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Sue McVay wrote:

Hi Mike,

I wanted to comment about what you said about the Immaculate Conception happening in St. Anne.

I am 71 years old and have been a Catholic all my life and was not taught that.

In one paragraph you say St Anne and her husband, Joachim, conceived our Blessed Mother by sexual intercourse. In the next paragraph, you say it was the Immaculate Conception.

I was taught that the Immaculate Conception occurred with Mary when the Angel informed her she would have Jesus. We celebrate this on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Help please,

Sue McVay

  { Did the Immaculate Conception happen in Our Blessed Mother's womb or her mother's: St. Anne? }

Mike replied:

Dear Sue,

I'm sorry you were improperly catechized. These postings below address the same issue in a different manner.

One reply is from a former helper, Terry Quinn, who has a MA in Marian Studies from England.

As a lay Catholic, who defends the teachings of the Church, I have always been bothered by the fact that, each calendar year, when the Church celebrates the Immaculate Conception of Mary, She uses the nativity readings of Our Lord's birth. This can easily give rise to the misunderstanding you have.

My personal opinion and advise to the Church would be to require all preachers on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception preach on the difference between:

  • What the Immaculate Conception, is and is not, and
  • What the Virgin Birth, is and is not.

This would re-educate the faithful appropriately.

Liturgically, the Church celebrates the birthday of Mary on September 8th, and therefore celebrates the Immaculate Conception on December 8th, nine month prior, when she was conceived immaculately in the womb of St. Anne, her mother.

I hope this helps,


Sue replied:


Thank you very much for the explanation.

  • Does that mean that our Blessed Mother did not have an Immaculate Conception even though she did not know man?

I always wondered how she had Jesus in such a short time! It is a little weird that and her husband, Joachim, had relations and it is still considered Immaculate.

Thank you again,


John replied:

Let me add a couple of comments.

The Annunciation Gospel is used because when the Angel Gabriel greeted Mary he used the Greek verb kecharitomene (Full of Grace or Highly Favored One) to greet her. It is actually difficult to translate in English, as it means have been, is being, and will be perfect by grace. It is a verb tense that doesn't exist in our language, hence the confusion so priests should explain this.

The text from Genesis 3:15 is also read, Where God says I will put enmity between you and the woman and her seed. This Hebrew word enmity, means a total state of war, sharing no common ground.

Well, the common ground man shares with the serpent Satan is sin so the text is prophesying that a woman, later identified by Christ as Mary, will be at enmity with the serpent, satan, because when speaking to Mary, Jesus calls her woman. In addition, in Revelation 12, we see St. John refer to her as woman on the heals of his vision of the perfect Ark of the Covenant — said Ark contained:

  1. the Written Word
  2. Aaron's Priestly Staff, and
  3. Manna.

Mary carried in her womb:

  1. the Living Word
  2. The High Priest, Jesus, and
  3. the Bread of Life come down from Heaven.

So clearly the Scriptures identifies Mary as the woman in Genesis 3:15 . . . Hence this woman would not share common ground or sin with Satan but rather be at enmity with him.

So the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception teaches that, by the future merits of Christ on the Cross, Mary was preserved from original sin and by the grace she responded to, was protected from personal sin.

Unfortunately, our priests aren't too well versed in the Scriptures, even when they are they don't do a very good job of explaining from the pulpit. Some of them simply think it's too deep for the average person in the pew so we end up with poorly taught Catholics.

I hope this helps,

John DiMascio

Mike replied:

Hi, guys —

Sue has brought up a question that has been on my mind for a long time.

  • If Mary:
    • was immaculately conceived by St. Anne, her mother, and
    • therefore Our Blessed Mother was sinless

    Why haven't we heard anything in the Early Church about Jesus being immaculately conceived in Mary seeing a sinless body (Mary) cannot give birth to anything but The Sinless Person (Jesus) of the Trinity?

  • If this is obvious, why shouldn't we, as Catholics, be addressing two Immaculate Conceptions:
    1. the one in St. Anne's womb, and
    2. the one in our Blessed Mother'?

This may be what Bill O'Reilly was erroneously talking about in his April 2006 talking points.

We know the Immaculate Conception of Mary means that she, Mary, was preserved from the effects of Original Sin by virtue of the merits of her son, Jesus, but I don't see any reason why this would deny Jesus' Immaculate Conception in Mary seeing Mary was sinless.

In dialoguing privately with Terry he said he has never heard of anything like the Immaculate Conception of Jesus, and neither have I, though I don't see why the logic doesn't follow.

We know Our Blessed Mother had a Virginal Birth but a Virginal Birth does not deny the Immaculate Conception of the Second Person of the Trinity in Mary.

  • He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, but is there any reason we can't say he was immaculately conceived by the Holy Ghost?
  • ... or is that a given?
  • See the issue? . . . at least logically?


Bob replied:


I think that because Jesus is the Divine Person it obviates the need to say he is immaculately conceived, however, maybe it could be applied to his human nature, which He received from Mary.

I don't know if this would stir up some kind of Nestorian argument so it is probably better not to even go there.

Bob Kirby

Mike replied:

Thanks Bob —

So maybe it would be OK to say something like:

The Church declares that the Immaculate Conception of Mary means that she was preserved from the effects of Original Sin by virtue of the merits of her son, Jesus.

That Mary was conceived immaculately in the womb of her mother St. Anne.

Because Jesus is The Divine Person, it obviates the need to say He was immaculately conceived by Mary, because He was, but if being immaculately conceived is applied to Our Lord's human nature, some of the faithful could pick up a Nestorian-like heresy in their understanding.

Publicly defining that there is another immaculate conception may also confuse the faithful.

For this reason, the Church hasn't defined anything as it relates to Jesus' conception in our Blessed Mother.


Bob replied:

Hi, Mike —

It's a little tough to wrangle through, so maybe it can be simplified, but it could work.


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