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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 26th, 2009

Does the nursery rhyme “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” refer to the Virgin Mary?

In his book Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind the Rhyme…, Chris Roberts offers three possible interpretations for this English rhyme.

The first interpretation is the one you mention: Mary is the Virgin Mary, the “pretty maids all in a row” are nuns, and the “cockle shells” are a reference to the famous badges worn by pilgrims on the Santiago de Compostela.   (How the “quite contrary” fits into the equation is not clear.)

It seems more likely, however, that the rhyme refers to one of two royal Marys:  either Mary Tudor or Mary, Queen of Scots.  Both were Catholic monarchs who reigned over Protestant

October 19th, 2009

What is the miraculous medal?

You may have seen Catholics wearing a small silver medal depicting Mary.  She stands on a globe, with a serpent (Satan) under her feet.  Around her is the prayer, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

In 1830, Mary appeared to Catherine Labouré, a young French nun.  On her second visit, Mary asked Catherine to have a medal made in her likeness.  She told Catherine that those who wore the blessed medal and who confidently said the prayer on it would receive special grace and protection.  Many who wear it have reported what they call miraculous happenings (hence the name “Miraculous Medal”).

Though blessed objects like medals (called “sacramentals”)…

October 12th, 2009

Question: How did the Rosary become associated with Mary?…

Since the early days of the Church, Christians have used knotted cords or prayer beads to help keep track of their prayers.  The rosary as we know it today evolved in the Middle Ages, when the “Hail Mary” prayer became widely known.  The term “rosary” comes from “rosarium,” or a bouquet of roses; the prayers of the rosary were seen as a spiritual bouquet offered to Mary.  In fact, there’s an old tradition that Mary herself appeared to St. Dominic (1170-1221) and gave him the rosary as an aid in his preaching against the Albigensian heresy, which denied the Incarnation of Christ.

While praying each decade, Catholics meditate on key moments

October 5th, 2009

Over the last several years, many Catholics worldwide have signed petitions urging the Pope to make a dogmatic declaration that Mary is the “co-redemptrix.”
What exactly does this mean?  Supporters of the title say that “co-redemptrix” signifies the unique and irreplaceable role that Mary played in the salvation of the world: namely, she conceived, gave birth to, and supported Christ in his saving mission.  In doing so, she was intimately involved in redeeming the world from sin.  These supporters do clarify (correctly) that she is subordinate to her Son, and that Jesus himself is the true and only Redeemer.
What they say about Mary has, in fact, been taught by the Church for centuries.  …

September 28th, 2009

As the joke goes: Very carefully.
According to the norms established in 1978 by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the local bishop must investigate the alleged apparition to determine that:

There is a great likelihood that something miraculous did occur (that the vision isn’t a trick or an effect of the weather, say).
The alleged visionary is mentally sound, honest and moral, respectful of the Church, and not out for profit.
Any messages from the apparition are theologically sound and free of error.
Healthy, enduring spiritual effects (prayer, conversion, etc.) result from the apparition.

If the bishop judges the apparition to be worthy of belief, then Catholics are free to honor Mary…

September 21st, 2009

From Scripture, we know that Mary was cared for by the apostle John after Christ’s death (John 19:26-27).  Mary was also present at Pentecost, when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit upon the Church (Acts 1-2).

In addition to Scripture, Catholics look to sacred Tradition, the faith handed down from the apostles and expressed in the lived worship of the Church.   As the Second Vatican Council document Dei Verbum explains, “…it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.”(DV… 9)

It’s through sacred Tradition

September 10th, 2009

There’s lots of debate around this one.   After the Fall, in Genesis 3:16, God tells Eve, “I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children.”    The Genesis author thus portrays labor pains as the consequence of original sin.
Catholics, however, believe that Mary was conceived without original sin: “[Mary] 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).  Given that, many conclude that she would not have suffered labor pains.  This view was held by many early Church Fathers, and was mentioned in the Catechism of the Council of Trent.
That said, other theologians…

