is the author of the award-winning book Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area and blogs at randomactsofmomness.com.
February 18th, 2013

Q. What do we know about Mary’s actual labor and delivery of Jesus?
A. When it comes to the actual technicalities of Mary’s delivery of Jesus, we really don’t have much information to go on. The Church teaches that she was a virgin before, during, and after the birth, but when it comes to the specifics of the physical birth itself, much is open to speculation. For example, many theologians believe that Mary did not actually go through normal labor in the birthing of Christ, believing she had the special privilege of a pain-free delivery; other theologians argue that Mary, being human, delivered her human (and divine) son just as any other mother would. The Church has not issued a dogmatic statement either…

February 11th, 2013

Since the earliest days of the Church, people have used prayer beads or cords with knots in them to help them keep track of their prayers. (This practice is not limited to Catholicism, by the way; prayer beads are also found in religions such as Hinduism and Orthodox Christianity.) Christian monks used to pray the 150 psalms, and since lay people were not able to memorize 150 separate psalms, many began praying 150 Our Fathers. In the Middle Ages, a time when the “Hail Mary” prayer became widely known, it became common for people to pray 150 Hail Marys instead. This developed into the rosary as it is prayed now. There is an old tradition in the Church that Mary herself appeared to St. Dominic (1170-1221) and gave him…

February 1st, 2013

It’s good to clarify that Mary herself does not perform miracles; all miracles are an act of God. That said, Catholics do believe that Mary will pray for us if we ask, and that God’s miracles can be related to her intercession. This belief has its roots in the Gospel story of the Wedding at Cana, when Mary sees the needs of the young couple and brings them before Jesus. Following this, Jesus works his first miracle and turns water into wine.
There are certainly many miracles that are associated with prayers at Marian shrines or apparition sites. The Marian shrine in Lourdes, France, is one of the most famous of these. Since 1858, 68 formally recognized miracles and more than 5,000 unexplained healings have been connected…

January 28th, 2013

It’s important to remember that Mary herself does not perform miracles; only God can do that. The Church does believe, however, that miracles can be related to the intercession and prayers of Mary on our behalf (see the story of the wedding at Cana in the Gospel of John), so over the years there have been many reported miracles connected with Marian shrines or apparition sites.
The spring in Lourdes, France, where Mary appeared to a young peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous in 1858, is associated with many healings. Thousands have been reported over the years; of these, 68 have been recognized as miraculous by the Lourdes Medical Bureau, which investigates miracles according to a list of stringent criteria,…

January 21st, 2013

Catholic teaching states that Mary was conceived without original sin and that she also remained sinless her entire life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ’s victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.” (CCC 411) The Church believes that because she was the mother of a sinless son, Mary was given the special privilege of being forever free from sin herself: “To become the mother of the Savior, Mary was ‘enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.’” (CCC 490)…

January 14th, 2013

Prevenient grace is a grace that comes without any effort or “earning” it on the part of humans. It reflects the fact that God takes the initiative to save us through Jesus Christ, and that we don’t earn God’s grace; we can only cooperate with it. To make a connection with Mary, the dogma of her Immaculate Conception (being conceived without original sin and remaining sinless her entire life) is an example of prevenient grace. Ineffabilis Deus, the papal bull written by Pope Pius IX in 1854, explains that “the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved…

January 7th, 2013

No. The words to the song were written by Englishman John Newton, a slave trader, as a response to a powerful conversion experience. After a terrifying storm at sea, Newton realized that it was only by God’s grace that he would be saved; these sentiments later became the basis for the song, which was written in 1772. The Library of Congress website has a good explanation of the story behind this popular hymn.…

January 1st, 2013

The Gospel writers don’t specifically mention the presence of Jesus’ mother at the tomb. Matthew tells us that Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” were at the tomb for Jesus’ burial (Matthew 27:61), and that they both returned to the tomb later and found an angel who informed them that Jesus had risen from the dead (Matthew 28: 1-8). The “other Mary” is not Jesus’ mother, but rather the mother of James and Joseph (see Matthew 27:56). The same two women are present at the tomb in the Gospel of Mark and Luke as well.…

December 21st, 2012

The Gospel of Matthew explains that Joseph did not know in advance that Mary was destined to be the mother of the Savior. In Matthew 1:18-25, we read about how Joseph and Mary were betrothed, and Joseph discovered that she was pregnant, a discovery which would surely have been a rather rude shock. (The Jewish marriage ceremony had two parts: betrothal, which was a binding exchange of vows in front of witnesses, followed several months later by the husband taking the wife into his house and living with her as a married couple. If Mary was pregnant following the betrothal but before she and Joseph had lived together as man and wife, Joseph would naturally have assumed that she had been unfaithful to him with another man.)…

December 14th, 2012

If you think about any statue of a famous person, like a president or general in a park, you know that these statues are usually designed to celebrate the most admirable qualities of that person. You rarely see statues of George Washington looking confused or doubtful, for example; instead, most sculptors make him look confident and commanding, even though we know that he, like anyone, must have had his moments of weakness. Similarly, statues of Mary highlight what the Church has long admired about her: her total willingness to do the work of God and to make herself an instrument of God’s grace to others. That’s why so many images of her show her in an attitude of pious humility, a posture that is meant to indicate…

