So Many Names for Mary?

Q. A lady in our RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) class asked what I think is a very insightful question: "Why are there so many names for Mary and images of her? She added, "There is only one Virgin Mary, right?"

I answered that yes, there is only one Mary, the mother of Jesus. But I also told her I would check to see if I could get a more complete answer. Can you help?

R.F., Virginia Beach, Va.

A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D:

You are correct. There is only one mother of Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, and she has always had only one given name, Mary. The "names" your friend referred to are not names in the strict sense.

Many of them are instead titles that express the ways in which we honor Mary as Mother of God and as our Mother: "Spouse of the Holy Spirit," "Ark of the Covenant," "Queen of Heaven," "Mother of the Church."

Many others designate the functions she fulfills in the life of the faithful: "Help of Christians," "Refuge of Sinners," "Our Lady of Sorrows," "Queen of Peace."

Still other titles are associated with accounts of her appearances at various locations around the world: "Our Lady of Fátima" (Portugal), "Our Lady of Guadalupe" (Mexico), "Our Lady of LaVang" (Vietnam), "Our Lady of Lourdes" (France).