1. Religion & Spirituality

Who Was Saint Mary? (The Virgin Mary)

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Saint Mary
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Name:

Saint Mary, also known as the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady, Mary of Sorrows, Queen of the Universe, Queen of the Angels, and Mother of God

Lifetime:

1st century, mostly in Galilee when it was part of the ancient Roman Empire (now part of Israel

Feast Days:

January 1 (Mary, Mother of God), February 11 (Our Lady of Lourdes), May 13 (Our Lady of Fatima), May 31 (Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary), August 15 (the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary), August 22 (Queenship of Mary), September 8 (Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary), December 8 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception), December 12 (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Patron Saint Of:

Believers say that Mary serves as the patron saint of all human beings, watching over them with motherly care, due to her role as mother of the world’s savior, Jesus Christ. Saint Mary is also the patron saint of groups that include mothers; blood donors; travelers and those who work in the travel industry (such as airplane and ship crews); cooks and those who work in the food industry; construction workers; people who make clothes, jewelry, and home furnishings; numerous places and churches worldwide; and people who are seeking spiritual enlightenment.

Famous Miracles:

People have credited a vast number of miracles to God working through Saint Mary. Those miracles can be divided into those that happened during her lifetime, and those that occurred afterward.

Miracles During Mary’s Life on Earth

Catholics believe that when Mary was conceived, she was miraculously free of the taint of original sin that has affected every other person in history except Jesus Christ. That belief is called the miracle of the Immaculate Conception.

Muslims believe that Mary was miraculously a perfect person from the moment of her conception onward. Islam says that God gave Mary special grace when he first created her, so she could live a perfect life.

All Christians (both Catholic and Protestant) and Muslims believe in the miracle of the Virgin Birth, in which Mary conceived Jesus Christ as a virgin, through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible records that Gabriel, the archangel of revelation, visited Mary to inform her of God’s plan for her to serve as Jesus’ mother on Earth. Luke 1:34-35 describes part of their conversation: "'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?' The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.'" In the Qur’an, Mary’s conversation with the angel is described this way in chapter 3 (Ali Imran), verse 47: "She said: 'O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?' He said: 'Even so: God creates what He wills: When He has decreed a plan, He but says to it, 'Be,' and it is!"

Since Christians believe that Jesus Christ was God incarnated on Earth, they consider Mary’s pregnancy and birth to be part of a miraculous process of God visiting a hurting planet to redeem it.

Catholic and Orthodox Christians believe that Mary was miraculously taken to heaven in an unusual way. Catholics believe in the miracle of the Assumption, which means that Mary didn’t die a natural human death, but was assumed both body and soul from Earth into heaven while she was still alive. Orthodox Christians believe in the miracle of Dormition, which means that Mary did die naturally and her soul went to heaven, while her body stayed on Earth for three days before being resurrected and taken up into heaven.

Miracles After Mary’s Life on Earth

People have reported many miracles happening through Mary since she went to heaven. These have included a myriad of apparitions (times when people say that Mary has miraculously appeared on Earth to deliver messages to encourage people and call them to repentance, and to give people healing). The most famous apparitions of Mary include those that were recorded in Lourdes, France; Fatima, Portugal; Akita, Japan; Guadalupe, Mexico; Knock, Ireland; Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina; and Assuit, Egypt.

Biography:

Mary was born into a devout Jewish family in Galilee (now part of Israel) when it was part of the ancient Roman Empire. Her parents were Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, whom Catholic tradition says that angels visited separately to inform them that Anne was expecting Mary. Mary's parents dedicated her to God in a Jewish temple when she was 3 years old.

By the time Mary was about 12 or 13 years old, historians believe, she was engaged to Joseph, a devout Jewish man. It was during Mary’s engagement that she learned through an angelic visitation of the plans God had for her to serve as Jesus Christ’s mother on Earth. Mary responded with faithful obedience to God’s plan, despite the personal challenges that it presented for her.

When Mary’s cousin Elizabeth (mother of the prophet John the Baptist) praised Mary for her faith, Mary gave a speech that has become a famous song sung in worship services -- the Magnificat -- which the Bible records in Luke 1:46-55: “And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me -- holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.’”

Mary and Joseph raised Jesus Christ, as well as other children -- "brothers" and "sisters" whom the Bible mentions in Matthew chapter 13. Protestant Christians think that those children were Mary and Joseph’s children, born naturally after Jesus was born and Mary and Joseph then consummated their marriage. But Catholics think that they were Mary’s stepchildren from Joseph’s former marriage to a woman who had died before he became engaged to Mary (Catholics say that Mary remained a virgin during her entire life).

The Bible records many instances of Mary with Jesus Christ during his lifetime, including a time when she and Joseph lost track of him and found Jesus teaching people in a temple when he was 12 years old (Luke chapter 2), and when wine ran out at a wedding and she asked her son to turn water into wine to help out the host (John chapter 2). Mary was near the cross as Jesus died on it for the sins of the world (John chapter 19). Immediately after the resurrected Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the Bible mentions in Acts 1:14 that Mary prayed along with the apostles and others.

Before Jesus Christ died on the cross, he asked the apostle John to take care of Mary for the rest of her life. Many historians believe that Mary later moved to the ancient city of Ephesus (which is now part of Turkey) along with John, and ended her earthly life there.

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