Pain-free labor?

Question: Since Mary was conceived without original sin, does it follow that she was spared a chief punishment of that sin, namely pain in childbirth?

Ed and Mary Ruzauskas, Kennewick, Washington

Answer: It is a widely held view among theologians that Mary did not experience the pains of childbirth. However, the Church does not formally teach this as a doctrine or a dogma.

Those who assert a painless childbirth cite the Fathers of the Church who, with few exceptions, taught a painless birth in which Christ emerged from her womb but not through the birth canal. They also reference Isaiah 66:7, which, while an allegory of Jerusalem, is also as a Messianic reference: “Before she is in labor, she gives birth; Before her pangs come upon her, she delivers a male child.”

Theologians who do not see a need to affirm a painless childbirth cite other scriptural texts. The Gospels (Mt 1:25, Lk 2:7) say of Mary, “she bore” and “she gave birth,” which indicates some sort of labor on her part (painless or not), but not merely a miraculous appearance that Mary experienced passively. Further, Revelation 12:2, while an allegory, is also a reference to Mary, saying, “She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.”

So, the question of Mary having pain or not in childbirth is not a settled dogma or doctrine, only that she remained a virgin before birth, after giving birth and in the birthing process.

As for your question if she was preserved from this since she was free from original sin, it does not follow since both she and Jesus suffered many things that came due to original sin though they were free of it.

I am aware that much of this issue is wrapped up in piety, and many are easily troubled by different views. But the honest answer to your question is that, while Mary’s perpetual virginity is dogma, how this affected her physically or was manifest in her physically is not dogmatically taught.

Blessed rosary

Question: If a rosary is broken but repaired, does it lose its blessing?

— Ed Stewart, via email

Answer: No, it does not lose its blessing. If the majority of the beads were replaced, etc., it would not be wrong to have it blessed again, but blessed objects remained blessed.

In rare cases, blessed or consecrated objects can lose their blessing through association with a gravely sinful act. For example, if a murder takes place in a consecrated church, it is the usual practice to reconsecrate the place.

A related question is what to do with blessed objects that are no longer usable. Generally speaking, they should be burned or buried, but not discarded in the regular trash. Old and tattered Bibles, holy cards, scapulars and the like can be burned and buried. If burning them is not possible, simple burial will do. Things that cannot be burned such as ruined medals, statues or rosaries should be buried.

If possible, before blessed or religious items are buried, it is permissible to shred, smash or in some way render them less recognizable. This helps to avoid the possible scandal of others happening upon them and not realizing that they were buried for pious reasons as no longer usable and not merely discarded.

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to msgrpope@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.