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.
GOD’S PLAN FOR MARY
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).
“BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN”
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