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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.
October 18th, 2010

On September 19, 1846, two children in the French village of La Salette saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary. Eleven-year-old Maximin Giraud and his friend Mélanie Matthieu (some sources say she was fourteen, others fifteen) saw a beautiful woman inside a glowing sphere of light. The woman, who was weeping and wore a crucifix around her neck, spoke to the children and told them of her sadness at the sins of humanity. She expressed her sorrow that the faithful were not observing Sunday as the Lord’s day, urged the children to pray morning and evening, and warned of an impending epidemic of disease as well as the failure of several kinds of crops. She also gave the children private messages, telling them to share them…

October 11th, 2010

Religious imagery is found in many gangs, for a variety of reasons. In the case of Our Lady of Guadalupe, she is a cultural and national icon as much as a religious one (as the patron saint of Mexico, she is a familiar and beloved figure). That said, people who work with gang members say that gangs often derive a certain feeling of power or protection from images of Mary or of Jesus. Many gang members (even those from Catholic families) are not particularly knowledgeable about the teachings of Catholicism, but they do recognize these religious images as being important and inherently worthy of respect. On another level, the fact that gangs often invoke religious figures may indicate that the members are searching…

September 13th, 2010

The earliest writings about Mary are in the New Testament, which was written in the second half of the first century. After that, Mary is mentioned in several apocryphal texts (texts that are written in the style of the Gospels but are not believed to be divinely inspired). One of the most Mary-centric of these books is the Protoevangelium of James, which was written around 150 A.D. It tells the story of Mary’s conception, her childhood, and the birth of Christ, and clearly demonstrates a great interest in Mary’s “backstory,” so to speak.
Mary also shows up in the writing of many early Church fathers, including St. Justin Martyr (who died in 165 A.D.) and St. Irenaeus (who died around 202 A.D.).…

September 6th, 2010

The Council of Ephesus, which was held in 431, was crucial in affirming the truth of the title “Mother of God.” People had been calling Mary that for quite some time, but it was not dogmatically defined until the Council.
Here’s how it happened: At the Council, the bishops denounced the Nestorian heresy…, a heresy that claimed that Christ’s human and divine natures were separate. Nestorians therefore believed that Mary was only the mother of the human Christ, not of the divine Christ.
In denouncing Nestorianism, the bishops affirmed the unity of the divine and human natures of Christ. Given that one cannot separate Christ’s divine nature from his human nature, the Council declared that it is correct

August 30th, 2010

Over the centuries, many different chaplets (series of prayers usually said on a string of beads) have been written to express devotion to a particular saint or to an aspect of the Christian faith. The Chaplet of the Divine Mercy is one of the most well-known chaplets. It is based on the visions received by Sister Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun, in the 1930s. It is prayed to obtain Christ’s mercy and to bring mercy to others. The chaplet is usually prayed using rosary beads (and in fact the “Hail Mary” is one of the prayers of the chaplet), but its focus is on Christ and the promise of his mercy.…

August 16th, 2010

A Marian apparition is a supernatural appearance of Mary to a person (or group of people) on earth. Since the early centuries of the Church, there have been thousands of reported Marian apparitions. “Reported” is a key word here; just because someone says that they saw Mary doesn’t mean that they really did. The Church, under the guidance of the bishop in whose diocese the alleged apparition occurs, carefully investigates alleged apparitions according to a set of criteria established by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
It’s worth pointing out that the Church never judges an apparition to be “authentic”; the strongest positive statement that they will make is that an apparition…

August 13th, 2010
Praying the Rosary Rarely, Not Regularly

August 15 is the feast of the Assumption. According to Catholic tradition, at the end of Mary’s earthly life, she was assumed body and soul into heaven. In the spirit of the day, this article looks at a form of prayer traditionally associated with Mary.…
Many people find comfort in praying a daily rosary. No matter what else changes in their lives, that circle of beads is a regular, dependable, soothing part of their normal routine.
I am not one of those people.
It’s not that I dislike the rosary. On the contrary, it’s been the catalyst for some of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my adult life. But though I’ve tried to make it part of my regular routine, somehow I can never quite keep it going. That could

