According to Catholicism:

  1. When Mary delivered Jesus from her womb, she labored without pain; see Catholic Answers articles Was Mary Free from Labor Pain? and Evidence for Mary's Painless Childbirth.
  2. Mary is the Queen of Heaven according to Rev 12:1-6; see Catholic Answers article Is Mary the Woman in Revelation 12.

Then how do Catholics explain Rev 12:1-6 which clearly refers to the birth of Jesus with the usual labor pain:

1 Then I witnessed in heaven an event of great significance. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant, and she cried out because of her labor pains and the agony of giving birth. ... 5 She gave birth to a son who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her child was snatched away from the dragon and was caught up to God and to his throne. 6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where God had prepared a place to care for her for 1,260 days.

  • 2
    In an article, 'Mariology' by Michael Schmaus in a Catholic Encyclopedia of Theology, he admits p.896 that's it's "difficult to say whether Mary is meant by the woman of Rev." He says she probably stands primarily for Israel and then for the Church itself. No doubt saying she flees into the wilderness, the dragon making war with the remnant of her seed, is problematic if literal meaning is taken. She has more 'seed' than one male child! He also admits that the 3rd C. doctrine of birth without pangs cannot be regarded as dogma (p.898). Hence a symbolic view?
    – Anne
    Feb 17, 2023 at 18:06

3 Answers 3


How do Catholics explain the apparent inconsistency between Mary's not experiencing labor pain and Rev 12:1-6?

True we believe that Mary gave birth to Jesus without labour pains, but under the cross Mary "gave birth to us all: She gave birth to the Church". It is in this sense that we should see and understand Revelation 12:1-6.

12 And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars:

2 And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.

3 And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems:

4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son.

5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod: and her son was taken up to God, and to his throne.

6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, that there they should feed her a thousand two hundred sixty days.

We must also remember that Revelation is a book of about the visions of St. John and as such they are not so easily understood until the veil of this world has been lifted. Visions and prophecies are often not understood until the times of their fulfillment has come to pass.

Bishop Arthur Joseph Serratelli explains that the ultimate fiat of Mary was at the Cross, when her Son died for our salvation and establishing His Church with the Mary as it’s Mother (Mater Eclessia).

“Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother.” (John 19:25). All the gospels mention that there are women at the crucifixion: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and Salome, the mother of James and John (cf Mt 27:55: Mk 15:40; Lk 23:49). These women had followed Jesus in his public ministry and had assisted him from their own means. The men flee. But the women remain with Jesus to the end. Love is the soul of fidelity. Loyalty endures the test of suffering.

The fourth evangelist does not place the personal names of either Mary or John on the lips of the crucified Jesus. The evangelist knows the names as well as he knows his own. But he never uses them in his gospel. Rather, he uses titles. He wants us to see these individuals in their role for the entire Church, not in their personal relationships.

“Son, behold your mother.” Jesus first entrusts the beloved disciple to Mary. Mary is to care for the disciple. Clearly, Jesus is not making provision for the earthly care of his mother after his death. To the beloved, Jesus gifts his own mother. He is not renouncing the bond that binds him to Mary. He is elevating and expanding it. The beloved disciple is every true believer. Mary’s motherhood is universal. We are all placed in her care.

The Cross is the “hour” of redemption. It is the moment when God’s plan for our salvation is accomplished. According to that plan, every disciple is now bound to Mary in the order of grace. She is our mother, not just for a time, but for all eternity. In the birth pangs of Golgotha, the Church is born. And, at the center, there beats the heart of a mother. - Mary at the Cross

Mary’s birth pains here refer to the pains of birth as Mary endured at the foot of the Cross as the nascent Church was about to be born.

Under the cross Mary " gave birth to us all: She gave birth to the Church". It is the "mystery" associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary illustrated in today’s Gospel on the day of her liturgical feast and the focus of Pope Francis’s homily at Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

We need to contemplate the Mother of Jesus, said the Pope, we need to contemplate “this sign of contradiction, because Jesus is victorious, but upon the Cross”. This is a contradiction, he said, that we can’t understand. “It takes faith to understand it, at least to come close (to understanding) this mystery.

Mary knew and lived her whole life with a pierced heart. “She followed Jesus and heard the people’s comments, sometimes for Him, sometimes against. But she was always right behind her Son. That’s why we call her the first disciple”. It was Mary’s concern, continued Pope Francis, that brought about this “sign of contradiction” in her heart.

She was there at the end, in silence, at the foot of the Cross, watching her Son. Perhaps she heard comments like: “Look, there’s the Mother of one of the three criminals”. But, said the Pope, she “showed her face for her Son”.

Pope: Under the Cross Mary "gave birth to us all: She gave birth to the Church"

It is equally obvious that this text is pertaining to some future event as 1,260 may be the final persecution of that Church which is yet to come!

What is the prophecy of 1,260 days in Revelation?

The 1,260-day prophecy is found in two passages in Revelation. First, Revelation 11:2–3 says,

“[The Gentiles] will trample on the holy city for 42 months. And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”

Then, as part of a symbolic vision, Revelation 12:6 says,

“The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.”

