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Chapter 12. Mary: The Church’s First and Most Perfect Member • 143

Lourdes, France, and the three children, Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia, of

Fatima, Portugal. These visionaries loved the Virgin Mary. Their lives of faith

and the gift of God’s graces have drawn millions closer to Christ. Jacinta

and Francisco were beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 13, 2000. Lucia,

a nun in Coimbra, Portugal, attended the ceremony.


The Second Vatican Council reminds us that Mary is a member of the

Church who “occupies a place in the Church which is the highest after

Christ and also closest to us” (LG, no. 54). She is the first and the great-

est of all the disciples of Christ.

When the Gospel of St. Luke (1:26-38) narrates God’s call to Mary,

the Virgin of Nazareth, to be the Mother of the Savior, his Son, from all

eternity, she consents to this call with profound faith and trust. Thus, she

“gave to the world the Life that renews all things, and who was enriched

by God with gifts appropriate to such a role” (LG, no. 56).


An essential part of God’s plan for the mother of his Son was that she

be conceived free from Original Sin. “Through the centuries the Church

became ever more aware that Mary, ‘full of grace’ through God, was

redeemed from the moment of her conception” (CCC, no. 491).

In anticipation that she was to bear the Son of God, Mary was pre-

served from the time of her conception from Original Sin.We call this the

Immaculate Conception. No sin would touch her, so that she would be a

fitting and worthy vessel of the Son of God. The Immaculate Conception

does not refer to the virginal conception and birth of Christ, but rather

to Mary’s being conceived without inheriting Original Sin.

In the course of time, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception

became more precisely enunciated, as its truth—long supported by the

universal popular devotion of the faithful—was better understood by