St. John the Baptist sanctified before birth?


I recently came across something which stated that the soul of St. John the Baptist was sanctified prior to birth at the Visitation.

New Advent says the following:
The soul of the precursor was not preserved immaculate at its union with the body, but was sanctified either shortly after conception from a previous state of sin, or through the presence of Jesus at the

Denzinger (Sources of Catholic Dogma) cites the Profession of Faith of Durand of Huesca saying the following:
421 By the heart we believe and by the mouth we confess that the Father also and the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God, concerning whom we are speaking, is the creator, the maker, the ruler, and the dispenser of all things corporal and spiritual, visible and invisible. We believe that God is the one and same author of the Old and the New Testament, who existing in the Trinity, as it is said, created all things from nothing; and that John the Baptist, sent by Him, was holy and just, and in the womb of his mother was filled with the Holy

Thoughts on this?

I do not recall seeing this in any Catechism or Catholic Biblical Commentary I have read, though I suppose it is possible I have somehow missed it. Furthermore, the article from New Advent that I linked above provides no source for that statement. Ott does not mention it in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma at all.


I personally feel that there was some sort of special blessing passed to John during the Visitation - that it most likely happened when - ‘Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth [including her womb?] was filled with the Holy Spirit’.


I bet you’ll remember this!
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb."… When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1 :13-15,41)

God bless.


Luke tells about John the Baptist. Luke 1 (Knox Bible):

15 for he is to be high in the Lord’s favour; he is to drink neither wine nor strong drink; and from the time when he is yet a child in his mother’s womb he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.

41 No sooner had Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, than the child leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth herself was filled with the Holy Ghost;


This is a very good thread in apologetics, Jason. One poster was particularly doubtful, but finally came around in the end.

A papal reference:

[size=2]Then St. John the Baptist, by a singular privilege, is sanctified in his mother’s womb and favored with special graces that he might prepare the way of the Lord; and this comes to pass by the greeting of Mary who had been inspired to visit her cousin. At last the expected of nations comes to light, Christ the Savior. The Virgin bears Him.

One more from St. Thomas Aquinas - Article 1:

Moreover, it is to be observed that it was granted, by way of privilege, to others, to be sanctified in the womb; for instance, to Jeremias, to whom it was said (Jeremiah 1:5): “Before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee”; and again, to John the Baptist, of whom it is written: “He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother’s womb.”


The feasts of saints are generally celebrated on the date of death as a symbolic acknowledgement of their “birthday into heaven” and their final victory over sin. But there are three Nativities celebrated in the Roman Calendar: that of Our Lord (God made man), Our Lady (immaculately conceived), and St. John the Baptist (sanctified by Our Lord in the womb). Tradition holds that these three were born without the stain of original sin, and therefore their physical births are a cause for celebration in the Liturgy of the Church.


I have used John’s being sanctified in the womb as evidence of the Immaculate Conception. If God can sanctify John in the womb then it’s no great leap of faith to believe God can sanctify Mary, His mother, at conception.


Thanks. That is the only thing remotely authoritative I have seen.


Thanks to the rest of you as well. I am certainly aware of the Biblical references already, but I do appreciate you sharing them. Its the interpretation that was new to me. If anyone has references to suggest that the Church Fathers interpreted Elizabeth being filled with the Holy Spirit as St. John the Baptist being cleansed of sin while in the womb, that would be helpful.


From a sermon of St. Augustine, read during Matins for the solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist:

[quote=Saint Augustine]Outside the most holy Birthday of the Lord, we find celebrated in the Gospel the birth of only one other, namely, that of the blessed Baptist, John. As regardeth all others among God’s holy and chosen ones we know that that day is observed whereon, with their work finished, and the world conquered and finally trampled down, they were born from this into a better life, even one of everlasting blessedness. In others is honoured the crowning of the struggle on their last day of dying life, but in John is honoured the first day; in him the very beginning is found hallowed.


Thanks. I had read that from Augustine in that we celebrate the Forerunner’s birthday, but unless I am missing something, I am not seeing anything about sanctification from sin. Obviously, Aquinas does mention it, as linked above, but he cites Luke’s Gospel directly rather than anything from the Fathers interpreting Luke in that way.

When I go back and look at the Immaculate Conception, I can see writings from the Fathers which are in line with that dogma even though it was not proclaimed until 1854. As of yet, I am not finding much on this.



“In him the very beginning is found hallowed.”

The fact that the Church kept this feast even before that of the Immaculate Conception or the Nativity of Our Lady is evidence enough for me. You’re not going to find it as a defined dogma, but it’s in the Tradition of the Church.


It’s a testimony to how Great Jesus is, that St. John the Baptist says of himself that he is not worthy to untie Jesus’ sandal straps.


I don’t dispute it, but I do wish to understand it and whether or not it is doctrinal, pious tradition, or theological speculation. If it is indeed in the Sacred Tradition, as you say, then we should see evidence of this development in the writings of the Church Fathers. Again, I don’t expect to see an infallible deceleration or anything, but some evidence of consistent thought among the early Fathers would be helpful.

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