A Guided Encounter

with Picturing Mary


In the Gospel of Luke, Mary is called blessed because she believed that what was told her from the Lord would be fulfilled (Lk 1:45).  In this image of the Holy Family, we see the effects of Mary and Joseph acting on their faith in God – they escaped the danger of Herod and are now enjoying a moment of rest and peace in freedom.  The foundation of this unique family is built on faith.  While every family is built around the gift of a child, this Holy Family was in a singular way, built around the gift of a Child, who was the fruit of faith. It was Mary’s faith in God that brought into being, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the gift of her motherhood. 

In this picture, a mother, foster-father and a child are gathered together in an intimate and familiar moment with each other.  There is a peace and contentedness among them.  There is no sense of fear or evidence of being in exile, as one would expect when they had to flee the danger of their son’s potential murder by Herod’s soldiers.  They are resting in God’s providence and trusting that in God’s will is their peace.  They know at the center of their family is God.  This family is unlike any other because it is holy and set apart.  God the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit, brought about the Incarnation in Mary’s womb.  Mary, in the beauty of her femininity, is holy and set apart.  She is, through her virginal consent to God at the Annunciation, consecrated to the Lord and set apart for His service.  By God’s grace, Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus in her womb and she remained a virgin afterwards, since it was fitting that she remain wholly consecrated and dedicated to the Lord alone. The Catholic Church shares in Mary’s example of faith and has come to believe in Mary’s perpetual virginity.

Because God sanctified (made holy) the womb of Mary, it was fitting that she remained a virgin, since her motherhood came into being from God.  Since her womb was made fruitful by the Holy Spirit, it is fitting that she bore no other children than Jesus. Thus, her motherhood was offered exclusively to Jesus, and then, in time, through Jesus to all her spiritual children who would come to her from Jesus on the Cross.  There, beneath the Cross, Mary received from Jesus the Beloved Disciple, John.  In turn, John the disciple, who represents all followers of Jesus, received Mary into his life as his mother.  In this moment, Mary became spiritually the mother of each of us and of all the followers of Jesus.  

Mary, who is Ever-Virgin and the Mother of us all, is an example to us of faithful love that remains espoused to her Beloved forever.  Mary’s loving presence is the center of Barocci’s painting.  It is Mary’s love and her consent to be made fruitful in the Holy Spirit that brought the Child to earth, Who became not only the heart of the Holy Family, but the heart of the world.  Through Mary, we contemplate the mystery of how virginity can bring about fruitfulness and how faith in the Word of God can bring about the salvation of the world.

Living the Encounter

You have encountered genuine beauty today in Federico Barocci’s masterpiece, Rest on the Flight into Egypt.  Chose to live your encounter with beauty and share it with others.  Living beautifully is living virtuously.  Reflect upon the virtue of faith expressed in Mary’s life.  Ask yourself:

Where in my own life do I struggle to believe in God?  Do I believe in His love for me?  Where do I struggle to believe in the truths He has revealed?  Spend a few moments today reflecting on where you can grow in the virtue of faith.  Ask God to help you see and believe the truth of what He reveals about Mary and about your own vocation to say “yes” to God’s proposal of love to you.  Take a moment to thank God that you belong to a heavenly family, even if your earthly family has let you down.  Ask God for the grace to welcome in your heart the example and love of Mary as your mother and God as your Father.  Take a moment to pray this Act of Faith:

O My God, I firmly believe that You are one God in three divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  I believe that Your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead.  I believe these and all the truths which the holy Catholic Church teaches, because in revealing them You can neither deceive nor be deceived.

Deepen Your Encounter

After you leave the exhibit, return to your encounter with beauty and remember what you learned about the virtue of faith.  Take a moment to read the Scripture passage from Hebrews 11:1-2 and reflect upon how you can continue to live your encounter by practicing the virtue of faith in your life.

You've encountered beauty in Mary and her virtues.  Continue to live your encounter and live beautifully for others.

Inform Your Encounter

Read more about this Reflection from the Catechism:  CCC, nos. 148, 149, 150, 153, 154, 155, 499, 1814, 1816, 2087, 2088

Scripture related to this masterpiece: When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.  - Luke 2:13-14

Learn more about practicing the virtue of faith

Scripture passages related to the virtue of faith: Heb 11:1-3;

Read about saints who practiced the virtue of faith:  St. Joseph, St. Martha  

How is devotion to Mary different from worshiping Mary?
Learn about True Devotion to Mary

Mary’s Unique Role as Intercessor
Scripture Directs Prayer to Mary

Standards/USCCB Doctrinal Elements of a Curriculum Framework for Young People related to this reflection

Unique role of Mary, Mother of God including the Annunciation and Mary’s “yes” (CCC, nos.484-487); Mary is ever-virgin (CCC, nos.499-507); Mary is Mother of the Church (CCC, 507, 829); Accepting and living the grace of redemption by practicing the virtues of faith, hope and love (CCC, nos. 1803, 1812-1832);  Theological virtue of faith (CCC, nos. 2087-2089). Types of virtue, (CCC, nos. 1804-1832); Prayer in the life of a believer: lectio divina (CCC, nos. 1177, 2708) Jesus Christ reveals the Father to us, who we are, and our call to holiness;  By becoming man, and by his Death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ unites us to God (CCC, nos. 461-464);  We become the free adopted children of the Father through Baptism (Gal 4; CCC, nos. 1265-1270);  The Word became flesh (the Incarnation) (CCC, nos. 525-528, 456-478) to save us by reconciling us with God, who loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins (CCC, no.457); that we might come to know the depth of God’s love for us (CCC, 458); to be our model of holiness (CCC, no 459); to make us partakers of the divine nature (CCC, nos.457-460);


The Rest on the Flight into Egypt (oil on canvas) c. 1570-73, Barocci or Baroccio, Federico Fiori (c.1535-1612) (after) / Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Images 

Federico Barocci

Rest on the Flight into Egypt (Madonna of the Cherries), 1570-73

Oil on canvas

52 3/8 x 43 ½ in. (133 x 110 cm)

Musei Vaticani, Vatican City

View online at the National Museum for Women in the Arts exhibit Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea

Share your Encounter

What did your encounter bring?   Share your experience and inspirations with others.  #MeetMary

PicturingMary.com is funded by private individuals who support the NMWA exhibit and offer the website materials for visitors to deepen their encounter with Mary as a woman, mother and idea. The reflections were written by a woman religious, Sr. John Paul Maher, O.P., who is a member of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

Elisabetta Sirani, Virgin and Child, 1663; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay. Conservation funds generously provided by the Southern California State Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts