Mary: Lessons for life in the 21st century

Barbara Hogan

This article compares the life experiences of Mary in Scripture with those of modern-day Catholic women and asks: Can Mary be perceived as a role model in the minds of 21st century women, and if so, what lessons can she teach us that are relevant to life today? Barbara Hogan lectures in Psychology, and was recently awarded a Master’s degree in Theology at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

As Catholics, we hold a great attachment to Mary. Our devotion to her stems not only from her unique position in God’s salvation plan in bringing our Lord into the world, but also because we feel a great affection and bond to her akin to our own mothers.

Over the centuries, the image of Mary has been shaped through legend, art and doctrines in order to emphasise her significance to the Christian faith. In doing so, many of the aspects of her life revealed in Scripture are replaced by a figure of Mary where only reverence is possible. But how might Mary’s life experiences resonate with the lives of women in the 21st century? Are they able to connect their identity with hers to form the basis of a role model relevant to our time?

For many Catholic women, seeing Mary as a role model might require their relationship with her to change. Here, we may need to refocus the religious fervour associated with veneration of Mary in favour of nurturing a horizontal relationship, where we can seek solidarity with her, as a woman who experienced the joys and sorrows of life in the world.

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