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St. Thomas Aquinas
Catechetical Instructions

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VIRTUES OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
 
Christ excelled the Blessed Virgin in this, that He was conceived and born 
without original sin, while the Blessed Virgin was conceived in original 
sin, but was not born in it.12 She exercised the works of all the virtues, 
whereas the Saints are conspicuous for the exercise of certain special 
virtues. Thus, one excelled in humility, another in chastity, another in 
mercy, to the extent that they are the special exemplars of these virtues - 
as, for example, St. Nicholas is an exemplar of the virtue of mercy. The 
Blessed Virgin is the exemplar of all the virtues.
 
In her is the fullness of the virtue of humility: "Behold the handmaid of 
the Lord."13 And again: "He hath regarded the humility of his handmaid."14 
So she is also exemplar of the virtue of chastity: "Because I know not 
man."15 And thus it is with all the virtues, as is evident. Mary was full 
of grace not only in the performance of all good, but also in the avoidance 
of all evil. Again, the Blessed Virgin was full of grace in the overflowing 
effect of this grace upon her flesh or body. For while it is a great thing 
in the Saints that the abundance of grace sanctified their souls, yet, 
moreover, the soul of the holy Virgin was so filled with grace that from 
her soul grace poured into her flesh from which was conceived the Son of 
God. Hugh of St. Victor says of this: "Because the love of the Holy Spirit 
so inflamed her soul, He worked a wonder in her flesh, in that from it was 
born God made Man." "And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of 
thee shall be called the Son of God."16
 



12
. St. Thomas wrote before the solemn definition of the Immaculate 
conception by the Church and at a time when the subject was still a matter 
of controversy among theologians. In an earlier work, however, he 
pronounced in favor of the doctrine (I Sent., c. 44 Q. i, ad. 3), although 
he seemingly concluded against it in the "Summa Theologica." "Yet much 
discussion has arisen as to whether St. Thomas did or did not deny that the 
Blessed virgin was immaculate at the instant of her animation ("Catholic 
Encyclopedia." art. "Immaculate Conception"). On December 8, 1854, Pope 
Pius IX settled the question in the following definition: "Mary. ever 
blessed Virgin in the first instant of her conception, by a singular 
privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, 
the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of 
original sin."


13
. Luke, i. 38.


14
. "Ibid.," 48.


15
. "Ibid.," 34.


16
. "Ibid.," 35.





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