Hail Mary, Full of Grace: The Immaculate Conception Explained

Clarifying Catholicism

By Elizabeth Zahorick, Notre Dame

The words are recited millions of times a day by Catholics all over the world: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.” We are so accustomed to this phrase in our daily prayers that we lose sight of the significance of what is being said. What does it mean for someone to be full of grace?

This question becomes particularly pertinent when examining the basis for the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, commemorated annually on December 8th by Catholics around the world. This dogma holds that Mary was free from original sin from the first moment of her conception and did not suffer from the consequences of the Fall as did every other descendant of Adam and Eve (except, of course, her son Jesus) [1]. This doctrine has been a part of Church teaching since the days of the…

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