of Mary (a new order)
Devotion to the Two Hearts of Jesus
of some Catholic terms/prayers:
is a Chaplet?
1) an ornamental wreath of flowers, beads, etc., worn on the head
2) a string of beads or something similar
3) (Roman Catholic Church):
string of prayer beads constituting part of the rosary
B) the prayers counted on this string
C) Beads other than the Rosary, that various devotions are prayed
4) a narrow convex moulding in the form of a string of beads;
Origin, Purpose, and Power of The Rosary (from Fatima
You have invoked me by various
titles and have always obtained favor from me. Now, since you have
called me by that title so pleasing to me, ‘Queen of the Holy
Rosary,’ I can no longer refuse the favor that you ask: for
this name is most precious and dear to me. ....”
These words were spoken by
Our Blessed Mother in 1884 in an approved apparition of Our Lady
which occurred in Naples. It was in the house of Commander Agrelli
where Our Heavenly Mother deigned to make known the manner in which
she loves to be invoked. For 13 months Fortuna Agrelli, the daughter
of the Commander, had endured dreadful sufferings and tortuous cramps.
She had been given up by the most celebrated physicians. On Feb.
16, 1884, the afflicted girl and her relatives began a novena of
The Queen of the Holy Rosary
favored Fortuna with an apparition on March 3rd. Mary, sitting upon
a high throne, surrounded by luminous figures, held the divine Child
on her lap, and in her hand a Rosary. The Virgin Mother and the
Holy Infant were clad in gold-embroidered garments. They were accompanied
by St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Sienna.
Mary looked upon the sufferer
with maternal tenderness. The patient saluted her with the words:
“Queen of the Holy Rosary, be gracious to me; restore me to
health.” It was on this occasion that the Mother of God made
known the manner in which she loves to be invoked, and the title
she holds as precious and dear to her: “Queen of the Holy
At Fatima, each time Our Lady
appeared in 1917 she said, “Pray the Rosary every day.”
She promised to give her name in October when she would perform
a miracle so that all may believe. And when she performed the miracle
of the spinning of the sun - a miracle foretold months in advance
as to the exact hour and day - it was witnessed by upwards to 100,000
people. Our Lady then gave us her name. She said, “I am the
Lady of the Rosary. Continue to say the Rosary every day.
The heavy rains had fallen
through the night and the morning until noon, true sun time. I have
met more than one person who was there that day and hour, and witnessed
the rain stopping instantly. The clouds then rolled back in a matter
of seconds. Besides the miracle of the sun - there was the miracle
of complete dryness to everything when the spinning of the sun and
its descent in three phases were concluded. All took about ten minutes.
This miracle was “so that all may believe” and respond
to Our Mother’s request to pray the Rosary daily and properly.
When Lucia remembered to ask requests that people had asked her
to make of Our Lady, the beautiful Lady from heaven would say “they
must first amend their lives,” or, “It is necessary
for those persons to say the Rosary in order to obtain the graces
during the year.”
Origin of the Rosary
Let us review the origin of how the Rosary came about.
The origin of the Rosary is most interesting. From its early days
the Church urged its faithful to recite the 150 Psalms of David
from the Bible. This custom still prevails today. Priests and consecrated
religious are obliged to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office)
each day which consists in a large measure of the Psalms of David.
In former days, before the printing press, it
was not easy for anyone to memorize the 150 Psalms and hand inscribed
scrolls of Scripture were a rarity. The people who could not learn
the 150 Psalms by heart, wanted to do something to make up for it.
So they substituted 150 “Hail Mary’s.” They broke
up these 150 Hail Mary’s into 15 decades, or series of ten.
Each 10 Hail Mary’s were said while meditating on different
aspects of the life of Our divine Lord. We call them the mysteries.
To keep each decade separate, each series of 10
began with the “Our Father” and ended with the doxology
or the “Glory Be” in praise to the Blessed Trinity.
