Saint Brigid Religious Education
100 Mayflower Street
West Hartford, CT 06110

What We Know About The Life of Mary


We really know very little about the life of Mary. The New Testament is the main source of information. Since the New Testament was written by Jesus' early followers to spread the good news about Jesus, Mary is mentioned only in relationship to Him. It is for this reason that the New Testament tells us nothing about Mary's parents, birth or childhood.

We first meet Mary as a young woman, living in the village of Nazareth and engaged to a man named Joseph, a carpenter. We cannot, of course, say for certain what her age was, but a likely conjecture is between 14 and 17 years old. We meet her at the most crucial juncture of her life. The angel Gabriel appears to her, addresses her as one favored by God, and asks her if she is willing to be the mother of the Messiah. Mary agrees and Jesus is conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary becomes mother and remains a virgin.

Her "yes" determined the course of the rest of her life and altered the course of human history. It also shows Mary to be an obedient handmaid of the Lord. Mary first felt the effects of this "yes" when Joseph decided to end their relationship when he found out that she was expecting a child. After he had made up his mind to do this, an angel of God appeared to him in a dream. The angel told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and "would save the people from their sins." When Joseph woke up he did what the angel told him and took Mary to be his wife.

During her pregnancy Mary traveled to a town in Judah to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was soon to give birth to John the Baptist. Elizabeth addressed Mary as "the Mother of my Lord" and declared her blessed because of what God had done for her.

Mary gave birth to Jesus far from home, in Bethlehem, where she had traveled with Joseph for the Roman census. The town was crowded and the couple could not find lodgings so they took shelter in a stable and that is where, according to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus was born.

Shortly after Jesus' birth, Mary, Joseph and Jesus had to flee.   According the Gospel of Matthew, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him that King Herod wanted to kill the baby Jesus because he had heard from visiting astrologers that the child would grow up to be a king. The angel told Joseph to take Jesus and Mary and flee into Egypt. Joseph got up and the family left that night for Egypt. Herod ordered his soldiers to slaughter all baby boys under the age of two in Bethlehem and the surrounding districts. Jesus, Mary and Joseph stayed in Egypt until they heard that Herod was dead. Then they returned to Nazareth.

Again, because the gospels are about Jesus, we know very little about Mary's life in Nazareth during Jesus' boyhood and adult life. In all probability her life was quite ordinary. She cleaned her house, went to the village well for water, prepared meals and made clothes for her family.  We know Mary was involved in the life of Jesus throughout His ministry. She cared for Him as an infant (Matt 1:18 - 2:23); she looked for Him in the Temple when she thought He was lost (Luke 2:41-49); she cared for Him through adolescence (Luke 2:51-52); she interceded with Him at the wedding at Cana (John 2:2-5); she worried about Him as He began His ministry (Matt 13:46); she was at His cross when He was crucified (John 19:25-26); and she prayed with the other followers of Jesus after His ascension (Acts 1:14).

Jesus began his ministry when he was about thirty years old. Mary didn't always understand what Jesus was doing or why he was doing it. Like any mother, she worried about her son., but she never lost faith in him. She obediently heard the Word of God and kept it.

Mary's role at Cana illustrates the importance in which she is held by her Son. Mary, God's humble servant, noticed that the wedding no longer had any wine and brought this to the attention of her Son. He responded to her admonition, "They have no wine." (John 2:3) by willingly doing something miraculous. Her last recorded words in the Bible, "Do whatever he tells you." (John 2:5) signify her full expectation that her Son would do the miraculous by causing nature to bend to His will. She was and is full of faith in Him; she was His first disciple.

The most devastating hours of Mary's life were spent beneath the cross of her Son.  "When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." (John 19:26). By giving His mother to the disciple at the Cross, she becomes the Mother of all Jesus' followers and the Mother to His Church. It is in this role that she has occasionally appeared to the pious throughout history.

Mary was present with the disciples in the upper room and received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It is clear that Mary shared the faith of the early church and was, from the first, a member of the post -resurrection community.

Mary is honored by the Church as its mother, as a model of faith, as a sign of the Church's hope in the coming of the Kingdom, and as the Queen of Saints.  We are very fond of Our Lady because She is our refuge and our help. This humble woman who marked the transition between the Old Testament and the New Testament is Our Mother.

We call Mary "Our Lady" , a title that next to "Our Lord" means a great deal of respect, and She deserves all the honors that can be given, because She is the Mother of Our Savior, the cause of our Joy and because She is our Heavenly Mother.

Popular Christian stories about Christ, Mary and the apostles originating in Syria, Palestine and Egypt from the mid-2nd century, greatly influenced the way ordinary Christians imagined Mary's life. By the 5th century, a church honoring Mary's birthplace and home, was built close by the Temple site in Jerusalem. The Church of St. Ann, the mother of Mary, stands on that place today.  These stories, attempting to supply details omitted in the Gospels, have inspired art, liturgy and Christian devotion to Mary over the centuries. These stories written about 150 A.D., portray the childhood of Mary.

Stories from the 5th century (or perhaps earlier) recount Mary's later life, her death and assumption into heaven, events unreported by the four Gospels. The legends describe Jesus appearing to Mary in the house on Mount Sion in Jerusalem where she lived after Pentecost. Her Son tells her she is soon to die. From all parts of the world the apostles gather to bid her farewell. "Stretching out his hands, the Lord received her holy soul. And when her soul departed, the place was filled with a sweet smell and bright light. "And a voice from heaven proclaimed: "Blessed are you among women."  "Peter and John, Paul and Thomas, ran to embrace her feet and receive her holiness; and the twelve apostles laid her holy body on a bier and bore it forth. (Ps. John: The Dormition of Mary, 4th century).

Instructed by Jesus, Peter and the other apostles took her body to be buried in a new tomb near Gethsemane in the Kidron Valley, where miracles of healing accompanied her burial.  Three days later, angels took her body to heaven.  By the year 600, a feast called the Dormition of Mary, honoring her death and assumption into heaven, was celebrated in Jerusalem and in the churches of the East. Some centuries later it would pass into the Western churches known as the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.  One of the first churches in Christendom dedicated to Mary was built over her tomb near Gethsemane around 400 A.D. Today, a church still marks this site in Jerusalem.

 

  

News & Events ~ Closings & Vacations ~ Calendars ~ Our CCD Staff ~ Guidelines, Policies & Registration
Door Monitor Schedule ~ Protecting God's Children ~ Mission Statement & Curriculum ~ Our Church ~ Children's Mass
First Penance ~ First Communion ~ Confirmation ~ Birthdays! ~ Prayers ~ The Beatitudes ~ Sacraments ~ Who Is St. Brigid
The Rosary, Scapular and Medals ~ The Ten Commandments ~ The Apostles ~ List of Popes
Saints of the Liturgical Calendar ~ Holy Days of Obligation ~ Stations of The Cross ~ Contact Us ~ Home