The Sweet and Holy Name of Mary

12 September, 2023

Pilgrims to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe travel to see one image, and one image only, “La Morenita”, the miraculous image of Mary present on St. Juan Diego’s tilma. Nevertheless, in addition of this “mother” of all Guadalupe images, there are also many other images of our Lady to be seen at the foot of Tepeyac. The Museum of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe houses many Marian works of art. As to be expected, many of the images found in the museum are original reproductions of Our Lady as depicted under her title of Guadalupe. During a recent visit to the museum, however, a unique painting caught my eye: The Sweet Name of Mary painted by Cristobal de Villalpando. In it, Mary kneels flanked by angels to her right and to her left. Radiating in the clouds above her head rests the monogram “MARIA”. And she herself is crowned with an areola which reads, “El Dulsisimo Nombre De María Santísima” (The Sweetest Name of the Most Holy Mary).

Today, September 12th, we honor that Sweet Name. Originally established as a Marian Feast to be celebrated on September 15th in Cuenca, Spain, the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary became a more universal feast in the 17th century after Our Lady’s role in helping the Christian Polish army defeat the Muslim Ottoman forces at the Battle of Vienna. This battle which began on September 8th, 1683 (Nativity of Mary) ended only four days later with the Christian victory on September 12th. Although it was removed from the universal calendar in the late 1960’s, thanks to St. John Paul II it became a more firmly established memorial for the Universal Church after the publication of the 3rd typical edition of the Roman Missal in 2002. 

Like all things sweet, there is a richness in the interpretative tradition of Mary’s name. In his commentary on the Hail Mary, St. Thomas Aquinas writes that “Mary” comes from the Syrian word meaning “lady”. This name is particularly suited for her since the Lord is “with her” in an utterly unique way. Not only is the Lord God, her Son, with her, but also the Lord God, her Father and the Lord God, her Divine Spouse (Holy Spirit). Thus, she is the “noble resting place of the Triune God”. She is more than just the Mother of God. She is also rightly called, “Lady”.[1]

In the same commentary, the Angelic Doctor follows the tradition of St. Jerome in pointing out that the name of Mary is drawn from the Latin meaning sea. He writes, “It is surely fitting that her name is ‘Mary,’ which is akin to the Star of the Sea (Maria—maris stella), for just as sailors are directed to port by the star of the sea, so also Christians are by Mary guided to glory.”[2]

The great promoter of Marian devotion, St. Louis de Montfort follows this same line of thought in True Devotion when he writes, “God the Father made an assemblage of all the waters, and He named it the sea (mare). He has made an assemblage of all His graces, and He has called it Mary (Maria).”[3]

Since the goal of this new Marian blog is not only to teach us about Mary, but also to teach us how to “marianize” our lives, I would like to conclude by highlighting how today’s memorial and Mary’s Sweet Name calls us to action.

First, it calls us to solidify our true devotion to Mary. We should remember that “true devotion” to Mary should lead us to a more perfect love of Christ. We adhere to Mary to adhere more perfectly to Jesus Christ. Thus, St. Louis de Montfort writes that among the many signs indicating a true discipleship of Jesus Christ, His true followers will “carry…the sacred names of Jesus and Mary on their hearts”.[4] Therefore, we should remember that our devotion to Mary is primarily internal, that is, a work of grace.

Am I growing in God’s grace? Am I docile to God’s grace? Am I faithful to God’s grace? Unlike any other creature, Mary was full of grace. In imitating her we must make sure that we too are striving for a life full of grace. Unfortunately, today, there are many people who are seeking to fill their lives with material things. They are hoping that they will find a full life in material goods, clothes, the latest technology, popularity, etc. Mary teaches us otherwise. The fullest human life—the most complete human life—is a life full of God’s grace. In turning away from sin and turning to daily prayer, frequent reception of the sacraments, and a mortified life we can do our part in disposing ourselves for the gift of God’s grace.

Secondly, the Sweet Name of Mary calls us to deepen our commitment to prayer. True devotees of Mary are men and women of prayer. They know her name to be sweet, and take great confidence in calling upon her, because they frequently turn to her through prayer. This is what separates her true children from her wannabe children. Mary’s true children turn to her in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, in joys and in sorrows. In other words, they call on her consistently. As can often happen in a person’s relationship with God the Father, so also Mary’s wannabe children, only call on her in desperate situations. Despite treating her as such, Mary always shows herself to be a Good Mother even to children such as these. We should never doubt the selflessness of her motherly care; but at the same time, we should do our part to grow in a selfless love of Mary. We should love her for who she is and not just for what she does for us. To love her truly we need to recommit to knowing her truly. This means turning to her in prayer, meditating on her life, and forming resolutions enlightened by prayer to follow her example.

Under whatever title you invoke her today and every day ahead—Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lujan, Our Lady of Fatima, etc—may the Sweet and Holy Name of Mary inspire you to begin anew the work of “marianizing” your life through grace and prayer.

Totus tuus Maria!

[1] Saint Thomas Aquinas, On the Angelic Salutation, art. 1,

[2] Ibid., art. 2.

[3] Saint Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, (Catholic Way Publishing: London, 2013), 23.

[4] Ibid., 59.

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