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Virgin Mary by Sassoferrato, 17th century.

This article is about the Roman Catholic understanding of Mary and her veneration; for other views, see Mary (mother of Jesus), Blessed Virgin Mary (ecumenical) and Islamic view of Virgin Mary. For the religious order BVM, see Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As the mother of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary has a central role in the life of the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic veneration of the Blessed Virgin has grown over time both in importance and manifestation.[1] Popes have encouraged this veneration but from time to time have also taken steps to reform it.[2]

Roman Catholic veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary is based on Holy Scripture: In the fullness of time, God sent his son, born of a woman.[3] The mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God through Mary thus signifies her honor as Mother of God. From the Council of Ephesus in 431, which dogmatized this belief, to Vatican II and Pope John Paul II's Redemptoris Mater encyclical the Virgin Mary has come to be seen, not only as the Mother of God but also as the Mother of the Church.

The key role of the Virgin Mary in Roman Catholic beliefs, her veneration, and the growth of Roman Catholic Mariology have not only come about by official statements made in Rome but have often been driven from the ground up, by the Marian writings of the saints and from the masses of believers, and at times via reported Marian apparitions to young and simple children on remote hilltops, which have then influenced the higher levels of the Holy See via sensus fidei. The Holy See continues to approve of Marian apparitions on remote mountains, the latest approval being as recent as May 2008.[4][5] Some apparitions such as Fatima have given rise to Marian Movements and Societies with millions of members, and many other Marian societies exist around the world.[6]

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A series of articles on
Roman Catholic
Murillo immaculate conception.jpg

General articles
MariologyVeneration of the Blessed VirginHistory of MariologyMariology of the saintsMariology of the popesMarian Movements & Societies

Rosary and ScapularImmaculate HeartSeven JoysSeven SorrowsFirst SaturdaysActs of Reparation

Dogmas and Doctrines

Mother of GodPerpetual virginityImmaculate ConceptionAssumptionMother of the ChurchMediatrixCo-Redemptrix

Expressions of devotion

Key Marian apparitions
(approved or worthy of belief)
GuadalupeMiraculous Medal
La SaletteLourdesPontmainLausBanneuxBeauraingFátimaAkita

Papal Bulls
Ineffabilis DeusMunificentissimus DeusBis Saeculari

Papal encyclicals
Redemptoris MaterAd Caeli ReginamFulgens CoronaDeiparae Virginis MariaeIngruentium MalorumAd Diem Illum

Papal Apostolic Letters and other teachings
Rosarium Virginis MariaeMarialis Cultus

Key Marian Feast Days
Dec 8 Immaculate ConceptionJan 1 Mother of GodMar 25 AnnunciationAug 15 Assumption

From Christ to Mary in the Roman Catholic tradition

Theological basis for the veneration of Mary

The Catholic veneration of Mary, is based on two aspects: the workings of God who made a Virgin the Mother of God,[7] and the biblical view of Mary as the selected maiden of the Lord [8] who is greeted by the angel and Elisabeth [9] and praised.[10] God's work is further illuminated in the Marian dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church such as the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, the factual basis of both taking place in apostolic time and are, in the Roman Catholic view, part of the apostolic tradition and divine revelation.[11]

Mysteries of Christ and Mary

In Roman Catholic teachings, the veneration of Mary is a logical and necessary consequence of Christology: Jesus and Mary are son and mother, redeemer and redeemed. This sentiment echoed loudly through Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome on March 25, 1987 as Pope John Paul II delivered his encyclical Redemptoris Mater and said:

At the center of this mystery, in the midst of this wonderment of faith, stands Mary. As the loving Mother of the Redeemer, she was the first to experience it: "To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator"![12]

In the Roman Catholic tradition Mariology is Christology developed to its full potential.[13] Mary and her son Jesus are very close but not identical in Catholic theology. Mary contributes to a fuller understanding of her son, who Christ is and what he did. A Christology without Mary is erroneous in the Roman Catholic view, because it is not based on the total revelation of the Bible. Early Christians and numerous saints focused on this parallel interpretation.

The development of this approach continued into the 20th century, e.g. in his 1946 publication Compendium Mariologiae, the respected Mariologist Gabriel Roschini explained that Mary not only participated in the birth of the physical Jesus, but, with conception, she entered with him into a spiritual union. The divine salvation plan, being not only material, includes a permanent spiritual unity with Christ. Most Mariologists agree with this position.[14]

Marian veneration in the Roman Catholic Church

Early veneration in Rome

The Earliest fresco of the Virgin Mary, in the Catacomb of Priscilla from the middle of the second century

Early veneration of the Blessed Virgin is documented in Roman Catacombs, where Christians were hiding in times of persecution and which became burial grounds after Christianity was accepted as a religion. In the catacombs paintings show the Blessed Virgin holding the Christ Child. More unusual and indicating the burial ground of Saint Peter excavations in the crypt of St Peter's Basilica discovered a very early fresco of Mary together with Saint Peter[15] The Roman Priscilla catacombs depict the oldest Marian paintings from the middle of the second century [16] Mary is shown with Jesus on her lap, a standing man with tunic left hand a book right hand a star over his head symbol of messiahs Priscilla also has a medallion of the annunciation.

After the edict of Milan, Christian were permitted to worship openly. The veneration of Mary became public as well. In the following decades Cathedrals and churches were built for public worship. The first Marian churches in Rome date from the first part of the fifth century, Santa Maria in Trastevere, Santa Maria Antiqua and Santa Maria Maggiore.