The time period covered, 1,260 days, figures to 42 months, or 3 1/2 years. We believe this prophecy has not yet been fulfilled but will be during the end-times tribulation. The 42 months refers to the reign of the Antichrist, specifically, the last half (3 1/2 years) of the seven-year tribulation. At the beginning of that time, the Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel and set up “the abomination that causes desolation” (Mark 13:14; cf. Daniel 9:27)—an act that links the Antichrist to Antiochus Epiphanes, who similarly defiled the temple. The Antichrist will then turn his attention to the genocide of the Jews. During the persecution, Israel (the woman of Revelation 12) will be protected by God in the wilderness. Also during that troubled time, God will send two witnesses to perform miracles and proclaim the truth of Christ in the face of the Antichrist’s lies (Revelation 11:5–6).

The detailed prophecies contained in God’s Word are part of what makes the Bible unique among religious texts. Our God can “make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come” (Isaiah 46:10), and He has revealed significant events in the future, counting out the very days of those periods of time.

To finish this already long post, I would like to mention when Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Assumption of Mary as a Catholic dogma, he also instituted a new mass for the Feast of the Assumption. The mass Gaudemus became the mass Signum Magnum.

The great sign which the Apostle John saw in heaven, "a woman clothed with the sun," is interpreted by the sacred Liturgy, not without foundation, as referring to the most blessed Mary, the mother of all men by the grace of Christ the Redeemer. - Signum Magnum

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From one of your links, Catholics attempt to redefine/reinterpret birth pangs.

But these “birth pangs” could refer to Mary’s trials before the birth of Jesus, the pain she felt at the Cross, during which she became a spiritual mother to John (and by extension all believers), and the pain experienced by the people of God both before the Messiah’s birth and after his resurrection during Roman persecution. -see Catholic Answers link from OP-

They see Rev 12:1-6 as symbolic, as referring to this as both/and, not either/or.

The birth pangs may also relate to Israel's history from Abraham (the promise) to Mary (mother of the promise).

Paul uses the same figurative wording, especially considering his gender, in Gal 4:19.

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,

So, lots of alternate renderings than the plain reading.

  • 1
    I don't see how that's redefining "birth pangs"
    – eques
    Feb 16, 2023 at 22:26
  • Mary's trials before the birth of Christ, the pain she felt at the cross as she became spiritual mother to the church, the pain of Israel through the years with Mary as the symbol. Pretty clear, unless one is camping on literal birth pangs suffered only at a baby's birth by the mother.
    – SLM
    Feb 17, 2023 at 14:17
  • That's not redefining birth pangs. That's interpreting one account metaphorical/allegorical and one as literal.
    – eques
    Feb 17, 2023 at 14:29

As Novus Ordo Watch recently reported, Pope Francis does not believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary had no labour pains.

I wish you above all serenity: serenity for each of you and your families. Serenity does not mean that all is well, that there are no problems, difficulties, no, it does not mean that. The Holy Family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary shows us this. We can imagine, when they arrived in Bethlehem, Our Lady was beginning to feel the pains [la Madonna cominciava a sentire i dolori], Joseph did not know where to go, he knocked on so many doors, but there was no place… Yet in the heart of Mary and Joseph there was an underlying serenity, which came from God, came from knowing that they were in His will, that they were seeking it together, in prayer and mutual love.

Pope Francis, Christmas Address to Vatican Employees, Vatican.va, Dec. 22, 2022; translation by DeepL.com )

It is clear from the context that he is referring to labour pains:

"when they arrived in Bethlehem, Our Lady was beginning to feel the pains"

  1. He uses the definite article "i" to refer to some particular pains and not just any pains.

  2. The pains he references begin close to birth.

  3. They begin close to birth, so it is implied they continue until birth.

Since Peter Turner keeps hijacking my answers I must add that I do not endorse in any way the view of "Pope" Francis, otherwise I would be guilty of promoting heresy.

For my actual answer you can view the revision history.

  • 1
    You clearly know a lot about Catholicism, I'm not trying to badger you and this seemingly relevant information (albeit you're obviously using something Pope Francis said to show nothing in particular in relation to actual Church Tradition and sow doubt about his papacy). The things the pope says frustrate me too, but this is not a forum for people to vent their frustrations about him or the Catholic church, answers here should be encyclopedic in nature.
    – Peter Turner
    Feb 18, 2023 at 22:22
  • 1
    I'm not venting. I'm trying to write a useful answer that helps people understand Catholicism as a whole, however, after your edit my answer lost the crucial explanation why this is relevant to the question - it showed that there are two paradigms that call themselves Catholic: one requires you to believe Mary had no labour pains while the other can't coherently demand as much. The latter automatically explains the "inconsistency" while other answers gave the answer Catholics would give. I understand this answer is not direct but more nuanced but I know such answers are accepted here.
    – Glorius
    Feb 19, 2023 at 11:30
  • Is it Dogma that Mary had no labour pains? If it isn't, then wouldn't it not be heretical to reject that idea?
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 25, 2023 at 22:36
  • @curiousdannii It's more properly called a dogmatic fact since it directly follows from a dogma. Since labour pains are a consequence of original sin, asserting Mary had labour pains is to deny the Immaculate Conception. Saints frequently call statements heretical which do not contradict de fide propositions. See for example the condemnation of Galileo which calls heliocentrism formally heretical. St. Robert Bellarmine explains that to contradict any fact contained in Scripture such as that there were 12 tribes of Israel, is heretical.
    – Glorius
    Feb 26, 2023 at 10:30
  • @Glorius Many translations say that Eve's labour pains would be increased, implying they would have been somewhat present without sin. In any case Jesus also experienced the consequences of living in a sinful world without having any sin himself.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 26, 2023 at 10:42

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