The traditional claim that Mary remained a virgin during the very act of giving birth to Jesus is one of the least known and least understood aspects of Marian doctrine today. Has the contemporary Church retreated from this claim?

In Vessel of Honor, Fr. Brian Graebe provides a solid introduction to the historical development of the doctrine and its reception in modern Catholic theology. He shows that, far from being responsible for its contemporary occlusion, the Second Vatican Council did much to reaffirm the traditional understanding of Mary’s perpetual virginity against its radical reinterpretation in the mid-twentieth century. Fr. Graebe demonstrates that the Council’s underappreciated work on Mary’s perpetual virginity must be seen as part of the legacy of Vatican II.

Perhaps the most significant and timely contribution of this book is its illumination of the Council’s revival of the patristic association of Mary with the Church. At a time when many claim Vatican II weakened the Church’s commitment to Sacred Tradition, Vessel of Honor amplifies the Council’s clarion call to the Church to receive and preserve God’s revelation with virginal fidelity. Mary’s physical intactness is an icon of the deposit of faith. Vessel of Honor is an important book both for modern Mariology and for the proper reception of the Second Vatican Council.


Fr. Brian A. Graebe is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. He obtained his undergraduate degree from New York University (Philosophy) and studied for the priesthood at St. Joseph Seminary, Dunwoodie. After serving in two parishes of the archdiocese, Fr. Graebe studied dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and earned the degree of Doctor of Sacred Theology (S.T.D.). He currently serves as pastor of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in lower Manhattan.


Vessel of Honor is a clear and masterly treatment of a very difficult topic. Graebe considers the earliest witnesses to Mary’s threefold virginity—ante partum, in partu, post partum. He considers the doctrine’s spiritual and theological significance, especially in the light of theological discussion that took place in the period leading up to Vatican II and at the Council itself. The consequence of this is that Graebe is able to show that Mary’s perpetual virginity is not just a miraculous state that occurred to one woman in history, but rather, involves the whole Church and each of its members. By thinking within the Tradition, Graebe reveals the theological depth of a teaching that has received little treatment in recent decades. I shall certainly recommend it to my students and use it as a valuable resource in my own research.”

Sarah Boss
Centre for Marian Studies at the University of Roehampton, London


“Fr. Brian Graebe’s Vessel of Honor: The Virgin Birth and the Ecclesiology of Vatican II offers a well-researched, faithful, and fascinating exploration of how the doctrine of Our Lady’s virginitas in partu communicates a ‘totality,’ the integrity and wholeness missed by those who reinterpret the doctrine in a way that evacuates the bodily mystery. Reflection on this Marian doctrine leads Graebe to reflection on the Church’s own ‘totality’ in faith. I highly recommend this book as a model of how to think about the Virgin Mary and the Virgin Church after the Second Vatican Council. It allows us to approach in reverence and awe, in Graebe’s own words, what ‘God has entrusted to his honored vessel, the mother who is both Mary and the Church.’”

Fr. Andrew Hofer, O.P.
Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception, Dominican House of Studies


“This is a courageous book, which not only focuses on two of the most controversial and difficult areas of discussion in Mariology—the reception of Lumen Gentium 8 and the doctrine of Mary as virginitas in partu—it brings each of these areas into close dialogue with each other. Fr. Graebe thus discloses the inner relatedness of the ecclesial typology of Mary highlighted at Vatican II, and the witness of tradition to Mary’s perpetual virginity. In this innovative and remarkably lucid work, we are presented with a compelling way to enter into the mystery of the virginity of both Mary and the Church—as the living womb of the revealed Word, preserved by the depositum fidei, and ever-consecrating the faithful in the truth of Jesus.”

Jacob Phillips
St. Mary’s University, London

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Vessel of Honor: The Virgin Birth and the Ecclesiology of Vatican II