This new freedom also permitted literary development of the Marian mysteries. Hippolytus of Rome and Novatian to be mentioned as early exemplars.[17] Ambrose who venerated Mary as exemplar of Christian life, is credited with starting a Marian cult of virginity. His house in Rome is said to have been first female convent San Ambrogio della Massima. By the end of fourth century, many women were attracted to virginity imitating Mary as their model.[17] His argument was continued by Jerome, who also saw Mary as a model for all Christians but especially for virgins, Augustine, who always sees Mary together with her son, asks for venerations of her her holiness in light of her absolute faith and virtues [18] When Jovinian negated the virginity of Mary and the usefulness of penances, he was thrown out of Milan by Ambrose, who consequently convened a local council on virginity [18]

Liturgical aspects

Early Christians did not celebrate the liturgy and liturgical feast in the same way as contemporaries. The feasts of Easter and Christmas were not known, although the Eucharist was celebrated. Liturgical venerations of the saints are believed to have originated in the second century. In the first three centuries, the emphasis was on the martyrs. Marian feasts are said to become popular in the fourth century.[19]

Non-Liturgical aspects

Fresco in the catacombs of San Gennaro

The living faith of early Christians (sensus fidelium) led to the genesis of Marian prayers, to the Blessed Virgin "We come to thee, Mother of God, do not reject our supplications in need, but liberate us from danger, you, our lady, our consolation, our mediatrix, our help. Mariology picked up these popular sentiments, analyzed and sometimes overstated them.[20] Historically, Marian veneration went parallel in the Catholic Church with the veneration of saints. The Church venerates in the saints Christ Himself, whose grace worked through them. In this way, Christ is worshiped, while the saints are honoured.[21] The veneration of the Blessed Virgin takes place in various ways. Prayers and hymns usually begin with a praise of her, followed by requests. Marian titles have been growing since the early times, some 56 titles existed in the fifth century, growing especially during he Middle Ages.[20] The Maria Loreto litany list the more common ones under Holy Mother, Virgin, and Queen.[22] Marian devotion is also expressed in other non-liturgical forms: Marian pilgrimages, prayer meetings, of which the rosary is most known. There is a vast array of Marian poetry, especially in the Middles ages Roswhita von Gandersheim et al. Marian theatre and numerous pious Marian books describing her life and virtues for imitation. Marian piety includes in some regions the blessing of herbs on August 15, Marian days and Marian months (May and October) Saint Montfort supported the personal dedication to Mary.

Development of Marian culture

Velázquez's Coronation of the Virgin, 1645

Much later, the Council of Ephesus in 431 formally sanctioned devotion to the Virgin as Theotokos, Mother of God, (more accurately translated as God bearer) allowing the creation of icons bearing the images of the Virgin and Child. Devotion to Mary was, however, already widespread by this point. The early Church Fathers saw Mary as the "new Eve" who said "yes" to God as Eve had said no. The non-canonical Gospel of James, written around 150, is an example of early recognition of Mary, advocating her perpetual virginity. Mary, as the first Church canonized Saint, whereas St. Dismas the penitential thief was canonized by Jesus on the cross, and Mother of Jesus, was deemed to be a compassionate mediator between suffering mankind and her son, Jesus, who was seen as King and Judge. Biblical support for this position was found in the story of the Marriage at Cana whereat Mary entreated Jesus to turn water into wine (Gospel of John, Chapter 2). Elizabeth's praise of Mary "blessed art thou among women" and "who am I that the mother of my Lord would visit me?" in Luke 2 are also cited, among other passages of Scripture.

Early representations show Mary as the "Throne of Heaven" with Mary and the Child Jesus both crowned as Royalty. She was further identified with the Bride in the Old Testament Song of Solomon, by such noted theologians as St. Bernard of Clairvaux. She became the prototype for the Church itself. During the Middle Ages, and especially in France, the great Cathedrals were thus named for Mary. The Marian Rosary was popularized by the followers of St. Dominic.

The image of Mary as Queen was softened somewhat by Mary as Mother of the Child Jesus. St. Francis of Assisi popularized the image of the Nativity scene using live animals. This representation of the helpless Jesus suckled by his mother brought Christmas into the hearts and homes of the people. And, as journeys to the Holy Land became difficult, Mary's role in the Passion story became part of the popular Stations of the Cross as the Mother of the suffering Jesus. During the great plagues such as the Black Death, Mary became greatly popular as a compassionate intercessor and protector of mankind against the just judgment of God. Devotion to the Virgin Mary as the "new Eve" lent much to the status of women during the Middle Ages. Women who had been looked down upon as daughters of Eve (first woman), came to be looked upon as objects of veneration and inspiration. The veneration of Mary both as woman and prototype of the Church was greatly responsible for transforming the Germanic Warrior code into the Code of Chivalry. This reinterpretation of women flowered in the Courtly Love poetry of Medieval and Renaissance France. Mary, as the original "vessel of Christ" may have also influenced the legends of the Holy Grail. Her selflessness, obedience and virginal humility were reinterpreted in the literary figure of Sir Galahad, finder of the Grail.

This devotional tradition was attacked during the Reformation. The consequent Council of Trent had a major impact on continued Marian devotions. The new Roman Catechism, prepared by Charles Borromeo in 1566, greatly encouraged the veneration of the saints and of the Blessed Virgin Mary,[23] The Catechism taught that Saints are close to God; he listens to their prayers. Then council also promulgated the continued veneration of religious paintings, stating that pictures are useful examples for the imitation of the saints [24] Vatican Two specifically confirmed that teaching [25]

Catholic Saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary

Velázquez's Immaculate Conception, 1618

The veneration of Mary via Mariology is an ongoing Roman Catholic tradition, and includes dogmas, traditions, confirmed and hypothetical theological positions on Mary, contemporary as well as historical. However, Mariology is not simply a theological field studied by a few scholars, but a devotional concept embraced by millions of Catholics who venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary, which has been propagated by the saints through the ages.

The Roman Catholic view thus relies on the writings of numerous saints throughout history who have attested to the central role of Mary in God's plan of salvation.