They would meditate on some mystery of Jesus Christ for the length
of time it took to say 10 Hail Marys, transporting little stones
or beads from one pocket or hand to the other.
St. Dominic, who died in 1221, received from Our
Blessed Mother the command to preach and to popularize the Rosary
for the good of souls, conquest over evil, and the prosperity of
Holy Mother Church. Thus as early as the 13th century, the Rosary
was given its present classical form, bound together by string or
wire. But the roots of the Rosary is traced to the Bible and practices
of the early Christians. Popes have called it a Gospel prayer. It
has been referred to as “an illustrated prayer book one can
read in the dark.” It is called, “a pocket edition of
the New Testament.”
At Fatima the Mother of God insisted that the
Rosary be prayed properly. That means - meditating on the Mysteries
of the Rosary, the principle events of the life of Jesus Christ,
the chief events of our redemption while praying the Hail Marys.
The Rosary properly prayed is centered on Jesus Christ.
In praying the Holy Rosary, the whole man is employed.
The Rosary invites our fingers, our lips, our heart. The body as
well as the soul is employed. Pope Benedict XV said that when we
have meditated on the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries of
the Rosary - we have meditated on all the chief events of our salvation.
I have found that those who find it difficult
to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary, while praying the Hail
Marys, are helped much by the simple method of forming an image
of each mystery in one’s mind before beginning each decade.
The Rosary Leads to
the Holy Eucharist
Some may ask why in the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima the Rosary
played such a prominent part. Is not the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
more important? Is not the Mass and the Sacraments, Our Lord’s
Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity and the need for Confession, most
important for our times?
Well, the fact is - the Mass and the Sacraments
are central to the Fatima message when understood in depth. The
message of Fatima begins and ends with the Holy Eucharist. Back
in 1974, I asked the Bishop of Fatima to summarize for me the message
of Fatima. He said, “Fatima is reparation, reparation, reparation,
and especially Eucharistic reparation.” In asking for First
Saturdays - our Lady asked that Confession be no less than once
Holy Mass is the perpetuation of the Sacrifice
of the Cross, the source of our salvation, the very center of all
divine worship, the very source of grace from which will come the
renewal of the world in Christ.
Mary, as Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Mother of the Savior, and the
Mediatrix of all graces, has no more ardent desire than to lead
us to a fuller appreciation of the Mysteries of our Redemption,
to a more abundant participation in the life-giving grace of the
Mass and the Sacraments.
If Mary attaches so much importance to the proper
praying of the Rosary - the reason can only be - that the Rosary
is the most practical way to bring about the happy results of fruitful
participation in the Mass and the Sacraments. The Rosary will lead
us to the Altar of Sacrifice, to the Holy Mass and Holy Communion,
to a more intimate union with Jesus and a profound grasp of the
spirit of the Church. Who can meditate on the passion and death
of Jesus in the sorrowful mysteries without the desire for forgiveness
in the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
Pope Paul VI in his beautiful Marian document,
Marialis Cultus, in writing on the meditation on the mysteries of
the Rosary spoke of the meditation as the Soul of the Rosary. The
Body of the Rosary would be composed of the litany like prayers
of the Hail Marys and Our Fathers. Each decade concludes with giving
glory to the Holy Trinity. To attempt to pray the Rosary only by
saying the Hail Marys and the Our Fathers, Paul VI wrote, would
be “like a dead corpse without its soul.” Those who
see the Rosary only as a repetitious prayer that is monotonous,
do not know how to pray the Rosary properly. The Bible condemns
not repetition in prayer but “vain” repetition. “I
love you” when expressed from the heart even repeatedly is
The first part of the Hail Mary prayer is from
the Bible, thus under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; its second
part is composed by the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit. When,
the litany like prayers are enlivened by the Soul of the Rosary
- a power of the Spirit is released upon souls who pray it and for
whom they pray. Mary, most favorite Daughter of God the Father,
Mother of the Son, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, is being praised and
invoked. The mysteries of the life of Christ thus meditated in union
with the Mother of the Church is the Mother of God are giving power
and life to the soul which prayerfully meditates.
