The Immaculate Conception: What is It and Why Do People Have Problems with It?

10/15/2012 Comments (11)

Since folks seemed to benefit from the recent series I did on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, I decided I would follow it up with another series leading up to the next big Marian feast, the Immaculate Conception.  In order to discuss it, we need to know 1) what it is and 2) why people have difficulties with it.  In future articles we will systematically look at the answers to those objections and at the reasons the dogma is important.

What is the Immaculate Conception?

A lot of people confuse the Immaculate Conception with the Virgin Birth. The Virgin Birth refers to the birth of Jesus Christ. The Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Mary, not Jesus. It is the dogma...READ MORE

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The Witness of the Fathers and the Church to the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

10/12/2012 Comments (16)

Patristic sources who affirm that Mary’s Perpetual Virginity was taught by the Apostles include:

• the author of the Protoevangelium of James: “And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by [St. Anne], saying, ‘Anne! Anne! The Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive and shall bring forth, and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world.’ And Anne said, ‘As the Lord my God lives, if I beget either male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God, and it shall minister to him in the holy things all the days of its life.’ . . . And [from the time she was three] Mary was in the temple of the Lord as if she were a dove that dwelt there.”

“And when she was twelve...READ MORE

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The Witness of the Prophets to the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

10/08/2012 Comments (16)

Given the witness of Mary, Joseph, the Evangelists, and Jesus himself, it’s not surprising to find the early Church Fathers firmly embracing the belief that Mary was ever-virgin. They, too, recognized the connection between Mary and the ark, and saw in Mary’s Perpetual Virginity something that attends everything else about Jesus’ life—the fulfillment of prophecy. This is most notable in the Fathers’ reading of the prophet Ezekiel.

Ezekiel lived about five hundred years before Christ. In Ezekiel’s day, the ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel had been scattered by the Assyrian Empire (hence the “Ten Lost Tribes of Israel” ) while the southern “rump” kingdom of Judah had itself...READ MORE

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John’s Witness to Mary’s Perpetual Virginity

10/05/2012 Comments (6)

In discussing the evidence for Mary's Perpetual Virginity, another point also deserves mention. Suppose, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that Mary did give birth to other children besides Jesus. What, then, are we to make of the fact that Jesus, in his final moments of earthly life, gives Mary into John’s care?

When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home (John 19:26–27).

As Paul makes clear, both Jews and Christians customarily entrusted the care of widows to their own families:


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Joseph’s Witness to Mary’s Perpetual Virginity

10/01/2012 Comments (30)

The average modern reader of Matthew assumes Joseph disbelieved Mary and wanted to divorce her as an adulteress. Pictures come to the mind very easily of a Mary “pregnant out to there” and fumbling to explain to a skeptical Joseph that, well, it’s not the way it looks and there was this angel, you see . . .

But surprisingly, there’s another view of Joseph, one that I think Scripture supports better than the “suspicious Joseph” portrait commonly accepted by modernity. In fact, it’s a way of viewing Joseph’s actions that was remarked on with approval by such Church Fathers as Origen, Rabanus, and even Jerome, the greatest biblical scholar of antiquity.

Jerome: Or this may be...READ MORE

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Mary’s Witness to Her Perpetual Virginity

09/28/2012 Comments (41)

It is no secret that ancient Judaism, like the Church, prized the goods of marriage and family. But Judaism had room for celibacy too, if practiced for religious reasons. The best known example is the rabbi named Jesus of Nazareth. In addition to him we also have the example of the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 16:1–2), St. Paul (cf. 1 Cor. 7) and St. Philip’s “four unmarried daughters, who prophesied” (Acts 21:9). Beyond the record of Scripture, we also find Jewish groups like the Essenes and the Therapeutae, who likewise consecrated themselves to virginity. Consecrated virginity was not unheard of in ancient Judaism.

Indeed, there’s even room in ancient Judaism for celibacy within marriage:...READ MORE

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Why Believe in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary?

09/23/2012 Comments (106)

In talking about the meaning of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary and the whole nuptial side of Catholic Marian devotion, I wrote with the assumption that I was writing for a Catholic readership who took it for granted that Mary is, in fact, perpetually a virgin.  However, as I survey the comboxes following that discussion, it is evident that a number of readers think that the Perpetual Virginity of Mary is not true and is, indeed, contrary to Scripture.  So as a followup, permit me to review, over the next few blog entries, the evidence for the case that Mary was, as a matter of historical and biblical fact, perpetually a virgin.  The case for this is, in fact, very strong.

The Catechism...READ MORE

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Mary Guards the Truth about Our Relationship to One Another

09/21/2012 Comments (16)

Mary guards a truth at once profoundly repugnant and profoundly attractive to our culture: the truth that purity is fruitful.

Mary’s purity reflects and signifies the purity ofthe Church, the bride without wrinkle, spot, or blemish. Chesterton, in one of his typically insightful remarks, noted that heresy has always tended to identify purity with sterility, while Catholic teaching “always connects purity with fruitfulness; whether it be natural or supernatural.” This is seen not only in ancient forms of false teaching that tried to scrape spirit clean of all contact with icky disgusting matter, but in more modern heresies as well. For example, it’s one of the strange contradictions of...READ MORE

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About Mark Shea

Mark Shea
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Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.