August 9th, 2010

In the time of Jesus, a widow who had no close male relative to look after her faced a precarious existence. By entrusting Mary to the “beloved disciple” (commonly understood to be John), Jesus was showing love and concern for his mother, ensuring that she would be safe and cared for after his death.
Additionally, the Catholic Church has always seen this as a defining moment in the role of Mary in the Church. With the words, “Woman, behold, your son” and “Behold, your mother,” the Church teaches that Mary became the mother not just of John, but of all believers. Pope John Paul II reflected on this belief in his 1987 encyclical letter Redemptoris Mater:
“The words uttered by Jesus from the Cross signify…

August 2nd, 2010

I don’t know about “hidden” symbols specifically, but there are many traditional symbols for the Mother of God. These include a heart pierced by a sword or swords (echoing the words of Simeon in Luke 2: 34-35) and the mirror, a symbol of her sinlessness. Mary has sometimes been represented by the image of an enclosed garden, symbolizing her purity (this comes from the description of the bride as “an enclosed garden, a fountain sealed” in Song of Songs 4:12). Speaking of gardens, throughout the centuries many flowers, plants, and herbs have come to be symbolic of Mary’s different attributes. It would take too long to list them all here, but they include the lily of the valley (said to represent Mary’s…

July 19th, 2010

A few thoughts come to mind with regards to your question (which, by the way, is a great one to address). First off, let’s reflect on what the Catholic Church teaches about Mary and prayer. Mary is not seen as the source of grace herself; that is reserved to God. The Church instead teaches that she’s a very powerful intercessor on our behalf. So it’s useful for us to make sure that our prayers reflect her role as intercessor, and that we aren’t investing her with power that really belongs to God.
That said, there are plenty of reasons why Catholics ask for Mary’s intercession. I’ve talked to women who love praying to Mary because they know that she understands them as moms, or as wives, or simply as women, period.…

July 12th, 2010

My own life hasn’t involved nearly as much foreign travel as I’d like, so I can’t speak from extensive firsthand experience. But I have talked to lots of different women about Mary over the last several years, and it’s safe to say that there are indeed countries where Mary is a far more visible presence than she is in much of the U.S.
Why is this the case? It’s hard to know for sure, but here are a few theories. First of all, some countries are homes to Marian apparition sites (Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal or Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, to name two), or to places of Marian pilgrimage (such as Czestochowa in Poland). It makes sense that those places would have an impact on the religious practices and devotions…

July 5th, 2010

On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II survived an assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square. May 13 is the anniversary of the first apparition of Mary to three peasant children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. The Pope later attributed his survival to Our Lady of Fatima. The experience increased his already very strong devotion to Mary.
Even the enthusiastic endorsement of a pope, however, does not make Fatima (or any Marian apparition) a required part of the Catholic faith. All Marian apparitions fit under the category of “private revelation,” which is distinct from “public revelation” (culminating in the teaching of Christ and the apostles). As the Catechism explains,
“Throughout the ages, there…

June 28th, 2010

It is common to find stories of unusual or miraculous births in various religious traditions (everything from impregnation by a god to a sterile woman suddenly conceiving and giving birth). This fact in itself, though, does not mean that Mary’s virginal conception was simply copied from another tradition.
The Catholic Church has consistently taught that the virgin birth of Christ is not just an idea or legend, but actual truth. Here it’s helpful to examine the idea of what we mean by “the Church” in relation to this teaching. It’s important to avoid the image of a group of people sitting around one day and deciding to use a virgin birth story in their new religion. Most of us can probably agree that the Gospel…

June 21st, 2010

Where can I see the Pietà? And do they make small reproductions of it that I can buy for my nightstand?
The term “Pietà” refers to any image of Mary holding Christ’s dead body. The most famous one is the statue made by Michaelangelo, on display at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. I’ve never seen it in person (though it’s on my list of things to see before I die), but I’ve heard that it’s tremendously moving. Alas, it’s also shielded behind glass; ever since the statue was vandalized by a mentally unbalanced man in 1972, visitors have had to view it from a distance. (Thankfully, the statue was carefully restored to its former beauty.)
You can have a closer encounter with a Pietà reproduction.…

