Mary; the ‘epitome’ of the Gospel

Cathal Barry takes a look at what the Church teaches about the proper veneration of Mary

Mary's role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it, the Catholic Church teaches.

By her complete adherence to the Father's will, to his Son's redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church's model of faith and charity.

Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. The Church's dogmatic constitution, Lumen Gentium, recognises: "In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Saviour's work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace."

In his Apostolic Letter entitled Marialis Cultus, Pope Paul VI states "the Church's devotedness to the Virgin Mary is an intrinsic element of the Christian Religion". The late pontiff even states that we "cannot be Christians without being Marian".


The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an "epitome of the whole Gospel", express this devotion to the Virgin Mary, he said.

The Second Vatican Council notes that the Church rightly honours "the Blessed Virgin with special devotion". "From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honoured with the title of 'Mother of God,' to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs…. This very special devotion … differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the Incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, after speaking of the Church, her origin, mission, and destiny, "we can find no better way to conclude than by looking to Mary". "In her we contemplate what the Church already is in her mystery on her own 'pilgrimage of faith,' and what she will be in the homeland at the end of her journey." There, "the Church is awaited by the one she venerates as Mother of her Lord and as her own mother".

The conciliar fathers at Vatican II state in Lumen Gentium that "the cult, especially the liturgical cult, of the Blessed Virgin, be generously fostered".


At the same time they urge theologians and preachers to abstain zealously both from all gross exaggerations as well as from petty narrow-mindedness in considering the singular dignity of the Mother of God.

"Following the study of Sacred Scripture, the Holy Fathers, the doctors and liturgy of the Church, and under the guidance of the Church's magisterium, let them rightly illustrate the duties and privileges of the Blessed Virgin which always look to Christ, the source of all truth, sanctity and piety. Let them assiduously keep away from whatever, either by word or deed, could lead separated brethren or any other into error regarding the true doctrine of the Church."

Moreover, the faithful are encouraged to remember that true devotion "consists neither in sterile or transitory affection, nor in a certain vain credulity, but proceeds from true faith, by which we are led to know the excellence of the Mother of God, and we are moved to a filial love toward our mother and to the imitation of her virtues".