August 31st, 2009

We know that God chose Mary to be Christ’s mother.  We also know, however, that Mary was free to reject this call.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “’God sent forth his Son,’ but to prepare a body for him, he wanted the free cooperation of a creature.  For this, from all eternity God chose for the mother of his Son a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman …” (CCC 488).…
Emphasizing the “free cooperation” idea, the Catechism then says, “The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother.”   So we believe that God intended Mary to be the mother of Christ, and that he knew that she would accept – but we also believe that

August 24th, 2009

Unfortunately, there’s no tidy answer to this.  The Protoevangelium of James, an apocryphal text written around A.D. 150, tells an elaborate backstory of Mary’s childhood, portraying her as destined for holiness.  Of course, this text is not part of sacred Scripture, so it doesn’t offer a reliable answer.  It does, however, show that early Christians were interested in this very question.
Perhaps it’s best to focus on what we do know: first of all, that God made Mary free of original sin at the time of her own conception (the Immaculate Conception) in readiness for her role as Christ’s mother.  That said, we also believe that Mary was free to reject this role.   To quote the Vatican II document…

August 17th, 2009

The belief that a virgin could conceive a child is an unusual idea, to say the least.  You’re not alone in wondering whether it could really happen.
Both Matthew and Luke make a point of explicitly stating Mary’s virginity. Some writers get more graphic:  the early Christian text the Protoevangelium of James (around A.D. 150) includes a memorable scene where a woman physically verifies Mary’s virginity, right after Christ’s birth.  Obviously, this text doesn’t have the authority of Scripture, but I mention it to show that early Christians were also interested in “proof” of Mary’s virginal state.
The bottom line is that we’ll never have the physical verification of Mary’s virginity. …

August 10th, 2009

According to Church tradition, no.  Mary remained a virgin her entire life.
This belief is reflected in numerous early Church writings.  The Protoevangelium of James, written around A.D. 150, portrays Mary as a consecrated virgin who never had sex with Joseph.  Early Church Fathers, including Augustine and Jerome, spoke of Mary’s perpetual virginity.  Even Martin Luther himself affirmed this teaching.
Admittedly, this tradition is challenging for many modern Catholics.  It’s probably helpful to view it not as a repudiation of marital sexuality, but as a statement of the uniqueness of the Holy Family.  In raising the Son of God, Mary and Joseph had a lot on their plate.   It’s understandable…

July 27th, 2009

Mary is human, not divine.  She doesn’t have the power to answer our prayers as God does.  That said, she’s seen as a valuable intercessor, …someone who prays for others.  If we ask her to pray on our behalf, Catholics believe that she will.
Because of her close relationship to her son, many believe that her intercession is particularly effective. This belief has a precedent in Scripture, during the Wedding at Cana, when Mary brings the needs of the young couple before Jesus (see John 2: 1-12).
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in their 1973 letter “Behold Your Mother: Woman of Faith,” say this:
“We believe that, having Christ, we have all things together with him.  However, it is part of

July 1st, 2009
How motherhood made me rethink the Fourth of July

At 2 years old, my son is already a patriot.
This began around his first birthday, when he developed a massive love for flags. Every time we passed one on our walks, he’d point straight at it, his face lit up. This past Fourth of July, when a local realtor stuck business-card-bearing flags into every lawn on our street, Matthew was in ecstasy. My husband and I joke that in sixteen years he’ll shun any political candidate who doesn’t wear the stars and stripes on a lapel pin.
It’s not that he knows what the flag stands for, of course. I’d guess that his passion is a mix of things: the movement of cloth in the breeze; the bright colors; the fact that he sees something he recognizes. But his unabashed…

June 19th, 2008
The Gift of Friendship Across Faith Lines

Ever since re-engaging with my faith a few years back, I’ve found myself hanging out with a growing number of other Catholics. They support me in my spiritual growth; they understand my obscure Catholic jokes. There’s comfort in this.
But I’ve always had many non-Catholic friends too, with whom I’ve shared interests and struggles and laughs. And they too, have made invaluable contributions to my faith journey.

