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Catechism of The Catholic Church

Sisters of Mary (a new order)

Devotion to the Two Hearts of Jesus and Mary:



Definitions of some Catholic terms/prayers:

What is a Chaplet?

The Origin Purpose, and Power of The Rosary

The Use of Beads in Prayer

What is an "indulgence"?

Why is Mary called "The Immaculate Conception"?

I want to read more about Mother Mary

More about Mary:

What is a Chaplet?

chaplet [chæplit] noun
1) an ornamental wreath of flowers, beads, etc., worn on the head

2) a string of beads or something similar

3) (Roman Catholic Church):

A) 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; astragal

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The Origin, Purpose, and Power of The Rosary (from Fatima Family.org)

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 Rosaries.

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 Rosary.”

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 a month.

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 never monotonous.

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 the Rosary
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 the Rosary.’”

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. (See catalog). 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 the MARIAN 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.

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The use of prayer beads when praying: From The New Advent

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 or repetitions.

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 native Peruvians.

JOHN R. VOLE From The New Advent
Transcribed by Janet Grayson

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What is 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."[81]
"An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin."[82] 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.[83]

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 man."[84]

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The Immaculate Conception

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’ Objections

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 are forgiven.”
– St. Augustine

The gate of Heaven will be open to all who confide in devotion to Mary.”
– St. Bonaventure

Peace be with you.

Sister Juliemarie
of the Sisters of Embracement

© 2016 Sisters of Embracement - All Rights Reserved