All things can be obtained by praying the Rosary
properly. It is a Gospel prayer. It is centered on Jesus Christ
with whom Mary is inseparable.
The daily devout praying of the Rosary in the
proper way - meditating on its mysteries - will bring one to desire
intensely the Holy Eucharist.
Small Children and
Introduce the daily Rosary into your family if it is not there already.
Little children should not be compelled to join you by kneeling
upright. Let them want to imitate you. Let the little ones crawl
over you - as you pray, run in an out - if they will. In due time
they will want to be part of what you do and what they see is important
in your lives.
In praying with your family or a group state the
name of the Mystery for each decade - and perhaps a sentence or
two as to its meaning - but never separate the prayers of the Rosary
from the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious mysteries which lead to Jesus
Christ. The short meditation will enable them to form an image of
the mystery in their minds as they pray the 10 Hail Marys.
The Fatima Family Apostolate has a book titled:
“Illustrated Rosary Meditations for Children” which
sells for $4.
(See catalog). There are full page art drawings for each of
the 15 mysteries of the Rosary. On the opposite page to each art
drawing are two sets of meditations for children. (Adults appreciate
the meditations as well). The book, spiral bound, can be opened
and the mystery being meditated can be displayed as represented
by one of the 15 art drawings.
Our inspiration for producing this book, as part
of Mary’s White League, was the appearance of Our Lady in
the Church of St. Anthony at Fatima to seven year old Jacinta. There
she taught the little shepherd girl how to meditate on the mysteries
of the Rosary by showing little Jacinta 15 tableaus - pictures of
the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries. Over the main altar
is a painting of Our Lady and Jacinta in this regard. Thus Mary
taught her to form images of the mysteries in her mind as one prays
the Hail Mary’s.
Rosary Will Supply
All Our Needs
Seven year old Jacinta of Fatima was so impressed with the Immaculate
Heart of Mary, what devotion to her Heart meant and Mary’s
request each time she appeared for people to pray the Rosary every
day - that the little girl influenced her family to take up the
practice of the daily Rosary. Nine year old Francisco of Fatima
did not see the Mother of God when she first appeared May 13, 1917.
Only Jacinta, seven, and Lucia, ten years old, saw her. Francisco
told Lucia to tell the Lady that he wanted to see her too. When
Lucia did, “the beautiful Lady from heaven” replied:
“Tell him to say the Rosary and he will see me.”
Francisco immediately took out his Rosary. He
had said but five or six Hail Marys on his beads when Mary appeared
to him. Father Messias Coelho, a scholar on Fatima, interprets this
to mean, “All things can be obtained through praying the Rosary.”
When Our Lady said that Francisco would also go to heaven but first
he must say many rosaries, thereafter the nine year old boy was
seen frequently praying the Rosary.
Pope John Paul II has called the Rosary “my
favorite prayer.” His Holiness says that he prays the Rosary
when he has important decisions to make.
When Padre Pio, who said many rosaries each day,
was beatified May 2, 1999 Pope John Paul II said: “The new
blessed never tired of teaching the faithful a tender and profound
devotion to Our Lady that was rooted in the Church’s authentic
tradition. In the privacy of the confessional, as in his preaching,
he continually urged the faithful: love Our Lady! At the end of
his earthly life, when the time came to express his last wishes,
he turned his thoughts, as he had done throughout his life, to Blessed
Mary: ‘Love Our Lady and help others to love her. Always recite
If anyone has need to understand how to meditate
on the divine mysteries of Christ in praying the Rosary, you are
urged to obtain the MARIAN MANUAL of the Fatima Family Apostolate.
