The Most Holy Name of Mary



The Most Holy Name of Mary

The Importance of This Name. When a child is born, one of the first things we do, is to give him a name. All of us fondly commemorate our patronal feastday. A family feastday is an occasion for manifesting filial devotion to our parents or to our children. We wish them many happy returns. We send them presents, we pay them visits. All this is part of the ritual of that happy day. Today, we are meditating on the feast of the Name of Mary, a feast which ought to be a great occasion for all her devotees and loving children. The importance of a name depends on its fitness to the person to whom it is applied. The better the person is pictured by a name, the more appropriate that name is. In the world, oftener than not, names are given because of some particular liking for that name by the parents or on account of some family connection implied. We seldom pause to choose a name that suits the person concerned. But it was not so with Mary. It was not right and proper that just any name whatsoever should be given to her. Her name must express all the graces and wonders and marvels with which God had endowed her. Thus God, and God alone, could give Her a fitting and adequate name. And the name chosen was Mary.

The Greatness of This Name. In order to surmise its greatness it is enough to see that God is the Author of this name. God gave this name to Our Lady as a sign of what she was going to be. When God chose anyone for some extraordinary mission, He would first of all change the name of the person so chosen, and the new name would reflect the highest aim to which He was calling that person. So He changed the name of Abraham; He chose the name of Isaac; through an Angel He instructed Zacharias that the Precursor should be called John; and Christ Himself changed Simon's name to Peter when He founded His Church and appointed amongst His apostles the one who was going to be its head and foundation. Now, how compare the dignity and importance of the mission entrusted to Abraham, to Isaac, to the Baptist and to Peter with the dignity and mission of Mary? Who, then, but God Himself could give her a worthy name?

The name we bear was imposed at the choice of our parents, although, of course, a very different one could have been given to us. But with Our Lady it was not so. She was called Mary, nor could she have any other name, because God Himself would find no better. How great and sublime is that most holy and sweet name. That is why the Gospel, which has so little about Our Lady, does not pass over this so important detail, but expressly states: And the Virgin's name was Mary. Thus, St. Peter Damian says that the name of Mary was from eternity drawn from the Divine Treasury when Redemption through the Incarnation of the Word was decreed in Heaven.

Its Usefulness. From all this we can deduce how we should respect this holy name, and how, after the Name of Jesus there is no other so holy, so useful for us as the name of Mary.

If the Name of Jesus sanctifies, provided we utter it with the respect and love that it deserves, so must it be with the name of Mary. That is why, after God and Jesus, Mary is the most popular name of all. Mothers teach it to their children, the sick and those in sorrow invoke it, the dying have it on their lips. How many churches, how many chapels have been raised the world over in honor of the name of Mary! How many sinners have been converted through its invocation. There is nothing sweeter for holy souls and nothing more profitable for the sinner than to put those two blessed Names, Jesus and Mary, together, to utter them often, so as to draw from them the great advantage that their utterance brings to our souls. Do you also do it? Have you ever meditated on the importance of this most holy name and on its divine greatness? Do you utter it with fervor and especially in the temptations, difficulties and sorrows of life? Is it especially engraved on your heart?

That this holy Name may not be indifferent to us but rather induce us to a deeper knowledge and to a more fervent invocation of it, it is imperative that we should meditate on its meaning. As about 300 different interpretations have been given, it is rather difficult to ascertain its true meaning. But it is providential that God should have left it open to so many interpretations, all of them so good and so meaningful, and thus make us understand that all excellences and perfections are contained in Our Blessed Lady. The most probable of all these interpretations are the following:

Beautiful, or rather, the beautiful par excellence, as though to mean that she is Beauty itself. And there is no other way to see her. As beautiful as the moon, sings the Church. Indeed, just as in the darkness of night, when everything is deprived of beauty, the placid and serene light of the moon suddenly shines, greater than the stars, so does Mary with her shining beauty dispel darkness and share her light with all who would partake of it.

Tota Pulchra. She is also called Tota Pulchra, "All Beautiful". All, Tota. In Mary there is nothing that is not extremely beautiful; body, soul, eyes, senses, heart, everything. In her there is nothing unsightly, nothing stained, nothing to mar her beauty. Give a thought to the things that the world calls beautiful, and you will be convinced that the world has no idea of what real beauty is. The world gives the name of beauty only to corporeal beauty, which oftener than not, is artificial and merely outward, external. The world is satisfied with that beauty, because it knows no other. Instead, Mary is always and at every moment most beautiful, Tota Pulchra. How aptly then the name of Mary applies to her as thus interpreted.