June 14th, 2010

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the title for Mary as the patroness of the Carmelite order. Mount Carmel is located about twenty miles from Nazareth. For many years, the mountain attracted religious hermits, and around the thirteenth century they became formalized into the Carmelite order. The monks built a church there honoring Mary, and their spirituality as an order is based on regarding her as a model of contemplation and closeness to Christ.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel is sometimes referred to as Our Lady of the Brown Scapular. A scapular is the sleeveless outer garment that a monk would wear over his shoulders. Over the centuries a smaller version of the scapular (often two small square of cloth connected with string)…

June 7th, 2010

First, let me make an important clarification: Catholics are not required to involve Mary in their prayer lives. Doing so is totally voluntary. Many people pray to her and ask for her intercession; others never do. It’s a matter of choice.
That, of course, begs another question: why do many Catholics make her a part of their prayers? Ultimately, it comes down to our beliefs about Mary. Catholics have traditionally regarded her as a powerful intercessor (you can see a biblical example of this in the story of the Wedding at Cana), and as a woman who can draw us closer to her son. For centuries, Catholics have also honored her as a powerful example of living a God -centered life. In the apostolic exhortation Marialis…

May 24th, 2010

The infancy narratives (the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke) definitely comprise the bulk of Scriptural references to Mary. She is, of course, also present on Calvary when Christ died (John 19:25-27).
Beyond those stories, Mary does turn up in a few other places, all relating to Christ’s ministry. She is present at the Wedding Feast at Cana, when she encourages Jesus to perform his first public miracle (John 2: 1-12). Later, she is mentioned as having followed Jesus as he traveled and preached (see Matthew 12:46-50, Mark 3:31-35, and Luke 8:19-21 for three slightly different accounts of the same event).
The final mention of Mary comes in Acts 1:14, following Christ’s resurrection, when she is with…

May 17th, 2010

Imagine that dear friends of yours were getting married, and the beverages ran out shortly after the reception began. It wouldn’t ruin their marriage, certainly, but it would put a damper on the celebration. As a close friend, you’d probably offer to go to the store or do whatever you could to help. Even if a disappointing reception is not exactly a problem of global proportions, you’d surely recognize that you were present at a specific moment of human need, and that helping out would be the right thing to do.
By bringing the lack of wine to Jesus’ attention, Mary was not solving a global problem, that’s true. She was, however, noticing and responding to an immediate human need, offering the help that she…

May 3rd, 2010

Many Christians are surprised to learn that the Qur’an contains numerous references to Mary. In fact, there is a sura (chapter) entitled “Maryam” (Arabic for Mary) — the only sura in the Qur’an that bears the name of a specific woman. This chapter includes a scene where Mary is told she will be the mother of Jesus. In this scene, just as in the Gospel of Luke, Mary questions how this birth could take place, given that she is a virgin: “‘How can I have a son,’ she said, ‘when no man has touched me, nor am I sinful?’” (Sura 19, verse 20)

Obviously, the Qur’an’s portrayal of Mary diverges from the Gospels in other key areas (among other things, Muslims believe that Mary’s son was a prophet, not God, as Christians believe). But it’s striking to see that the virginal conception of Jesus is a point of common ground between Christianity and Islam. In fact, the very positive portrayal of Mary in the Qur’an has been seen by some scholars as a potentially powerful bridge between Muslims and Christians. Whatever their differences, both faiths portray Mary as someone worthy of respect.

April 19th, 2010

The communion of saints is one of the things that I love most about being Catholic. In brief, it’s the belief that there’s a family bond, a communion, between all believers in Christ – those who have died, as well as those of us who are still alive. This understanding helps explain the Catholic belief in intercessory prayer: just as we might ask a friend or family member to pray for us, so we can ask members of our heavenly family to do the same, and to support us as we strive to live a good life. As it says in Lumen Gentium, “just as Christian communion among wayfarers brings us closer to Christ, so our companionship with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues every grace and the…

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