Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
Today’s Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady is most misunderstood. It refers to Our Lady’s own conception in her mother’s womb- the womb of St Anne. It is celebrated today and 9 months from today – September 8th – it is Our Lady’s birthday. It has nothing to do with Jesus' conception – March 25th and Christmas follows 9 months later on Dec 25th of course. I was amazed when people came into me after Mass a couple of years ago and they were happy to have the misunderstanding cleared up for them. Perhaps the Gospel passage of the Annunciation confuses people. But in tht Gospel we hear the words fo the angel, which apply to the teaching: 'nothing is impossible to God.
It was wonderful to be in the Holy Land where these words of the angel were uttered -to visit Nazareth and pray at the spot where Mary said her 'yes' to God.
The Immaculate Conception is not in the Bible of course, but is a long-standing tradition in the Church, but only infallibly declared in 1854. The doctrine became accepted universally through the apparitions that occurred in Paris in Rue de Bac in 1830 to Sr Catherine Laboure and literally billions of Miraculous Medals have been struck since then. We are, in our Lady’s words, to wear the medal with confidence, to receive the necessary graces from heaven that will enable us to get there.
I mentioned that the doctrine was declared an infallible teaching in 1854. Four years later Our Lady herself appeared to St Bernadette, and said ‘I am the Immaculate Conception’. Bernadette was poor at Catechism and claimed her head hurt when she tried to learn the answers off-by-heart. She was slower than other girls younger than her. But Bernadette faithfully repeated these words of Our Lady to her parish priest, which convinced him of the truth of what Bernadette was claiming to see at Lourdes. Heaven confirmed the Church’s proclamation through a humble, barely literate 14 year old French peasant girl.
We are reminded that Jeus said: 'Blessed are the pure in heart, they shall see God'. Mary is the purest virgin. We likewise are called to purity - of intention, of mind, of body and soul. Let us prepare for Christ's coming by purely receiving him. Let us avail of the season to go to confession, and restoring purity of soul where needed to receive Him worthily, as Mary did.
Let us resolve to wear the Miraculous Medal wth confidence, praying often throughout the day, 'O Mary, conceived with out sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee!'