There you will find 90 different meditations on the Joyful, Sorrowful
and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. These meditations are extensive
and are scripturally based. You may desire to use these meditations
as given, in whole or in part, as you pray the Rosary. In using
MANUAL to meditate the mysteries of Christ you will discover
how the Popes can call the Rosary a “Gospel Prayer.”
There is power in the Rosary. The power flows
from the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God
for a soul which is in union with her, who is the Spouse of the
Holy Spirit. Such a soul thus unites with Jesus through Mary. The
human nature of Jesus, whose Person is divine, is the Way to the
Father. God cannot but bless abundantly and shower down manifold
favors on all who honor His Mother, while meditating on the mysteries
of the life of Jesus Christ.
While the Rosary in itself is not Liturgy, those
who pray the Rosary properly will thus be led to a more devout participation
in the divine mysteries of the sacred liturgy. The liturgical year
will become ever more meaningful to them. They have already frequently
meditated in union with Mary - while praying the Rosary - the chief
mysteries of our redemption as celebrated during the Church Year.
The Church unfolds for us the events of salvation-history
each year. The divine liturgy of the Church, through the Mass and
the Sacraments, introduces us to Advent, Christmas, Lent with its
Solemn Holy Week, and then the Easter Season when we celebrate His
Resurrection. Finally there is ordinary time when the life of Jesus
and His teachings and that of the early Church are laid out for
us. The devout praying and meditations of the Rosary thus lead us
to a more spiritually fruitful participation in the divine liturgy
with all its power and presence of the Lord. The Rosary enables
us to enter into the mysteries of the life of Jesus Christ in union
with His Mother.
The use of prayer
beads when praying: From The
Beads variously strung together,
according to the kind, order, and number of prayers in certain forms
of devotion, are in common use among Catholics as an expedient to
ensure a right count of the parts occurring in more or less frequent
repetition. Made of materials ranging from common wood or natural
berries to costly metals a precious stones, they may be blessed,
as they are in most cases, with prayer and holy water, thereby becoming
sacramentals. In this character they are prescribed by the rules
of most religious orders, both of men and women, to be kept for
personal use or to be worn as part of the religious garb. They are
now mostly found in the form of the Dominican Rosary, or Marian
Psalter; but Catholics are also familiar with the Brigittine beads,
the Dolour beads, the Immaculate Conception beads, the Crown of
Our Saviour, the Chaplet of the Five Wounds, the Crosier beads,
and others. In all these devotions, due to individual zeal or fostered
by particular religious bodies, the beads serve one and the same
purpose of distinguishing and numbering the constituent prayers.
Rationalistic criticism generally ascribes
an Oriental origin to prayer beads; but man's natural tendency
to iteration, especially of prayers, and the spirit and training
of the early Christians may still safely be assumed to have spontaneously
suggested fingers, pebbles, knotted cords, and strings of beads
or berries as a means of counting, when it was desired to say a
specific number of prayers. The earliest historical indications
of the use of beads at prayer by Christians show, in this as in
other things, a natural growth and development. Beads strung together
or ranged on chains are an obvious improvement over the well-known
primitive method instanced, for example, in the life of the Egyptian
Abbot Paul (d. A. D. 341), who used to take three hundred pebbles
into his lap as counters and to drop one as he finished each of
the corresponding number of prayers it was his wont to say daily.
In the eighth century the penitentials, or rule books pertaining
to penitents, prescribed various penances of twenty, fifty, or more,
paters. The strings of beads, with the aid of which such penances
were accurately said, gradually came to be known as paternosters.
Archaeological records mention fragments of prayer beads found in
the tomb of the holy abbess Gertrude of Nivelles (d. 659); also
similar devices discovered in the tombs of St. Norbert and of St.