Lady and Mistress. How certain it is that she really is Queen and Mistress. She was never a slave to sin, to the Devil, or to the passions. She was, it is true, the Handmaid of the Lord; but it is for that very reason that She is Queen and Mistress. And Christians have always thus understood it. Therefore they call her Our Lady. She is the Queen of the Angels, of those Angels who take legitimate filial pride in serving her. The Angels were very often her servants. In the Annunciation, in the grotto of Bethlehem, in the Flight into Egypt, on Calvary itself, where the Angels of sorrow went to comfort and to weep with her. She is Lady and Mistress over the devils who fear her and are put to flight at the mere mention of her name. On hearing her holy name, Heaven and earth bend the knee. And God has willed that the Devil fears Our Lady even more than he does Jesus; thus his humiliation is the greater and the triumph of Our Lady the more admirable.

Lady and Queen of Mercy. Lastly, she is Lady and Mistress of all men, but she is a Lady and Queen of Mercy. Jesus wanted her to share His kingdom and scepter, thus while He took justice upon Himself as the judge of the living and the dead, to Mary He entrusted the power and administration of mercy. Her majesty and grandeur do not hurt, do not frighten, but rather lovingly urge us through sweet force. See whether you also feel these sentiments when you are at the feet of this great Lady. She is Queen and Lady of our hearts. She alone has the right to command our hearts. Is she truly the absolute Queen of your heart?

The Sea. The sea is a gathering together of the waters of the earth and of the rain from the skies. Genesis says that when God created the earth, He gathered all the waters in one place and called it the sea. So with Our Lady, God gathered in Mary all the graces which He had distributed amongst His creatures, whether Angels or men. And therefore she is a Sea of graces where we can find whatever we want.

From the sea rise the clouds which later on come down upon the earth bringing with them the rain which gives fertility to the fields. In the same manner Our Blessed Lady from the immense ocean of her graces pours all the gifts that bear sanctity and virtue into the souls of men.

Queen of Martyrs. The waters of the sea are bitter, as were also the sorrows of the Heart of Mary, that veritable ocean of bitterness, since she suffered during the passion of her Son more than all other human hearts together. On account of that she is called the Queen of Martyrs, because she suffered more than them all.

The Star of the Sea. Finally, she is the Star of the Sea, because she is the light which guides those who are sailing across the ocean of this earthly life, across the sea of our passions where shipwreck is always possible, across the sea of darkness where we are groping for our bearings, where self-love, blindness, and the violence of our passions carry us away.

She is the Star which shines from on high, so that no matter where we are we can find her. God placed her so high, that she might be seen from everywhere. But for that same reason unless we lift our eyes we cannot see her. The more we lower them towards the things of the earth, the less we see her rays. Hence how fitting is the name of Mary in each and every one of its connotations! Try to imitate Mary, try to keep her always in view by ceaselessly repeating her most sweet Name, just as we never grow tired of repeating the name of those whom we love.

Words of Our Lady to Jacinta

As Our Blessed Mother had promised at Fatima, the two youngest visionaries, Francisco and Jacinta, joined her in Heaven a short time after the apparitions. The little boy died from the influenza in April, 1919 and his sister from pleurisy in February, 1920.

Before she died, little Jacinta revealed some little-known but remarkable statements made by Our Lady of Fatima. Here are some of them:

More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.

Certain fashions are being introduced that offend Our Lord very much.
Many marriages are not good, they do not please Our Lord and are not of God.
Priests must be pure, very pure. They should not busy themselves with anything except what concerns the Church and the salvation of souls. The disobedience of priests to their superiors and to the Holy Father is very displeasing to Our Lord.
Our Blessed Mother can no longer restrain the hand of her Divine Son from striking the world with just punishment for its many crimes.
If the government of a country leaves the Church in peace and gives liberty to our Holy Religion, it will be blessed by God.

Tell everyone that God gives graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tell them to ask graces from her, and that the Sacred Heart of Jesus wishes to be venerated together with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Ask them to plead for peace from the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for Our Lord has confided the peace of the world to her.



The Ascetical Doctrine of St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori
I have published several other spiritual works: on the Blessed Sacrament, on the Passion of Jesus Christ, on the Glories of Mary, and, besides, a work against the Materialists and Deists, with other little devout treatises. Recently I finished a book on the Incarnation, Birth, and Infancy of our Savior, and another entitled Preparation for Death. However, I do not think that I have written a more useful work than this present one, in which I speak of prayer as a necessary and certain means of obtaining salvation, and all the graces that we require for that purpose. If it were in my power, I would distribute a copy of it to every single Catholic in the whole world, in order to show him the absolute necessity of prayer for salvation.

