Is the song “Mary, Did You Know?” against the teaching of the Catholic Church?

The lyrics of “Mary, Did You Know?”, a popular Christmas carol, were written by Protestant songwriter Mark Lowry. It’s a beautiful song that wonders whether Mary knew in advance about the way that her son’s life would unfold. The only part that could possibly be construed as “un-Catholic” is the verse that asks Mary:

“Did you know that your baby boy/Has come to make you new?/The Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.”

Catholics, of course, believe in the Immaculate Conception – that Mary was conceived without sin and remained sinless her entire life. In light of that, some might look at the above verse and think that it goes against Catholic teaching. After all, if Mary is sinless, she wouldn’t need her son’s deliverance, right?

Well, not exactly. The Church still believes that Mary’s sinlessness is the result of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice; in her case, though, her deliverance from sin happened before anyone else’s, and in a very unique way ( at the moment of her conception). The Catechism explains it thus: “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) Seen in this light, the lyric is consistent with Catholic teaching.

In a way, the part of the song that most appears to challenge Catholic teaching is the word “soon,” as in, “Will soon deliver you.” If Mary was sinless at the moment of her conception, then she has already been delivered, right? Again, there is another way to interpret the lyrics. Mary was sinless, but she, just like all of the rest of us, was dependent on Christ’s redemption to bring her to eternal life. If the song is describing a time before Christ’s death, then yes, it is correct to say that he will “soon” deliver her into heaven.

Bottom line: Don’t worry about the song’s theology. Enjoy its haunting melody and its intimate look at Mary, who “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)


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