Rosalia, both of the twelfth century. The Bollandists quote William
of Malmesbury (De Gest. Pont. Angl., IV, 4) as stating that the
Countess Godiva, who founded a religious house at Coventry in 1040,
donated, when she was about to die, a circlet or string of costly
precious stones on which she used to say her prayers, to be placed
on a statue of the Blessed Virgin. In the course of the eleventh,
twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, such paternosters came into extensive
use especially in the religious orders. At certain times corresponding
to the canonical hours, lay brothers and lay sisters were obliged
to say a certain number of Our Fathers as an equivalent of the clerical
obligation of the Divine Office. The military orders, likewise,
notably the Knights of St. John, adopted the paternoster beads as
a part of the equipment of lay members. In the fifteenth century,
wearing the beads at one's girdle was a distinctive sign of membership
in a religious confraternity or third order. If a certain worldliness
in the use of beads as ornaments in those days had to be checked,
as it was by various capitulary ordinances prohibiting monks and
friars, for instance, from having beads of coral, crystal, amber,
etc., and nuns from wearing beads around the neck, evidence is not
wanting that paternosters were also openly carried as a sign of
penance, especially by bands of pilgrims processionally visiting
the shrines, churches, and other holy places at Rome. From their
purpose, too, it is natural that prayer beads were prized as gifts
of friendship. They were especially valued if they had been worn
by a person of known sanctity or if they had touched the relics
of any saint, in which cases they were often piously believed to
be the instruments of miraculous power and healing virtue.
Beads were generally strung either on a straight thread, or cord,
or so as to form a circlet, or loop. At the present time chained
beads have almost entirely taken the place of the corded ones. To
facilitate the counting or to mark off certain divisions of a devotion,
sets of beads, usually decades, are separated from each other by
a larger bead or sometimes by a medal or metal cross. The number
of beads on a chaplet, or Rosary, depends on the number of prayers
making up each particular form of devotion. A full Rosary consists
of one hundred and fifty Hail Marys, fifteen Our Fathers, and three
or four beads corresponding to introductory versicles and the "Glory
be to the Father", etc. Such a "pair of beads" is
generally worn by religious. Lay people commonly have beads representing
a third part of the Rosary. The Brigittine beads number seven paters
in honour of the sorrows and joys of the Blessed Virgin, and sixty-three
aves to commemorate the years of her life. Another Crown of Our
Lady, in use among the Franciscans, has seventy-two aves, based
on another tradition of the Blessed Virgin's age. The devotion of
the Crown of Our Lord consists of thirty-three paters in honour
of the years of Our Lord on earth and five aves in honour of His
sacred wounds. In the church Latin of the Middle Ages, many names
were applied to prayer beads as: devotiones, signacula, oracula,
precaria, patriloquium, serta, preculae, numeralia, computum, calculi,
and others. An Old English form, bedes, or bedys, meant primarily
prayers. From the end of the fifteenth century and in the beginning
of the sixteenth, the name paternoster beads fell into disuse and
was replaced by the name ave beads and Rosary, chaplet, or crown.
The use of beads among pagans is undoubtedly of greater antiquity
than their Christian use; but there is no evidence to show that
the latter is derived from the former, any more than there is to
establish a relation between Christian devotions and pagan forms
of prayer. One sect in India used a chaplet consisting generally
of one hundred and eight beads made of the wood of the sacred Tulsi
shrub, to tell the names of Vishnu; and another accomplished its
invocations of Siva by means of a string of thirty-two or sixty-four
berries of the Rudr=E2ksha tree. These or other species of seeds
or berries were chosen as the material for these chaplets on account
of some traditional association with the deities, as recorded in
sacred legends. Some of the ascetics had their beads made of the
teeth of dead bodies. Among some sects, especially the votaries
of Vishnu, a string of beads is placed on the neck of children when,
at the age of six or seven, they are about to be initiated and to
be instructed in the use of the sacred formularies. Most Hindus
continue to wear the beads both for ornament and for use at prayers.
Among the Buddhists, whose religion is of Brahminic origin, various
prayer-formulas are said or repeated with the aid of beads made
of wood, berries, coral, amber, or precious metals and stones. A
string of beads cut from the bones of some holy lama is especially
valued. The number of beads is usually one hundred and eight; but
strings of thirty or forty are in use among the poorer classes.
