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May Research Seminar

Theological and Philosophical Perspectives on Mary the Mother: Providing the Grammar for the Theological Notion of Person in Humanity


Date: Wednesday 8th May 2024

Time: 3:00pm to 4:30pm (in the UK)

Venue: Online via Zoom


In our May research seminar, Dr Mary Frances McKenna (The Centre for Marian Studies) will explore theological and philosophical aspects of Mary in relation to the theological notion of person and how it is appropriately applied to humanity. Her thesis is that Mary as the Mother of God provides the grammar for person in humanity. Mary in relation with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit illustrates what person is in the human being.

The presentation will take up Joseph Ratzinger’s positive development of the notion of person – relatedness with God without reserve which is fully realised only in the person of Jesus Christ - and how he applies that notion of person to Mary. Luke’s account of Mary (Luke 1:34 – 38, 1:46 - 55, and 2:19, 51 ) and of the term mother in relation to Jesus (Luke 11:27-28) provide the Scriptural basis for the development of “the Mother” as person in relation to the personal Triune God.


Icon of the Mother of God*

Two Thomistic accounts of person will be considered adding two different perspectives that offer opportunities to shape this grammar further. The first is Gilles Emery who considers the theological notion of person from a Trinitarian perspective with concern for the simplicity of God, the Oneness of God. The second is Peter Kreeft who considers person from the position of a potential marriage of medieval philosophy and modern personalism. He argues that the actualisation and perfection of being is the actualisation and perfection of personhood, which is sanctity.


The aim of this presentation is to explore what it means for a human being to be person, to fully actualise their person. The thesis is that Mary who is Mother of God both biologically and theologically, who shows humanity the way to life, is the grammar of person in humanity.


Dr Mary Frances McKenna is a Fellow of The Centre for Marian Studies, UK. She holds a PhD in Humanities in Theology (2012) from All Hallows College, Dublin City University, Ireland, and a MA (1996) and a BA (1994) in History from University College Dublin, Ireland. Her research interests mainly focus on Mary in Christian faith and theology, and the thought of Joseph Ratzinger. She is the author of Innovation within Tradition: Joseph Ratzinger and Reading the Women of Scripture (Fortress Press, 2015). In addition, she has published on the role of Christianity in the world, on the reasonableness of faith and Christian anthropology. She has two articles included in Joseph Ratzinger in Dialogue with Philosophical Traditions: From Plato to Vattimo, edited by Tracey Rowland , Alejandro Sada and Rudy Albino de Assunção (Bloomsbury 2024).


To join the audience, please register for the free Zoom link by sending an email to Catherine O'Brien at info@marianstudies.ac.uk.


This is the eighth of a new series of online research seminars organised by the Centre for Marian Studies at St Mary's University. To see the full programme, please visit:


*Image reproduced with the kind permission of Glenstal Abbey

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