November 26th, 2012

We don’t know when exactly Mary’s parents (St. Joachim and St. Anne) died. The Gospels don’t give us any information about them, so what we know comes from tradition and from apocryphal writings such as the Protoevangelium of James, written around A.D. 150. Even that information is limited, though, so we don’t know for certain when Mary’s parents died, or whether they would have been alive to see their grandson in person.…

November 19th, 2012

In the Old testament, Wisdom is often personified as a female figure who invites and leads others to righteousness. This female personification of Wisdom is widely regarded by theologians as a type – someone or something in the Old Testament that prefigures someone in the New Testament. There are various opinions about which New Testament figure Wisdom is prefiguring, but throughout the history of the Church many have made the case that Wisdom is a type of the Virgin Mary. So it’s not that Mary “is” the Wisdom figure; rather, it’s more accurate to say that many people find parallels between the two.…

November 12th, 2012

The birthday of Mary has been celebrated by Christians since at least the sixth century. Though no one knows the real date of Mary’s birth, it has traditionally been celebrated on September 8th. It’s believed that September 8th was chosen because of its proximity to the Byzantine New Year on September 1st (the birth of the mother of the Savior represents the start of a new era, thus it made symbolic sense to have it close to the start of the New Year).…

November 5th, 2012

Marian theology (or mariology) is theology that considers Mary in relation to God, to Jesus Christ, and to the Church as a whole. Marian theology is shaped by many things, primarily the Scriptural texts involving Mary, the Marian dogmas of the Church, papal writings relating to Mary, and by the way that Mary is experienced by ordinary Catholics. If you are interested in a sample of Marian theology, a good place to start is with the final chapter of Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (1964).…

October 29th, 2012

Catholics believe that Mary’s body is not buried in the earth but, rather, is in Heaven. This belief, referred to as the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a long-standing tradition that was formalized into a dogma of faith by Pope Pius XII.
In the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus, he wrote that Mary, “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” In other words, if you are looking to find the place where Mary’s body is laid to rest, you won’t find one.
As a mom, I’ve come to understand the Assumption in a new way. When you are a parent, you spend hours looking after the needs of your child’s body: feeding, clothing, bathing, bandaging…

October 22nd, 2012

Many people ask their family and friends to pray for them during difficult times. Catholics believe that Mary will pray for us, too, if we ask. In the Hail Mary prayer, when we say, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death,” we are asking Mary to intercede for us not just throughout our lives but also at the time of our death. The deathbed prayers are important because that’s our last chance to make our peace with God in this life. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Death is the end of man’s earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny.”…

October 15th, 2012

The Bible doesn’t give any indication that he did know who they were. In the Gospel of Matthew (2:1-18) , the magi bring news of the newborn king to Jerusalem. When King Herod hears of this he is troubled and asks his chief priests and scribes where the new king is to be born. This eventually causes Herod to order the massacre of all baby boys in and around Bethlehem. (Jesus, of course, has already been taken to Egypt by Mary and Joseph, who keep him there until after Herod has died.) But nowhere in the Gospel does it indicate that Herod knew which family and which baby he was targeting.…

October 8th, 2012

No. The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus Christ is the one savior of the world.
You will sometimes hear people say that Catholics believe that Mary is the “co-redemptrix.” There is a lot of misinformation around that, so here’s a quick explanation.
Over the last several years, many Catholics around the world have signed petitions urging the Pope to make a dogmatic declaration that Mary is the “co-redemptrix.” They feel that this title will emphasize the unique and irreplaceable role that Mary played in the salvation of the world: namely, conceiving, giving birth to, and supporting Jesus in his mission. They do clarify (correctly) that she is subordinate to her Son, and that Jesus is the one and only…

October 1st, 2012

The Bible offers us very little information about the Flight into Egypt. The Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 2:13 -23) explains how Joseph had a dream in which an angel told him to take his family and flee to Egypt in order to escape Herod’s murderous plans. Joseph did as directed, and the family stayed in Egypt until it was safe to return to Palestine. But the Gospels tell us nothing about where exactly the Holy Family settled, or how they were treated by the locals.
That said, there are fascinating legends about the Holy Family’s journeys throughout Egypt. Many of these come from apocrphycal writings, as well as from Coptic and Muslim traditions. One such legend says that the Holy Family was attacked by robbers shortly…

September 24th, 2012

Parthenos is a Greek word meaning “virgin.” It relates to Mary because the evangelist Matthew, in describing Mary’s miraculous pregnancy, says, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.’” (Matthew 1:22-23) The quotation that Matthew references here is from the Old Testament book of Isaiah, 7:14.
In the original Hebrew, Isaiah uses the word “almah,” which means a young woman of marriageable age. When the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew to Greek approximately two hundred years before Christ, the word “almah” was rendered as “parthenos” (virgin). This…

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