Skip to main content

Christian Understandings of Mary: Similarities

Similarities in the Christian Understandings of Mary

– Answered by Father Johann Roten, S.M.

Q: With all the ghosts in upbringing, how do people of differing Christian faiths come to a common insight on Mary?

A: Speaking of the ghosts of our respective religious upbringing only, there are Protestant ghosts and there are Catholic ghosts. There are ghosts for every churchgoer. If some have a tendency to negate Mary, others may have indulged in exaggerating her role and place. So we all have to fight our ghosts.

The image of Mary as presented by the Catholic Church has many facets. It is biblical, liturgical, doctrinal, devotional and cultural. All of these aspects should come together. The isolated cultural image is deceptive; it may disguise Mary as fertility goddess. But so is the isolated biblical image, if it reduces Mary to a purely semantic datum. However, any initiation to a more comprehensive view of Mary has to begin with the psychological affinities of the person who seeks initiation.

Given a Protestant background, it would seem possible to highlight two aspects of Mary's life:

1) her special place in God's plan of salvation as Jesus' mother

2) her religious existence based on faith and grace only.

These two aspects of Mary's spiritual profile are common to Catholics and Protestants, in general. A Christian can identify with Mary's special call and faith existence. Such a call is unique to each baptized person. If we see Mary in this light most of us probably will be able to develop--over time--a new solidarity with Mary. From these roots other strands of Marian devotion may develop. It remains crucial that whatever we feel for Mary it lead us to Christ and never separate us from the Church.

In order to achieve these objectives it could be useful to find out more about a person's psychological affinities with the person of Mary. Does the person relate to Mary-disciple, Mary-mother, Mary-associate of Christ, Mary-model...? All of these aspects and more are contained in the figure of Mary.

From an immediately practical point of view the familiarization with Mary's biblical image could be very helpful. Here is the reference of a recent work about Mary in the New Testament: Mary of Galilee: Mary in the New Testament, by Bertrand Buby, Alba House, 1994. Fr. Buby is one of our scholars in residence.

All About Mary includes a variety of content, much of which reflects the expertise, interpretations and opinions of the individual authors and not necessarily of the Marian Library or the University of Dayton. Please share feedback or suggestions with


Marian Library

Roesch Library
300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 1390

Study Mary

Study the theology and history of Mary at the University of Dayton.

Learn More

Keyword Search

Would you like to begin a new keyword search?

Get Started