Early saints

  • Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (circa 140-202) is perhaps the earliest of the Church Fathers to write systematically about the Virgin. In his youth he had met Polycarp and other Christians who had been in direct contact with the Apostles. Irenaeus sets out a forthright account of Mary's role in the economy of salvation.[26][27]
  • Saint Ambrose of Milan (339-397) bases the veneration of Mary not only on her virginity but also on her extraordinary courage.
  • All the apostles fled, but she stood under the cross and looked up in compassion to the wounds of her son. Facing the death of her son, she was not afraid, but expected the salvation of the world. Maybe she thought to be able to contribute through her own death to the redemption of the world, since she knew about redemption through the death of her son." [28]

"Such was Mary", points out Ambrose, "that her life is an example for all." He concludes: "Have then before your eyes, as an image, the virginity and life of Mary from whom as from a mirror shines forth the brightness of chastity and the form of virtue":[29]

  • Saint Augustine (354-430) did not develop an independent Mariology, but his statements on Mary surpass in number and depths those of other early writers.[30] The Virgin Mary "conceived as virgin, gave birth as virgin and stayed virgin forever [31] Even before the Council of Ephesus, he defended the ever Virgin Mary as the mother of God, who, because of her virginity, is full of grace [32] She was free of any temporal sin,[33] Because of a woman, the whole human race was saved.[34]
  • The Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria (412-444) became famous in Church history, because of his spirited fight for the title "Mother of God" during the Council of Ephesus (431). His writings include the homily given in Ephesus and several other sermons.[35] Some of his alleged homilies are in dispute as to his authorship. In several writings, Cyril focuses on the love of Jesus to his mother. On the Cross, he overcomes his pain and thinks of his mother. At the marriage in Cana, he bows to her wishes. The overwhelming merit of Cyril of Alexandria is the cementation of the centre of dogmatic Mariology for all times. He created the basis for all other mariological developments through his teaching of the blessed Virgin Mary, as the Mother of God.
  • Bernhard of Clairvaux, a Doctor of the Church, was a fervent supporter of the Mediatrix interpretation of Mary: God and World meet in her. Divine life flows through her to the whole creation. She is one with Jesus, who wants to save all and who passes all graces through her.[36] In his encyclical Doctor Mellifluus on Bernhard of Clairvaux, Pope Pius XII quotes three central elements of Berhard's Mariology: How he explained the virginity of Mary, the "Star of the Sea", how the faithful should pray on the Virgin Mary, and, how Bernhard relied on the Virgin Mary as Mediatrix.[37][38] Bernhard highlighted the virginity and humility of Mary as basis for veneration.[39] To Albert the Great, the fullness of Grace is the basis for her veneration. "Full of Grace" meant to Thomas Aquinas, that the graces of Mary surpass all the Angles and manifested in her holiness and purity [40]

Saints after the middle ages

St. Filippo Neri and the Virgin Mary, by Tiepolo

Of the many saints who venerated the virgin and promoted her devotion in the 16th century and later, the most prominent include; Ignatius of Loyola (1490-1556) who promulgated an ardent love to the Virgin, whom he saw as Mediatrix,[41] In his constitutions for the order, he recommended the Rosary and Marian offices. Soon all Jesuit schools and colleges included chapters of the Sodality of Our Lady. Jesuits started the pious custom of daily visits to a picture or statue of the BVM.[42] A very different saint, Filippo Neri, a contemporary of Ignatius, founded the oratory and obliged all members to place themselves under the protection of the BVM and call her "mother and advocate" The virgin and child became symbol of the congregation. He is credited with the innovation of daily Marian devotions during the month of May.[43] Saint Peter Canisius published an "applied Mariology" for preachers in the late 16th century, in which Mary is described in tender and warm words.[44] He actively promoted the sodalities of our Lady and the rosary associations. He is credited with adding to the hail mary the sentence Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners which first appeared in his catechism of 1555 [45] It was eleven years later included in the Catechism of the Council of Trent of 1566.

Saint Alphonsus Liguori (1696.-1787) a Doctor of the Church, wrote The Glories of Mary which became a classic book on Roman Catholic Mariology. In The Glories of Mary he quoted Saint Bernard of Clairvaux as follows: "No one can enter Heaven unless by Mary, as though through a door". St. Alphonsus was of great influence during the Enlightenment. His often flaming Marian enthusiasm contrasts with the cold rationalism of the enlightenment. Mainly pastoral in nature, his Mariology rediscovers, integrates and defends the Mariology of Augustine and Ambrose and other fathers and represents an intellectual defence of Mariology in the eighteenth century.[46] Saint Louis de Montfort's "True Devotion to Mary" synthesizes many of the earlier saints' writings and teachings on Mary. Saint Louis de Montfort's approach of "total consecration to Jesus Christ through Mary" had a strong impact on Marian devotion both in popular piety and in the spirituality of religious orders. One of his well-known followers was Pope John Paul II. According to his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, the pontiff's personal motto "Totus Tuus" was inspired by St. Louis' doctrine on the excellence of Marian devotion and total consecration. In an address to the Montfortian Fathers, the pontiff also said that his reading the saint's work The True Devotion to Mary was a "decisive turning point" in his life.

Madonna and child by Murillo, 1650-1655.

In the nineteenth century, Pope Pius VII promulgated several Marian feasts including the Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows and Mary Help of Christians. In the promotion of these feasts; he was greatly aided by Saint John Bosco, founder a religious order (Salisians) which centres on Marian veneration. A fervent educator of the youth, he promulgated daily rosary prayer and festive celebration of Marian feasts. The saint published numerous volumes on the veneration of Mary,[47] Most influential with over six million copies sold, is his devotional booklet for young boys, Il Giovane Provveduto, which includes Marian devotions and prayers for juveniles.[48] Saint Catherine Laboure (1806–1876), canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1947, had Marian apparitions, of which she told only her confessor. She was told by the Virgin Mary in 1830, to promote a Miraculous Medal with the inscription "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.". These medals soon became popular, first in France and then throughout the world and led to the foundation of the order of the Daughters of the Immaculate Conception. The popular piety also contributed to the preparation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX in 1854.[49] Saint Josemaría Escrivá (1902-1975), founder of Opus Dei, was a staunch defender of the veneration of Mary. His understanding of Catholic spirituality relies heavily on Mary and on praying to her as an extraordinary aid in the search for personal holiness. His spiritual guidebook, The Way, is filled with advice in favor of a rich Marian devotion. He encouraged his followers to say the Rosary, the Angelus, and other Marian devotions daily, and to recite frequent prayers to her in time of need. As one of his maxims, he held: "cum Petro, per Mariam", signaling that the true way to Christ must go through Mary, always following Saint Peter, referring to the unity of the Catholic Church under the Papacy. Escrivá performed pilgrimages to several Marian shrines, including Lourdes, Fatima and Guadalupe. He also proclaimed Mary as the "Queen of Opus Dei", and as the "Mother of Opus Dei". Like many other Saints, he encouraged Catholics to search for the image of Christ in Mary. On the moment of his death, several eyewitnesses remembered that Escrivá looked upon an image of the Virgin Mary with great love upon his last moment.