I say this because, on the one hand, I see that the absolute necessity of prayer is taught all throughout the Holy Scriptures and by all the Fathers of the Church; while, on the other hand, I see that Christians are woefully careless in their practice of this critical means of eternal salvation. And, sadder still, I see that many of those who preach do so but little concerning the doctrine of prayer, and confessors often fail to communicate it to their penitents. There are, moreover, many popular spiritual books that do not speak sufficiently of it. But there is hardly anything that preachers and confessors and spiritual books should insist upon with more vigor and energy than prayer.

This is not to belittle the many excellent means of keeping ourselves in the grace of God, such as: avoiding the occasions of sin, frequenting the holy Sacraments, resisting temptations, listening to the Word of God in sermons and spiritual conferences, meditating on the eternal truths, and other means; all of these are not only most useful, but even of practical necessity to salvation. But what profit is there in sermons, meditations, and all of the other means pointed out by masters of the spiritual life,if we forget to pray? Has not Our Lord declared that He will grant His graces only to those who pray for them? "Ask and ye shall receive." (John 16:24)

Without prayer, in the ordinary course of Providence, all the meditations that we make, all our resolutions, all our promises, will be useless. If we fail to pray, we shall always be unfaithful to the inspirations of God, and to the promises we made to Him in holy Baptism. This is because, in order to actually do good, to conquer temptations, to practice virtues, and to observe God's holy law, it is not enough to merely receive illumination from God, and to meditate and make resolutions; we need, further, the actual assistance of God; and as we shall soon see, He does not give this assistance except to those who pray, and who pray with perseverance. The spiritual light we receive, and the considerations and good resolutions that we make, are useful to incite us to the act of prayer when we are in spiritual danger, and are tempted to transgress God's law; for then prayer will obtain for us God's help, and we shall be preserved from sin; but if in such moments we fail to pray, we shall be lost.

My intention in prefacing this work with this sentiment is that my readers may thank God for giving them an opportunity, by means of this little treatise, to receive the grace of reflecting more deeply on the importance of prayer; for all adults who are saved are ordinarily saved by this single means of grace. Therefore, I ask my readers to thank God; for surely it is a great mercy when He gives you the light and the grace to pray. I hope, that you, my dear brothers and sisters, after reading this little volume, will never from this day forward neglect to have continual recourse to God in prayer, whenever you are tempted to offend Him. If in times past you have had your conscience burdened with many sins, realize that the cause of this has been your neglect of prayer and failure to ask God for help to resist the temptations that assaulted you.

I beg you, therefore, to read this work again and again with the greatest attention; not because I have written it, but because it is an important means of grace that God offers you for the good of your eternal salvation, thereby making you to understand that He wishes you to be saved. And after having read it yourself, induce as many of your friends and neighbors as you can to read it also. Now, let us begin in the Name of the Lord.

The Definition of Prayer
The Apostle writes to St. Timothy: "I beseech, therefore, that first of all supplications, petitions, and thanksgivings be made." (1 Tim. 2:1) St. Thomas Aquinas explains that prayer is properly "the lifting up of the soul to God." (2.2 q. 83, a. 17) "In a strict sense", says the Angelic Doctor, prayer means recourse to God; but in its general meaning, it includes the followings specific kinds:

Petition is that kind of prayer which begs for a determinate object.
When the thing sought is indeterminate (as when we say, "Incline unto my aid, O Lord!"),
it is called supplication.
Obsecration is a solemn adjuration, or representation of the grounds on which we dare
to ask a favor, as when we say, "By Thy Holy Cross and Passion, O Lord, deliver us!"
Finally, thanksgiving is the returning of thanks for benefits received, whereby, says
St. Thomas, we merit to receive even greater favors.

The term "prayer" used throughout this work includes all of these aspects of prayer.

In order to attach ourselves to this great means of salvation then, we must first of all consider how necessary it is to us, and how powerful it is to obtain for us all the graces that we can desire from God, if we know how to ask for them as we ought. Thus, in this first part, we will speak of the necessity and power of prayer; and secondly, of the conditions necessary to make it efficacious with God. In the second part, we will show that the grace of prayer is given to all men; and there we will treat of the manner in which grace ordinarily operates.

St. Peter Damian: “The name of Mary came from the treasury of the divinity.”
St. Bernard: “O most holy Virgin Mary! Thy name is so sweet and amiable that it cannot be pronounced without inflaming those who do so with love towards thee and God.”
Richard of St. Laurence: “Thy name, O Mary, is far better than riches, because it can better relieve poverty.”
St. Methodius: “Thy name, O Mother of God, is filled with divine graces and blessings.”
St. Bonaventure:Thy name, O Mary, cannot be pronounced without bringing some grace to him who does so devoutly.”
St. Ambrose: Thy most sweet name, O Mary, is a precious ointment, which breathes forth the odor of divine grace.”
St. Germanus: “…as breathing is a sign of life, so also is the frequent pronunciation of the name of Mary a sign either of the life of divine grace, or that it will soon come; for this powerful name has in it the virtue of obtaining help and life for him who invokes it devoutly.”