Buddhism in Burma, Tibet, China, and Japan alike employs a number
of more or less complicated forms of devotion, but the frequently
recurring conclusion, a form of salutation, is mostly the same,
and contains the mystic word OM, supposed to have reference to the
Buddhistic trinity. It is not uncommon to find keys and trinkets
attached to a Buddhist's prayer beads, and generally each string
is provided with two little cords of special counters, ten in number,
in the form of beads or metal disks. At the end of one of these
cords is found a miniature thunderbolt; the other terminates in
a tiny bell. With the aid of this device the devotee can count a
hundred repetitions of his beads or 108 x 10 x 10 formulas in all.
Among the Japanese, especially elaborate systems of counting exist.
One apparatus is described as capable of registering 36,736 prayers
The Moslems use a string of ninety-nine (or one hundred) beads
called the subha or tasbih, on which they recite the "beautiful"
names or attributes of Allah. It is divided into three equal parts
either by a bead or special shape or size, or by a tassel of gold
or silk thread. The use of these Islamic beads appears to have been
established as early as the ninth century independently of Buddhistic
influences. Some critics have thought the Mohammedan chaplet is
kindred to a Jewish form of one hundred blessings. The beads in
general use are said to be often made of the sacred clay of Mecca
or Medina. Among travellers; records of prayer beads is the famous
instance, by Marco Polo, of the King of Malabar, who wore a fine
silk thread strung with one hundred and four large pearls and rubies,
on which he was wont to pray to his idols. Alexander Von Humboldt
is also quoted as finding prayer beads, called Quipos, among the
JOHN R. VOLE From The
Transcribed by Janet Grayson
Back to Top
an indulgence? from
The Catechism of The Catholic Church
"An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment
due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful
Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions
through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption,
dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions
of Christ and the saints."
"An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes
either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin."
Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead.
The punishments of sin
1472 To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it
is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave
sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable
of eternal life, the privation of which is called the "eternal
punishment" of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial,
entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified
either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory.
This purification frees one from what is called the "temporal
punishment" of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived
of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as
following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds
from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the
sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.
1473 The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God
entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal
punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and
trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death,
the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of
sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity,
as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put
off completely the "old man" and to put on the "new
Back to Top
It’s important to understand what the doctrine of the Immaculate
Conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers
to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb without the intervention
of a human father; but that is the Virgin Birth. Others think the
Immaculate Conception means Mary was conceived "by the power
of the Holy Spirit," in the way Jesus was, but that, too, is
incorrect. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception
was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original
sin or its stain—that’s what "immaculate"
means: without stain. The essence of original sin consists in the
deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature.
Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from
the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying
grace and was free from the corrupt nature original sin brings.
When discussing the Immaculate Conception, an implicit reference
can be found in the angel’s greeting to Mary. The angel Gabriel
said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you" (Luke
1:28). The phrase "full of grace" is a translation of
the Greek word kecharitomene. This word represents the proper name
of the person being addressed by the angel, and it therefore expresses
a characteristic quality of Mary.
The traditional translation, "full of grace," is more
accurate than the one found in many recent versions of the New Testament,
which give something along the lines of "highly favored daughter."
Mary was indeed a highly favored daughter of God, but the Greek
implies more than that (and it never mentions the word for "daughter").
The grace given to Mary is at once permanent and of a unique kind.
Kecharitomene is a perfect passive participle of charitoo, meaning
"to fill or endow with grace." Since this term is in the
perfect tense, it indicates a perfection of grace that is both intensive
and extensive. So, the grace Mary enjoyed was not a result of the
angel’s visit, and was only as "full" or strong
or complete as possible at any given time, but it extended over
the whole of her life, from conception onward. She was in a state
of sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence to have
been called "full of grace."