Papal teachings on Marian devotions

Popes have always highlighted the inner link between Mary and the full acceptance of Jesus Christ as son of God.[50] The Church is the people of God as She is the Body of Christ.[51]

Promulgating the veneration of the Blessed Virgin

Popes were highly important for the development of the veneration of the Blessed Virgin through their decisions not only in the area of Marian beliefs (Mariology) but also Marian practices and devotions. Popes promulgated Marian veneration by authorizing new Marian feast days, prayers, initiatives, the acceptance and support of Marian congregations, and, the formal recognition of Marian apparitions such as in Lourdes and Fátima. Recent Popes promulgated the veneration of the Blessed Virgin with two dogmas (Immaculate Conception and Assumption) the promulgation of Marian years (Pius XII, John Paul II), the visit to Marian shrines (Benedict XVI in 2007) and by actively supporting the fathers of Vatican II as they highlighted the importance of Marian veneration (Pope John XXIII and Paul VI) in Lumen Gentium.

Popular excesses

The crowned Madonna Della Strada is in the Church of the Gesu in Rome, prior to the 2006 restoration.

Popes also limited and restricted outgrowth of Marian venerations. In 1674 Pope Clement X (1670-1676) indexed books on Marian piety.[52] After the Council of Trent, Marian fraternities were founded, fostering Marian piety.[53] Many fraternities prayed for Mary's assistance for a pious death and actively cared for the dying and the dead, who would otherwise not receive a Christian burial.[54] Some fraternities selected more extreme forms of veneration. Pope Clement X outlawed the use of chains and other enslavement instruments of the Brotherhood of Slaves of Mary [55] Later the Vatican outlawed "Blood vows", popular in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Bavaria, by which some ardent followers wrote their dedication with their own blood.[54] Jesuits are credited with guiding Marian devotions away from such extremes and from possible superstitions [56] Pope Clement X promulgated the veneration of the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary. A special form of Marian devotion was the crowning of Marian pictures such as the Madonna della Strada and the Salus Populi Romani, the latter being crowned by Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605),[57]


Saint Pope Pius X

In 1904 at the 50th anniversary of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Saint Pope Pius X invites the Church with theencyclical Ad diem illum to undertake special festivities in honour of the virgin. If the faithful engage in festivities in their churches, if parishes organize feasts, this is to be welcomed, according to the Pontiff. This may indeed promote piety. But Marian veneration has to reach the innermost nucleus, and not be limited in outward festivities. Otherwise it would be a façade of real religiosity.

  • Unless heart and will be added, they will all be empty forms, mere appearances of piety. At such a spectacle, the Virgin, borrowing the words of Jesus Christ, would address us with the just reproach: "This people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me" (Matth. xv., 8). [58]

Whoever wishes, that his devotion should be worthy of her and perfect, should go further and strive might and main to imitate her example. The Pontiff declares, that those only attain everlasting happiness who have by such following reproduced in themselves the patience and sanctity of Jesus Christ.[59] Pope Paul VI

Crowned statue of Our Lady of Sorrows in the hermitage church of Warfhuizen, Holland, dressed for October.

Pope Paul VI in his inaugural encyclical Ecclesiam Suam called Mary the ideal of Christian perfection. He regards "devotion to the Mother of God as of paramount importance in living the life of the Gospel."[60] In 1965, he writes that the Queen of Heaven is entrusted by God, as administrator of his compassion [61] In his 1966 encyclical on the rosary, he recommends the prayer in light of the war in Vietnam and the dangers of atomic conflicts. The rosary is a summary of gospel teaching.[62] In 1967 he pilgrimaged to Fatima. His new Missal includes all new Marian prayers. And in his 1974 exhortation Marialis Cultus, he again promotes Marian devotions, highlighting the Angelus and Rosary prayers. Mary deserves the devotions because she is the mother of graces, the Mother of the Church and because of her unique role in redemption.[62] Pope John Paul II

In recent years, to emphasize the role of Mary, the Mother of the Church, in his 2002 Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Pope John Paul II quoted Saint Louis de Montfort, and said:

"Our entire perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus Christ. Hence the most perfect of all devotions is undoubtedly that which conforms, unites and consecrates us most perfectly to Jesus Christ.
Now, since Mary is of all creatures the one most conformed to Jesus Christ, it follows that among all devotions that which most consecrates and conforms a soul to our Lord is devotion to Mary, his Holy Mother, and that the more a soul is consecrated to her the more will it be consecrated to Jesus Christ."[63] As the pontiff observed, Saint Louis de Montfort's approach to Mariology as presented in God Alone presents the logic of how an initially Christ centric view leads to total consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary.[64]

The Virgin Mary in Roman Catholic liturgy

The Roman Catholic liturgy is one of the most important elements of Marian devotions. Marian feasts are superior to the feast days of the saints. The liturgical texts of the Marian feast days all link Mary to Jesus Christ and keep Marian awareness awake within the Church.

Catholic Marian feast days

During the month of May, May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary take place in many Catholic regions. There is no firm structure as to the content of a May devotion. It includes usually the singing of Marian anthems, readings from scriptures, a sermon, and or presentation by local choirs. The whole rosary is prayed separately and is usually not a part of a Marian devotion, although Hail Mary's are included.[65] Traditionally, the month of October is "rosary month" in the Catholic Church,when the faithful are encouraged to pray the rosary if possible. Since 1571, Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary, is venerated on October 7.[66] Pope Benedict XVI, following all his predecessors, also encourages the rosary during the month of October:

Annunciation by Caravaggio

The Roman Catholic Church celebrates three Marian solemnities which are also holy days of obligation during the liturgical year (in liturgical order).