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The Lesson is taken from a Sermon by
St. Bernard the Abbot

It is said: And the Virgin's name was Mary. Let us speak a few words upon this name, which signifieth, being interpreted, Star of the Sea, and suiteth very well the Maiden Mother, who may very meetly be likened unto a star. A star giveth forth her rays without any harm to herself, and the Virgin brought forth her Son without any hurt to her virginity. The light of a star taketh nothing away from the Vírginity of Mary. She is that noble star which was to come out of Jacob, whose brightness still sheddeth lustre upon all the earth, whose rays are most brilliant in heaven, and shine even unto hell, lighting up earth midway, and warming souls rather than bodies, fostering good and scaring away evil. She, I say, is a clear and shining star, twinkling with excellencies, and resplendent with example, needfully set to look down upon the surface of this great and wide sea.

O thou, whosoever thou art, that knowest thyself to be here not so much walking upon firm ground, as battered to and fro by the gales and storms of this life's ocean, if thou wouldest not be overwhelmed by the tempest, keep thine eyes fixed upon this star's clear shining. If the hurricanes of temptation rise against thee, or thou art running upon the rocks of trouble, look to the star, call on Mary. If the waves of pride, or ambition, or slander, or envy toss thee, look to the star, call on Mary. If the billows of anger or avarice, or the enticements of the flesh beat against thy soul's bark, look to Mary. If the enormity of thy sins trouble thee, if the foulness of thy conscience confound thee, if the dread of judgment appal thee, if thou begin to slip into the deep of despondency, into the pit of despair, think of Mary.

In danger, in difficulty, or in doubt, think on Mary, call on Mary. Let her not be away from thy mouth or from thine heart, and that thou mayest not lack the succour of her prayers, turn not aside from the example of her conversation. If thou follow her, thou wilt never go astray. If thou pray to her, thou wilt never have need to despair. If thou keep her in mind, thou wilt never fall. If she lead thee, thou wilt never be weary. If she help thee, thou wilt reach home safe at the last?and so thou wilt prove in thyself how meetly it is said: And the Virgin's name was Mary. - Particular honours were already paid to this worshipful name in divers parts of the Christian world, but the Bishop of Rome, Innocent XI, ordered this Feast in honour of it to be held every year throughout the whole Church, as an everlasting thanksgiving for the great blessing that, under her protection, the brutal Sultan of the Turks, who was trampling upon the necks of the Christian population, was thoroughly beaten before the walls of Vienna in Austria.

A Homily by
St. Peter Chrysologus

Dearly beloved brethren, ye have this day heard how an Angel treated with a woman touching the regeneration of mankind.
Ye have heard how it was arranged that man should return to life by the same mean whereby he had fallen into death. The Angel treateth, treateth with Mary concerning salvation, because an angel had treated with Eve concerning destruction. Ye have heard how an Angel set about to raise with unspeakable building a temple of the Divine Majesty out of the dust of the earth. Ye have heard how by a mystery which cannot be understood, God got a place on earth and man a place in heaven. Ye have heard how by a working hitherto unheard of, God and man are joined together in one Body. Ye have heard how at the message of an Angel, the weak nature whereof our flesh is sharer, became strong to bear the whole glory of the Godhead.

Then, lest the frail clay of humanity should break down under the weight of God's work, and in Mary the tender stem should snap, which was about to bear the fruit of all mankind, the Angel's first words were a preventive against fear. And the Angel said unto her: Fear not, Mary. Even before the matter is revealed, the exalted station of this Virgin is made clear by her very name, for the name Mary is an Hebrew word, and signifieth Lady. The Angel therefore greeteth her as Lady, that the Mother of the Lord may lay aside the fearfulness of his handmaiden, whom the will of her own Offspring had made to be born and to be called a Lady. Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace. He that hath found grace, need fear no more. Thou hast found grace.

Blessed is she who alone among mankind, and first among mankind deserved to hear: Thou hast found grace. And how much grace? Even as the Angel had said: Full! Full of grace. Full indeed! Grace like a bountiful shower drenched and soaked her whole being. For thou hast found grace with God. As he saith this, even the Angel doth marvel. He marvelleth that a woman should merit eternal life, that all men should merit it through her. The Angel marvelleth that the whole Godhead, he to whom the entire universe is small, should enter the narrow womb of a virgin. So he delayeth. He calleth her virgin. That was her right. He haileth her as full of grace. Then, with great trepidation he delivereth his message, scarcely able to phrase it so that it could be understood.