They’ve given me a more balanced picture of Christ. My best childhood friend Jenny, whose family belonged to a non-denominational Bible church, had a picture on her bedroom wall. It showed a smiling Jesus sitting in the grass, surrounded by kids in modern clothes. Contrast…

March 7th, 2008
Excerpted from Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God

For many Catholics, Marian apparition sites are tightly linked to the idea of healing. The places where Mary came to Earth are usually viewed as holy ground, charged with the promise of heavenly power and divine intervention. Nowhere is this more true than at Lourdes, France, where in 1858 Mary appeared repeatedly to Bernadette Soubirous, a young peasant girl. At Mary’s instruction, Bernadette dug in the dirt, uncovering a spring. Thousands of medical miracles have since been attributed to the spring’s healing waters; of these cures, sixty-seven have been officially recognized as miracles by the church. With 5 million visitors a year, Lourdes is one of the largest pilgrimage sites in the world.…

August 21st, 2007
Why young women can't get enough of Jane

When Jane Austen penned her novels of love and courtship in the early 1800s, she wrote about a world that is utterly foreign to most of us. Unmarried couples were not allowed to call each other by their first names; women were considered hopeless old maids at thirty. What could her novels possibly have to do with the lives of self-actualized women today?
Quite a lot, apparently. In the last twelve years, Austen has undergone a massive renaissance. Five of her six novels have been adapted into feature films, while the BBC’s 1995 “Pride and Prejudice”—which shot Colin Firth to fame as Mr. Darcy—has gained legions of fans. Austen is also irresistible to contemporary novelists; some…

September 4th, 2006
The spiritual lessons of pregnancy

For the last eight months, I’ve had a new boss running my life. Because we don’t know the gender, my husband and I refer to this boss as Bud. Aside from a few ultrasound photos, I’ve never actually seen Bud; that won’t happen for another month or so. In fact, other than the kicks and rumbles in my uterus, I know almost nothing about him or her, which is ironic considering that this little five-pounder is destined to go down in history as the most demanding boss I’ve ever had.
Before Bud, I always knew that pregnancy would be an intensely physical experience, but I had no idea how physical. I didn’t know that I’d be chronically congested, or that I’d have acid reflux so…

June 1st, 2005
The garden isn't the only area of my life that needs constant attention

A little over a year and a half ago my husband and I moved into our first house. As I walked around the wintry backyard, with its tired shrubs and empty flowerbeds, I planned my dream garden. Where there were weeds, there would be flowers; where there was bare fence, a jasmine trellis. I didn’t know much about gardening, but I did know what I liked.
When spring arrived, I enlisted the help of my mother and got to
work. Many weeks later, the garden was transformed; flowers bloomed brightly and vines were poised to climb up the new trellis. Secure in the triumph of my green thumb I hung up my gardening gloves, ready to relax and enjoy my new backyard.
In reality, though, my work was only beginning.
It’s amazing how…

January 7th, 2005
A young adult perspective on cancer

Mary Donovan-Kansora was thirty-four years old when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Shortly before the chemotherapy treatments began, she approached a friend from her church and asked him to pray that she be completely healed. He hesitated before responding. “I’m not sure I can pray for healing,” he finally said, “but I’ll pray that God’s will be done.”
Mary Donovan-Kansora during her treatment for cancer. “I just didn’t know how to connect with God in a way that comforted me.”…
“I was so shocked when he said that to me,” recalls Donovan-Kansora. “That hurt me a lot.” All the same, his suggestion that God might

November 10th, 2004
An Adult Perspective on Catholic Guilt

I have many fond memories of growing up Catholic—May processions, church socials, and cherished gold-edged holy cards.
Unfortunately, there’s one aspect of my Catholic experience that has always been a real drag. Any guesses? It starts with “g” and rhymes with “built.”
You got it.
Two kinds
Guilt and I go way, way back. We’ve had an intimate relationship over the years, one that’s been lengthy, challenging and—ultimately—very enlightening.
It’s taken me years, but I finally learned that there are two kinds of guilt. There’s the good, useful guilt that liberates us, and the bad, useless guilt that limits us.
I’m an expert in the second…

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