Among the other prominent Marian feast days and memorials in the General Roman Calendar (=GRC)of the Catholic Church are:[67]

  • December 12 Our Lady of Guadalupe - optional memorial on GRC; Feast in the Americas
  • February 11 Our Lady of Lourdes - optional memorial
  • May 13 Our Lady of Fátima - newly added optional memorial on the GRC
  • May 31 Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Feast
  • Saturday after Sacred Heart of Jesus Immaculate Heart of Mary - Obligatory Memorial
  • August 22 Queenship of Mary - Obligatory Memorial
  • September 8 Nativity (birth) of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Feast
  • October 7 Feast of the Most Holy Rosary- Obligatory Memorial

Marian Music for the Liturgy of the Hours

Salve Regina.png

One of the earliest Marian compositions is the popular Salve Regina in Latin from a Benedictine monk, which exists in several Gregorian versions. The liturgy of the hour includes several offices to be sung. At the close of the Office, one of four Marian antiphons is sung. These songs, Alma Redemptoris Mater Ave Regina caelorum, Regina caeli, and Salve Regina, have been described as "among the most beautiful creations of the late Middle Ages."[68]

Other Marian supplications exist in numerous Latin versions as well [69] It is difficult to trace the beginning of non-Gregorian Marian liturgical music. In the year 1277 Pope Nicholas III prescribed rules for liturgy in Roman churches.[70] Three years later, in 1280, Petrus de Cruce published his Marian anthem Ave Virgo regia, Ave gloriosa O maria Maris stella. Later, composer Perotin followed with his Alleluja, Navitatis gloriosae virginis, to be sung at the feast of the birth of Mary. Marian mottets became very popular in the Middle Ages. A large collection of which is in in St Paul Cathedral in London [70] Pope John XXII 1316—34 issued the apostolic constitution Docta SS Patrum about Church music. It was the first music modern regulations for musical presentation during the liturgy [70]

Vivaldi, Monteverdi, Mozart, Haydn and others are well-known composers who contributed to Marian music. Less known is the fact, that before 1802, the secularisation, many religious congregations had their own composers.[71] A totally unknown Father Valentin Rathgeber OSB, (1682-1750) wrote 43 masses, 164 offertories 24 concerts and, 44 Marian antiphones. Missa de Beata Virgine and the Messe de Nostre Dameare examples of individual contributions. Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine has remained structurally unchanged for the past 1500 years. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed in honour of the Virgin Mary Latin masses and several shorter opera:[72] Other known classic composers with Marian compositions mainly in Latin include Orlando di Lasso and Franz Schubert.

Holy Mass Music

The ancient Latin Gregorian Chant masses include two Marian musical masses In solemnitatibus et Festis Beatae Mariae Virginis and in Festis et Memoriis [73] It seems that vocal compositions of Holy Mass music, - always including Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, benedictus and Agnus Dei sections,- were developed after music was composed for the Liturgy of the Hours.[74] Palestrina is among the better-known composers, and the list of compositions by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina includes numerous Marian masses:

  • Missa Salve Regina
  • Missa Alma Redemptoris
  • Missa Assumpta est Maria
  • Missa Regina coeli
  • Missa de beata Virgine
  • Missa Ave Regina coelorum
  • Missa Descendit Angelus Domini
  • Missa O Virgo simul et Mater

Joseph Haydn wrote several Marian compositions including two famous Marian Masses.[75]

Titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Late Byzantine icon of the Cretan school adopted into Roman Catholicism as Our Lady of Perpetual Help

The Virgin Mary is known by many titles. Some of these titles are dogmatic in nature, referring to Marian beliefs that the Church views as necessary for salvation. Many other titles are poetic or allegorical and have lesser or no canonical status, but which form part of popular piety, with varying degrees of acceptance by the clergy. Yet more titles refer to depictions of the Virgin Mary in the history of art.

Among the most prominent Marian titles in the Roman Catholic Calendar are:

Marian prayers

See main category: Category:Marian Devotions

The earliest known Marian prayer is the Sub tuum praesidium, or Beneath Thy Protection, dating from late 2nd century. A papyrus dated to c. 250 containing the prayer in Greek was discovered in Egypt in 1917, and is the earliest known reference to the title Theotokos, confirmed by the Council of Ephesus in 431:

Beneath your compassion, We take refuge, O Mother of God: do not despise our petitions in time of trouble: but rescue us from dangers, only pure, only blessed one.

In the twelfth century indications of a regular devotion can be noted in a sermon by Bernard of Clairvaux (De duodecim stellis), from which an extract has been taken by the Roman Catholic Church and used in the Offices of the Compassion and of the Seven Dolours. Stronger evidences are discernible in the pious meditations on the Ave Maria and the Salve Regina, usually attributed either to St. Anselm of Lucca (d. 1080) or St. Bernard; and also in the large book "De laudibus B. Mariae Virginis" (Douai, 1625) by Richard de Saint-Laurent.

