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And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. - Mark 2:7

Swaddling clothes are narrow strips of cloth wrapped around an infant to restrict movement, and also to give it a snug feeling. Usually , the work of cleaning the new-born baby and clothing it , is done by the mid-wife , who could either be hired (Gen 35:17; Gen 38:28; Ex 1:16 ) , or be a close female relative of the expectant mother . Mary is traditionally believed to have been a teenager when Jesus was born to her.

Notwithstanding the fact the Joseph and Mary were travelling, they could have taken along a close lady relative to take charge when the time would arrive. My question therefore is: Did Mary have the assistance of a midwife at the time of Jesus' birth? What do the traditions of Catholic Church say about it?

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Did Mary have the assistance of a midwife at the time of Jesus' birth? What do the traditions of Catholic Church say about it?

The short answer is eemaha! That is right eemaha, which is Eskimo for maybe!

The Gospels are silent on this point and the Church has not pronounced on this subject matter.

The Apocryphal Gospel of St. James states that a midwife came to the assistance of Mary’s birth of Jesus, but she arrived too late and the Infant Jesus was already born. Although the Church does not recognize this book in her biblical canon, it is the very source she uses for the names of the parents of the Virgin Mary: Joachim and Anne!

Chapter 19

(1) And I saw a woman coming down from the mountain and she said to me, "Man, where are you going?" (2) And I said, "I am seeking a Hebrew midwife." (3) Replying, she said to me, "Are you from Israel?" (4) And I said to her, "Yes." (5) Then, she said, "And who is giving birth in the cave?" (6) And I said, "The one who has pledged to be married to me." (7) And she said to me, "She is not your wife?" (8) And I said to her, "She is Mary, the one who was raised in the temple. I won her by lot to be my wife. (9) She is not yet my wife, but has a fetus from the Holy Spirit." (10) And the midwife said, "Really?" (11) And Joseph said to her, "Come and see." (12) So the midwife went with him. (13) And they stood near the cave and a dark cloud was hovering over the cave. (14) And the midwife said, "My soul glorifies this day, for today my eyes have seen a miracle: salvation has come to Israel." (15) And immediately, the cloud withdrew from the cave and a great light appeared in the cave so that their eyes could not bear it. (16) And a little while later the same light withdrew until an infant appeared. And he came and took the breast of his mother, Mary. (17) And the midwife cried out and said, "How great this day is for me, for I have seen this new miracle." (18) And the midwife departed from the cave and met Salome and said to her, "Salome, Salome, I have to describe this new miracle for you. A virgin has given birth, although her body does not allow it." (19) And Salome said, "As the Lord my God lives, unless I insert my finger and investigate her, I will not believe that a virgin has given birth."

Blessed Catherine Emmerich revelations suggest that no midwife attended the actual birth of Jesus. Thus Mother and Child were alone and totally at peace with one another.

Birth of the Child Jesus

I saw Joseph on the following day arranging a seat and couch for Mary in the so-called Suckling Cave of Abraham, which was also the sepulcher of Maraha, his nurse. It was more spacious than the cave of the Crib. Mary remained there some hours, while Joseph was making the latter more habitable. He brought also from the city many different little vessels and some dried fruits. Mary told him that the birth of the Child would arrive on the coming night. It was then nine months since her conception by the Holy Ghost. She begged him to do all in his power that they might receive as honorably as possible this Child promised by God, this Child supernaturally conceived; and she invited him to unite with her in prayer for those hard-hearted people who would afford Him no place of shelter. Joseph proposed to bring some pious women whom he knew in Bethlehem to her assistance; but Mary would not allow it, she declared that she had no need of anyone. It was five o'clock in the evening when Joseph brought Mary back again to the Crib Cave. He hung up several more lamps, and made a place under the shed before the door for the little she-ass, which came joyfully hurrying from the fields to meet them.

When Mary told Joseph that her time was draw­ing near and that he should now betake himself to prayer, he left her and turned toward his sleeping place to do her bidding. Before entering his little recess, he looked back once toward that part of the cave where Mary knelt upon her couch in prayer, her back to him, her face toward the east. He saw the cave filled with the light that streamed from Mary, for she was entirely enveloped as if by flames. It was as if he were, like Moses, looking into the burning bush. He sank prostrate to the ground in prayer, and looked not back again. The glory around Mary became brighter and brighter, the lamps that Joseph had lit were no longer to be seen. Mary knelt, her flowing white robe spread out before her. At the twelfth hour, her prayer became ecstatic, and I saw her raised so far above the ground that one could see it beneath her. Her hands were crossed upon her breast, and the light around her grew even more resplendent. I no longer saw the roof of the cave. Above Mary stretched a pathway of light up to Heaven, in which pathway it seemed as if one light came forth from another, as if one figure dissolved into another, and from these different spheres of light other heavenly figures issued. Mary continued in prayer, her eyes bent low upon the ground. At that moment she gave birth to the Infant Jesus. I saw Him like a tiny, shining Child, lying on the rug at her knees, and brighter far than all the other bril­liancy. He seemed to grow before my eyes. But daz­zled by the glittering and flashing of light, I know not whether I really saw that, or how I saw it. Even inanimate nature seemed stirred. The stones of the rocky floor and the walls of the cave were glimmer­ing and sparkling, as if instinct with life.