Fundamentalists’ chief reason for objecting to the Immaculate
Conception and Mary’s consequent sinlessness is that we are
told that "all have sinned" (Rom. 3:23). Besides, they
say, Mary said her "spirit rejoices in God my Savior"
(Luke 1:47), and only a sinner needs a Savior.
Let’s take the second citation first. Mary, too, required
a Savior. Like all other descendants of Adam, she was subject to
the necessity of contracting original sin. But by a special intervention
of God, undertaken at the instant she was conceived, she was preserved
from the stain of original sin and its consequences. She was therefore
redeemed by the grace of Christ, but in a special way—by anticipation.
Consider an analogy: Suppose a man falls into a deep pit, and someone
reaches down to pull him out. The man has been "saved"
from the pit. Now imagine a woman walking along, and she too is
about to topple into the pit, but at the very moment that she is
to fall in, someone holds her back and prevents her. She too has
been saved from the pit, but in an even better way: She was not
simply taken out of the pit, she was prevented from getting stained
by the mud in the first place. This is the illustration Christians
have used for a thousand years to explain how Mary was saved by
Christ. By receiving Christ’s grace at her conception, she
had his grace applied to her before she was able to become mired
in original sin and its stain.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that she was "redeemed
in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son"
(CCC 492). She has more reason to call God her Savior than we do,
because he saved her in an even more glorious manner!
But what about Romans 3:23, "all have sinned"? Have all
people committed actual sins? Consider a child below the age of
reason. By definition he can’t sin, since sinning requires
the ability to reason and the ability to intend to sin. This is
indicated by Paul later in the letter to the Romans when he speaks
of the time when Jacob and Esau were unborn babies as a time when
they "had done nothing either good or bad" (Rom. 9:11).
We also know of another very prominent exception to the rule: Jesus
(Heb. 4:15). So if Paul’s statement in Romans 3 includes an
exception for the New Adam (Jesus), one may argue that an exception
for the New Eve (Mary) can also be made.
Paul’s comment seems to have one of two meanings. It might
be that it refers not to absolutely everyone, but just to the mass
of mankind (which means young children and other special cases,
like Jesus and Mary, would be excluded without having to be singled
out). If not that, then it would mean that everyone, without exception,
is subject to original sin, which is true for a young child, for
the unborn, even for Mary—but she, though due to be subject
to it, was preserved by God from it and its stain.
The objection is also raised that if Mary were without sin, she
would be equal to God. In the beginning, God created Adam, Eve,
and the angels without sin, but none were equal to God. Most of
the angels never sinned, and all souls in heaven are without sin.
This does not detract from the glory of God, but manifests it by
the work he has done in sanctifying his creation. Sinning does not
make one human. On the contrary, it is when man is without sin that
he is most fully what God intends him to be.
The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was officially defined
by Pope Pius IX in 1854. When Fundamentalists claim that the doctrine
was "invented" at this time, they misunderstand both the
history of dogmas and what prompts the Church to issue, from time
to time, definitive pronouncements regarding faith or morals. They
are under the impression that no doctrine is believed until the
pope or an ecumenical council issues a formal statement about it.
Actually, doctrines are defined formally only when there is a controversy
that needs to be cleared up or when the magisterium (the Church
in its office as teacher; cf. Matt. 28:18–20; 1 Tim. 3:15,
4:11) thinks the faithful can be helped by particular emphasis being
drawn to some already-existing belief. The definition of the Immaculate
Conception was prompted by the latter motive; it did not come about
because there were widespread doubts about the doctrine. In fact,
the Vatican was deluged with requests from people desiring the doctrine
to be officially proclaimed. Pope Pius IX, who was highly devoted
to the Blessed Virgin, hoped the definition would inspire others
in their devotion to her.
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“Whenever we say the Our Father devoutly, our venial sins
– St. Augustine
The gate of Heaven will be open to all who confide in devotion
– St. Bonaventure
Peace be with you.
of the Sisters of Embracement
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