Currently, popular Roman Catholic devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary include the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Holy Rosary

Rosary beads with Crucifix

The popular Marian prayer the Holy Rosary is a key "devotional path" to the veneration of the Virgin Mary in the Roman Catholic Church and has been a source of inspiration for a number of Roman Catholic figures. For instance, in his encyclical Rosarium Virginis Mariae Pope John Paul II discusses the inspiration of the rosary and how his motto "Totus Tuus" was inspired by the writings of Saint Louis de Montfort.[76]

Roman Catholic teachings emphasize the power of the rosary as a prayer. The promises attributed to the rosary continue to appear and be extended in the reported visions of Jesus and Mary. For instance, the Carmelite nun, sister Lucia dos Santos stated that she was told in the Our Lady of Fátima messages:

"There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary."[77]

The rosary was also featured in the reported visions of Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Our Lady of Lourdes. In his book The Power of the Rosary Rev. Albert Shamon discusses the promises attributed to the rosary in various reported visions such as Our Lady of Fátima and Međugorje.[78]

It should, however, be noted that rosary beads are not always used for purely Marian prayers, and other Rosary based prayers (e.g. Rosary of the Holy Wounds directed to Jesus Christ) also exist in the Roman Catholic tradition.[79]


Rosary and scapular

While a number of Scapulars (e.g. the Holy Face Scapular) are entirely Christocentric, the most widespread Scapulars such as the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Blue Scapular of the Immaculate Conception relate to Marian devotions and consecrations.[80] The Mariological basis of the Scapular devotion is effectively the same as Marian consecration, as discussed in the dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium of Pope Paul VI, namely the role of the Virgin Mary as "the mother to us in the order of grace" and Mediatrix of all graces which allows her to intercede for "the gift of eternal salvation".[81][82] The Rosary and the Scapular as Roman Catholic Sacramentals for devotions and prayers have been supported, encouraged and linked by a number of Catholic figures such as popes, saints and cardinals and specific promises and indulgences have been associated with them.[83][84] Although Pope John Paul II is best known for his devotion to the Rosary, he also wore a Brown Scapular since age ten and stated that he viewed the Scapular as a "habit" to orient one's Christian life with a Marian perspective:[85]

"The sign of the Scapular points to an effective synthesis of Marian spirituality, which nourishes the devotion of believers and makes them sensitive to the Virgin Mother's loving presence in their lives... devotion to her cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in her honor on certain occasions, but must become a "habit", that is, a permanent orientation of one's own Christian conduct."

Following their joint growth in the 18th and 19th centuries, by the early 20th century the Rosary and the devotional Scapular had gained such a strong following among Catholics worldwide that the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1914 stated: "Like the Rosary, the Brown Scapular has become the badge of the devout Catholic."[86]

Reparations to the Blessed Virgin

Murillo's Dolorosa, 1665.

Roman Catholic tradition includes specific prayers and devotions as Acts of Reparation to the Virgin Mary for insults that she suffers. The Raccolta Roman Catholic prayer book (approved by a Decree of 1854, and published by the Holy See in 1898) includes a number of such prayers.[87][88][89]

These prayers do not involve a petition for a living or deceased beneficiary, but aim to repair the sins of others against the Virgin Mary.

Other prayers

Other famous Marian prayers include the "Magnificat", the Angelus and the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Marian hymns include O Mary, we Crown Thee With Blossoms Today, Hail Queen of Heaven, the Regina Coeli, and the Ave Maria. May and October are traditionally seen within Roman Catholicism as Marian months.

The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a weekly cycle of prayers said throughout the day, based on the Liturgy of the Hours, and consists of hymns, psalms, scripture, and patristic readings.

The Catholic view of Marian apparitions

The central role of Mary in the belief and practice of Catholicism is reflected in the fact that many Roman Catholic churches contain side altars dedicated to the Virgin Mary. She is also celebrated through major religious sites where it is claimed apparitions or appearances of the Virgin have occurred, often with claims by witnesses that messages to humanity were delivered.

The term Marian apparition is usually used in cases where visions of just the Virgin Mary herself are claimed. There are, however, cases (e.g. Saint Padre Pio or Sister Maria Pierina De Micheli) where visions of Jesus and Mary and conversations with both are reported. [90][91]

While Catholics at large are not formally required to believe approved apparitions, many do, including popes. For instance, four popes, i.e. Pope Pius XII, Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II have supported the Our Lady of Fátima messages as supernatural. Pope John Paul II was particularly attached to Fátima and credited Our Lady of Fátima with saving his life after he was shot in Rome on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fátima in May 1981. He donated the bullet that wounded him on that day to the Roman Catholic sanctuary at Fátima Portugal.

Mysteries of the Appearing Virgin

Does the Virgin Mary continue to appear to living human beings in recent centuries, long after the Assumption of Mary? The official position of the Holy See is that they approve of several such apparitions, but Roman Catholics at large are not required to believe them. As a historical pattern, Vatican approval seems to have followed general acceptance of a vision by well over a century in most cases. According to Father Salvatore M. Perrella of the Mariunum Pontifical Institute in Rome, of the 295 reported apparitions studied by the Holy See through the centuries only 12 have been approved, the latest being in May 2008.[4][5][92][93]

Of the many reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary, four have gathered tens of millions of Roman Catholic pilgrims each: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fátima and Medjugorje. Of these, Guadalupe, Lourdes and Fatima have been approved, but Medjugorje has not been approved. Fatima continues to gather the most amount of mystery due to the fact that it has three reported secrets, kept within the Vatican, some of which have been subject to ongoing speculation and that Lucia dos Santos, one of the three Children who was present at the reported appearances of the Virgin Mary at Fátima, continued to live well into the 20th century.[94]

Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary through art


Image of Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos

The veneration of the Blessed Virgin led to the creation of numerous paintings and statues, which today are viewed often from an artistic perspective. The Virgin Mary has been one of the major subjects of Christian Art, Catholic Art and Western Art since the third century. Literally hundreds of thousands of artworks have been produced, from masters such as Michelangelo and Botticelli to humble peasant artists.

Some of the leading Marian subjects include:

Marian art enjoys a significant level of diversity, e.g. with distinct styles of statues of the Virgin Mary present on different continents (as depicted in the galleries in Roman Catholic Marian art).

Marian Movements and Societies

Madonna, Filippo Lippi, 1459

Throughout the centuries the devotion to and the veneration of the Virgin Mary by Roman Catholics has both lead to, and been influenced by a number of Roman Catholic Marian Movements and Societies. These societies, form part of the fabric of Roman Catholic Mariology since they contribute to the sensus fidelium, a century-old sense of the faithful, shared by the Magisterium. Today many Marian societies exist around the world.[6]

As early as the 16th century, the Holy See endorsed the Sodality of Our Lady and Pope Gregory XIII issued a Papal Bull commending it and granting it indulgences and establishing it as the mother sodality. Other organizations such as Marians of the Immaculate Conception were formed, yet faced the challenges of wars in Europe.

