Editorial | The incredible, inspirational Mary

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As we read in the Gospel of Luke (1:26-27), God chose for the mother of His son a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee, "a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary."

Mary "stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently hope for and receive salvation from Him. After a long period of waiting, the times are fulfilled in her, the exalted daughter of Sion, and the new plan of salvation is established," the Vatican II document "Lumen Gentium" tells us.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that the Catholic faith's beliefs about Mary are based on what it believes about Christ, and "what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ."

Catholics sometimes are asked about their beliefs about Mary, especially considering the many names and devotions associated with her, so it's good to refresh our knowledge. Some people believe, mistakenly, that Catholics worship Mary. Worship is reserved to God alone. From the earliest times, however, Christians have sought Mary's prayers and help. They ask Mary to intercede on their behalf, which is entirely appropriate given Mary's pre-eminent role in salvation history.

"Lumen Gentium" points out that the Church rightly honors Mary with the title of "Mother of God," to whose protection the faithful turn to in all their dangers and needs. This devotion differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the Incarnate Word and equally to the Father and Holy Spirit, while greatly fostering this adoration.

Mary is the Church's model of faith and charity because of her complete adherence to the Father's will, to His Son's redemptive work and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit. Mary's role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it, the catechism points out.

A year ago, National Geographic magazine's cover story revealed the appeal of Mary across the globe.

Maureen Orth, author of the article entitled "Mary the most powerful woman in the world," visited several countries and interviewed dozens of people with strong ties to Mary. Orth said what made the biggest impression on her while interviewing people for the article was Mary's universal appeal across diverse cultures. And Orth, a practicing Catholic, came away with a more personal understanding of Mary.

Orth pointed out that very little is known about Mary from the Bible, but as her story reveals, the lack of details about Mary has not stopped people from reaching out to her in prayer and devotion as a way to better understand and approach God.

"The number of people who use her as their guide and their way to a higher meaning, that was impressive across the board," Orth said.

That's inspiration enough to begin to learn more about the Mother of God and turn to her in prayer. 

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