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Roman Catholic Mariology is the area of theology concerned with the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. "The Blessed Virgin, because she is the Mother of God, is believed to hold a certain infinite dignity from the infinite good which is God." Theologically, Roman Catholic Mariology deals with not only her life but also her veneration in daily life, prayer, and Marian art, music, and architecture; in modern and ancient Christianity throughout the ages.
Roman Catholic Mariology is ongoing and continues to be shaped not only by papal encyclicals but also by the interplay of forces ranging from the writings of the saints to the construction of major Marian churches at the sites of Marian apparitions to children on remote mountains based on sensus fidelium. In some cases, sensus fidelium has in time influenced Marian papal decisions, providing Mariology with a "theology of the people" component that distinguishes it from other parts of formal theology. In terms of popular following, membership in Roman Catholic Marian Movements and Societies has grown significantly in the 20th century.
Mariology and Christology
In Roman Catholicism, Mariology is a logical and necessary consequence of Christology: Jesus and Mary are son and mother, redeemer and redeemed. Mariology is Christology developed to its full potential. Mary and her son Jesus are very close but not identical in Catholic theology. Therefore, Marian teaching, while contributing to the teaching of Christ, is also a separate discipline, called Mariology. Mary contributes to a fuller understanding, 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. Popes highlighted the inner link between Marian dogmas and the full acceptance of christological dogma. The Church is the people of God as She is the Body of Christ. The Church lives in its relation to Christ. Being the Body of Christ, the Church has also a relation to his mother, which is the subject of Catholic Mariology. She is seen as the original image of the Church, or, as Vatican II states, Mother of the Church.
In his 1946 publication Compendium Mariologiae, respected Mariologist Gabriel Roschini explained that Mary did not only participate in the birth of the physical Jesus but also, 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.
Mariology is ongoing, 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. And, as discussed below, it differs from other parts of theology in that its progress has quite often been driven from the ground up, from the masses of believers, and at times from religious experiences of young and simple children on remote hilltops, which have then influenced the higher levels of the Holy See in Rome via sensus fidei.
Marian doctrines of the Catholic Church, including the four dogmas mentioned below, are the central part of Mariology consisting of confirmed teachings and doctrines regarding Mary's life and role, but excluding the overall perspectives, the controversies and the cultural aspects of Marian devotion. Mariology is both part of abstract doctrine and an important part of church life: Marian prayers, pilgrimages to Marian shrines; Marian devotions during the months of May and October, Marian apparitions, Marian titles, and Marian Feast days are detailed in Blessed Virgin Mary. Therefore, this article on Roman Catholic Mariology presents an overview of the major issues and developments and controversies of the ecclesiogical movement.