The 18th and 19th centuries saw a number of missionary Marian organizations such as Company of Mary, the Marianists, Marist Fathers and Marist Brothers. Some of these missionaries, e.g. Saint Peter Chanel and Saint Marcellin Champagnat were martyred as they travelled to new lands.

The 20th century witnessed the formation of Marian organizations with millions of members, e.g. the Legion of Mary and Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima. Other lay organizations based on specific Marian devotions were formed, e.g. Our Lady's Rosary Makers that distributes millions of free rosaries a year or the Marian Movement of Priests that counts over 100,000 Catholic priests among its members.

Marian shrines and patronages

Our Lady of Lourdes.

In the culture and practice the Roman Catholic Church - a shrine to the Virgin Mary or Marian shrine is a shrine marking an apparition or other miracle ascribed to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or a site on which is centered a historically strong Marian devotion.

Some of the largest shrines are due to reported Marian apparitions to young and simple people on remote hilltops that had hardly been heard of prior to the reported apparition. The case of Saint Juan Diego's reported vision of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531 is similar to the case of Saint Bernadette Soubirous's vision in 1858 of Our Lady of Lourdes. Both saints reported a miraculous Lady on a hilltop who asked them to request that the local priests build a chapel at the site of the vision. Both visions included a reference to roses and led to large churches being built at the sites. Like Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, Our Lady of Lourdes is a major Catholic symbol in France. Both visionaries were eventually declared saints.

Major Marian shrines

A large number of shrines to the Blessed Virgin exist on all continents, and they draw a large number of pilgrims every year. Major shrines considered most significant for their apparitions and miracles include:

  • The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lourdes, France
  • The Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Mexico
  • Our Lady of Fátima in Fátima, Portugal
  • Loreto, Italy
  • Black Madonna of Częstochowa in Częstochowa, Poland
  • The Basilica of Our Lady, Queen of Ireland in Knock, Ireland

Other reported apparition sites include Međugorje, which is not considered a shrine by the Holy See, yet receives a large number of pilgrims every year. The number of pilgrims who visit some of the approved shrines every year can be significant. E.g. Lourdes with a population of around 15,000 people, receives about 5,000,000 pilgrims every year and within France only Paris has more hotel rooms than Lourdes.

House of the Virgin Mary

House of the Virgin Mary

The visions of Jesus and Mary reported by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, and written by Klemens Brentano in 1852, led a French priest Abbé Julien Gouyet to discover a house near Ephesus in Turkey in 1881. This house is assumed by some Catholics and some Muslims to be the House of the Virgin Mary. The Holy See has taken no official position on the authenticity of the discovery yet, but in 1896 Pope Leo XIII visited it. In 1951, Pope Pius XII declared the house a Holy Place. Pope John XXIII later made the declaration permanent, and made the first papal trip outside of Rome and Castel Gandolfo in ninety years to the House of the Virgin Mary in 1960.[95] Pope Paul VI in 1967, Pope John Paul II in 1979 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 visited the house and treated it as a shrine.

Patronages of the Blessed Virgin

A number of countries, cities and professions consider the Blessed Virgin their patron saint. For a list, see Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

See also

Roman Catholic Mariology
A series of articles on

Marian Prayers


Alma Redemptoris Mater
As a Child I Loved You
Ave Maris Stella
Ave Regina Caelorum
Fatima Prayer
Flos Carmeli
Hail Mary
Hail Mary of Gold
Immaculata prayer
Immaculate Mary
Mary Our Queen
Regina Coeli
Salve Regina
Stabat Mater
Sub Tuum Praesidum
Three Hail Marys


  • Remigius Bäumer, Leo Scheffczyk (Hrsg.) Marienlexikon Gesamtausgabe, Institutum Marianum Regensburg, 1994, ISBN 3-88096-891-8 (cit. Bäumer)


