Hey, Father! Did Mary experience pain during childbirth?

Our Blessed Mother was born without original sin. Why would she have suffered pain in childbirth? 

Nancy in Springfield

Dear Nancy,

Each year on Dec. 8, the Church Universal celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Notably, Our Lady, under her title as the Immaculate Conception, is not only the Patroness of the United States of America, but also of our local Church here in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, where our Cathedral is also dedicated to her. As you indicated in your question, from the very moment of her conception in the womb of St. Anne, Mary was free from original sin. In other words, she was conceived immaculately. In this way, from her beginning, Mary was set apart by God to play a central role in salvation history. 

The Church has never issued an infallible, and therefore dogmatic, teaching on whether or not Mary experienced pain during childbirth, but after a bit of research, it does seem that the traditional view is that she in fact did not.[i] Taking a look first at Sacred Scripture, we see in Genesis 3:16 the Lord God admonishing Eve that due to her sin, “I will intensify your toil in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” It would seem logical, since Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin, that she would be exempt from such a consequence. Chapter 66 of Isaiah is filled with references to the coming of the New Covenant, that of the new Messiah. Isaiah 66:6-7 states, “A voice roaring from the city, a voice from the temple; The voice of the Lord rendering recompense to his enemies! Before she is in labor, she gives birth; Before her pangs come upon her, she delivers a male child.” While it is not definitive that this passage refers directly to the Blessed Virgin Mary, many Church Fathers and Theologians have made such a connection, and it seems to clearly point to Mary not experiencing pain. 

Finally, as I’ve said, the Church has never definitively answered this question, but there have been a few magisterial assertions which address the topic. The Catechism of the Council of Trent did weigh in on the question when it stated, “From Eve we are born children of wrath; from Mary we have received Jesus Christ … . To Eve it was said: In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children. Mary was exempt from this law, for preserving her virginal integrity inviolate she brought forth Jesus … without experiencing, as we have already said, any sense of pain.” Further, Pope Alexander III wrote, “Mary, indeed conceived without shame, gave birth without pain.” 

I hope this helps, Nancy! 

Father Zachary D. Samples is parochial vicar of St. Peter Catholic Church in Quincy and serves as associate chaplain at Quincy Notre Dame High School.

[i] Catholic Answers, “Did our Blessed Mother Suffer Labor Pains,” https://www.catholic.com/qa/did-our-blessed-mother-suffer-labor-pains.