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The Most Holy Name of Mary: Layers of Spiritual Meaning

Just four days after celebrating the feast of Our Lady’s birth, the Church gives us yet another Marian feast, this one in commemoration of her holy name.

Sacred Scripture reveals the name Mary as being in common usage in Biblical times. A prime example can be found in the Crucifixion account in the Gospel of Saint John: “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother [Mary] and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala” (19:25).

What, then, distinguishes the name of Mary of Nazareth from that of other women similarly named? To help us begin to answer this question, we turn to Saint Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), noted preacher, author, Doctor of the Church, and founder of the Redemptorist Order.

Saint Alphonsus carried with him throughout his long life a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. Among the more than one hundred books penned by him is included The Glories of Mary, based on one of his favorite prayers, the Salve Regina (Hail, Holy Queen). Fittingly enough, the chapter dedicated to the Holy Name of Mary is titled “How Sweet is the Name of Mary in Life and in Death.”

Brief quotes from several well-known saints cited by Saint Alphonsus help us to define several layers of spiritual meaning wrapped inside the Holy Name of Mary.

Saint Anthony of Padua: The name of Mary is sweeter to the lips than the honeycomb, more delightful to the ear than a sweet song, more entrancing to the heart than the purest joy.”

Saint Bonaventure: “As wax melts before fire, so do the devils lose their power against those souls who remember the name of Mary and devoutly invoke it.”

Saint Bernard: “… call upon Mary … in danger, in distress, in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary. May her name never be far from your lips, or far from your heart… “

The wisdom of the saints teaches us that the sweetness of the name of Mary should never be mistaken as lacking in power. On the contrary, her holy name carries with it untold weight in intercession to her Son; and for the forces of evil, fear beyond our imagining, in life and in death.

Again quoting Saint Bonaventure, Saint Alphonsus encourages us: “Blessed is he, says Saint Bonaventure, who loves thy sweet name, oh Mother of God. Thy name is so glorious and admirable, that those who remember to invoke it at the moment of death, do not then fear all the assaults of the enemy.”

Throughout our lifetime, then, and right up to our passing from this life, let us remember to call upon the name of Mary – that most sweet name, so dear to the heart of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in times of sadness, worry, anxiety, or fear, and especially at the moment of death.

Across many centuries, countless members of the faithful, saints and sinners alike, have had recourse to the power of the Holy Name of Mary for present help in times of trouble. May it be so for us as well.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen!

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