  1. Santa Maria article,9171,730158-1,00.html
  2. For example Pope Paul VI reduced and rearranged the number of feast days March 12, 1969, Sanctitas Clarior. As did several of his predecessors.
  3. Gal, 4,4 Check translation text
  4. 4.0 4.1 Catholic News
  5. 5.0 5.1 Catholic News
  6. 6.0 6.1 University of Dayton on Marian Organizations [1]
  7. Gal 4,4 LK 1,25, Mt1,20,
  8. LK 1,38,
  9. LK1,28, LK 1,42
  10. LK 11,27
  11. Bäumer, 597
  12. Pope John Paul II's encyclical Redemptoris Mater [2]
  13. See Pius XII Mystici corporis Christi; John Henry Newman: Mariology is always christocentric, in Michael Testa, Mary: The Virgin Mary in the Life and Writings of John Henry Newman 2001; Mariology Is Christology in Vittorio Messori, "The Mary Hypothesis"Rome, 2005
  14. Schmaus, Mariologie, München, 1955, 328
  15. M Guarducci Maria nelle epigrafi paleocristiane di Roma 1963, 248
  16. I Daoust, Marie dans les catacombes 1983
  17. 17.0 17.1 Bäumer 520
  18. 18.0 18.1 Bäumer 521
  19. Adolf Adam, Liturgie, 1985, p.291
  20. 20.0 20.1 Bäumer 598
  21. Lumen Gentium, Chapter Seven
  22. Holy Mary, Holy Mother of God, Holy Virgin of virgins, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church Mother of divine grace, Mother most pure, Mother most chaste, Mother inviolate, Mother undefiled, Mother most amiable, Mother most admirable, Mother of good counsel, Mother of our Creator, Mother of our Savior, Virgin most prudent, Virgin most venerable, Virgin most renowned, Virgin most powerful, Virgin most merciful, Virgin most faithful, Mirror of justice, Seat of wisdom, Cause of our joy, Spiritual vessel, Vessel of honor, Singular vessel of devotion, Mystical rose, Tower of David, Tower of ivory, House of gold, Ark of the covenant, Gate of heaven, Morning star, Health of the sick, Refuge of sinners, Comforter of the afflicted, Help of Christians, Queen of Angels, Queen of Patriarchs, Queen of Prophets, Queen of Apostles, Queen of Martyrs, Queen of Confessors, Queen of Virgins, Queen of all Saints, Queen conceived without original sin, Queen assumed into heaven, Queen of the most holy Rosary. Queen of the family, Queen of Peace,
  23. Chapter Three Decree about veneration of saints.
  24. Degree from 3.12. 1563
  25. Lumen Gentium 67
  26. Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus haereses 3:22
  27. Tertullian, De Carne Christi 17
  28. Ambrose, CSEL 32, 505, and De inst. Virginum 49
  29. (De Virginib. L. ii., c. ii.)
  30. O Stegmüller, in Marienkunde, 455
  31. De Saca virginitate 18
  32. De Sacra Virginitate, 6,6, 191.
  33. but theologians disagree as to whether Augustine considered Mary free of original sin as well. Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventura Hugo Rahner against Henry Newman and others
  34. Per feminam mors, per feminam vita De Sacra Virginitate,289
  35. PG 76,992, Adv. Nolentes confiteri Sanctam Virginem esse Deiparem PG 76, 259
  36. PL 138, 441
  37. Berhard of Clairvaux quoted in Doctor Mellifluus 31
  38. Hom. II super "Missus est", 17; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 70-b, c, d, 71-a. Quoted in Doctor Mellifluus 31
  39. Schmaus 207
  40. Schmaus 209
  41. Hugo Rahner, Ignatius von Loyola als Mensch und Theologe,, Herder 1965, 222 224 275 299 300
  42. Bäumer, 532
  43. A Venturoli S Filippo Neri, Roma, 1988, 117
  44. Meditaciones, 1591-1593
  45. Streicher Catechismi, I, 12
  46. P Hitz, Alfons v. Liguori, in Marienkunde, 1967 130
  47. on her miracles, Lourdes, on the seven sorrows of Mary and on devotions during the month of May in honour of the BVM.
  48. Marienkunde, 873
  49. Bäumer 533
  50. Mystici Corporis, Lumen Gentium and Redemptoris Mater provide a modern Catholic understanding of this link.
  51. see Pius XII,Mystici corporis, also John Paul II in Redemptoris Mater: The Second Vatican Council, by presenting Mary in the mystery of Christ, also finds the path to a deeper understanding of the mystery of the Church. Mary, as the Mother of Christ, is in a particular way united with the Church, "which the Lord established as his own body."
  52. such as Avvisi salutary della virgine ai suoi devoti indiscreti
  53. often on occupational lines (bakers, butchers etc)
  54. 54.0 54.1 Bäumer 532
  55. see Bullarium Romanum XVIII, Naples, 1882, 440
  56. L Fiorani Le edicole nella vita religiosa di Roma fra Cinquecento e Settecento in Edicole Sacre Romane 1990 96.
  57. in later later years decrowned. The picture was solemnly crowned by Pope Pius XII in 1953, and was decrowned under Pope John Paul II
  58. Ad diem illum laetissimum 16
  59. Ad diem illum laetissimum 20
  60. Ecclesiam Suam 58
  61. Apostolic Allocution Mense Majo, 1965
  62. 62.0 62.1 Bäumer 128
  63. Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae
  64. Saint Louis de Montfort, God Alone: The Collected Writings of St. Louis Marie De Montfort, Montfort Publications, 1995 ISBN 0910984557
  65. "Catholic Culture : Missing Page Redirect". Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  66. "Rosary". Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  67. Memorials of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  68. Willi Apel, Gregorian Chant p. 404.
  69. (Sub tuum praesidium, Seven Dolours of the Virgin, Seven Joys of the Virgin )
  70. 70.0 70.1 70.2 Bäumer, 652
  71. In Germany, in the monastery of Andechs, Father Nonnosus Madleder, in Ottobeuren, Father Franx Schnizer, in Irsee Father Meinrad Spiess, and in Banz
  72. Dixit & Magnificat KV 193: C-Major, Regina Coeli KV 108: C- Major, Regina Coeli KV 127: B- Major, Graduale Sancta Maria KV 273, Offertorium Alma Dei creatoris KV 277, Litaniae de Beata Maria Virgine KV 109
  73. Graduale Romanum, Kyriale IX And X.
  74. Bäumer, 652
  75. Missa in honorem Beatissimae Virginis Mariae, No. 5 in E flat major, also known as the Grosse Orgelmesse (Great Organ Mass) (H. 22/4) (1766) and Missa Cellensis, Mariazellermesse No. 8 in C major, (H. 22/8) (1782)
  76. Pope John Paul II's encyclical Rosarium Virginis Mariae
  77. The Holy Rosary
  78. Rev. Albert Shamon "Power of the Rosary" ISBN 1877678104
  79. Ann Ball, 2003 Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices ISBN 087973910X
  80. Blue Scapular of the Immaculate Conception [3]
  81. Vatican website: Lumen Gentium No 61 and No 62 [4]
  82. Mark Miravalle, 1993, Introduction to Mary, Queenship Publishing ISBN 9781882972067, page 173
  83. Vatican website for Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina [5]
  84. Zenit News 2008 Cardinal Urges Devotion to Rosary and Scapular, [6]
  85. John Paul II Scapular Message at the Vatican website [7]
  86. Catholic Encyclopedia [8]
  87. Ann Ball, 2003 Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices ISBN 087973910X
  88. Catholic Encyclopedia
  89. Joseph P. Christopher et al., 2003 The Raccolta St Athanasius Press ISBN 978-0970652669
  90. Short Biography of Padre Pio
  91. The book Mother Maria Pierina by Maria Rigamonti
  92. Vatican News on Benoite Rencurel
  93. Catholic News on Benoite Rencurel
  94. Fatima In Lucia's Own words, Lucia de Jesus (1995), The Ravengate Press
  95. check this date, 1961??

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Blessed Virgin Mary (Roman Catholic). The list of authors can be seen in the page history.