Feast of the Immaculate Conception
Because this feast falls in Advent when we are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus, many think it refers to the virgin conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb (which we actually celebrate with the feast of the Annunciation nine months before Christmas, on March 25). In reality, the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary, herself—from the moment of her own conception in the womb of her mother, Anne, Mary was preserved from sin in preparation for her to bear Jesus to the world.
Though this teaching was formally proclaimed by the Church in 1854, the Church had been developing this understanding of Mary for several hundred years. In fact, Mary immaculately conceived was named patroness of the United States in 1846, eight years before this 1854 proclamation by the pope. Mary has been seen as “full of grace” by the faithful and recognized this way in the liturgy for centuries.
Mary goes before us as a model of faith. Though she was conceived without sin, and remained sinless, we can follow her in faithfulness and purity. The grace that purified and sustained Mary can purify and sustain us as well. Let us strive to cooperate with God’s will as Mary did throughout her whole life, even from the moment of her conception.
A statue of Mary as the Immaculate Conception stands in the chapel in Alumni Hall (above). When Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous near a cave outside of Lourdes, France, in 1858, she identified herself as the “Immaculate Conception.” This mural of that scene from Lourdes stands in the Basilica. Other relics from Mary rest in the Basilica, including pieces of her clothes and hair.
View a customizable prayer card of Mary as the Immaculate Conception here. For more information about today's feast day and the doctrine behind it, read this post from Oblation.
Mary, the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States, pray for us!
Below is an excerpt from an Act of Consecration to
Mary as the Immaculate Conception, a prayer that dedicates the United States to the care of the Blessed Virgin:
Most Holy Trinity, we place the United States of America into the hands of Mary Immaculate in order that she may present the country to you. Through her we wish to thank you for the great resources of this land and for the freedom that has been its heritage. Through the intercession of Mary, have mercy on the Catholic Church in America. Grant us peace. Have mercy on our President and on all the officers of our government. Grant us a fruitful economy, born of justice and charity. Have mercy on capital and industry and labor. Protect the family life of the nation. Guard the precious gift of many religious vocations. Through the intercession of our Mother, have mercy on the sick, the tempted, sinners--on all who are in need. Amen.