Mary's ecstasy lasted some moments longer. Then I saw her spread a cover over the Child, but she did not yet take It up, nor even touch It. After a long time, I saw the Child stirring and heard It crying, and then only did Mary seem to recover full con­sciousness. She lifted the Child, along with the cover that she had thrown over It, to her breast and sat veiled, herself and Child quite enveloped. I think she was suckling It. I saw angels around her in human form prostrate on their faces. It may, perhaps, have been an hour after the birth when Mary called St. Joseph, who still lay prostrate in prayer. When he approached, he fell on his knees, his face to the ground, in a transport of joy, devotion, and humility. Mary again urged him to look upon the Sacred Gift from Heaven, and then did Joseph take the Child into his arms. And now the Blessed Virgin swathed the Child in red and over that in a white veil up as far as under the little arms, and the upper part of the body from the armpits to the head, she wrapped up in another piece of linen. She had only four swaddling cloths with her. She laid the Child in the Crib, which had been filled with rushes and fine moss over which was spread a cover that hung down at the sides. The Crib stood over the stone trough, and at this spot the ground stretched straight and level as far as the pas­sage, where it made a broader flexure towards south. The floor of this part of the cave lay some­what deeper than where the Child was born, and down to it steps had been formed in the earth. When Mary laid the Child in the Crib, both she and Joseph stood by It in tears, singing the praises of God.

Ultimately, as far as Catholics go, one can believe one way or another on this subject matter. As the Church has not pronounced definitely on this subject!

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  • The account of the midwife in Gospel of James was one reason Jerome rejected that Gospel as contradictory to scripture. By doing this, he also rejected the "previously married with children" account of old Joseph as the explanation for scripture's brothers of Jesus. Jerome then invented the cousin theory to explain the brothers. He was on the horns of a dilemma and not very skillfully or convincingly got off. He should have stuck to scripture. No midwife, no perpetual virginity of Mary and Joseph, the brothers/sisters of Jesus had the same mother, but different fathers. – SLM Dec 28 '20 at 18:03
  • Dear SLM, my question is clear and loud. You have chosen to be louder to be heard ! Please be Christian enough to frame separate question(s) in case you want to introduce the Forum to new points of argument. – Kadalikatt Joseph Sibichan Dec 29 '20 at 4:43
  • @sibichan, could you elaborate on "please be christian enough". Plus this is not a forum. Peace :) – naveen Dec 29 '20 at 7:55
  • Wasn't the "Gospel of James" condemned by Pope Innocent I and also rejected by the Catholic Church in the Gelasian Decree (not only rejected but to be avoided by Catholics and permanent Anathema pronounced upon the authors and followers) and yet it is often reached into for various points of Mariology? – Mike Borden Dec 29 '20 at 12:55
  • @MikeBorden The Gospel of James is treated as being not Divinely Inspired by the Church. That does not mean it may or may not contain certain truths within it. For the Church, it is rejected and is not considered an authentic biblical text. The Church gets the names of Mary’s parents from this very works! The Orthodox do the same! Never heard of any anathema pronounced against the text itself. – Ken Graham Dec 29 '20 at 15:24
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No, according to St. Jerome, Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary: Against Helvidius c. 4:

There was no obstetrician there, there were no sedulous women attendants. … She "wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger." [Lk. 2:7]”


Nulla ibi obstetrix, nulla muliercularum sedulitas intercessit.… Pannis, inquit, involvit infantem et posuit in præsepio.

Translation from:

  • Pohle, Mariology pt. 2, ch. 1, §3, Theses II, (c) "It is a certain theological conclusion that the Blessed Virgin was spared the throes of child-birth."
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  • You got it. As I mentioned in the comments above, Jerome rejected the Gospel of James (GoJ) precisely for this reason (scripture Mary wrapped the baby, but GoJ midwife wrapped the baby). But then, Jerome had to explain the source of the brothers of Jesus. GoJ the brothers were sons from Joseph's previous marriage. Jerome the brothers are actually cousins. For those who believe in a natural birth, the brothers have the same mother, but different father (scripture). – SLM Apr 21 at 18:55
  • @SLM St. Joseph was a perpetual virgin; St. Jerome's arguments for that don't depend on his views of the virgin birth. The "Gospel of James" isn't canonical. – Geremia Apr 21 at 19:31
  • True enough. Jerome was aghast at the idea Joseph wasn't also an ever-virgin. So again, he/Catholic Church rejected the Gospel of James' idea that taught otherwise to explain Jesus' brothers, but Jerome had to determine an answer about Jesus' brothers; they were cousins he said. – SLM Apr 22 at 14:44

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