Saints of the Day – Mary Salome

Saint Mary SalomeArticle

1st century. Like the Jewish greeting “Shalom” and the Arab “Salaam,” Salome is based on an Aramaic word meaning health and peace. It would be hard to think of a more fitting name for a mother.

It is quite probable that Salome was the sister of the Blessed Virgin, and it is certain that she was the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James the Greater and John the Evangelist (Matthew 20:20; 27:56). In the Gospel of Saint Matthew (20:20ff) it is written: “Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Him with her sons and did Him homage, wishing to ask Him for something. He said to her, ‘What do you wish?’ She answered Him, ‘Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at Your right and the other at Your left, in Your kingdom.'”

In other words this cautious and anxious mother, as proud as she was worried about the dangerous devotion of her two sons to the person and word of Jesus, was trying to get them places of honor in a kingdom which she, better than most, knew was not of this world. To many people her request will doubtless seem to be presumptuous and impertinent, but Saint Ambrose has written: “She may be largely pardoned, because of her maternal love. If there was an error, it was the error of her heart, the heart of a mother who could not wait. Though she had the right to expect support and comfort from her sons, she accepted their leaving her, for she hoped that they would be rewarded. Before judging her, remember that she was a mother.”

The Gospel continues: “Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They said to Him, ‘We can.’ He replied, ‘My cup you will indeed drink, but to sit at My right and at My left is not Mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.'”

In other words Jesus is saying: “Don’t ask too much from Me. You will take part in My Passion, but don’t think about the reward. Serve mankind and suffer for mankind, but do so out of love, not for the sake of gain.” Surely in this gentle and noble reply there is not the slightest trace of mockery or severity towards Salome. Only those who create God in their own image could suppose that Jesus would not be understanding to the anxieties of a mother.

Salome was one of the women who followed Jesus and served him (Mark 15:41), witnessed His Crucifixion and death at Calvary (Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40), and who brought spices to embalm him on Easter morning (Mark 16:1ff) (Delaney, Encyclopedia).

In art, Mary Salome is shown with her two sainted children (James and John) in her arms. Occasionally Mary Salome is present at the Nativity because there is a legend that the doubting Salome was a midwife, who came, unbelieving, to the stable at Bethlehem and was converted (cf. Jameson, Legends of the Madonna). Sometimes Mary Salome together with Mary Cleophas support the Virgin at the Crucifixion or they are present with Mary Magdalene at the Resurrection (Roeder).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 5 August 2020. Web. 24 November 2020. <>