On December 8, the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. It's a feast that falls at the beginning of Advent, on the supposed date of Mary's conception. It reminds us each year that Mary, this ordinary, humble woman, is exceptional. Why is she so exceptional? Because she was preserved from original sin from the moment of her birth, and then gave birth to the Son of God. She is “eminently redeemed in consideration of the merits of her Son” (Lumen Gentium #53). In 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception as an indisputable affirmation of the Catholic faith. The Church itself has reported down the centuries that Mary, “filled with grace” by God, had been redeemed from the moment of her conception, according to St. Luke the Evangelist (1:28).Our history of Christian and Catholic faith teaches us that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception has been confirmed by apparitions of the Virgin Mary. In 1830, in a chapel on Rue du Bac in Paris, Mary appeared to St. Catherine Labourée with a halo surrounding her head and a prayer for us: “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.”
Four years later, on March 25, 1858, the feast of the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary appeared in Lourdes to St. Bernadette de Soubirous, who saw a beautiful lady appear and say to her, in her native dialect: Que soy era immaculada councepciou.(“I am the Immaculate Conception.”)St. Bernadette didn't understand this theological expression of the Blessed Virgin. But Mary confirmed this dogma for her by saying “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Of course, the Immaculate Conception did not make the Virgin's existence easy. Rather, it enabled her to evolve in the serenity and love of carrying the Infant Jesus within her. She chose to live in total clarity with God, far from the sin that is separation from Him. She was calm, available and ready, and said “YES.” According to Church teaching, Mary did not experience the degradation of death at the time of her Assumption.The Church and all humanity have therefore placed themselves under the protection of the Immaculate Virgin, down the centuries. But how? From the earliest times, Eastern Churches have celebrated Mary's original purity in a feast of “The Conception of the Holy Mother of God.” This feast was later introduced to the West by pilgrims returning from the Holy Land. According to tradition, the faithful still flock on the feast of the Immaculate Conception to lay flowers at the foot of the statue of the Virgin Mary in their local parish, shrine, or other place of worship. They also take part in other celebrations or processions organized elsewhere for this purpose.Today, the chapel where the Immaculate Virgin appeared to St. Catherine Labouré is known as the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. It is a popular place of pilgrimage, and serves the Maison des Filles de la Charité. During the apparition, the Blessed Virgin told St. Catherine to strike medals. These “Miraculous Medals” are known the world over, because all those who wear them will receive these graces.They are wonderful gifts that the Virgin Mary has made available to us. Traditionally, the obverse of the Miraculous Medal has an image of the Immaculate Conception, connecting it with the apparition to St. Catherine. For this reason, the feast of the Immaculate Conception is a good occasion to wear it!
The Miraculous Medal around her neck ... for some thirty years!
How does the Virgin Mary “Immaculate Conception” interact with us when we pray to her? To offer an example, the graces of the Miraculous Medal and the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception were even obtained within my own family! When my eldest brother married, more than thirty years ago now, his wife was slow to conceive a baby. As the first boy to marry, my mother longed to hold her grandson or granddaughter in her arms. Several years went by, and my brother and his wife were under pressure from both sides of the family. However, my mother never gave up praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Anne de Beaupré, and all the saints to intercede in the conception of a firstborn. She multiplied her prayers, fasts, and good deeds so that they could have their first baby.My sister-in-law, who herself was born on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, insisted on visiting the Virgin Mary on Rue du Bac in Paris. She fervently implored the Immaculate Virgin to give her a child after five years of marriage, pledging before the Virgin Mary to mint medals for all family members. My sister-in-law faithfully fulfilled her promise after the birth of her daughter: we all got a copy of the Miraculous Medal, which we've proudly worn around our necks for over thirty years now. We continue to marvel at the graces of the Blessed Virgin Mary, her Son and their protection. We have great confidence in Mary. Her maternal love continues to guide us, and we work to make her known, in turn, again and again!As for my mother, she couldn't go to Paris that year to thank the “Immaculate Conception”. But she decided to present her granddaughter to St. Anne de Beaupré, in Beaupré, QC, to thank her faithful friend: the benevolent mother of the Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus. She took her granddaughter in her arms and advanced on her knees towards the statue of St. Anne near the altar, her heart overflowing with joy and gratitude! You too can pray to the Virgin Mary by reciting this prayer with Pope Francis from 2016. Last but not least, please let us know:
Have you obtained graces by praying to the Immaculate Conception?
Have you struck a Miraculous Medal? Do you wear it around your neck or carry it with you?
Write to us to tell us about your story, and to make the Lord's love and wonders better known, through Mary. You can send us a message at [email protected]or on Facebook Messenger.Let's live the mystery of the Immaculate Conception during Advent, and not just contemplate it.Happy feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary to each and every one of you!