Q. We celebrate the Assumption of Our Lady this week (August 15). When she was assumed body and soul into heaven, had she died first, or was she spared death?
A. The dogma of the Assumption was infallibly defined in 1950 by Pope Pius XII. It teaches that “having completed the course of her earthly life, [Mary] was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (Munificentissimus Deus, 44). The words “having completed the course of her earthly life” carefully avoid a dogmatic statement about whether or not she died before she was assumed.
Catholic belief has long varied on this point: Some believe that she died, some that she didn’t, and some that she died and was resurrected on the third day afterward before she was assumed. The near-universal consensus among theologians, however, has been that she did in fact die.