Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I feel like I need to just preface this with a "sorry if I offend anyone" comment.  What I'm about to say is mostly addressed to women, and I know well how personally woman take things.  But here's something that's been on my mind of late.

I've noticed a new habit among young Catholics, particularly women, of referring to Our Lady as "Mama Mary."  Something about this just bothers me.  First off, I just think it sounds so informal.  So familiar.  Certainly, if we have the relationship with the Blessed Mother that we should have, we will be familiar with her.  But there's still a huge amount of reverence and respect owed to her.  She has a thousand and one other titles - scripture-based, revelation-based, character-based - which are beautiful and fitting.  Other titles which convey her Motherhood.  "Mama" seems...juvenile.

Something about that word just seems forced and unnatural.  I mean, what adult woman honestly refers to her mother as "mama"?  Pretty much no one, unless they are intentionally trying to be cutesy.

During personal conversation with Mary, it would be completely appropriate to address her as "Mother".  But I suppose that if for certain people, actually calling her "Mama" during prayer is natural and unaffected, then I don't have a problem with it.  But only when used as a personal address.  Not as a title she is referenced by in conversation.

But referring to her in such as informal and un-reverent (I won't use the stronger term "irreverent") way publicly seems like a disservice somehow.  That said, referring to Our Mother simply as "Mary" IS appropriate, and has been lauded by various saints (St. Alphonsus Liguori in particular).  And that, too, seems somewhat "informal" - so maybe that's not the main problem I have with it.

Words means things.  Calling someone by different names can express a different sense of their person.  I think when people call her Mama Mary, they are trying to emphasize something.  The child-like reliance they have on her?  The familial closeness we should feel towards her?  Those are good sentiments to remind oneself of.  It still bothers me, though!

Does anyone have any insight into why this might bother me?  Any arguments to make as to why it shouldn't bother me?  I'd love to hear your thoughts :-)


  1. I don't really think you mean that it "bothers you." I think you prefer to call Mary something else, which is totally fine. I find nothing disrespectful about Mama at all. In fact, Matthew calls me it all day long and i find it so incredibly dear. I think Mary would feel the same way. We are supposed to have faith like a child. Thus, using the word Mama doesn't offend me, and I can even see where it would naturally flow from that childlike trust.

    That being said, as long as terms are meant in a respectful and endearing way, I don't think there's anything wrong with calling Mary Mama Mary. Do I prefer to call her such? No. I prefer Blessed Mother, but that's my preference. As long as people are respectful toward her and truly love Mary, I am game for whatever respectful name they may have for her.

    I think the real danger comes when we as Catholic start nit picking at what everyone else does spiritually, including what we call Mary. It is a dangerous game and sort of seems to me like it falls in the judgement category of things. (I am in no way saying you Christine are judging other people here. Just that I have seen others do so.) We know not what is in the hearts of our brothers and sisters in the faith. Thus, we have no real reason to judge what they call Mary or when they pray or where they worship.

    That's why I don't really think it truly does bother you. I just think you have another preference. For instance, I'm not that thrilled with referring to Mary as the Blessed Virgin Mary when I think of her or ask for her intercession. It's not that it bothers me. It's just to me, in my walk with her, Blessed Mother seems more fitting. :)

    In conclusion, I think this is a matter of to each his own.

  2. Well, I still call my mother Mama. Not consistently--often she is "Mom"--but Mama still, too. :) (And I've noticed in the past few months that I call my father Daddy a LOT.)

    One thing that does come to mind: the literal translation of "Abba," what Jesus told us to call God the Father, is not actually "Father," but "Daddy." Which would seem to indicate that calling Mary Mama isn't a bad thing.

    I think I can understand why it would bother you, although it doesn't bother me. I don't call Mary "Mama" in general, although I probably have at some point; but the contexts where I've heard people done so (and I may have done so) are such where those qualities you mention in the second-to-last paragraph are being emphasized, particularly in situations where one might say, "Mama Mary was taking care of me."

    I think it comes down to balance. Obviously reverence is always due to the Blessed Mother, but I think, first, that reverence isn't as simple as "seriousness" or solemnity, if that makes sense, although at times it certainly calls for one to be solemn. And I think that reverence (even if it is quite solemn) and child-like love and joy are not incompatible. In fact, I don't *think* I know anyone who refers to Our Lady as "Mama" on a regular basis that isn't reverent. (Some of them, in fact, are regular attendees of the Extraordinary Rite of the Mass, which I think is impossible to do without having reverence! :) )

  3. Hah, can I just say I love your blog?? Every post you write is something I have thought at one point or another!

    I'm not terribly offended by the whole "mama mary" thing, but I do think that it reflects a loss of reverence that is SO common in the culture today with everything religiously-related (like wearing jeans to mass? chomping on gum during the consecration? I feel like an old person in that I want to be like, SIT UP STRAIGHT and SPIT OUT THAT GUM to people I don't even know when my hub and I are sitting in mass. Haha!)