Mary and the saints


Mary plays an important part in Catholic life.

The importance of Mary comes from her place in the story of Jesus’ life, particularly his infancy.

Statue of the Virgin Mary

The story of Jesus’ birth can be found in the New Testament books of Matthew and Luke.

In these books we learn the following:

  • Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph. This was a more formal and binding arrangement than engagement is today.
  • She was visited by the Angel Gabriel and told that she would give birth to a son and she should name him Jesus.
  • Mary, who was a virgin, was told that this baby would be conceived by the Holy Spirit.
  • Joseph planned to divorce Mary quietly until he was told in a dream that the baby she had conceived was from God.
  • Mary travelled with Joseph to the town of Bethlehem to complete the Roman census (the registering of all people who lived in the Roman Empire).
  • In Bethlehem there was no room at any of the inns and they stayed in a stable where Mary gave birth to Jesus.
  • As Jesus grew up, Mary witnessed his miracles. For example, John records the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana when Mary was present.
  • In the New Testament book of John, we are told that Mary was present at the crucifixion of Jesus.

For many the idea of a virgin birth seems to undermine the story of Mary and, therefore, the whole story of Jesus. Those who reject the story of the virgin birth do so for the following reasons:

  • Such a story is scientifically impossible.
  • It only appears in a few passages of the Bible and does not even appear in all four gospels. Therefore, it is argued it may have been added later by the Church.
  • Stories of Roman and Greek gods often spoke of divine beginnings for the gods, and this was simply added to Christianity to make Jesus seem unique and more like a god.

For Christians the story of the virgin birth is important for the following reasons:

  • The Bible is seen as the word of God and must be accepted fully. The virgin birth is recorded in the Bible so must be believed
  • The virgin birth shows the uniqueness of Jesus who was fully God and fully man. Only a man can die for human sins, but only God can save people through that death. Therefore, Jesus must have both natures – as confirmed by the virgin birth.
  • The virgin birth has always been accepted by the Church and appears in the creeds, so there is no reason to disbelieve it now.

The saints

In the Catholic Church the saints play an important role in focusing Christian worship and acting as an example of how to live.

By remembering the saints, Catholics think of and thank those who have gone before to spread the Christian faith throughout the centuries and across the world.

The saints remind Catholics of the cost of following God as many of them were willing to die for Christianity.

Saints challenge Catholics to remain loyal to God when it is difficult, just as they did.

They serve to inspire Catholics to serve God and to care for the sick and needy.

Some Catholics will pray in the names of the saints, believing that they are close to God and can intercede for them.