Session 11 The Blessed Virgin Mary

 Painting of the Virgin Mary and Child Jesus


 Icon of the Virgin Mary and Child Jesus


Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, special honour has been given to Mary who brought Jesus into the world.  This of course is a different kind of honour from that which we give to God.  We worship God but do not worship Mary but show a special respect to her because she is the Blessed Mother of Jesus.   From the earliest times of the Church, she has been honoured in a special way.   There is much evidence of the way Mary was honoured in the art of the early Church.


The Catholic Church continues to honour the Virgin Mary because of the important part she played in our Redemption.  Because of Mary saying “Yes” to God when asked to be the mother of the Saviour, Jesus our Saviour took flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin.  This event is known as the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary.


Mary is also honoured because of her close relationship with Jesus.  Together with Joseph, she looked after him throughout his childhood.  It was at the request of Mary that Jesus performed his first miracle at Cana.


Mary stood at the foot of the Cross with St. John.  As he was dying, Jesus said

            “Son, behold your mother.  Woman behold your Son”

The Church teaches that John represents the Church and that Jesus was presenting Mary to the whole Church as our Mother.  There are early pictorial representations of Mary dating back to the first century, indicating the honour that the early Christians gave to Mary.  


Mary leads us to her Son.  Often she is depicted in an icon holding the Baby Jesus and pointing to him.  She herself would not wish us to detract from her Son to whom she leads us.  Because she is the Mother of Jesus who is God, she deserves a special place in the beliefs held by Christians.  She is the Mother of the Church and therefore our Mother who can intercede for us. 

Doctrines connected with Mary

  • Mary was sinless from the moment her mother conceived her.  This is known as The Immaculate Conception and was declared a dogma in 1854.  Feast 8th December
  • Mary was a virgin before and after the birth of Jesus. 
  • Mary is the Mother of God because she is the Mother of Jesus who is God. The Council of Ephesus in 431 decreed that Christ was one person, divine and human and as Mary bore Christ, she was the Theotokos, God-bearer, the Mother of God. 
  • The Assumption into heaven.  At the end of her earthly life, Mary was taken up to heaven, body and soul.  As she was always without sin, this was a fitting thing to happen, rather than her body rot in the ground.   Declared a dogma in 1950.  Feast: 15th August
Some Apparitions of Our Lady

·         Lourdes in France, to St. Bernadette in 1858.  Feast: 11th February

·         Fatima in Portugal to three children, in 1917.  Feast: 13th May


Some church documents dealing with the Blessed Virgin:

·         Vatican II document:  Lumen Gentium Paragraphs 52 – 69

·         Redemptoris Mater.  Pope John Paul wrote this is in 1987 and reiterates what the Church has already taught, emphasising the importance of Mary as Mother of the Church and stating that the Church learns from Mary how to be a mother to her people and linking Mary with the celebration of the Eucharist.  Her motherhood is particularly noted and experienced by the Christian people at the Sacred Banquet-the liturgical celebration of the mystery of the Redemption at which Christ, his true body born of the Virgin Mary, becomes present.

The Rosary

 The Rosary
The Rosary


This is a special prayer of the Church in which we ask Mary to pray for us while we meditate on the events in the life of Jesus and his Mother.  Traditionally, there have been three sets of Mysteries, or topics to think about while praying. In recent years, the Pope has added another set of Mysteries, the Mysteries of Light.


The Rosary is a deeply Bible based meditation.  In preparation for learning how to say the Rosary, why not look the events up in the Bible and carefully read them so that you know what to meditate on when saying each decade.

The Five Joyful Mysteries                The Five Sorrowful Mysteries

1. The Annunciation                           1. The Agony in the Garden

2. The Visitation                                 2. The Scourging at the Pillar

3. The Nativity                                   3. The Crowning with Thorns

4. The Presentation                            4. The Carrying of the Cross

5. The Finding in the Temple              5. The Crucifixion

The Five Glorious Mysteries                        The Mysteries of Light

1. The Resurrection                             1. The Baptism of the Lord

2. The Ascension                                 2. Jesus reveals himself at Cana

3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit          3. Jesus preaches Forgiveness

4. The Assumption of the B.V.M.         4. The Transfiguration of Jesus

5. The Coronation of the B.V.M           5. The Institution of the Eucharist


How to say the Rosary

There are five decades (ten prayers) in each set of mysteries, each decade consisting of an Our Father, ten Hail Marys and a Glory be.


For each decade, we say the Our Father while holding the single bead then say a Hail Mary on each of the ten beads which are together.  Then finish with a ‘Glory be’ on the space immediately after the ten.  We meditate on a different event while saying each decade.  We will take the Joyful Mysteries as an example:

  1. Annunciation.  While we are saying the Our Father, ten Hail Marys and a Glory be for the first mystery, we meditate on how the Angel Gabriel visited Mary to ask her to be the Mother of the Saviour.  (Lk.1:26-38)
  2. Visitation.  For the second mystery, we think about how Mary left her home soon after this to visit her cousin Elizabeth who would soon give birth to John the Baptist.  (Lk.1:39-56)
  3. The Nativity. We meditate on the birth of Jesus in the stable and how the shepherds came to visit him.  (Lk. 2:1-20)
  4. Presentation.  While saying the prayers for this mystery, we meditate on how Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple to be presented to God, the sacrifice of the two turtle doves, the prophesies of Simeon and Anna.  (Lk. 2:22-38)
  5. The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple.  We think about how Jesus was lost on the way back from the family’s visit to Jerusalem.  When they went back to look for him, he was sitting among and talking to the learned people of the Temple (Lk.2:41-50)



The Hail Mary  (Ave Maria)

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen


The Our Father

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy Kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  Amen


The Hail, Holy Queen  (Usually said at the end of the five decades)

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope!  To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.  To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley, of tears.  Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us; and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus;   O clement, O loving, O sweet virgin Mary.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.